A landmark reinterpretation of the life of William the Conqueror—a pivotal figure in British and European history
"[The] definitive biography of the man who forever changed England with his invasion of 1066.”—Tony Barber, “Best books of 2016," Financial Times
In this magisterial addition to the Yale English Monarchs series, David Bates combines biography and a multidisciplinary approach to examine the life of William the Conqueror. Using a framework derived from studies of early medieval kingship, he assesses each phase of William’s life to establish why so many trusted him to invade England in 1066 and the consequences of this on the history of the so-called Norman Conquest after the Battle of Hastings and for generations to come.
A leading historian of the period, Bates is notable for having worked extensively in the archives of northern France and discovered many eleventh- and twelfth-century charters largely unnoticed by English-language scholars. Taking an innovative approach, he argues for a move away from old perceptions and controversies associated with William’s life and the Norman Conquest. This deeply researched volume is the scholarly biography for our generation.
David Bates is professorial fellow, University of East Anglia. His books include Normandy Before 1066 and The Normans and Empire. He lives in Cambridge, UK.
"This is serious, definitive history, essential for undergraduates and academics. . . . Bates gets as close to the subject as any medieval biographer could wish."—Dan Jones, Sunday Times
"Bates has devoted a lifetime of learning to William the Conqueror and his age. In this definitive biography of the man who forever changed England with hisinvasion of 1066, Bates contends that a full understanding of William’s place in history requires locating him in a longer period.”—Tony Barber, “Best books of 2016," Financial Times
"The best ever biography of the ruthless Norman bastard — masterly and exciting, but always measured and scholarly."—Simon Sebag Montefiore, The Week, 22nd July 2017
“A coherent, consistent and complete portrait by a single master. . . This book is a monument to Bates’s knowledge of William, his career and his times. It has significantly advanced our understanding of this imposing figure, and it will, and should, be the point of departure for future discussions of the reign.”—Mark Hagger, English Historical Review
"Leading expert David Bates gives one of British History’s headline figures the in-depth treatment. . . . From his personality to the consequences of his military actions, this book will heartily extend your knowledge of 1066 and all that."—History Revealed
"David Bates has given us a magnificent new biography of William the Conqueror to add to his superb edition of William’s royal charters. Reflecting many years of research, it is deeply learned, full of important new insights and . . . makes a major contribution to our knowledge and understanding, not only of the Conqueror but also of the world in which he lived. No scholar working in the field can afford to ignore this; all readers with an interest in the period will benefit from it."—Paul Dalton, TLS
“There is surely no-one better placed than Prof. David Bates to write this biography. . . A magnificent achievement of detailed description and analysis.” —Matthew Bennett, Reviews in History
“This thorough biography, bringing together so many medieval life histories, demonstrates what close, informed and imaginative engagement with the seemingly intractable remnants of the medieval past can accomplish.” —William M. Aird, French History
“Richly detailed and nuanced in interpretation. . . a very considerable achievement, moving historical debate forward and, not least in importance, the publisher is to be thanked for a very reasonable price.” —Judith Green, History
“A judicious and thoughtful study...The reader is rewarded not only with detailed handling of the rich, if rarely straightforward, testimony of the charter and narrative material, but also with masterful overviews of the period-defining and problematic record of the Bayeux Tapestry and the monumental and monumentally-detailed evidence of Domesday Book.”—H. F. Doherty, Northern History
Won the 2017 Choice Award for Outstanding Academic Title
"David Bates's biography of William the Conqueror is a worthy culmination of a lifetime's study of one of England's greatest and in many ways most complex kings. Despite the 950 years which now lie between us and William's remarkable victory at Hastings, Bates conjures up the man in all his strengths, weaknesses and passions, and proves that there is still much new to learn about this man who changed the course of the histories of England, Britain and France."—David Crouch, author of The English Aristocracy, 1070–1272
"This book tells of William the Conqueror as never before. David Bates recognizes a distinguished predecessor, yet where D.C. Douglas wrote from the outside in, Bates writes from the inside out to show how the biography of Duke-King William is what illuminates Normandy and England at a critical time in their histories. Bates writes with surpassing command of the sources to bring out the problematic contexts of challenges facing the Conqueror throughout his life. He shows that William's legacy of achievement and brutality was as troubling to the writers who knew or remembered him as it is for us. Moreover, the deployment of a vast new secondary literature renders this book virtually a tribute to the burgeoning Anglo-Norman field of research that it occupies. Bates' William the Conqueror is a monumental accomplishment."—Thomas N. Bisson, author of The Crisis of the Twelfth Century: Power, Lordship, and the Origins of European Government
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