The Norman Conquest of England was the last stage of the great Scandinavian expansion which flung a heathen and barbarian...

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THE NORMANS AND THEIR WORLD

The Norman Conquest of England was the last stage of the great Scandinavian expansion which flung a heathen and barbarian people into the Christianized regions of Western Europe. Lindsay, in this subtle and scholarly book, surveys the Norman migrations to France and Sicily, but focuses primarily on the synthesis of Norman and Anglo-Saxon cultures and political institutions in the 1lth and 12th centuries following William's defeat of Harold at Hastings. Lindsay argues that, unlike continental Europe, England, far removed from the remnants of the Roman Empire, had evolved indigenous ""organic"" institutions -- the shire and the hundred -- which ""cross-fertilized"" with the hierarchic, highly developed feudalism of the Normans to produce that unique and wondrous thing -- the English Constitution. This argument is not essentially new. What distinguishes Lindsay's text is the emphasis on process, on the dynamics of integration between Anglo-Saxon society, archaic in that it rested on tribal kingship and the centralized, militarized fief feudalism of the Normans. Neither system absorbed the other; yet by the 14th century the English and their conquerors had become a single people; two antithetical legal systems had merged; two languages had enriched and modified each other. Lindsay makes particularly fine use of popular myths and legends -- the Robin Hood stories, the tales of King Arthur and of Hereward, another outlaw-hero -- which became ""the emblem of resistance"" to the alien French and frequently survived in folklore for centuries after the original antagonists had buried the hatchet. Similarly, Lindsay draws extensively on Geoffrey of Monmouth and William Malmesbury to show the symbiotic relationship between the ruling-class Frenchmen and the native English who gradually assimilated them. A first-rate study, though the audience will be rather special.

Pub Date: Jan. 20, 1974

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1974