William The Conqueror
with Professor David Bates
(Professorial Fellow, University of East Anglia)
at Sutton Hoo on Saturday, 14th October 2017.

On the day of the 951st anniversary of the Battle of Hastings, David Bates will start with reflections on the writing his newly published biography of William the Conqueror (in the Yale University Press English Monarchs series) and then go on to reconsider the historical significance of the Norman Conquest and of the life of King William.

Provisional Programme

09.50 – 10.15:                Coffee on arrival

10.15 – 11.15:                Challenging Stereotypes: Writing a Biography of William the Conqueror – The session will combine an analysis of the answers to a preliminary Questionnaire and my personal reflections on the task of writing a new biography of William the Conqueror. I will focus on cultural, social, and ethical issues and the reinterpretations of many specific episodes. The aim is to shape the interactive discussions to take place during the Day.

11.15 – 11.40:                Coffee break

11.40 – 12.40:                William the Conqueror: Child, Adolescent, Adult – This session will be devoted to the problems of writing the biography of an eleventh-century ruler. The first chapters of William the Conqueror have suggested a radical reinterpretation of his early life which, I am going to suggest, means that we have to re-think the adult personality. The Questionnaire will again inform discussions. Subjects and places such as the Harrying of the North, the two abbeys in Caen, Colchester castle, and Winchester will feature.

12.40 – 14.00:                Lunch break

14.00 – 14.50:                 Conquest: Violence, Legitimacy, and Life-Histories – This session will be primarily devoted to how William established his rule and why he was able to pass the kingdom on to his heirs. Throughout this session, as indeed the others, it must never be forgotten that he remained Duke of Normandy and that, from 1063, he had also been count of Maine. I will again develop arguments in relation to how people and places experienced conquest and rule. Norwich, Bury St Edmunds, Lincoln, York, and Le Mans can feature. Domesday Book will be fitted in.

14.50 – 15.10:                Tea break

15.10 – 16.00:                William the Conqueror and 1066 in Historical Perspective – As in the book, I want to argue that neither William nor the conquest of England can be understood unless a long-term perspective is taken. I favour a period of 900 to 1300. Issues such as England’s and Britain’s relationship with Europe (how topical – it does matter!), English and British exceptionalism and identity, and European change will all feature. My perspective is that we must think in terms of diversity and multiculturalism as well as of a well-established English kingdom.

c.16.00:                            Thanks and Close

About Professor David Bates

David Bates took his PhD at the University of Exeter under the supervision of Professor Frank Barlow, and over a professional career of more than forty years he has held posts in the Universities of Cardiff, Glasgow, London (where he was Director of the Institute of Historical Research from 2003 to 2008), East Anglia, and Caen, Normandie, and for many years was editor of Anglo-Norman Studies. He has worked extensively in the archives and libraries of Normandy and Northern France, and has always sought to emphasize the European dimension of the history of the Normans and the British Isles and to place his work within an up-to-date historiography devoted to wide themes of culture, society, and change.  His most recent work is William the Conqueror, was published in the Yale University Press English Monarchs series.

Some Suggestions for Optional Background Reading

  • David Bates, The Normans and Empire (Oxford, 2013)
  • David Bates, William the Conqueror (New Haven and London, 2016)
  • Stephen Baxter, The Earls of Mercia: Lordship and Power in Late Anglo-Saxon England (Oxford, 2007)
  1. E. J. Cowdrey, Lanfranc: Scholar, Monk and Archbishop (Oxford, 2003)
  • Julia Crick and Elisabeth van Houts (eds.), A Social History of England, 900-1200 (Cambridge, 2011)
  • Eric Fernie, The Architecture of Norman England (Oxford, 2000)
  • Judith A. Green, Forging the Kingdom: Power in English Society, 973-1189 (Cambridge, 2007)
  • Dawn M. Hadley and Christopher Dyer (eds.), The Archaeology of the Norman Conquest: Continuities and Transformations (London, 2017)
  • Sally Harvey, Domesday: Book of Judgement (Oxford, 2014)
  1. K. Lawson, The Battle of Hastings 1066 (Stroud, 2002) (3rd pdf edition, 2016: https://archive.org/details/LawsonBattleofHastings3rdedn)
  • Richard Mortimer (ed.), Edward the Confessor: The Man and the Legend (Woodbridge, 2009)
  • Elizabeth Carson Pastan and Stephen D. White, with Kate Gilbert, The Bayeux Tapestry and its Contents: a Reassessment (Woodbridge, 2014)
  • Ann Williams, The English and the Norman Conquest (Woodbridge, 1995)
  • For those who want to immerse themselves in the primary sources, the most convenient way to do so is through Anglo-Saxon Chronicles, trans. and ed. Michael Swanton (London, 2000) and translations of Domesday Book (Domesday Book: A Complete Translation, ed. Ann Williams (London, 1992) and the volumes of the Phillimore edition of which John Morris was the general editor.
  • Students can also visit www.pase.ac.uk for a research project devoted to the individuals who are named in Domesday Book and all the other sources.