In October 1066 William, the Norman king invaded England, becoming King William I (William the Conqueror) of England. Within five years, the Normans had conquered all of England. They imposed unity on England and helped to link England with the culture of the rest of Europe. William gave a lot of land to the Norman nobility (known as barons). These barons then owed military service to the king. The nobility gave land to others to work on as farmers. People in the village who received land had to work 2 or 3 days a week on the rich person’s land or pay taxes. This system of land holding is known as feudalism.
The French invaders became the upper-class aristocracy who ruled over the English. French was the language of the upper classes, of law and government and the army. The Anglo-Saxon peasants did not speak French.
The Normans built many castles which helped them to rule the land they had conquered. They also built beautiful churches in the shape of a cross. The arches above the doorways were always rounded (Romanesque style). They build fine monasteries which became the center of village life.
The Rise of the English Nation
By the 13th century, the rulers of England thought of themselves as English, not French. The rulers eventually spoke English like everyone else, not French. English and French had mixed over the years and evolved into what we now call Middle English. This period was a time of great changes in government9 and society. Oxford and Cambridge universities started in the 13th century. Also the power of a Parliament started growing in this period.
Edward I (1272-1307) was a strong king who tried to take Scotland- but failed (because of brave Scotsmen like William Wallace and Robert Bruce).
Then in (1348-9) the Black Death (plague) came to England killing almost half the population.
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