1066: The Year of the Conquest by David Howarth
Paperback: 208 pages
Publisher: Penguin (Non-Classics) (August 27, 1981)
The year 1066 is one of the most pivotal years in the history of England. At the beginning of the year, the land was at peace, and by the end, everything had changed. In the book 1066: The Year of the Conquest, David Howarth draws on a host of contemporary accounts to understand exactly what happened to turn England upside down. As with any contemporary sources of history, biases emerge that attempt to hold one side in high esteem above the other, so the author and the reader must wade through these evidences to come to their own conclusions of the truth.
The book opens in the tiny village of Horstede, England (called Little Horsted today). By car, Horstede is only about an hour from Hastings, and for the most part it was isolated from the battle that occurred on the 14th of October, 1066, but it would later feel the impact as the changes implemented by a new king swept across the English landscape. Horstede reflects the everyday life of a commoner in England at that time, and for these villagers, the beginning of 1066 was filled with uncertainty, but not with dread.
King Edward the Confessor had died, and the witena gemot came together to decide who would be the king’s successor. They chose Harold Godwinson, and it was this decision that sparked the events that would unfold throughout the remainder of the year.
Contemporary sources and later historians debate the succession of Edward the Confessor with great fervor. David Howarth examines both sides in an effort to find a resolution concerning the controversial election of Harold to the throne. He looks at the motives behind both Harold and Duke William of Normandy, the two main figures in contention for the English crown, while in the background lurks Harold’s brother, Tostig, and the King of Norway, Harald Hardrada.
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