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Thread: 1066: What if?

  1. #1
    taranthor
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    1066: What if?

    A hypothetical question here, but one in which I would be interested to learn peoples opinions.

    1066. Harold Godwinson is defeated at the battle of Stamford Bridge.

    Harold Hardraada moves south with Northern English support and defeats William of Normandy somewhere in the vicinity of London.

    The Norman adventure is now no more, and Saxon England is now ruled by Norwegian Harold Hardraada.

    How different would English history be after this possible outcome?

    Would we have been involved with the Crusades?
    Would we have been fighting with the French?
    Would we have taken the lead in the colonisation of America/Australia/South Africa?
    Would we have had an overseas Empire?
    Would we have a more Scandinavian outlook today?
    What would our position in the world be today?

    In retrospect, was the Norman invasion of 1066 a good or bad thing for the English?

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    Re: 1066: What if?

    The Normans get a bad rap on these forums.

    IMO, the Norman Conquest is essential to creating the English character.

    It created a distance between the rulers and the ruled. It added many words to the English language, enabling the English to become verbally dextrous.

    The Kings would never again be "of the people" for a long time. Long enough to create emnity between England and France, Ireland, Wales and Scotland. Because of the distance between the rulers and the ruled, the Norman French elite would rule with an iron fist. The exact same ruthless attitude existed right through to the 20th Century, albeit this was directed towards the Empire rather than internally.

    English history would have been very, very different. Broadly speaking, I think England is pushed more to the background without 1066, just another mainstream European country.

    Ironically, the "European invasion" of 1066 totally isolated England from Europe in so many ways. Today it is normal to think of the English speaking countries as one way of thinking, and the Continental/Napoleonic tradition as another way, we musn't forget that the roots of the English were totally European at one time.

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    Re: 1066: What if?

    I think it would take an immense amount of historical knowledge to be able to work out a detailed schema of the events that might have followed a victory by Hardraada at Stamford Bridge. (I myself have always wondered how England would be if Harold Godwinson had won the battle of Hastings. But I won't change the subject.) I envision something like this, on the whole,:

    England remains part of the Norwegian empire and Old Norse and Old English continue to meld together into one language. Norwegian is used as the administrative language, and Anglo-Norse is spoken by the common people. But a relatively pure form of Anglo-Saxon continues to be spoken in some counties until the present day. The relationship between England and Scandinavia plays out similarly to the historical relationship between England and France. Englishmen come to sit on the Norwegian throne both through inheritance and conquest on the mainland. England may even become the center of the Empire. (I don't invision it taking the backseat in history.)

    Or perhaps the inhabitants of England maintain a sense of separateness and rebell, say sometime in the 13th century. After gaining independence they continue to gain strength and annex the low countries and parts of Northern Germany, leading to a long bloody war with the Holy Roman Empire on the continent. They may become involved in the investiture conflict. The possibilities are endless. But I have a feeling that England would have played no insignificant role in European history.
    Last edited by Theudiskaz; Tuesday, August 29th, 2006 at 03:09 AM.
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  4. #4
    taranthor
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    Re: 1066: What if?

    Thanks to Havocthief and Thiedischer for your replies.

    As for me… I regard the Norman conquest of 1066 as being the single most important event that had the effect of dragging England kicking and screaming into the affairs of mainland continental Europe. This in time honed the English character and outlook as did the Norman imposition of the European Feudal system.

    However, if Hadraada had been victorious, I could see England becoming the hub of a Pan Scandinavian Empire with its eyes and aims firmly set on the North Sea, the Baltic and Russia rather than the anywhere further South! Due to its natural wealth and population size, I could see England being the main player and seat of monarchy in this Northern Empire.

    I think the Latin European religious view would be much diminished in England under this set up, Canterbury or York would rival Rome in theological terms and the importance of the later Crusades would be largely irrelevant to the ‘Northern’ view.

    Interesting what Thiedischer said about Englishmen sitting on a Scandinavian throne…Yes! I can easily see that happening with the resultant ‘link of Royal blood’ cementing together the Northern Alliance that much stronger. I can even envisage and Englishman sitting on the royal throne of Russia!

    I do not think that England/Britain would go on to be a major navel power, I think we would have more interest and influence in Sweden and Russia rather than India and Africa.

    I do think however, we would have been heavily involved in the 30 years war, and that may in fact have been our first real impact on continental Europe.

    With no England to interfere in things, I think Spain and France would have inevitably carved up the rest of the world between them, giving Napoleon a fairly free hand in world affairs, although I think he still would have come unstuck with any attack on Russia, as the English driven ‘Northern alliance’ would have been firmly against him on this.

    Major modern impacts?

    The dominant world language today would probably be French, and that includes America!

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    Re: 1066: What if?

