Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Evil over Good

1066: The Year of the Conquest, David Howarth, Penguin books, London, 1977.

I have read the above book several times and although it is not a scholarly book it is a enjoyable read. When it first came out some reviewers got rather upset over the books treatment of William. It is amazing to me that the story of Edward's alleged offering of the throne to William is taken seriously. It is plain nonsense. To review the facts.

1, Edward had neither the right nor the power to dispose of the English throne in this fashion without the express consent of the Witan, (a type of Parliament).

2, A few years after he allegedly made this offer he invited back to England a Son of Edmund "Ironside" named Edward with the apparent intention of making him his heir. This Edward died shortly after arriving in England in 1057 C.E., and it appears that his son Edgar was being groomed for the crown and would probably have succeeded Edward the Confessor if he had been of age. As it is Edgar was acclaimed as King after Harold's death at Hastings.

The whole story of Harold's "Oath" is also a lot of bull. Even if it is true, given the circumstances it was not binding and in fact being clearly coerced worthless in any sense. William was a winner and as such historians have spent centuries praising him while ignoring the disastrous effects of the conquest on the English people for the generation unfortunate enough to be conquered. There seems little doubt that the conquest both devastated England, diminished and impoverished the population. To say nothing of cultural damage. But then we know that the Conquest was a good thing because of long term benefits. So I guess it is alright to sacrifice past generations for our benefit?

This book is a reminder that the fact something happened doesn't mean that it was right or good. It is a pity that historians frequently forget that.

See also:

The Anglo-Saxon, Chronicle, Editor, Swanton, Michael, Phoenix Press, London, 1996.

Wood, Michael, In Search of England, University of California Press, Berkeley, 1999.

Pierre Cloutier

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