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Posted on Sep 8, 2006 in Books and Movies, Front Page Features

The Normans – Warrior Knights and their Castles – Book Review

Jim H. Moreno

Normans_cover.jpgBook Review: The Normans – Warrior Knights and their Castles
Osprey Publishing, 2006

Even fledgling military historians and those barely learned in this field of study have heard of the Normans. This medieval race of warriors and conquerors helped to firmly found and establish much of the European realm as it is known today, with many of the wondrous castles they built still standing. But, in case you may not be familiar with the Normans, or you require a refresher or crash course, then the new book release The Normans – Warrior Knights and their Castles is exactly where you should start.

This 256-page hardcover libram by Christopher Gravett and David Nicolle is both very well written and beautifully illustrated. From start to finish, the authors weave the sometimes harsh, sometimes seemingly mythical tale of the Normans’ time in our history, as best it is known. Covered in the detailed chronology are Norman dukes (Duke William, aka William the Conqueror), their contributions to medieval fuedalism (the mounted knight, superb usage of cavalry tactics, the Norman conquest of England), and their magnificent architecture (Chateau-Gaillard, the Tower of London), among many more pages of Norman accomplishments.

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Not content to simply rehash some of the high (and low) points in Norman history, Gravett and Nicolle also immerse the interested reader in the daily life of the average medieval Norman, two of the most notable sections being those on the Norman Knight and Life in a Norman Castle. The authors account such things as the arms and armor used by their knights of the 10th – 12th centuries, including a special look at bridles and saddles used by the cavalry. Training and tactics, a look at typical military engagements of the day, even what motivated the warriors of the Norman empire, are all embraced within the books’ cover. Domestically, the book also holds such minute and detailed information as to how life was lived inside the walls of the Norman castles, from how kitchens, bathrooms, and living quarters were arranged, to close looks at the ever-important chapel and brewery. Chateau-Gaillard, Wolvesey Palace, Castle Rising, Castle Scarborough in Yorkshire and many others are all toured with full-color words and photography.

The historian-monk William of Malmesbury called them "a race inured to war," and while they were indeed that, the Normans were so very much more, including one of my most favorite subjects in medieval history, perhaps one of yours, as well. The Normans – Warrior Knights and their Castles may be the best account of the Normans since the creation of the Bayeux Tapestry. May I recommend the book – I bet it’s much easier to carry around.

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