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Chronicles of the Conquered

Two conquests of England in quick succession led to a period of shifting identities and allegiances. Courtnay Konshuh and Ryan Lavelle explore how those on the losing side of history tried to forge a place in a new world under new lords.

Robert Curthose at the siege of the castle of Gerberoy. Lithograph by James E. Doyle, 1864.

The upheavals caused by two conquests of the English kingdom in the space of just 50 years – and the resulting shifts in personal allegiances to those in power – meant that the people swept up in them had to do what they could to survive. On occasion, opportunities arose that could offer some prosperity, but no matter what the fate of ‘English’ men and women was, their experiences determined the shape of post-conquest societies as they were recorded and remembered. The legacy of the Danish conquest of 1016 still weighed heavily on the English when they were conquered again in 1066. While pre-existing Anglo-Danish links may have eased a transition after the first conquest, the Norman Conquest brought with it a complete restructuring of society. The difficulty of responding to a second conquest in 50 years led to serious crisis of identity among the conquered. Histories written shortly after 1066 attempt to make sense of this crisis.

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