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