The Normans

  • by Lars Brownworth
  • Narrated by James C. Lewis
  • 7 hrs and 4 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

There is much more to the Norman story than the Battle of Hastings. These descendants of the Vikings who settled in France, England, and Italy - but were not strictly French, English, or Italian - played a large role in creating the modern world. They were the success story of the Middle Ages: a footloose band of individual adventurers who transformed the face of medieval Europe. During the course of two centuries, they launched a series of extraordinary conquests, carving out kingdoms from the North Sea to the North African coast.
In The Normans, Lars Brownworth follows their story, from the first shock of a Viking raid on an Irish monastery to the exile of the last Norman Prince of Antioch. In the process, he brings to vivid life the Norman tapestry's rich cast of characters: figures like Rollo the Walker, William Iron-Arm, Tancred the Monkey King, and Robert Guiscard. The Normans presents a fascinating glimpse of a time when a group of restless adventurers had the world at their fingertips.

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What the Critics Say

"Lars Brownworth's The Normans is like a gallop through the Middle Ages on a fast warhorse. It is rare to find an author who takes on a subject so broad and so complex, while delivering a book that is both fast-paced and readable." (Bill Yenne, author of Julius Caesar)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Far From Hastings (aka the OTHER Normans)

Surprise! This book is a history of the Normans who headed south - FAR south, into the Mediterranean region. I found it difficult to decide after listening whether they were bad news or good news in the long run for the countries and peoples they conquered and ruled. They appear to have implemented semi benevolent policies for their victims/subjects. However, they shared a fatal disposition to fight amongst themselves which caused great misery for everyone in their orbits. I purchased the book thinking it was about William the Conqueror's forefathers and foremothers. While I was startled to find little about that subject, I was entertained and enlightened by learning about something I had not intended to, and about which I knew nothing. I gave the "story" only three stars because I found patches of the narrative confusing and disjointed.
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- Lynn "Writer, painter and unabashed romantic with passion for history and mystery."

Norsemen in Palermo

In the nutshell: Normans were Vikings invited to settle in Northern France by a French king, who thought giving them land was preferable to battling them or bribing them. Once settled in Normandy they perfected new military techniques, particularly use of heavy cavalry. Innovation, military success, discipline, love of combat, and thirst for wealth drove them to invade Britain in 1066. Nearly everyone knows about that. The book pays but passing attention to William the Conqueror. Its focus is the de Hauteville family, composed of brothers from a minor Norman clan who had great ambition and shrewdness. The de Hautevilles boys had "it" the way some families do for a time. Since William the Bastard owned England the brothers looked for other opportunities. They sailed to Sicily and Southern Italy. Authority there was in turmoil and possession of wealth was unstable. The area set at a juncture of grand political spheres: Byzantium, Muslim Arabia, the Vatican (which raised soldiers), and Germany (whose armies repeatedly invaded it by coming over the Alps). Sicily in particular was a gem. It had fertile soil and buzzed with trade going to and from Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. The Crusades made Sicily a fortune. The de Hautevilles conquered the island along with the heel of southern Italy; for two hundred years they stayed its dominant regents. They ducked going on Crusade but sold supplies to Crusaders, worked trade lines between Europe and the Mediterranean, and rented their ships to men sallying forth to Jerusalem. They captured the Pope a couple of times, defeated invaders, put down multiple rebellions, married into European aristocracy, and gave Sicily the most prosperous decades it had had for centuries—albeit ruling with an iron hand. The text details southern Normans fending off foreign hosts while waging internecine fights; interestingly, family winners were most often talented individuals. Two centuries later, however, whatever was bold and compelling in the personality of de Hautevilles leaked out and evaporated, so their regime fell. The Normans is worth listening to. It fills a knowledge gap for most of us history buffs with stories about remarkable personalities.
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- Jim "Jumps on his bed while licking the bottom of one foot. He persists in this life affirming act despite interference from the head nurse."

Book Details

  • Release Date: 10-28-2014
  • Publisher: Tantor Audio