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Normans
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Normans

This article talks about the Norman people. There is also a place named Norman, Oklahoma in the United States.

The Normans (lit. "Northmen") were Scandinavian invaders (especially Danish Vikings) who began to occupy the northern area of France now known as Normandy in the latter half of the 9th century. Under the leadership of Hrolf Ganger, who adopted the French name Rollo, they swore allegiance to the king of France (Charles the Simple) and received the small and lower Seine area from him in 911 which they later expanded to become the Duchy of Normandy.

The Norman people adopted Christianity and the French language and created a new cultural identity separate from that of their Scandinavian forebears and French neighbours. Norman culture, like that of many other migrant communities, was particularly enterprising and adaptable. For a time, it led them to occupy widely dispersed territories throughout Europe.

In Eastern Europe this development, and rapid expansion of Vikings and their descendants, was paralleled by the Varangians (Rus' (people)) in Kievan Rus'. However, in spite of historical evidence, some Slavic scholars have been opposed to this Normanist theory, since the 18th century.

Table of contents
1 Norman origins
2 Normans and Normandy
3 The Normans in England
4 The Normans in Ireland
5 The Normans in Russia
6 Norman Conquests in the Mediterranean
7 References

Norman origins

See also Viking, Norse, Varangian

Normans and Normandy

In the course of the 10th century the initial destructive incursions of Norse war bands into the rivers of Gaul evolved into more permanent encampments that included women and chattel. The pagan culture was driven underground by the Christian faith and French language of the local people. With the zeal of new converts they set forth in the 11th century from their solid base in Normandy. Characteristically it was younger sons, like William the Bastard who were largely dispossessed at home, that headed the adventurous raiding parties.

Geoffrey Malaterra characterized the Normans as

"specially marked by cunning, despising their own inheritance in the hope of winning a greater, eager after both gain and dominion, given to imitation of all kinds, holding a certain mean between lavishness and greediness, that is, perhaps uniting, as they certainly did, these two seemingly opposite qualities. Their chief men were specially lavish through their desire of good report. They were, moreover, a race skilful in flattery, given to the study of eloquence, so that the very boys were orators, a race altogether unbridled unless held firmly down by the yoke of justice. They were enduring of toil, hunger, and cold whenever fortune laid it on them, given to hunting and hawking, delighting in the pleasure of horses, and of all the weapons and garb of war."

That quick adaptability Geoffrey mentions expressed itself in the shrewd Norman willingness to take on local men of talent, to marry the high-born local women; confidently illiterate Norman masters used the literate clerks of the church for their own purpose. Their success at assimilating was so thorough, few modern traces remain, whether in Palermo or Kiev.

In Normandy they adopted the growing feudal doctrines of France, and worked them, both in Normandy and in England, into a logical system.

The Norman language forged by the adoption of the indigenous oïl language by a Norse-speaking ruling class developed into the regional language which survives today.

The Normans in England

The most famous Norman leader was William the Conqueror (Duke William II of Normandy, after 1066 king William I of England), who successfully led an invasion of the British isles in 1066. Following the Battle of Hastings, the invading Normans and their descendants formed a distinct population in England. To all outward appearance the Norman conquest of England was an event of an altogether different character from the Danish conquest. The one was a conquest by a people whose tongue and institutions were still palpably akin to those of the English. The other was a conquest by a people whose tongue and institutions were palpably different from those of the English. The Norman settlers in England felt no community with the earlier Danish settlers in England. In fact the Normans met with the steadiest resistance in a part of England which was largely Danish Ousting the Danes who had recently conquered England, and who provided some of the stiffest resistance to the Normans, and largely replacing the powerful Anglo-Saxon territorial magnates, while co-opting the most powerful of them, the Normans imposed a new political structure that is broadly termed "feudal. (Historians debate whether pre-Norman England should be considered a feudal government - indeed, the entire characterization of Feudalism is under some dispute.)

Many of the Anglo-Saxon English lost lands and titles; the lesser thegns and others found themselves lower down the social order than previously. A number of free geburs had their rights and court access much decreased, becoming unfree villeins.

The degree of subsequent Norman-Saxon conflict (as a matter of conflicting social identities) is a question disputed by historians. The nineteenth century view of intense mutual resentment, reflected in the popular legends of Robin Hood and the novel Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott, may have been considerably exaggerated. Some residual ill-feeling is suggested by contemporary historian Orderic Vitalis, who in Ecclesiastical Historii (1125) wrote in praise of native English resistance to "William the Bastard". Likewise, a law called the "Mudrum fine" established a high (46 mark) fine for homicide against a Norman; this law was thought to be necessary due to the high rate of English attacks against Normans.

Whatever the level of dispute, over time, the two populations largely intermarried and merged, combining languages and traditions. Normans began to identify themselves as Anglo-Norman; indeed, Anglo-Norman French was considerably distinct from the "French of Paris", which was the subject of some humour by Geoffrey Chaucer. Eventually, even this distinction largely disappeared in the course of the Hundred Years war, with the Anglo-Norman aristocracy increasingly identifying themselves as English.

The Normans in Ireland


'Norman Keep in Trim, County Meath, Ireland'
The Normans had a profound result on Irish culture, history and ethnicity. While initially in the Normans in the
12th century kept themselves as a distinct culture and ethnicity they quickly subsummed into Ireland and it is often said they became more Irish than the Irish themselves. The Normans settled mostly in an area to the east of Ireland, later know as the Pale, and also built many fine castles and settlements, including Trim Castle and Dublin Castle. Both cultures intermixed borrowing from each others language, culture and outlook.

See also: Castles in the Republic of Ireland

The Normans in Russia

See Kievan Rus' and Rus' (people)

Norman Conquests in the Mediterranean

Opportunistic bands of Norman successfully established a foothold far to the south of Normandy. Groups settled at Aversa and Capua, others [?] conquered Apulia and Calabria.

From these bases, more organised principalities were eventually able to capture Sicily and Malta from the Saracens.

[The decline of Norman power in the south?]

[The disappearance of Norman identity more generally?]

References