19 June 2018

Book Review ~ After the Conquest: The Divided Realm 1066-1135, by Teresa Cole


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On his deathbed William the Conqueror divided his property between his three sons, Robert, William and Henry. One of them got England, one got Normandy and one £5,000 of silver. None of them was satisfied with what he received. It took much violence, treachery, sudden death and twenty years before one of them reigned supreme over all the Conqueror’s lands.

One of the problems with the way history was taught when I was at school was the 'compartmentalisation', punctuated by the great events. We didn't see it like that, of course, but 1066 is a perfect example, as having studied the invasion, we wasted no time on the aftermath and consequences.

I'd like to think that's changed now (although I doubt it) but it's why books such as After the Conquest are so important. As well as enabling those of us who were failed by their history teachers to 'catch up', they can begin to help readers make sense of a complex period in British and European history, which had far-reaching effects on society.

Teresa Cole is the history teacher I wish I'd had, as she held my attention from the first page to the last, with a lively and engaging style. I particularly like her technique of raising questions in the reader's mind, then answering them in the context of the of the contemporary accounts of chroniclers such as Orderic Vitalis.

One of the 'facts' I dutifully learnt as a schoolboy was of King Henry I dying of a 'surfeit of lampreys'. If you imagine a time before food hygiene or knowledge of harmful bacteria, this was more likely to have been a case of food poisoning. 

I mention this as an example of how understanding the context shifts your understanding. I found this the case throughout this excellent book, which I'm happy to recommend to anyone who wants to know more about how the sons of William 'The Conqueror' took froward his legacy.

Tony Riches

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About the Author

Teresa Cole has been a teacher for thirty years. She has written several law books and a historical biography, 'Henry V: The Life of the Warrior King & the Battle of Agincourt 1415' . She lives just outside Bath. 

Disclosure: A review copy of this book was kindly provided by 
Amberley Publishing

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