The Normans and feudal society

The Normans and feudal society

The Normans

  • The Normans were originally Viking settlers in the region of Normandy, France. They invaded England in 1066 led by William the Conqueror.
  • William’s triumph at the Battle of Hastings in 1066 significantly changed the structure of English society.
  • The Normans built castles across England to strengthen their control over the landscape. The castles reflected Norman military, architectural, and administrative capabilities.
  • The Domesday Book, compiled in 1086, was an extensive survey of England by William the Conqueror, showing the distribution of land and resources. This book is a significant historical source for understanding Norman England.

Feudal System

  • The feudal system was introduced by the Normans and became the basis of societal organization in England.
  • It was a hierarchical system with the king at the top, followed by the nobles, knights, and peasants.
  • Land, or ‘fiefs’, was the primary form of wealth and was given by the king to his vassals (nobles) in return for military service and loyalty.
  • Peasants, or serfs, worked the lands of the vassals and were bound to it; they could not leave without the lord’s permission.

Norman Rule

  • Norman rule was marked by a significant amount of building work, both castles and cathedrals, which changed the landscape of England.
  • Forest laws introduced by the Normans restricted hunting rights and the use of firewood, affecting the daily lives of the English peasantry.
  • The church played a central role in Norman society. The Normans greatly influenced church architecture and introduced new religious practices.
  • Norman rule also brought language changes; Latin became the language of the educated and French introduced into the courts and used by the nobility.

Social Impact

  • The social impact of the Norman Conquest was far-reaching, affecting every aspect of life in England.
  • The implementation of the feudal system drastically altered the power dynamics within society.
  • The Normans imposed new laws and customs, causing social unrest that often led to rebellions.
  • The English language and culture were influenced heavily by the Normans, significantly shaping it for centuries to come. This included changes in art, architecture, language, law, and societal norms.