Britain after the Norman Conquest

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BRITAIN AFTER THE NORMAN CONQUEST

The Norman Conquest
When Harold died leave legitimate heir. Thus William Duke of Normandy claimed that Edward had left the throne to him. In fact in 1066 William with Normans fought the English of Harold, who were defeated and Harold died with a Norman arrow in his eyes. The Norman’s army was advanced than the English’s army: in fact they used the “longbow”. The battle is recorded in the Bayeux tapestry, a mural in northern France. Under William England become part of a cross-channel kingdom. The Norman conquest was difficult. Then to keep the Anglo-Saxon population under their control, the Normans built many castles and the people were forced to accept the new royal family and a new culture and language.
A feudal society
The Norman introduced in Britain a new language, the French and the feudal system, a pyramidal system by which the king allotted territories to his barons, who gave land to the Knight. Then the vassals had to swear allegiance to their overlords. The peasants fell in two categories: the villains, who had land and the serfs, who had no land and had very little freedom. In 1086 William decided to make an economic survey of the land. Thus he sent his men to control each piece of land, the families, the exact production. This was written in the Domesday Book which give us information of economic situation in that time. In this way can’t escape the king’s control. The nobles had to help the king in the war campaigns. Thus instead of services, they gave their overlords money. This fact had two important effect: barons and merchants gained more power and the peasant labourers become paid soldiers.
The influence of French and the rise of Middle English
French was spoken by the Norman nobles and the higher ranks of society. The peasants spoke ANGLO-Saxon; while the Church used Latin, the language of learning. The passage from Old English happened between 1100 and 1450. The two main changes in Middle English were the grammatical gender of nouns and the vocabulary.
A time of Reform
The last Norman King was followed by Henry II, who introduced the “common law”, a reform concerning the English legal system. It was based on precedents, that is on judicial decision given in the past. When Henry died, he was succeeded by Richard, the elder of his sons. Richard spent all but six months of his reign out of the country, engaged in various wars overseas, especially the third Crusade. The Crusades were military expeditions to recover the “Holy Land”, in particular the city of Jerusalem. Richard’s knightly virtues made him into a figure of legend and he became known as “Lionheart”. After Richard became ling John Lackland, who was unpopular because he levied higher taxes to pay the war campaigns. So he became dependent on the barons and merchants. The king John Lanckland signed the Magna Carta. It is considered the first step on the constitutional road and basic of the democratic and parliamentary system in Britain. In fact it was the first official document which limited the powers of the king and declare that the king had some duties. In 258 was formed a parliament and the nobles began to govern the country themselves. In 1295 Edward I widened representation to include also Knights and town citizen.
Church and State
The relationship between Church and State was often an uneasy one. Thomas Backet was make Archbishop of Canterbury by king Henry II and refused to support his proposed reform bill, the Constitutions of Clarendon. Thus Henry murdered him in Canterbury Cathedral and Backet was made a saint. In the 14th century the Lollardy reform movement was led by Jon Wycliffe. The movement was devoted to the study of holy scripture and its main aim was to remove much of the Church’s wealth. It also stood against war and capital punishment. The Lollardy movement was eventually suppressed and many Lollardists were burned as heretics.
Hundred Years’ War
One of the effects of the Norman Conquests was to link England with Normandy in the northern of France. The struggle for possession of various French lands became a matter of contention. T longest and most significant of these disputes between the kings of England and France became around 1337 when Edward III claimed the France crown. The war lasted over a century and became known as the Hundred Years’ War. In reality, the cause were party territorial and partly economic. The territorial cause were connected with the English king’s possession the large part of Aquitania with French disputed. The economic cause were connected with Flanders. The visionary peasant girl Joan Of Arc at Orléans in 1429, was later bunt at the stake at the request of Eglish government and became a martyr to the French cause. This gave birth to a sense of nationhood which eventually led the French to decisive victory over the English.
War of the Roses
When the Hundred Years’ War ended, a blood feudal started between the two rival houses of Lancaster and York. This feud degenerated into a full-scale civil war between the rival families which lasted 30 years. Because the emblem of both families was a rose, red for Lancaster and white for York, it become known as the War of the Roses (civil war). T tyrant Richard III, was killed in battle by Henry Tudor who then took the throne for himself, opening the war for the Tudor dynasty.
The Black Death
The war with France was interrupted in 1348 by the Black Death, an epidemic of bubonic plague which spread rapidly through Europe. The plague was caused by infected rats which travelled on the ships that were trading with Europe. The Black Death is reported to have killed almost half of England’s then population of around 4 million.
The peasant’s revolt, the explosion of trades and the emergence of the Middle Classes
In 1380 Richard II imposed a tax on the population to finance the war against France. The peasants felt apprised and revolt broke out. They marched on London, let by Wat Tyler and killed many corrupts merchants and clergymen. The government tried to negotiate, but they didn’t keep their promises. The peasants were back to servitude, their leader was executed and the revolt was doomed.
The profession of merchant was the most despised categories of labour: the cultivation of the land and artisanal work were considered “creative” in a religious sense, and they were economic activities. Thus the merchant became a member of the new society.
The growth of towns brought with it an explosion of new occupations: artisans and tradesmen of various types, from smiths and shoemakers to carpenters. Butchers and bakers. These skilled artisans organised themselves into guilds or joined forces with merchants to form trading companies, laying the foundations of an urban bourgeoisie. Meanwhile in the countryside a new minor aristocracy became known as the gentry. Another consequence of the diversification and emergence of new social classes was the spread of education beyond the realm of Church and the monasteries.

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