Good morning we will conclude the Dark Ages: An Age of Light series with the Vikings. Were the Vikings misunderstood people? Why were the Vikings misunderstood? Waldemar explores the Viking impact on Europe. He starts at Lindisfarne. The island was home to a monastery. The monks here isolated themselves purposely to create something out of nothing. The monks here created beautiful books as well.
Waldemar starts with the Carolingians and the Vikings. He also has an Anglo-Saxon jewel recreated during the series. The Vikings were excellent craftsmen. In the end, he explores Anglo-Saxon art.
First, the Vikings, another warrior nation of the Dark Ages. They had a fearsome reputation. They did not wear horned helmets, an invention for the Wagner operas. The Vikings stayed in the windy north. They were a link to the European past. The Vikings started as farmers, however, due to the presence of water, they became sailors. Sailing was one of their greatest achievements. Their art was the second greatest Viking achievement.
Waldemar makes his way to the Oslo Ship Museum and talked about the ship that was discovered. He talks about the artifacts that were found in the buried ships. He talks about the carvings on the ship. Then he tours a field and looks at Rune Stones. Waldemar carves his name in Rune Stones. Originally there were 22 letters but when the Vikings conquered Britain they added Runes because of the new sounds they were encountering. Waldemar continues to explore the Rune letters.
The Vikings were the last barbarian nation to convert to Christianity. So the Vikings incorporated their paganism into Christianity. “It is hard to see where paganism ends and Christianity begins,” Waldemar comments. Harald Bluetooth converted the Danes to Christianity. When the Vikings started invading Britain, they encountered good jewelers. In Sutton Hoo, there was a great treasure of jewelry discovered. This treasure hoard was discovered before World War II. After the war, the Treasure was properly studied.
After Waldemar explores the Vikings, he then goes to France and explores the Carolingians and the Frankish Empire. He talks about Charlemagne. He had the largest empire since the Romans. Charlemagne built a chapel in Aachen. It was from here he would rule the Holy Roman Empire.
Christianity came through Britain in three different ways. St. Augustine sent monks to Britain from the south. There were local Christians as well. Finally, Christianity spread from the north through Irish Monks.
Eventually, Waldemar checks in on the man recreating an Anglo-Saxon brooch and returns to Britain to explore Anglo-Saxon Britain. Silver is melted down and poured into cuttlefish bones. Using the cuttlefish bones was an ancient technique to make silver bars. The craftsmen discuss the techniques that were used to hammer the silver.
Waldemar then talks about the Anglo-Saxon of burying the dead with something the dead would use in the afterlife. Eventually, this custom was ended. So the Anglo-Saxons came up with a new tradition. Marking graves with stones. These stones could be considered eternal and a connection to the pagan past. They may have been beautifully carved, but there seems to be a reminder of the pagan past. This type of artwork could be found in the books the monks created. To continue to learn more about the Anglo-Saxons continue to watch this episode.
This would be an episode that can be easily divided between the Frankish section, Anglo-Saxon section, and the Viking section, so you do not need to show this all at once. The Frankish section was too short. The one thing interesting about the episode was how Waldemar worked to get the brooches recreated or recreated the knotty art of the manuscripts. This is not an episode that you need to show at one time.
Good morning, we will continue to look at the Dark Ages as an Age of Light. Today Waldemar Januszczak looks at the art of Islam. He starts in Cordoba, Spain, and talks about the astrolabe. First, he goes back in time to explore the art of Islam and its beginnings. He starts in Jerusalem and the Dome of the Rock. After Muhammad’s death, Islam was preoccupied with conquest. It was dramatic, rapid, and remarkable. Islam started small and then grew.
Waldemar tours Jerusalem and the Dome of the Rock. Muslims looked to the stars and nature for their inspiration in their artwork. One caliph took inspiration from circular churches for their architecture. Islamic art evokes a sense of paradise, a green and lush paradise. Being surrounded by deserts made Muslims dream of green land. Waldemar then tours the Damascus Mosque. Here a description of paradise is found. Waldemar states that it is a dramatic vision of paradise. The Paradise in Islam promises a grand life.
Waldemar then goes on to tour a desert palace. The Caliphs retreated here to get away from the city and the pressures of the ruling. This palace is built in a desert wadi. There were a variety of contraptions to bring water to the palace. There is a bathhouse on the site. Inside the bathhouse, there are floor-to-ceiling mosaics. Were these signs of what was available in paradise? Other palaces are scattered through the desert display a variety of mosaics.
