September 28, 2006

Gratuitous Historickal Posting


On this day in 1066, William of Normandy landed unopposed with an army at Pevensey in Sussex, England, thereby forever changing the course of English and, I suppose, world history.

One of the long-term effects of the Norman Conquest that has always delighted me is a linguistic one. Most words in the English language for ordinary barnyard animals - cow, pig, sheep and so on, come from Saxon roots. On the other hand, our words for the food products derived from these animals - beef, pork, poultry, veal, mutton and such, come from Norman French. This is a direct reflection of who was eating these animals back in the day when modern English was evolving, and who was out in the slop of the yard looking after them.

UPDATE: Basil Seal has more on William's claim to the English throne, the basis of which might be described as "thin".

Another repercussion of the Norman Conquest that always resonates in my mind is the scene in Henry V in which the Duke of Bourbon fumes at the lack of French opposition to Hal's invasion:

Normans, but bastard Normans, Norman bastards!
Mort de ma vie! if they march along
Unfought withal, but I will sell my dukedom,
To buy a slobbery and a dirty farm
In that nook-shotten isle of Albion.

- Henry V, Act 3, scene 5

Medieval France did not have a centralized monarchy but instead was made up of several strong Dukedoms (and other feudal territories) in nominal allegiance under the King. Normandy had its own peculiar history, in that its people were originally a mish-mash army of native Gauls, Norsemen, Angles, Danes and other invaders who were given the territory in exchange for lifting their attack on Paris and on the condition that they defend the place from other pirate raiders. From its founding, it had a long tradition of semi-independence from and occassional bad blood with its neighbors. It's neat that Shakespeare has Bourbon view Harry's invasion as another irruption of this.

UPDATE DEUX: Of course, for a more exhaustive discussion of farming within the Norman-Saxon socio-political framework, be sure to pick up a copy of The Ronettes Sing Medieval Agrarian History.

Posted by Robert at September 28, 2006 09:50 AM | TrackBack

My property law professor started the semester with William of Normandy and the Battle of Hastings. Blackacre has a long history.

Posted by: rbj at September 28, 2006 01:44 PM

Heh. My property law professor was a communist who didn't believe in property rights. Nonetheless, he marched us through fee simple, fee tail and the rule in Shelley's Case like a good 'un. Alas, no cool knightly battle descriptions.

Posted by: Robbo the LB at September 28, 2006 01:52 PM

Totally unrelated, but heh.

Posted by: Matt Navarre at September 28, 2006 07:13 PM