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History Notes > History of the British Isles II: 1042-1330 Notes

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The Oxford Illustrated History of Britain - K. O. Morgan (ed.) (London: Guild Publishing, 1984) pp. 93-222 The Anglo-Saxon Period (c.440-1066) - John Blair (pp. 93-103) King Cnut (1016-35): Fought with Aethelred and his son Edmund
~ When he gained the crown, aimed to rule not as a conqueror but as the rightful king Married Aethelred's widow Civilised kingship - issued laws and founded monasteries 1019 - after his brother's death, inherited a great northern empire became more and more involved in Danish affairs Had to make government function while he was away
~ Divided kingdom into 4 earldoms - Northumbria, East Anglia, Mercia and Wessex Cnut died in 1035
~ Were several possible successors Aethelred's son Edward eventually became king in 1042 Edward 'the Confessor' (1042-66): Tactless in dealings with nobility - promoted Norman favourites acquired during his exile Turned more and more to religion Yet had inherited the strongest government in 11th century Europe Developments: Local government had developed Great earldoms consolidated under Cnut gave threat of over-mighty subjects Yet had an invaluable new official - during Aethelred's reign one of the king's local bailiffs or 'reeves' came to be known as 'shire-reeve' or sheriff
~ Chief executive agent in the shire - assumed more and more of the alderman's functions
~ Responsible for collecting royal revenues and profits of justice
~ Also belonged to growing community of local thegns - in shire court he could announce the king's will to the gentry, take a large part in local business and add the weight of royal authority in action against oppressive magnates The shire court and the sheriff are among the most important Anglo-Saxon legacies to later medieval government A highly efficient tax system had evolved due to Aethelred's weakness 'Danegeld' - for paying the Danes in the 990s but later used for standing armies
~ Fixed rate on hides
~ 1012-51 - levied yearly
~ Complex system of assessment is basis for later Domesday Book
~ 11th century bureaucracy was so well developed that Norman kings continued to raise Danegeld for nearly a century after the Conquest The royal writ - new type of official document in this period
~ Possibly issued by Aethelred and certainly by Cnut
~ Earliest which survive are from Edward's reign

The writ was initially a brief notification to the shire-earl and the sheriff or bishop that a grant of land had been made
~ Combined efficiency with a new means of authentication - pendent wax seal
~ Useful as title deeds - old formal charters were unwieldy and easily forged
~ King could easily make his will know throughout the shires The Conqueror soon adapted the writ for issuing orders - all most important post-Conquest documents are descended from it Edward the Confessor and kings since Alfred consulted a clerical staff of priests headed by a chief clerk - office developed into chancellor
~ One of their duties was to keep records - very detailed surveys from later Anglo-Saxon period on land tenure, numbers of hides and tax obligations By Edward the Confessor's reign, the royal secretariat possessed rolls which listed the hidages
of shires and hundreds, the amount of royal land they contained and maybe even the names and values of individual manors
~ Domesday Book of 1086 could scarcely have been compiled so quickly without access to some earlier lists Society: Mid 9th to mid 11th centuries saw rapid growth in the population and economy By the Conquest there were towns in a sense that we would understand today Late Saxon law codes recognised trading centres or 'ports' (not necessarily coastal) and large
boroughs - they were rated according to the number of moneyers that they were allowed to contain
~ Towns included most of the burhs - yet not all places of ancient importance Topographical studies suggest a process of settlement nucleation in the more populous areas villages Agriculture was becoming more complex and integrated - by 1066 many parts of England had 'common fields' with intermingled holdings By the 11th century most of the old 'multiple estates' had fragmented into areas corresponding
in size to modern rural parishes more manors and manorial lords Population grew and cultivation expanded Class of small thegns had broadened into a rural squirearchy Domesday Book - by 1066 England contained hundreds of manorial lords Thegns built manorial churches in the 10th and 11th centuries 11th century churches, before and after the Conquest, were 'owned' by their lords The church was to serve the needs of the lord, his household and his tenants - basis of the future parochial system Villages, manor houses and churches took shape mainly in the late Saxon period Archbishop Wulfstan c. 1010 - a manor house and a church were the normal marks of thegnhood
~ 'If a ceorl prospered so that he possessed fully 5 hides of land of his own, a church and a
kitchen, a bell and a fortress-gate, a seat and special office in the king's hall, he was
worthy thereafter to be called a thegn'