In 1987, an Islamic brazier was discovered. It was used to heat the room and burn incense. It would be wheeled from room to room, spreading the scent throughout the palace. It was high-quality metalwork.
When joy was called for, the art expressed joy. When sobriety was called for Islamic art reflected sobriety. In 879 AD, a mosque was built in Egypt and the mosque reflects this seriousness. The city was destroyed leaving the mosque behind. Each mosque took inspiration from the Prophet Muhammed’s house. The courtyard was built to keep the outside world at bay. There were simple shelters built to protect the followers from the sun. People could meet together to discuss community affairs. There was a prayer hall, based on the Prophet’s home.
Waldemar continues to Islam and the Islamic world through this documentary. He talks about how one man calculated the circumference of the earth. Then he explores an outpost of the Islamic empire. He talks about how water impacted Islamic architecture and how it inspired city planning. A new mosque was built in the city. To continue to learn about Islam and architecture watch the rest of this documentary.
Waldemar went gung-ho on the mosques and did not focus too much on the inventions as he hinted at the start of the episode. It made the documentary feel incomplete like he could not find anything else to talk about besides mosques and architecture. By the time Waldemar talked about the arts and crafts of Islam, it felt a bit too little, too late. I mean, at about 40:00 minutes he finally talked about rock crystal and the use Muslims had for it. Additionally, why did he not address trade through the Islamic empire? What about the Islamic impact on Europe? At times his presentation style felt bizarre because it was over the top. It was a bit of a challenge to write this review because the episode was so awful. Honestly, who researched this episode? Who wrote this episode? I would like to know.
This would be a documentary to show if you had time to explore Islam in the Dark Ages. Otherwise, you can give this documentary a pass.
Was the Dark Ages an age of light and enlightenment? Why did the Barbarians gain their reputation? Waldemar Januszczak seeks to smash the myths of the barbarians. He plans on leaping to the defense of the Barbarians. It was the barbarians that invented trousers because it was easier to ride a horse. Waldemar looks at how the words Barbarians, Vandals, and Huns changed over time.
Barbarians came from the original Greek, meaning foreigner, meaning someone you could not understand. If someone spoke a foreign language you were a barbarian. In Roman times, barbarians meant you came from the non-Roman world. Vandals was another word that was distorted. The Vandals were creative and made things. However, Vandals was turned into something dark. The Goths were creators and the Huns were also a group trashed. Nobody had a good thing to say about the Huns. The Huns were a demonized group, used for propaganda purposes.
However, when one looks at the Hun’s art, it tells a different story. Nobody knows where the Huns came from. One suggestion is that they came from the Eurasian step. The Roman’s first encounter with the Huns came when the Visigoths sought shelter from the Romans. The Huns had invaded. They were a nomadic group, traveling in small groups with their horses and goats. Cauldrons created by the Huns are preserved and they would use them to cook their coats. The Huns also loved gold and gold was found in the grave of Huns. Gold had a magical presence and the Huns loved it. They were gold crazy.
The Huns had a relationship with nature because they moved around. Their artwork took inspiration from nature. Through their art, the Huns looked to commune with nature, perhaps capturing nature’s power to use for themselves. The Wolf and the eagle were dear to the Huns and inspired gold making. Eagles were the symbols of power and beauty together. Eagle brooches were popular. The Hun also took inspiration from their horses, making sure they looked splendid too. Horses were decked out with horse ornaments. The Huns were a creative force and a rival to the Roman Empire.
Atilla the Hun was the most famous of the Huns. Although history paints him as a cruel and sadistic ruler, the records show someone completely different. Atilla had a rich palace and treated his guests to a rich banquet. He dressed simply. He spoke eight languages. Hungarians believe that Atilla was a hero. He ran a federation of barbarians against Rome. Waldemar talks about the barbarians as groups of migrants moving their way across Europe to search for a new life.
The next group Waldemar tackles are the Vandals. They were farmers in Europe, at least until the Huns pushed them out. They then moved to Spain and then the Goths pushed them out. Eventually, they settled in North Africa. The Vandals were a kingdom on the move looking for a new home. Eventually, they made their way to Carthage and they conquered the city, shocking the Roman Empire. Instead of destroying what they found, they saved what they could and created their art. To continue to learn more about the barbarian groups watch the rest of this episode.
