A Short History of England by R. J. A. White

By R. J. A. White

This is often an agreeable narrative, effortless to learn, of the historical past of the English country via twenty centuries. it truly is meant for the reader who desires a complete survey that brings out the $64000 strains of improvement yet doesn't clog the tale with too many evidence, dates, treaties and battles. Underlying the account is a qualified scholar's acquaintance with ancient scholarship, conveyed as a stimulating succession of rules. The reader will get a powerful feel of the evolution of English society: the aggregate of legislation, customized and innovation in its constitutional background; its curious combination of features. there are various full of life - and infrequently unbelievable - quotations from the resources. Its compass is the complete box of English background from the Roman career to the tip of the 19th century; a short postscript brings the tale as much as the current day.

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One son, Harold Godwinsson, became King of England in 1066 after political pressure had been brought to bear on the dying Edward the Confessor, who, childless himself though married to a Godwin, had openly favoured his nephew, the illegitimate William, Duke of Normandy. 1 Hence his manifold difficulties and death in battle at Hastings; it was God's judgement on an upstart who, moreover, had not the Papal blessing. The fact that Harold had fought and won a first-class battle against his rebellious brother Tostig and the invading King of Norway at Stamford Bridge, had then hastily marched south on hearing of William's autumn invasion of Sussex, and rushed into battle at Hastings with comparatively few veteran house-carls and local fyrds; moreover, that in this, which he must have regarded as a minor, melee (as William's mercenary troops were negligible in number), he put up a splendid fight and that the fatal arrow and the death of all the Godwins was a shocking piece of misfortune that overthrew the morale of his veterans, devoted as they were to their leader: all this may be interpreted as God's will, for he seems to have been on the Norman side; or as a logical consequence of the growing weakness and disunity of the Anglo-Saxon people in the eleventh century.

Whether the latter raised them by knight's fees of five hides, or by hiring the services of armed men when the occasion arose, was for him to determine. That the quality of the knights thus produced for the king's service was not always satisfactory, and especially when the contributor was a churchman, can be seen from numerous signs, the most obvious being the early development of the practice of levying scutage, or shield tax, in lieu of service. Henry I accepted money payment when it pleased him, and by the reign of Henry II we find the king's motives and intentions clearly described by the chronicler in terms of his reluctance to trouble (vexare) his country knights (agrarios milites), taking into account the length and difficulty of the projected journey or expedition, and quite plainly interested in hiring mercenaries (solidarios) by means of the 'shield money' (actually, in this instance, described in terms of coats of mail, or loricae).

The important thing for the historian to do about feudalism is to avoid turning it into a 'walking abstraction', something that appears to have been invented in order to be replaced ('in the logic of history') by another abstraction called 'capitalism', in turn to be replaced by another abstraction called 'Socialism', the whole series serving only to inflate the ego of professors of dialectic. William saw to it that nobody had too much, or too much in one place, and he made a careful note of what everyone had.

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