Warfare: By the end of the 10th century a system of military service had developed - every 5 hides was responsible for providing and equipping one man for the fyrd (militia) Armour and weapons therefore became another mark of thegnhood By Aethelred's reign the monastic reform was declining Burton Abbey in Staffordshire (1004) and Eynsham Abbey in Oxfordshire (1005) were the last great foundations Political disruption and draining of resources soon put a stop to large-scale patronage Edward's piety, however, led to the rebuilding of Westminster from 1050 - ironically a product of Norman culture Architecture in England was stagnant but there had been spectacular development over the last 40 years in Normandy The succession: Final years of Anglo-Saxon history are dominated by Godwin's family and the problem of the
succession Edward had married Godwin's daughter but it was known that he was vowed to celibacy and
would never produce an heir Edward, son of Edmund Ironside, returned from Hungary with his infant son in 1057 but died almost immediately The young prince Edgar was the legitimate heir but nobody wanted a child king The Norwegian king Magnus and after him, his son Harold Hardrada saw themselves as the heirs to Cnut's empire King Edward's eyes were turned towards the duchy of Normandy where he had lived in exile for 25 years
~ Normandy had developed fast in strength and internal organization 1035 - Duke Robert of Normandy had been succeeded by his bastard son William, then a boy of seven Edward had never forgiven Godwin for his brother's murder and the tension between them
came to a head in 1051
~ One of Edward's Norman friends became involved in a brawl at Dover and several men
were killed Edward ordered Godwin as earl of Wessex to sack Dover in retribution
~ Godwin refused and raised troops against the king the king summoned the Mercian and Northumbrian earls with their full forces
~ Conflict, however, was avoided Godwin's support crumbled and he and his family went into exile Over the next year Edward increased the Norman element at court
~ Yet in 1052 Godwin returned with a large fleet and the king was obliged to be more compliant
~ The Norman archbishop fled home and several of his fellow countrymen were banished Godwin now enjoyed virtually supreme power but he died in 1053 His successor in the earldom of Wessex was his son Harold, destined to be the last AngloSaxon king and he distinguished himself by defeating Gruffydd in 1063
~ Despite lack of royal ancestry, seemed an obvious candidate for the throne

But in 1064 or early 1065 Harold visited Duke William of Normandy and swore an oath confirming an earlier promise of the English crown - may have fallen into his hands by mischance 1065 - Northumbria rebelled against Earl Tostig exile January 1066 - King Edward died the Witan elected Harold as king
~ King Harold defeated Hardrada and Tostig in September and recovered Northumbria William succeeded at Hastings due to the fatigue and lack of discipline of Harold's army The core of English resistance met in London under Edgar Atheling eventually met William and offered him fealty The Early Middle Ages (1066-1290) - John Gillingham (pp. 104-165) Christmas Day 1066 - William was acclaimed king in Westminster Abbey William was still in a precarious position despite the surrender of London and Winchester Took at least another 5 years before he could be fairly confident of his conquest There were risings against Norman rule in every year 1067-70
~ In Kent, the south-west, in the Welsh marches, in the Fenland and in the north Had to live in occupational units and build castles There may have been no more than 10k Normans living amongst a hostile population of 1 or 2 million
~ Yet many cooperated with the Normans
~ Much evidence, however, shows that the English resented becoming an oppressed majority England received a new royal family, a new ruling class, a new culture and a new language William had not originally intended such change
~ In the early days many Englishmen were able to offer their submission and retain their lands By 1086 this had changed - Domesday Book shows that there were only 2 surviving English lords of any account More than 4k thegns had lost their lands - had been replaced by a group of less than 200 barons A few of the new landlords were Bretons and men from Flanders and Lorraine but most were Normans In religion we can put a date to William's anti-English policy
~ In 1070 he had some English bishops deposed and thereafter appointed no Englishmen to either bishopric or abbey Militarily, the harrying of the north during the winter of 1069-70 suggests new ruthlessness at this time Yorkshire 1066-86 - land values fell as much as by two thirds By 1086 the new Norman elite had taken the place of the Anglo-Saxon aristocracy England and Normandy now became a single political community with an Anglo-Norman aristocracy Normandy was a principality ruled by a duke who owed homage to the king of France - brought England into French politics Also brought French language and culture Norman Conquest of 1066 was followed by the Angevin Conquest of 1153-54

