Friday, 14 October 2016

Battle of Hastings - 950th Anniversary


Today is the 950th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings, which I suspect many forums and blogs associated with our hobby will be covering to some degree or other.

There are few battles throughout history, I think, that have had the effect to change the world with effects that last today and likely beyond. Perhaps Hastings could be considered as one of those world changing battles.

How you may ask could a battle fought 950 years ago, seven miles north west of Hastings with no more than about 13,000 men on the field of battle have had such world changing effects.

The answer lies in the effect it had on the British Isles and a major consequence that followed, with an effect that spread throughout the world carried in the wake of British influence that would develop hugely in the following nine and a half centuries.

Sadly to my way of thinking and as I have commented previously, British History is not taught the way it was when I were a lad. We have developed a modular teaching of history that fails to deliver an historical narrative about how we arrived with the nation states we have in these islands, the unwritten constitution built around the mother of parliaments, the rule of law, a constitutional monarchy and with English as the dominant language.

If these chaps had won at Hastings these words would have looked a lot different!
Thus when it comes to grappling with major constitutional issues such as Scottish Independence and British exit from the European Union it makes it hard to make an informed decision about where you want to go if you don't have a clue where you've come from and how we arrived in the current situation in the first place.

The Battle of Hastings is one of those cornerstone events in British History that changed Britain fundamentally, with one dominant culture, the Anglo Saxons, replaced by another, the invading Normans; and with the language at court being changed to French it forced the native population to develop a mix of Anglo Saxon and Norman French into what we know as modern English.

Thus for example the names for prepared foods adopted many words into English from the Norman French, words such as pork, mutton and beef.

This major change developed into the beautiful language of Shakespeare and the language that encompassed the globe, the language of the air and sea, the language of commerce.

If you speak English as a first language then you are evidence of the lasting effects of the Norman victory today nine hundred and fifty years ago.

If it had not been for William's victory on the 14th October 1066 I would probably have been writing this post in some form of Anglo Germanic Dutch. A thought to conjure with this December when we get the Dark Age collection out on the table at the Devon Wargames Group.

Happy Hastings Day to English speakers around the world.

3 comments:

  1. ".. and with the language at court being changed to French it forced the native population to develop a mix of Anglo Saxon and Norman French into what we know as modern English."

    Is that so? I thought that I had read that the language of the 'people who work' remained English and that it is a language that has always borrowed from others: Norse, Latin, French, and in more modern times Indian, Arabic and even a couple of words of Malay, among others. Surely, the ruling class eventually learnt English?

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    1. The language at the upper end of the social spectrum was Norman French and remained so for several centuries going into the medieval period, and which became progressively dominant as the Anglo Saxon nobility was disinherited and replaced by yet more Norman nobility, hence my reference to the language at court.

      I think if you were an Anglo Saxon looking to engage with the law of the land under the Normans you would have struggled without a gradual adoption of the language of the ruling class, so it is little wonder that the modern language evolved out of a combination of the two predominant languages which included words grabbed from the other cultures you refer to and still does to this day.

      As you say in time the new modern English replaced the Norman French at court and became the predominant language across the social strata.

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  2. Anglo Saxon, Norman French, lets not forget Latin & Greek. Cornerstones of the language...

    Vince

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