Michael Livingston & Kelly DeVries, 1066 A Guide to the Battles and the Campaigns (Pen & Sword, 2020)
Who hasn’t heard of 1066 and the Battle of Hastings, the foundational battle in English history? And do we really need another book on it? Well, if two notable medieval historians are writing that book, then perhaps we do need to take notice. This is also an unusual little pocket-sized book designed for you to carry around on the five guided tours contained within, all of them relating to this most famous medieval campaign.
A colourful description of the end of Hastings draws us into this book before the authors fill in the background to William of Normandy’s invasion of England to secure the throne he claimed was rightfully his. With the stage set, they embark on their first tour: the origins of the conqueror. The tours in the book are preceded by the relevant background story, then the authors list all the best stops to complete their story, describing architectural, geographic, and cultural points of interest along the way. The other tours follow the Norwegian invasion that sapped much of the Anglo-Saxon strength over two battles; William’s landing and his road to Hastings; the fateful Battle of Hastings; and the victorious William’s march on London. The authors provide a helpful further reading list for when the reader is not on one of their tours.
1066 A Guide to the Battles and the Campaigns presents a straightforward narrative of these pivotal events in English history. That includes, however, vignettes on sources, some of the main players, archaeological artefacts, feudalism, aspects of medieval warfare, and other cultural notes that flesh out the context for the campaigns and battle. The book is also lavishly illustrated with colour photographs of locations, and it almost goes without saying that scenes from the Bayeux Tapestry are sprinkled throughout the text. All in all, this is an excellent little primer on 1066 and a first-class resource for those that want to follow in the footsteps of the victor and the vanquished.