Book Review: A Brief History of The Normans

A Brief History of The Normans:  The Conquests that Changed the face of Europe, by Francois Neveux, is a very good book that is both informative and entertaining.  The reader will learn that William the Conqueror and his Normans were not the only Normans invading parts of Europe.  Two Norman brothers invaded Sicily and southern Italy.  The reader will learn where the Normans originate and where they ended up.

Francois Neveux presents the views of other historians about various issues about the Normans like where they originated from, their methods of war and their society and culture.  Neveux shows that the Normans made a major impact on Europe that we today take for granted like words in English, architecture, and place names.  The Norman rulers were good about using the clergy to advance their causes.  They were also notorious about wanting their way even when the clergy pointed out that this was not good.  Some like St. Thomas Becket paid for those corrections with their lives and others like St. Anselm ended up having to spend time in exile.

Even popes had trouble with them especially when Normans became rulers of southern Europe, but they also found them useful when they pitted them against German rulers.  There is a centerfold of various illustrations concerning the Normans.  There is a chronology and a bibliography and index.  There are maps in the front of the book.  On the front cover is an image of the famous Bayeux tapestry which shows the Battle of Hastings where William the Conqueror defeated the Anglo-Saxons under King Harold of England on October 14, 1066.

Francois Neveux is a leading medieval historian in France and has written several books on the Normans.  He is a professor of history at Caen University.  This book is part of Running Press’ Brief History series.  This book is highly recommended to those interested in medieval history, the history of England, France, and Italy.

A Brief History of The Normans:  The Conquests that Changed the face of Europe. Francois Neveux; translated by Howard Curtis.  Philadelphia : Running Press.  280 pages.  Paperback.  June 2008.  ISBN 978-0-7624-2271-1.  $13.95.

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