The Battle of Hastings?

It’s the first major historical topic on the syllabus for most year 7 pupils in the country, and it continues to be revisited in instructive ways. In a sense ‘the Battle of Hastings’ has long been a misnomer, as the site of the battlefield has traditionally been identified with the town of Battle, Sussex.  As reported in this article, a new book argues that the Battle of Hastings, 14th October 1066, occurred not at Battle, Sussex, but at the relatively nearby village of Crowhurst. As the article points out, the site of the Battle of ‘Hastings’ is only the latest in a series of historical battle sites to be subject to critical scrutiny, most notably the location of the Battle of Bosworth (1485) that ushered in the Tudor dynasty.

The re-opening and debate of such issues as this serve as a useful reminder about a key task undertaken by historians, and especially so by historians of the ancient and medieval worlds: the triangulation of disparate, often fragmentary scraps of evidence from a range of sources of differing types in order to establish and substantiate an argument about what is most likely. For those who prefer the security of certainties, only modern history will (mostly) do. It’s worth reflecting too on the fact that what is more important than the pinpointing of a battlefield is the legacy of the event; in this case, the Norman Conquest of England as a process, only begun by William the Conqueror on a Sussex field in October 1066, taking decades to complete and with a legacy spanning centuries.

2 Responses to “The Battle of Hastings?”

  1. Susan Pallister24 October 2011 at 5:19 pm #

    The Battle of Hastings has been in the news recently on a number of occasions. I think our girls will find this post very thought provoking. The recent article in HistoryToday http://www.historytoday.com/antonia-gransden/1066-and-all-revised
    provides an excellent insight into interpretations of history with a particular focus on views past and present of the Norman Conquest. I wonder if we could use these two articles with our year 7 girls?

    • C Hammel30 October 2011 at 1:17 pm #

      Yes, hopefully they will find both interesting. For the benefit of KEHS girls, the article linked in the post above from the BBC website offers a short introduction to the latest controversy, and the excellent article from History Today by Antonia Gransden (link above in Ms Pallister’s comment) gives a longer, thorough assessment of the concept of a Norman Conquest, making use of primary source material.

      History Today is a magazine with an online archive of all its past articles, to which the KEHS History Department subscribes. You may obtain the login details for the site, which are necessary to read the articles, from your History teacher.

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