In William the Conqueror: the Norman Impact upon England, David Douglas examines the reasons for the Norman Conquest, studies Anglo-Norman history, and outlines the known facts of William’s life. Douglas supports his arguments with a plethora of sources located in the footnotes and appendices. He documents the tumultuous era of William’s minority in Normandy and how those events prepared William for his role as duke and eventually king. Throughout the book Douglas also demonstrates how the conquest was perhaps the most revolutionary event in England prior to the Reformation. The conquest changed the monarchy, created a new style of feudalism, and developed new political and intellectual ideas.
While Douglas does an excellent job portraying the events of William the Conqueror’s life, his writing style is dry and the book’s readability is impaired by dense information. My primary purpose for reading this book was to understand the steps William had to take to secure Normandy before he could invade England, and Douglas’s information on that topic was excellent. I found William’s early life fascinating. If not for the protection of the French king during William’s minority, he would not have survived to become the duke, let alone conquer England. Despite these interesting facts, I wish Douglas had dealt more with William as a man since I know from other accounts that he was a superb military leader and a bold risk-taker. Because of Douglas’s in-depth research and plethora of bibliographical sources, I recommend this book to anyone who wants a starting point for finding additional information on William the Conqueror.
– Hannah S. Bowers
Douglas, David C. William the Conqueror: The Norman Impact upon England. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1964.