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English 4 British Literature . Unit 2- The Middle Ages 1066-1485. October 1066 – Duke William of Normandy, France, invades and defeats King Harold of England

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english 4 british literature

English 4British Literature

Unit 2- The Middle Ages



October 1066 – Duke William of Normandy, France, invades and defeats King Harold of England

  • King Edward died in early 1066; never had children; his brother Harold of Wessex became king; William was illegitimate cousin of Edward; William claimed old Edward had promised the throne to him; William collects huge army; sails to England and claims what he believes is his inheritance

Domesday Book – inventory of all property owned by anyone in England; this inventory would be the basis for taxation; included land, buildings, animals, etc

  • Many loyal to William were given titles and land in England like they had enjoyed in France. They moved their families to England and infused A-S life with French ways.

Feudalism - lord of the manor provided serfs with land, simple housing, and protection from wandering bandits; serfs paid for these things by maintaining the manor and giving part of what they grew to the lord; although serfs could not be bought or sold, they could not leave the lord (manor) to whom they pledged fealty; caste system, property system, military system; rigid hierarchy: God, lord of the manor, vassals, knights, serfs


Chivalry – sense of form and manners that permeated life, art, literature; guided behavior of knights and gentlewomen

  • loyalty to lord of manor
  • observation of certain rules of warfare (never attack unarmed enemy)
  • courtly love

Courtly love – nonsexual in ideal form; knight might wear his lady’s colors in battle or dedicate his bravery to her; he never expected to “be” with her; she acted as his source of inspiration; she represented all the good/vulnerable things he was fighting for

  • Knights- boys were trained from early age (around 7) to become warriors; not all boys could be knights (parents had to be wealthy enough to buy horse, armor, weapons so knights were usually sons of nobles); when training (which included singing, dancing, playing chess along with war skills) was complete, they were “dubbed” ceremonial shoulder tap (testing blow, hit quite hard) with name “Sir _____”; now had rights associated with warrior caste; lived by complex system of social codes

Armor: could weigh as much as 120 pounds (45-60 was more common); wore leather and mail under armor to cover what armor did not (neck and joints); carried weapons like lance, dagger, sword, battle-ax, mace; could produce death caused by heat stroke; dangerous for swimming if knight fell in water; “terrible worm in an iron cocoon;” knight had to be helped to dress; battles were scheduled to allow knights to dress; if knight fell off horse, servants stood by to help right him; longbow and musket ball meant the end of effectiveness of armor


Because the society was military-based and women could not serve in the military, they had no political or social power; could not serve at church altar either

***Feudalism came to an end when there were more people than could live on manors so little towns and cities sprang up when protection by lords was no longer necessary.***

  • Entertainment: ballads (sung in alehouses), mystery or miracle plays (performed by guilds in outdoor settings to provide religious/moral instruction at a time when most could not read Bibles
  • Guild – group representing specific craft: woodworkers, bakers, stone masons

Crusades (1095-1270) – European Xtians vs. Muslims with Jerusalem and the Holy Land as the prize; Xtians lost

  • Middle East at this time: Baghdad and Damascus had well-established libraries; Cairo had nearly half a million people while London had 50,000; Al-Azhar University was established in 970; Oxford was established in 1100’s; accurate medical books; development of algebra; elaborate architecture and advanced building science
  • Death of Thomas a Becket: Norman who was appointed bishop of Canterbury (head of the Catholic Church in England) by his friend Henry II (Henry hoped he would be able to use Becket to counteract edicts of pope); all of England is Catholic;