This was a much better episode in this series. Waldemar told an excellent story of each of the barbarian groups: Huns, Vandals, and Goths. I followed along really easily with his pace and enjoyed learning about each of the barbarian groups. This episode made me want to have three separate shows on each of the groups. This would be one episode I would show to a classroom. You can break up this episode into pieces easily as well, so you can show this episode to students one barbarian group at a time.
Was the Dark Ages an Age of Light? What happened when the Roman Empire collapsed? This shocking question is one that historian Waldemar Januszczak will answer. He travels around Europe, Africa, and Asia to discover the hidden secrets of the Dark Ages. Waldemar makes the argument that the Dark Ages were an age of light and artistry. The art never lies, the Dark Ages were not an age of darkness but an age of light.
In episode one, the Lost Christian Masterpieces of the Dark Ages, Waldemar Januszczak looks at artwork to dispel the myths that the Dark Ages were dark. The Dark Ages began with the collapse of the Roman Empire. However, in the artistic collapse others filled in the gap. Waldemar examines Christianity and its impact on the creative impact of the dark ages.
Waldemar starts in Pompeii and shows learns about the early touches of Christianity in the Roman Empire. Rotas squares were discovered and Waldemar explores how code breakers solved the mystery of the enigmatic phrase on the Rotas square. If one was able to rearrange the squares, one could see a cross and signify that the household members were Christians. Art on the surface, the Romans had beautiful art. However, beneath the surface, in the catacombs, early Christian art could be found. Early Christians communicated through signs and symbols. Waldemar comments about how few images were found in the catacombs.
Then 300 years after the birth of Christ, images of Christ start appearing. In one tomb, there were images of animals and people. Even sculptures were created during this period. Jonah was a popular subject in images and sculptures. Waldemar continues to explore the Roman catacombs and the early artwork of Christians. He looks at the Shroud of Turin and finally discovers artwork depictions of Jesus. He discusses the evolution of the image of Christ over the years.
Waldemar explores how different groups of people came together and swapped other ideas. Artists borrowed from other artists to create their artwork. Eventually, churches were established and Christians could put their artwork in those churches. With Constantine’s full support, Christians were able to build churches and create worships sites. Places, where maytrs were buried, became attractive sites as well for early Christians. Early Christians wanted to be buried close to martyrs. Constantine’s daughter built a burial site because she wanted to be buried near a martyr.
Towards the end of this episode, almost as if it was an afterthought, Waldemar explores why the Roman Empire ended and what eventually lead to its collapse.
This would be an appropriate documentary to show in an Art History class. This first episode does not make the argument for the Dark Ages is an age of light. It was really slow going and a challenge follows the argument that he made at the start of the episode. Writing a review for this episode was a challenge. This episode would not be worth showing to a history class nor would it be worth sharing with an independent study student. As a substitute teacher, I would not be showing this episode in a classroom.
Unfortunately, Waldemar heavily focuses on the Roman Empire and the emergence of art and not the start of the dark ages. Some of his discussion was overkill and not worth listening to. Why did he not focus on the collapse of the Roman Empire and then talk about religious art? The argument he made at the start of the episode about the dark ages being an age of light falls flat. I hope that future episodes will get better because I was not impressed with this narrator.
Six hundred years ago, China had an unstoppable fleet. It was led by Zhen, a long-forgotten admiral. He was one of the most accomplished sailors in history. He commanded an unrivaled fleet, a fleet known as the Treasure Fleet. A modern-day adventurer recreated one of his ships and is setting the theory of this fleet to practice. This documentary drama is the story of this grand fleet.
At the time when Europe was torn by war and the black death, the Chinese have an empire. The Ming Dynasty was in command. The Emperor orders the construction of a fleet and will execute anyone who stands in his way. Timbers are floated on the Yangzi River. Seven dry docks are built and the shipbuilding commences. Within three years, sixteen hundred ships have been refitted or built. The largest ships had nine sails. These ships could have rivaled the battleships of World War II. How could this be possible?
These ships were constructed with watertight compartments and could hold over 2,000 tons of cargo. The Emperor was looking for prestige. The Emperor’s fleet was larger than the Spanish Armada and was larger than the combined fleets of Europe. Zheng was appointed to be admiral of the fleet. With everything in place, the fleet was ready to follow the Emperor’s orders. Rex Warner discovered Zheng He and the treasure fleet. He wanted to follow in the footsteps of Zheng. So he found an ocean-going junk and assembled a crew. Will he discover the traces of the treasure fleet?
