The Norman conquest of England was led by William, Duke of Normandy in 11th century which brought one of the greatest political, administrative and social changes in England. This brutal conquest had begun in the reign of Edward, last king of the Anglo-Saxon royal line. The Anglo Saxon aristocracy was disgraced and their assets were snatched away. Even, today this is one of the sensitive subjects among many people. Even today; some supporters of Brexit use the language of conquest to describe nation’s domination by faceless European institutions. It was a holocaust for the people of England.
There were various complex reasons for the invasion. Edward, the king of England died without any heir thus rising confusing for the successor. His brother in law, Harold took over the throne but he was very weak and unsuitable to rule. William, Duke of Normandy believed that he was the rightful heir and invaded from France with a large army. He killed Harold at the Battle of Hastings and was crowned on Christmas in 1066. The Anglo Saxon government was demolished resulting in removal of officials from all high class government offices and church. Despite, the short term damage due to destruction of capital, the conquest helped the English economy a lot.
The Norman Conquest made England. There was a huge level of improvement in trade patterns, institutions, investments and commerce that sparked a long economic boom in England whose effects prevails even in today’s England. The financial system developed and Jews introduced a network of credit links between his new English lands and his French ones. The Normans took some important policy decisions and spent a lot in infrastructure. All churches, monasteries and big buildings before the invasion were demolished and built in a new continental style. New designed castles and palaces came up. The infrastructure funds were collected by imposing higher taxes on peasants which forced them to work harder. All these boost the English economy and increased the total wealth of England compared to other countries of Europe. Around 350 markets existed by the end of the 12th century.
There was construction of a restricted “forest law” and The Norman trial of combat was introduced for the criminal cases and the old Anglo Saxon laws were also kept along with it. There was also an increased use of the inquest procedure—the testimony sworn by neighbours, for administrative purposes and in judicial cases. William also modified the structure and character of the church in England. He replaced all the Anglo-Saxon bishops, except Wulfstan of Dorchester. Intermarriages were also allowed between Norman men and English woman. The major impact was elimination of slavery in England. There were about 28,000 slaves as mentioned in Domesday Book in 1086. By the 12th century, slavery was completely ended.
Though there was specialization of labor and employment opportunities increased, the effect on the North was brutal. People in the North had adherence more with Scots and Scandinavians, so they started a rebellion against the Normans. However, William crushed them mercilessly and consequently; the Southern England became richer than the Northern. The North was not only relatively poor but also had worst climate and it was far away from market and trade. Thus, the growth of the country was unequal.
However, the most unfortunate impact was the overshadow of the Old English language due to introduction of the Anglo Norman. Many French elements and words enter the English language and names of men, women, and few places began to change with time. But all these undergo a significant change after the Scandinavian invasion.