~ The arrival of the court of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine reinforced the dominance of French culture 1066 - less than 30% Winchester property owners had non-English names
~ By 1207 the proportion was more than 80%
~ e.g. William, Richard, Robert Yet more European influences in 'Romanesque' and 'Gothic' architecture William of Sens was called in to rebuild the choir of Canterbury Cathedral after a fire in 1174 Henry III's rebuilding of Westminster Abbey was heavily influenced by French models French influence was so major in European culture that it became an international language A well-educated Englishman would be trilingual - English would be his mother tongue, he would have some knowledge of Latin and he would speak fluent French French was the language of law and estate management as well as literature Can argue that the Norman Conquest was the greatest disaster in English history Should it be seen as a turning point?
Great changes in other European countries which did not have a conquest In some respects, the most striking feature is not change but continuity Many more documents than ever before were written and preserved in the 12th and 13th centuries Whole of Anglo-Saxon period - about 2,000 writs and charters survive 13th century - tens of thousands As many as 8 million charters could have been produced for 13th century smallholders Edward the Confessor - only the king had a seal Edward I - even serfs were required by law to have a seal The king possessed permanently organised writing offices, the chancery and then the exchequer Sealing wax used per week by chancery
~ Late 1220s - 3.63lb
~ Late 1260s - 31.9lb 1199 - chancery clerks began to systematically keep copies of documents
~ We know much more about government from this date The whole population was now involved in literacy even if they were not necessarily literate
~ Connected with the 12th century Renaissance
~ By the 1220s Oxford and Cambridge were established Issue of documents is that we do not know when practices date from e.g. 'indenture of
retainer' documents from the 13th century yet does this practice date from prior to this period of 'bastard feudalism'?
~ There is evidence that contract armies and retainers received fee and wages as early as 1100 William I (1066-87): After 1071 his hold on England was fairly secure
~ More involved on the Continent Several of William's neighbours were alarmed by his new strength and determined to stop it

