2 - The great Norman land grab

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  • pre Norman invasion Anglo-Saxon England made up of a free people who owned their own land.
  • all land seized in post invasion Norman land grab and majority of population become serfs belonging to Norman Barons and Knights.
  • it took ten years from Battle Of Hastings for Normans to subdue entire country (mention Harrying Of The North)
  • make connection to outlaw legends (Robin Hood and Hereward The Wake)
  • massive concentration of large landowners from 2000 to 200 within ten years - none of whom spoke Anglo-Saxon.

songs, poems, quotes and stories The quote from William The Conqueror's deathbed (see below) plus various possible Robin Hood stories and ballads.

Robin Hood and the Butcher (Child Ballad 122) - [1]

Robin Hood and the Tanner (Child Ballad 126) - [2]

Robin Hood and the Fifteen Foresters (Child Ballad 139) - [3]

Robin Hood and The Pedlar (Penguin book of English folk songs) - [4]

Hugh Lupton and Nick Hennessey have a cd called 'Liberty Tree' which is full of wonderful outlaw ballads and stories - [5]

washing line

  • 1066 Norman Conquest
  • William's deathbed quote

Sample Text

So we are going to go back to 1066 now, which is pretty much one of the only dates that most people can correctly identify from their school history; the year of the Battle of Hastings and the Norman conquest.

William the Conqueror convinced himself that he was entitled to the English Anglo-Saxon crown and invaded from Normandy, a small province of northern France. King Harold got an arrow in the eye at the battle of Hastings and that was pretty much that.

But alas... it wasn't... it actually took him ten years to subdue the whole country and what the history books often forget to mention is that William once crowned declared that all of the land, animals and people in the whole country now belonged to him personally. An unprecedented land grab to end all land grabs.

Imagine you went to sleep free and owning your own land (as over 90% of the pre Norman population were) and then woke up the next day without ownership of that land and instead found yourself the private property of whichever Knight or Baron William had entrusted the land too as payment for their military services. This was called serfdom and was in essence a modified form of slavery.

As is to be imagined the Anglo-Saxon English did not take this lying down and waged a guerilla war which William struggled to put down as outlaws took to the woods and picked off any Normans they could find. So angry was William at this continued resistance to his rule that he burnt down every single building between York and Durham to set an example, leaving around a hundred thousand people to die in the process – this was called the 'harrying of the north' if you want google it for yourself...

It is worth noting that many of the largest land owners in the country still to this day proudly trace their family tree back to ancestors who were involved in this bloodbath. Luckily you don't have to take my word for it as on William's deathbed he made the following confession...

"I treated the native inhabitants of the kingdom with unreasonable severity, cruelly oppressed high and low, unjustly disinherited many, and caused the death of thousands by starvation and war, especially in Yorkshire....

In mad fury I descended on the English of the north like a raging lion, and ordered that their homes and crops with all their equipment and furnishings should be burnt at once and their great flocks and herds of sheep and cattle slaughtered everywhere.

So I chastised a great multitude of men and women with the lash of starvation and, alas! was the cruel murderer of many thousands, both young and old, of this fair people."


{if doing Robin Hood story or ballad then....}

A few hundred years later we see a first written reference to a 'hooded Robert' in a priest's declaration that no one wants to attend mass any more, all they do is get drunk in taverns and sing ballads about Robin Hood... It seems demonising hoodies is not a recent thing...

We can be pretty sure Robin Hood never existed but more likely was amalgamation of various stories telling of outlaws (such as Hereward The Wake's) resistance to the Norman Conquest and subsequent rule.