LESSON SEVEN – NORMAN ENGLAND AFTER THE CONQUEST The reason why the Norman Conquest was so significant is that it changed the entire way England was run. It introduced a new set of rulers, a new ruling system, a new language and a new culture. FEUDALISM One of the most important changes was to do with the ownership of land. William introduced a system of land ownership that was called feudalism. Firstly, William seized by force the land belonging to important Anglo-Saxons and claimed it all as his own. However, it was hard for him, as one man at a time when transport was slow, to effectively control all of that land. So he gave land to important people who had helped him to conquer England. These people were called lords or barons. However, they didn’t truly ‘own’ the land. They were allowed to pass it down to their sons when they died, and they were allowed to farm it and build on it, but if they offended the king he could take it back off of them. On the left is a picture of Richard Fitzgilbert, one of William’s most important barons. William gave him most of Kent, and Richard built the castle of Tonbridge, which you can still see today. BARONS AND SERFS In return for getting this land, the barons promised to give their king a certain amount of military service. That is, they would go into battle with him in a foreign war, or they would protect a place in England for him for a certain amount of time per year. The barons would then run the land they had been given. They would allow
peasants to farm the land, but they would demand the peasants gave them a certain amount of the produce each year. They would also demand that peasants would serve in the army with them. The peasants were not quite slaves. Their barons didn’t own them in the way that Roman slave owners owned slaves. They couldn’t buy and sell the peasants, and they couldn’t kill them. But they could, and did, forbid the peasants to leave the land. In effect, these peasants were ‘tied’ to the land....
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