    I think that the Northern Empire you mention would have come to pass, but I disagree that this would have left France and Spain to colonize North America. Without the distraction of the French domains of the Plantagenets, the Northern Empire may have colonized North America even earlier.
    Don't let Europe Rule Britannia!

    "If we reunited, then we would be an economic and military powerhouse without peer for centuries to come."-Leofric

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    AW: 1066: What if?

    "What-if"-questions are always difficult.
    It takes a lot of knowledge of a certain historical period to even make good assumptions of what would have happened just the next hundred years after the point of divergence.
    To make clear: I do not have that much knowledge about that period, and certainly not when it comes to the history of the Vikings or the British Isles.

    But I'll give it a try:

    Most important seems to me the questions if the Danish-Norse kingdom could remain in control of England or if the Anglo-Saxons would throw them out (imagine a superior Anglo-Saxon leader uniting his people while one idiot sits on the throne of Denmark).

    If NOT, England would have been conquered by some frankish / french monarch in 1100, 1150 or whenever and history would only be changed slightly.

    IF England (or at least big parts of England) would remain a part of and would be integrated into a Anglo-Norse Empire, things go different - and become interesting.

    Perhaps our Anglo-Norse Empire (ANE) (because the king has enough work at home, consolidating his power in the new territories, fighting anglo-saxon insurgents and keeping his celtic allies / vassals in Wales, Scotland and Ireland under control) would not go to fight in France, which in turn becomes a national-state and the dominant european power much earlier?

    What about the melting of elements of the Odinic scandinavian religion with elements of the Irish brand of Christianity?

    The most important thing is, as havocthief mentioned, that the continental feudal order would not have been introduced in England.

    Perhaps the Vikings, with the ANE as a stable backbone, would consolidate power in the Baltic countries, northern Russia and Ukrainia?

    After two centuries, it could look like that:

    (blue: 3 european Viking states: Anglo-Norse, Kiev and Novgorod / Holmgard.
    grey: semi-independent kingdoms and tribal areas)

    [img]
    http://img242.imageshack.us/img242/5...kinger2ub5.jpg[/img]

    Greetings from Germany,
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    Re: 1066: What if?

    Quote Originally Posted by havocthief View Post
    It created a distance between the rulers and the ruled.
    How was this desirable?
    Don't let Europe Rule Britannia!

    "If we reunited, then we would be an economic and military powerhouse without peer for centuries to come."-Leofric

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    Re: 1066: What if?

    Given that earlier Danish rule was for quite a limited time, I see nothing improbable in the idea of England returning to native rule before too long, with life as usual. I think the Normans were also very ambitious, and possibly would have had their eye on England no matter what.

    I can't really speculate too much beyond that. I would say that the Norman Conquest resulted in good and bad, the former including in all probability, making England stronger and more unified.

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    Re: 1066: What if?

    Well, I think perhaps the only thing one can speculate on is the English legal system. The Anglo-Saxon system was not far different from that of the Danes and the Norse, but after the Danish invasions it came closer to the legal systems of the North. Without the Normans injecting French legal ideas into the system, I think we would still be using words like sacu (our word sake) for a lawsuit, and still be going before a village assembly as opposed to a court. The Witanagemot would have survived, perhaps making parliament an earlier development, and the range of the peerage would have never developed. There would be no dukes, just earls or jarls and thegns.

    The Church would also have been different. The Normans changed much about the Church with their invasion. The Normans did away with the Anglo-Saxon Penitentials or punishments for violating church law. The Normans brought the Benedictine rule to England as well. The English monasteries were not lax, but had their own way of operating, and the Normans changed that. There were many abbots, bishops, and priests, all part of a long Anglo-Saxon Christian tradition that were replaced by Normans. William also separated Church from State. Until then church disputes were heard in the ordinary courts of the Anglo-Saxons. Finally, there were changes in liturgy. Abbot Thurstan, a Norman, of Glastonbury Abbey tried to introduce a new chant to the monks. Such was their resistance, that two of the monks were eventually killed to force the new chant on the monastery. and Thurstan being sent back to France.

    Had William lost Hastings, I do not think there would have been near the sweeping changes in the form of government or that of the Church. Society therefore would have remained much closer to what it had been in the Anglo-Saxon Period.

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    Re: 1066: What if?

    Quote Originally Posted by taranthor View Post
    In retrospect, was the Norman invasion of 1066 a good or bad thing for the English?
    It was a bad thing for the English because they were defeated by the Norman French!

    However, the Normans actually united 'England' after they defeated it, and gave it the sound basis upon which it would later launch its world-wide Empire.

    Without the Normans there would've been no British Empire, and no United States of America!
    Why are there beings at all, & why not rather nothing?
    [Leibniz/Heidegger]

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