1066 is truly a memorable date in England’s history that marked the last entry of foreigners. It evokes a slow yet disastrous conquest that brought Norman dukes, lords and knights to England’s throne. Eventually, the Normans put the locals through a number of transformations, which range from an elite class to govern the land to a language that would alter England’s Saxon roots and customs.
The Norman Conquest, 1066 AD
From their first days, the Normans ruled the Saxon lands with an iron hand. They set a strict military regime that was meant to annex the Anglo Saxon kingdoms to the Normans’ family properties. Saxon earls and noblemen were dispossessed of their lands, livestock and all that they owned. Some 4000 Saxon families lost their lands to 200 Norman barons, bishops and abbots. Some records reported that there was nothing catastrophic in European history like that systematic territorial transfer of Saxon tribes and clans (Jenkins 37). More than that, there were attempts to exhaust them economically. Accordingly, a system of taxation was devised to benefit from the riches of England.
Having lands on both sides of the Channel necessitated the establishment of some institutional bodies to help run different affairs. Courts, councils and even abbeys were different organs that made it easy to maintain political stability though for a while. Justiciars, commissioners and many other royal officials could help manage duchies and baronies on the behalf of Norman kings. Yet, these changes were not all that the Normans could effect in their new land.
The imposition of the Norman rule went hand in hand with additional cultural developments. Medieval Ages were noted for aggression and plunder. Thus, it was crucial for these communities to get over the challenges of the day. Lands were offered to vassals and lords in return for their homage. Under this feudal contract, the lords had to provide protection and other military services when needed. For these services, they recruited knights and squires to safeguard the interests of kingdoms and duchies. In baronies, peasant folk were left to live, but in return for their work in fields, workshops or markets. Thus, it was a sort of a mutual exchange of services between the classes of the day, whether higher or lower.
In this way, feudal rule prevailed as a major system, if not the unique means to protect a population, to conduct a war, and allocate products (Trevelyan 45). In brief, feudalism was undoubtedly a Norman product by which Norman kings, nobles and lords could transform England into a feudal land.
Jenkins, S. “A Short History of England”. London: Profile Books, 2012
Trevelyant, GM. A Shortened History of England. England: Penguin Books, 1987