William the Bastard at War

William the Bastard at War

By John Gillingham

Studies in Medieval History Presented to R. Allen Brown, edited by Christopher Harper-Bill, Christopher J. Holdsworth, Janet L. Nelson (Boydell, 1989)

Introduction: As Allen Brown observed at the end of his paper on his battle at his conference almost the only thing about the Norman Conquest that isn’t controversial is the fact that the Normans won the Battle of Hastings. How and why they won remain matters of opinion. In Allen’s view – and, characteristically, he described himself as being ‘at least as unbiased as William of Poitiers’ – they owed their victory to their ‘superior military techniques’ and to William’s ‘superior generalship’. Now much has been written about military techniques and organisation, both Norman and Anglo-Saxon, but almost nothing has been written about William’s generalship. Although what he did – and what Harold did – in 1066 itself has been endlessly discussed, no real attempt has been made to put that decisive campaign into the context of William’s whole career as a war leader.

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