~ King Philip of France and Count Fulk le Rechin of Anjou
~ Became involved with William's eldest son Robert who, although heir to
Normandy, had never been able to enjoy money or power - from 1078 he became involved in a series of intrigues against his father
~ Disputes over the Vexin and Maine William II (1087-1100): Strong presumption that the eldest son should have his father's patrimony Robert succeeded to Normandy But England was an acquisition and could therefore be used to provide for his younger son William Customs governing the succession were still flexible
~ e.g. Influential men such as Archbishop Lanfranc of Canterbury who decided to accept William Rufus may have thought that he would be a better king Yet within a few months of his accession Rufus found himself opposed by a powerful coalition of great barons, the magnates
~ Wanted to reunite England and Normandy in order to ease their own political problems
~ The Anglo-Saxon chronicler Orderic Vitalis wrote what the greatest magnate, Odo of Bayeux, said - 'How can we give proper service to 2 distant and mutually hostile
lords? If we serve Duke Robert well we shall offend his brother William and he will deprive us of our revenues and honours in England. On the other hand if we obey King William, Duke Robert will deprive us of our patrimonies in Normandy' This was an appealing argument but the rebellion failed as Robert stayed in Normandy and did not support them Yet the 1088 revolt shows how precarious the king's position was 1087-1135 reigns of William II and Henry I
~ Rebellions - 1088, 1095, 1101, 1102
~ Cluster in 2 periods when the king was not duke - 1087-96 and 1100-06
~ Not in the king's or the aristocracy's interests The primary concern of a king of England was, therefore, to win and hold Normandy 1089 - Rufus laid claim to the duchy
~ Still insecure in England - faced a conspiracy in 1095 Tension was unexpectedly resolved in the next year - Pope Urban II's preaching tour led to
thousands deciding to join an expedition aimed at recovering Jerusalem from the Muslims
~ Offered an honourable way out of his increasingly difficult domestic political position for Robert Curthose - sold Normandy to Rufus for 10,000 marks equipped himself and his retinue Rufus' next task was to recover Maine and the Vexin - successfully accomplished by 1099 Scotland - installed edgar on the throne in 1097 Restored the kingdom to its former frontiers Yet he has unfortunate reputation due to his history being written by monks
~ Were appalled by his extravagance, gaiety and new fashions e.g. he had long hair - seen as effeminate and licentious Rufus never married
~ Welsh Chronicle of Princes - 'he used concubines and because of that died without an
heir' May have been sceptical of the Church - treated it as a rich corporation

Rarely in a hurry to appoint bishops and abbots - could gain revenues during vacancies Relied on the worldly clerk Ranulf Flambard who eventually became Bishop of Durham Rufus' reputation has greatly suffered because on 1093, when he thought he was dying, he appointed Anselm of Bec as Archbishop of Canterbury after having kept the position vacant for 4 years
~ This occurred at a time when a European movement for Church reform, the Gregorian reform, had created a controversial atmosphere in which holy men were likely to become political radicals 1095 - William called a council at Rockingham to deal with matters in a dispute between him and Anselm
~ Archbishop Anselm appealed to Rome - argued that as Archbishop he could not be tried in a secular court The rise of the Papacy in the 2nd 1/2 of the 11th century, with its claim to 1st loyalty of prelates, was a new and disturbing element in politics
~ Obligations to God might override duties to king Anselm had a good argument but Rufus had power - continued to harass the bishop and did not sympathise with his attempts to reform the church
~ 1097 - Anselm sailed from Dover and left the estates of Canterbury
~ 1100 - the king enjoyed the revenues of 3 bishoprics and 12 abbeys Belief was not yet undermined in the awesome powers of an anointed king 1100 was a peaceful year and chroniclers painted him as a strong king - yet Duke Robert was returning from the crusades
~ Yet William died in a hunting accident in August 1100 Henry I (1100-35): Henry moved fast to secure the throne - rode to Winchester and took the treasury
~ Then he went straight to Westminster and was crowned on 5 August Has been accused of arranging his brother's death but it is likely that he would have waited
until after the impending war - chance of obtaining 2 kingdoms Henry had to prepare to meet the inevitable invasion - policy to buy support by granting favours and wide-ranging concessions
~ Proclaimed on the day of his coronation with a charter of liberties in which he denounced his brother's oppressive practices and promised good government Urgent need to organise his defences - could not overturn a whole regime
~ Left with a ready-made court and administration - had little choice but to take them over Duke Robert landed at Portsmouth in July 1101
~ Many of the great barons, led by Robert of Belleme, went to his side
~ But Rufus' court circle, led by Robert of Meulan, stayed loyal to Henry
~ Henry kept England and was to pay a pension of PS2k a year After this, Henry determined to overthrow the house of Montgomery (Belleme)
~ Confiscated their lands 1106 Battle of Tinchebray - Duke Robert was captured and spent last 28 years of his life as a prisoner Was preoccupied with the Norman crisis in the first years of his reign - not totally free to concentrate on it

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