Anglo-Saxons and Normans

Normans and Anglo-Saxons each were Scandinavian immigrant’s who had settled in another’s land, and taken over from its ruling aristocracy.  English and Norman basic social structures were similar.

Land was the defining currency, for both societies.  The Lord owned the land which was parcelled out amongst his followers in return for service.  They in turn would settle upon the land as minor lords, surrounded by a retinue of warriors, their reward for service would be parcels of land.

Success in battle generated more land and treasures, which was shared around.  If a lord wasn’t generous enough, his followers would desert him, seeking a better lord.  The lord led his warriors; and the warrior fought for his lord; both would be serviced by non-fighting tenant farmers.

Basic building block of the system is known as the hearth.  The lord owned a hearth-hall upon his land, where he would house his retinue warriors.  Tenant farmers brought produce to the hearth-hall, feeding and maintaining the retinue.  In return, the lord would provide security for all who resided on his land… lack of security defined a bad lordship.

Best described in the Saxon poem entitled; Beowulf.  Beowulf is drawn into the hearth of King Hrothgar by his generosity.  Beowulf rids Hrothgar of monsters threatening the hearth and receives a generous reward.  Beowulf dies trying to win a treasure from a dragon threatening his lands.

In 10th century Anglo-Saxon England, in pre-Norman England had become one of the most organised states in Western Europe.  The land was divided into shires, controlled by the King upon which taxation was levied, and collected in coinage from the burhs.  This appeared to be a Roman based system.

The Normans were immigrants from France.  The land of Normandy granted to their founder; Rollo in AD911.

Anglo-Saxon and Norman systems differed much.  The Norman system, had seen the creation of mounted warriors focussed on war, whilst Anglo-Saxons were managed by many a farmer.

Prior to the Battle of Hastings in 1066, Normans introduced cases to be tried in front of a Jury.  Saxon cases would rely on oaths of a lord and peer to vouch for one’s innocence.  Later this would be changed to “Trial by Battle” or “Trial by Combat.”

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