1066: The Year of the Conquest is not a bad book, but it is not a very good book either. When I first opened the book I was expecting to have nothing cold hard facts thrown into my face, but instead I got an informational story that was told with emotion. There were times in the book where my gears actually started to turn and then there were times when I struggled to make it through the chapter because I lost interest in that piece of the text. The information in the book is boring but the way that Howarth told the structure of events is what actually kept me interested in the story.
Howarth’s writing style was very interesting because he complies an abundance of facts into an almost novelistic narrative. There is also three different versions of every major event in the book; English, Norman, and Scandinavian. The reasoning behind those parts are interesting because it shows the difference between the countries and their ability to provide reliable information. I also like how he described the excitement, pleasures, and miseries of that year in detail, it felt as though he was trying to bring the book to life for the reader.
Howarth’s writing style also keeps the reader engrossed by turning historical facts into a readable and impassioned story. By doing this he makes the book easier to read because it kept me on the edge of my seat thirsty for the next part of the book. While I was reading 1066, I almost forgot that this it is an historical account of the Norman Invasion. Horwarth’s writing is very descriptive and colorful. I could actually imagine the troops lined up to fight.
I could hear the evil thud of weapons, the snorts and neighs of the horses, and the human cries of triumph and agony. I could see the arrow being shot into the eye of Harold and him dying a slow painful death thinking about God’s final judgement. Howarth succeeded magnificently in keeping me engrossed in the book. The book reads so much like a historical novel, that I forgot how much it is factual. Howarth admittedly added his own opinions and advanced his own conclusions to the account to fill in the gaps that there are no sources for.
For example, Howarth believes the change in King Harold’s behavior between the Battle at Stamford Bridge and the Battle at Hastings is due to his learning that William had papal blessing. This conclusion may be correct, but Howarth offers no evidence to support it. Therefore, Howarth is not basing his conclusions on factual evidence, but on what he thinks must have happened. The writing style of Howarth was a popular style, not scholarly. The portrait he paints of medieval England is extremely vivid. Through his words, an image springs to mind of exactly how the country looked at the beginning of the year.
Besides the image of England, Howarth also is very successful in giving an insight into the characters of the men involved in the battle, from the villagers turned soldiers to the rulers they fought for. For example, it is very easy for the reader to see the amazement on Duke William’s face after hearing that King Edward was dead and that Harold had been crowned the new king. His extensive use of such descriptive words made the book a fun read and also kept me on the tips of my toes wanting to read more and more. The general structure of the book was a mixture of a chronological and topical structure.
The fact that Howarth had the exact dates of the several events was satisfying because it assured me that he was not making up information but he did add things in where he thought they should be placed. He did admit that any modern historian would eventually have to use his own judgement when they find contradicting stories. The structure of the book was helpful in comprehending the events of the story because it gave a clear order of incidents and he also intervened when he believed that the information he was presenting was not a hundred percent eliable, which made me love the book even more because the author was being honest about his opinion without trying to propose it as cold hard facts. Howarth’s 1066 was a description of the enormous amount of drama in England that began on January 6 with the burial of King Edward in Westminster Abbey, and ended on Christmas Day in the same place with the coronation of King William. The author supports his theme by describing in detail the lives of the common people to the ruling classes before and after the conquest. Before the conquest, life was easy for everyone, even the peasants.
He starts off by describing the beautiful life of the people of England before the conquest. When the year started, before the conquest, the weather was beautiful, there was plenty to eat and drink, and plenty of space and virgin land for ambitious people to cultivate. After the conquest, everything began to spiral down. The tax values of the land dropped, there was a huge famine that lead to the demise of nearly every town in England. Outside of the main theme, the author shows a liking to the English version of events rather than the Norman or Scandinavian versions.
He does make it obvious that he does not support the other ideas because he believes that most of their information was not current during the events of 1066 or that they were writing for patrons who expected their own opinions to be confirmed. He also made it very clear that he is not very fond of King Edward. Howarth presented Edward as a problematic ruler who set the stage for the conflict, by supposedly promising the crown of England to William. If Edward had not “promised” the thrown to William then this entire ordeal could have been avoided because the Papacy could have given the thrown to Harold without any conflict.
1066: The Year of the Conquest was a great book with many good points. The best part of the book was the first chapter in which Howarth elaborates on the life of the common people. He gives a clear insight on how simple and kind life was to the people of England. At the beginning of the year, everything was easy and fun for the English. Food was plentiful and the world was safe. It was so safe that a woman could walk alone to the next town, which would be miles away. A bad point in the book was the information about the initiation of King Harold.
The information given was straight and to the point which left me wondering about the opinions of the Papacy. While I was reading 1066 I learned a lot about the history of England and how the Battle of Hastings nearly destroyed it, but the English refused to let their country die. Some of the events of that year are still being debated over but there is no way to know exactly how the events played out. The information in this book was very informative and would be a great source to use in a classroom setting but I don’t think that it was the right choice for my specific class.
Although we were lectured about the events of 1066 we didn’t really go into much detail about the topic. If we had gone into detail about the book, I believe that if we would have covered the parts of the book that weren’t explained in detail, then I probably wouldn’t have struggled to finish some chapters of the book. The information that we covered in class seemed liked nothing compared to the events that were explained in the book. Even though it was the same information, the way that it was delivered was completely different which made it easier for me to read the book than look at my notes.