William, duke of Normandy, defeated Harold of Wessex near Hastings in 1066.
During his kingdom William had to resist many rebellions.
The Norman conquest introduced a centralized form of feudal system into England. It was based on feudal hierarchy where the king gave lands to barons, who gave lands to knights and so on. barons and knights acquired great importance. Peasants were slaves of knights and they had to serve them everytime it was necessary. Another Norman innovation was the Royal consilium of curia composed by the barons. Then, in order to acquire knowledge of his new dominion and to make a complete survey of the economic life of the country, William sent people officially in charge to take note of all lands, houses and dominions in England. The result of this huge operation was the Domesday Book. It had two objectives : first to provide information for levy the property tax , and second to give the King information of England. William’s relationship with the Church was good: he continued to pay the annual tax (Peter’s Pence) to Rome and the Pope had give his blessing to the Norman. The King introduces also the Bishop’s Court of justice, which constituted a rival power to the King’s Court because William controlled the nomination of Bishops and abbots, who were both spiritual and temporal lords.
The English language evolved into Middle English dropping German and French inflections.
until the 14th century in England were spoken three languages: French among the nobility, Latin among the clergy and English among the common people.
In 1154 Henry II of Anjou was made king. He restored order and stability; his first task was to reduce the power of the barons which he did with the help of professional soldiers. Knights could now pay the king a sum of money instead of giving the militar service and with this money the king was able to pay mercenaries. (Shield money).He imposed also the “Constitutions of Clarendon” in which he declared that clerks should first judged by the king’s court and then by the church court. But Thomas à Becket opposed the king and for this reason was sent into exile in France. When he returned he was murdered in his own cathedral.
Henry sent travelling judges round land to hold courts and officially introduced the Common Law, a juridical system developed in England, a consuetudinary right produced by law courts and applied in Anglo-Saxon countries.
It is called Common Law because it became a juridical system common to all the England after its political unity, sent his judges to every England's corner to spread this right and it was influenced by past rulers as Saxon and Danes. Another important innovation was Trial by jury, in which the jury was only witness and had no power of verdict; in this way justice has been done.
A trial usually goes on in this way: the case is presented, and English judge starts a long work of research in the archives to find the descriptions of trials which deal similar cases happened in the past and in this way he can obtain the principles and norms to conduct the trial. England was different of the rest of Europe because of this law: in others European country the legal practice was based on the Civil law of the Roman Empire and the Canonic law of the Church. English lawyers created a entirely different system based on custom, comparisons, previous cases and previous decisions.
Richard I (Lion Heart) succeed to Henry II, but he didn’t stay in England for a long time; in fact he joined the 3rd crusade and after this he went in France to defend his possessions. Anyway, thanks to the king, the exchange with the East increased.
John Lackland asked the barons for money because of his defeats in the battles against Philip II. For this reason barons made a revolt and made the king sign a document called “Magna Charta” in which for the first time relations between barons and king were definited and some fundamental principles recognized.The document protected in this way all freemen against injustice.
Henry III was only an instrument of Pope and provoked the barons’ revolt under Simon de Monfort. He was defeated, but his struggle made the Parliament change and introduced a short period of democracy.
Edward III was involved in the Hundred years’ war, begun at the end of the French dynasty to defend English possessions in France and markets in Flanders. At first England made two important victories at Crecy et Poitiers, but in the end was defeated by the French and lost all his possessions in France. The war was resumed by Henry V who defeated the French army at Agincourt and forced the population to accept an unfavourable peace. He married Catherine and became king of Normandy.
In 1348 the black death murdered a third of the English population and signed the society and the economy; in fact only few people worked so the labourers asked for money. Parliament made the Statute of Labourers, negative for labourers because it declared the maximum salary for them. The peasantry made a revolt known as the Peasants’ revolt. The landlords solved the problem of money making a change about the lands, used as pascols and they associated in Guilds. This transformation made the commerces in whool begin. Wycliffe and his lollards opposed the rich and corrupted Church; they wanted to spread the knowledge of the Bible all over England. Even if the movement was suppressed the lollards’ ideas became the fundament of Protestantism.
War of roses - Tudor
After the 100 years’ war the bitter struggles between two English dynasties, Lancaster and York, increased until it became a real civil war. This war was called “war of roses” because of the emblems of the two Houses ( a white rose and a red rose) and it lasted 30 years. In the end, the House of Lancaster won and Henry VII Tudor sat on the throne. This family influenced also art.
The old metrical system was changed: we have no more alliteration but we have rhymes and a precise number of syllables. The nature isn’t like in Beowulf, but is full of joie de vivre. The vision of life has changed, too. (the Cuckoo Song)
We have also ballads, in which we don’t have descriptions of nature or feelings; they’re usually tragic or love stories. They’re divided into stanzas of four lines and they have repetitions and pauses. People were illitterated so we need musicality, given by 3-4 stresses per line. We have also eye rhymes and half rhymes to help memorization. (Edward: climax, turning points, no feelings, story in media res because we know only about the dialogue not about the beginning or the end of the story).