The Battle of Hastings

How did the Battle of Hastings affect England?

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06/23/2008

Significance of the Battle of Hastings: Language One of the most obvious changes was the introduction of Anglo-Norman, a northern dialect of Old French, as the language of the ruling classes in England, displacing Old English. Even after the decline of Norman, French retained the status of a prestige language for nearly 300 years and has had (with Norman) a significant influence on the language, which is easily visible in Modern English. Governmental systems Before the Normans arrived, Anglo-Saxon England had one of the most sophisticated governmental systems in Western Europe. All of England was divided into administrative units called shires (shares) of roughly uniform size and shape, which were run by officials known as "shire reeve" or "sheriff". The shires tended to be somewhat autonomous and lacked coordinated control. English government made heavy use of written documentation which was unusual for kingdoms in Western Europe and made for more efficient governance than word of mouth. The English developed permanent physical locations of government. Most medieval governments were always on the move, holding court wherever the weather and food or other matters were best at the moment. This practice limited the potential size and sophistication of a government body to whatever could be packed on a horse and cart, including the treasury and library. England had a permanent treasury at Winchester, from which a permanent government bureaucracy and document archive begun to grow. This sophisticated medieval form of government was handed over to the Normans and grew stronger. The Normans centralised the autonomous shire system. The Domesday Book exemplifies the practical codification which enabled Norman assimilation of conquered territories through central control of a census. It was the first kingdom-wide census taken in Europe since the time of the Romans, and enabled more efficient taxation of the Norman's new realm. Systems of accounting grew in sophistication. A government accounting office called the exchequer was established by Henry I; from 1150 onward this was located in Westminster. Anglo-Norman and French relations After the conquest, Anglo-Norman and French political relations became very complicated and somewhat hostile. The Normans retained control of the holdings in Normandy and were thus still vassals to the King of France. At the same time, they were their equals as King of England. On the one hand they owed fealty to the King of France, and on the other hand they did not, because they were peers. In the 1150s, with the creation of the Angevin Empire, the Plantagenets controlled half of France and all of England, dwarfing the power of the Capetians. Yet the Normans were still technically vassals to France. A crisis came in 1204 when French King Philip II seized all Norman and Angevin holdings in mainland France except Gascony. This led to the Hundred Years War when Anglo-Norman English kings tried to regain their dynastic holdings in France. During William's lifetime, his vast land gains were a source of great alarm to the King of France and the counts of Anjou and Flanders. Each did his best to diminish Normandy's holdings and power, leading to years of conflict in the region. English cultural development A direct consequence of the invasion was the near total elimination of the Anglo-Saxon aristocracy and the loss of English control over the Catholic Church in England. As William subdued rebels, he confiscated their lands and gave them to his Norman supporters. By the time of the Domesday Book, only two English landowners of any note had survived the displacement.[9] By 1096 no church See or Bishopric was held by any native Englishman; all were held by Normans. No other medieval European conquest of Christians by Christians had such devastating consequences for the defeated ruling class. Meanwhile, William's prestige among his followers increased tremendously because he was able to award them vast tracts of land at little cost to himself. His awards also had a basis in consolidating his own control; with each gift of land and titles, the newly-created feudal lord would have to build a castle and subdue the natives. Thus was the conquest self-perpetuating. Legacy As early as the 12th century the Dialogue concerning the Exchequer attests to considerable intermarriage between native English and Norman immigrants. Over the centuries, particularly after 1348 when the Black Death pandemic carried off a significant number of the English nobility, the two groups largely intermarried and became barely distinguishable. The Norman conquest was the last successful conquest of England, although some historians identify the Glorious Revolution of 1688 as the most recent successful invasion from the continent. Major invasion attempts were launched by the Spanish in 1588 and the French in 1744 and 1759, but in each case the combined impact of the weather and the attacks of the Royal Navy on their escort fleets thwarted the enterprise without the invading army even putting to sea. Invasions were also prepared by the French in 1805 and Nazi Germany in 1940, but these were abandoned after preliminary operations failed to overcome Britain's naval and, in the latter case, air defences. Various brief raids on British coasts were successful within their limited scope, such as those launched by the French during the Hundred Years War, the Spanish landing in Cornwall (Huernwall) in 1595, the Dutch raid on the Medway shipyards in 1667 and raids by Barbary pirates in the 17th and 18th centuries. source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norman_conquest_of_England#Significance