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‘Medieval battles prove Britain’s nations have never been separate’, claims historian

28 Apr 2021 3 minutes Read
Bayeux Tapestry – Scene 57: the death of King Harold at the Battle of Hastings.

A historian has claimed that medieval battles “prove Britain’s nations have never been truly separate”.

Gordon McKelvie, a Senior Lecturer in History at the University of Winchester, made the claim an article on the academic and research community news website, The Conversation.

McKelvie cites the example of Battle of Hastings of 1066 when William, duke of Normandy defeated the English army of King Harold’s English.

He said this led to the ruling elite of England becoming Norman French “had wider geopolitical effects across the British Isles”.

This included a “change in attitudes” towards the “Celtic fringe” and he added that they saw themselves as “civilised” compared to the “barbaric” Welsh.

The historian cited nobles being given royal approval to “expand into Wales” as another example.

He added that this “showed that political change in England could have clear effects on Wales”.

‘Famous battle’ 

Gordon McKelvie said: “The Battle of Hastings, when an army led by William, duke of Normandy, defeated King Harold’s English army, is probably the most famous battle to have taken place on English soil.

“As a result of this victory, the language and culture of England’s ruling elite became Norman French, which had wider geopolitical effects across the British Isles.

“Historians have long recognised that the Norman conquest witnessed a change in attitudes towards the ‘Celtic fringe’. The English began viewing themselves as ‘civilised’ compared to the ‘barbaric’ Scots, Welsh and Irish.

“Nobles on the Anglo-Welsh border were given royal approval to expand into Wales, though not necessarily for an official conquest.

“Instead, those nobles were permitted to continue expanding their influence in neighbouring states.

“This was part of a wider European trend of Norman conquest and expansion. For those who came with William in 1066, Wales was an area ripe for expanding into.

“The Battle of Hastings is often seen as a landmark moment in English history, but it was not simply an important event for England.

“It brought in a different ruling elite in the most populous state within the island of Britain that had different views of England’s neighbours.

“More importantly, it brought in an expansionist aristocracy. It showed that political change in England could have clear effects on Wales and Scotland.

“These events are not necessarily good rallying points for a shared sense of Britishness, because they both caused further conflict within the British Isles.

“However, they show the inherent interconnectedness of the component parts of the British Isles.

“What happened in one part of the archipelago had the potential to influence events in neighbouring states, regardless anyone’s ideal political structures.”

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Albantawe
Albantawe
14 days ago

The headline claim is absurd. Obviously nations interact and influence each other, but that does not mean they cannot be viewed as distinct. Hitler’s rise to power had profound effects on many nations but you would not say that Germany and France for instance are not separate nations.

Padi Phillips
Padi Phillips
14 days ago

The English began viewing themselves as ‘civilised’ compared to the ‘barbaric’ Scots, Welsh and Irish.”

Not much changed there then!

CJPh
CJPh
14 days ago

Uuuum. “change in attitude towards the celtic fringe”. Debatable at best, wilfully ignorant at worst, I’m afraid. I would like to think that this woeful conjecture is due to a blinkered view, but given Prof. Mckelvie’s position, it could be a purposeful obfuscation for political purposes. Hope not.

The main ‘lesson’ here? Don’t send your kids to the University of Winchester…

hdavies15
hdavies15
14 days ago
Reply to  CJPh

….. just one of many “universities” that were set up in the wake of relaxation of controls and availability of government finance to expand provision of university education. Then came the mad scramble for fees under the infamous Coalition. Which is why we are where we are today. Utter shambles of devalued degrees sold at top drawer prices. wherever possible, don’t send your kids to uni instead get them to compete for an apprenticeship at a reputable company where they will get a salary, little or no fees, work experience and a formal education to degree or diploma level.

CJPh
CJPh
13 days ago
Reply to  hdavies15

Well, the relative merits and demerits of a university education aside, the point that this academic is making is contradicted by the very language he employs – “Celtic fringe” denotes a fundamental cultural difference. Not to mention the existence of several non-English kingdoms. I mean, the persistence of our distinct, non-Germanic language is an extant proof of a separation, not a similarity. When Aethelstan declared himself ‘Rex totius Britanniae’, he had fealty pledged to him from other kings – King Hywel Dda of Cymru, KingOwen of Strathclyde and King Constantine of Scotland. They even had a bloody big battle which… Read more »

Pete van Renswoude-Davies
Pete van Renswoude-Davies
14 days ago

Interesting that he has not made his point, or backed it up either.

Philip Owen
Philip Owen
14 days ago

There have been other viewpoints on this. Many Bretons accompanied the Normans. They seem to have regarded the Welsh as more rather than less civilized than the English. The Normans as a whole took up the story of King Arthur with enthusiasm. It was written by Geoffrey on Monmouth. Monmouth was a Norman colony already in place before the Conquest. Geoffrey still had respect for British (Welsh) history. (Admittedly the book review written by Gerald, a competing historian also Norman, was rather scathing).

Alwyn ap Huw
Alwyn ap Huw
13 days ago

There is a problem with this claim “The English began viewing themselves as ‘civilised’ compared to the ‘barbaric’ Scots, Welsh and Irish.” A majority of the conquerors, were Bretton, not Norman, who joined forces with William in order to reclaim the lands that they had been forced out of by the Saxons, so would have been unlikely to see the Saxons as civilised and their fellow Celts as barbaric.

Dai
Dai
13 days ago

If “History is a set of lies agreed upon.” These are lies only the woefully ignorant, or willfully ignorant (current UK government) could agree upon.

Richard Gerrard
Richard Gerrard
13 days ago

This is a lame excuse for the way the Celts were treated and the Scots and the Irish. This is really taking the p**s.

Cai Wogan Jones
Cai Wogan Jones
13 days ago

Not really sure what point is being made here. During the 11th & 12th centuries, the closest bonds were between the leading francophone baronial families whose lordships lay on both sides of the Channel and spread across much of the territory of modern France.

Anthony
Anthony
13 days ago

Hahaha Harold was attacking the Welsh and Scottish before Hastings, if he’d been a bit friendlier maybe the would of helped him defeat William. Also, this is just a snippet of history that’s has left out large chunks of a the snippet. What a load of rubbish, history in Britain and Wales in general is a mess.

Wrexhamian
Wrexhamian
12 days ago

The Norman assaults on Scotland and Wales do not “show the inherent interconnectedness of the component parts of the British Isles”. They merely show the Norman propensity for wanting to conquer neighbouring countries that were militarily weaker, and to add them to their empire.

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