The Trauma of 1066

Elizabeth van Houts reconstructs memories of occupation (with echoes of the 1940s) from post-Norman conquest chronicles.

Modern studies of the Norman Conquest of England in 1066 emphasise the survival of Anglo Saxon customs and the continuity of pre-Conquest institutions well into the twelfth century. There is little or no attention paid to the catastrophic impact the Conquest had on the English population, or for the absorption of its effect on the Normans and their European neighbours.

The lack of early English chronicles is no doubt responsible for the modern failure to engage in a discussion on the traumatic experience of expeditions of 1066 to 1071 for both the victors and the victims. Yet, precisely this lack of contemporary narratives and the emergence of second and third generation stories about 1066 can explain the impact of the war. The historiographic tradition of the First and Second World Wars this century shows similar patterns of silence followed by an explosion of literature.

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