This book presents histories and chronicles written by the Normans themselves, or written by those whom they conquered, or written by contemporaries elsewhere in Europe who observed their actions from afar. It covers the process of assimilation and amalgamation between Scandinavians and Franks and the emergence of Normandy. The swift association of the Scandinavian counts of Rouen with their Frankish noble neighbours is indicative of their wish to settle and root in western France. The book illustrates the internal organisation of the principality with a variety of source material from chronicles, miracle stories and charters. The Normans had a turbulent relationship with the English kingdom. This country had been regularly attacked by vikings, who had settled in the east in an area known as the Danelaw. The book then presents material from the main chronicle sources for the history of the Norman invasion and settlement, supplemented with some poetry. It explains Normans' careers particularly well in Italy, and to a lesser extent in Byzantium, Spain and the Holy Land. From Normandy they set out later to conquer southern Italy and the greater part of Britain and some established themselves elsewhere in Europe. The book concerns the debate about to what extent the Norman expansion into the Mediterranean was part of an exclusively Norman experience.
This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book aims to give readers a selection of the abundant source material generated by the Normans and the people they conquered. The Normans themselves in the eleventh and twelfth centuries drew attention to their actions all over Europe. The book covers the process of assimilation and malgamation between Scandinavians and Franks and the emergence of Normandy. It illustrates the internal organisation of the principality with a variety of source material from chronicles, miracle stories and charters. The book presents material from the main chronicle sources for the history of the Norman invasion and settlement, supplemented with some poetry. It focuses on Normans careers particularly well in Italy, and to a lesser extent in Byzantium, Spain and the Holy Land.
From the late tenth century, part of the region that was roughly equivalent to the archdiocese of Rouen became known as Normandy. This was as a result of the settlement of Scandinavian people and the grant of authority by the Carolingian king to the viking leader Rollo. The Norman historians Dudo of Saint-Quentin and William of Jumieges say that the pagan viking Rollo came from Dacia and thus they imply a Danish origin. In Frisia prosperous harbours on rivers offered the vikings trading depots, while the kings received political and military support in locations vulnerable to attacks from the sea. The spread of coins minted in tenth-century Rouen suggests Norman contacts with the British Isles and Scandinavia as well as Russia, Poland, Germany and Switzerland and therefore presents a Norman focus to the west, north and north-east of Europe.
By 1066 Normandy had established itself as one of the most stable and successful principalities in France. The widescale building programmes of castles, bourgs and churches in eleventh-century Normandy testify to the wealth amassed by its dukes and the aristocracy, both secular and ecclesiastical. Evidence for serfdom or slavery in Normandy is hard to come by, but Lucien Musset has shown that it did exist, albeit on a much smaller scale than elsewhere in France. The relative freedom of most Normans may be attributable, he suggests, to the invasions of Rollo and his contemporaries, not on the grounds that they brought traditions of freedom with them from Scandinavia, but on the grounds that raids on coastal areas of France caused depopulation. Exile and unauthorised departure from Normandy were matters that concerned only the free and wealthy members of Norman society.
The story of the relations between Normandy and England which culminated in the Norman Conquest of 1066 begins with the pact negotiated between Duke Richard I and King Aethelred II of England in 991, whereby both parties bound themselves to friendship and non-aggression. Robert of Rhuddlan's success in post-conquest England was somewhat helped by his earlier stay as one of King Edward's Norman soldiers. But, even so his ultimate death at the hands of the Welsh was in the eyes of some a just punishment for Norman greed Domesday Book which testifies to the violence and extortion used by the Normans to acquire land. The short-term consequences were pictured in the charters and Domesday Book, which show massive changes of landholding at the top but relatively little change at the bottom: peasants and smaller tenants all stayed put.
Within a few decades of settling in Normandy the Scandinavian leaders had been integrated into the Frankish nobility. The willingness of the Scandinavians to become Christians in return for land and social acceptance is reported by most non-Norman historians. Once in Normandy Norse Rollo associated himself with Popa, whose Frankish name suggests that she belonged to the indigenous aristocracy. The swift association of the Scandinavian counts of Rouen with their Frankish noble neighbours is indicative of their wish to settle and root in western France. The Scandinavian Harold is said to have helped Richard I against Louis IV after which a pact was negotiated between the Danes and the French stipulating that the Norman dukes owed no fealty and no military service to the king of France in return for Normandy.
The first presence of Normans in Italy was signalled in 999, when a group of Norman pilgrims came to the support of the local population in Salerno who were being attacked by Saracens. The fertility of Campania, the area on the Mediterranean coast around Naples, with its vineyards, fruit trees, springs and plains, was an important aspect of the Normans' wish to settle permanently. The settlement of Normans in southern Italy was thus a very gradual process of military support for local princes and a slow emancipation of soldiers who grew from subordinates to become local lords themselves. The crusading movement offered a reason why people from north-western Europe went to the Mediterranean and spent some time in Italy. Graham Loud and Lucien Musset have pointed out that the peak of political expulsions coincided with periods of political instability in Normandy.