Rex first has to have his ship refitted. His first mate oversees the refit. The ship, the Precious Dragon will be run by a crew of five. They will be sailing in the stormy and pirate-infested South China Sea. What will Rex and the crew discover about the treasure fleet? The Precious Dragon sets sail and looks forward to rediscovering the past.
The Admiral was originally captured by the first emperor. Zheng was castrated and made a slave of the Emperor’s son. He and the son became friends. He would eventually prove his loyalty to the Emperor. The Emperor appointed him a naval admiral. Zheng was able to issue orders on behalf of the Emperor. His appointment may have been a way for the Emperor to hunt down the Emperor’s rival, however, it was a way for the Emperor to show his power. It had a psychological impact on those who saw the fleet.
Flash forward to the trip of the Precious Dragon. It has been two and a half days since the ship left. They are sailing due south and encountering storms. To help retrace the Treasure Fleet, Rex is using the two records that survive. There was a map and a written record left behind. After a difficult crossing, they make their way into port. After four days in port, the crew moves to land to learn more about Admiral Zheng. The Precious Dragon sails down the South China Sea. They will encounter the same threat that Admiral Zheng faced: pirates.
How will the Precious Dragon Crew handle this pirate threat? How did Admiral Zheng handle this threat? Will the Precious Dragon successfully recreate the voyage of the Treasure Fleet? What will Rex learn about Admiral Zheng? Tune into this documentary to find out more.
This was an interesting documentary on a topic that you never learned about in school: how the Chinese explored the South China Sea and beyond. If you want something different to introduce to your students, then I would recommend this documentary. If you have an independent study student, then they could watch this documentary as well
This docu-drama tells the story of Confucius. His ideas were radical and only adopted after his death by the Emperors. His teachings were the foundation of Chinese education for 2,000 years. He taught obedience, meritocracy, and morality. Rituals and etiquette were tools to unite the people. His ideas still govern everything in China. This documentary is the story of Confucius and his legacy.
Confucius’ story was written in the Han Dynasty, 400 years after his death. After centuries of civil war, peace was finally achieved in China. It was during this time there were great achievements in China. One historian devoted his life to writing the history of China. It was this historian who wrote the first biography of Confucius. It was a mixture of fact, oral history, and imagination and was the main story of his life. This document told the struggles of Confucius and how he worked to get his ideas into real life.
The biography started with Confucius’ birth. His father had daughters, a son born with a clubbed foot, and he was looking for a healthy son. At age 60 he took a young wife. They went on a journey to a sacred mountain to pray to conceive a son. According to legend, Confucius’ mother was visited by a mythical creature. This creature heralded the arrival of a great event. Eventually, Confucius was born.
After his father died, Confucius was brought up in extreme poverty and political chaos. He took different jobs to support his mother. Even though he was impoverished, he was allowed an education. Eventually, he opened up a school and it was here he would gain a reputation for being a philosopher. He would teach over 2,000 students. The Analects would be developed over the years and these were Confucius’ sayings. Finally, his words were put to stone and this stone became the foundation of the Chinese education system.
Amidst the chaos, Confucius looked to the past to find stability. He looked back to past rulers who took care of their nations with kindness and compassion. It was a period of peace and stability that had rituals and ceremonies. Customs and practices, Confucius believed were the glue that held society together. The ancient rulers documented these customs and rituals, so Confucius went on a journey to learn more about them.
He learned about the ancient ancestral rites that were supposed to keep the world in harmony. He learned about the objects used in these rituals. Eventually, he concluded that the hands that made weapons of war could make objects of beauty. He tried to install this belief even as China devolved into war. Social harmony could be brought back and reinforced by small rituals. These rituals would develop a sense of community and care.
At the age of 50, Confucius entered the government, becoming the minister of crime. It would be this position that would allow him to put his ideas into practice. He corrected people by ritual and not punishments. To continue to learn more about Confucius and his continued impact on China watch the rest of this documentary.
At first, I thought this documentary was narrated by Bettany Hughes. When I realized that it was not her, I was a bit disappointed. That said, this documentary was well produced and well thought out. This documentary did a deep dive into Confucius, China, and should be shown in the classroom. It would be an excellent tool to add to a teacher’s documentary arsenal and very appropriate for high school history classes or a class biography project. If you need a filler for a sub, then allow them to show this documentary.
Today, we will conclude the Meet the Romans series with Mary Beard will go behind the closed doors of Roman Houses. Mary provides an intimate look inside the Roman home. How did the Roman family live? Beard starts in Pompeii and the house of a rich man. She walks through the introducing each of the rooms in the house. The typical story of the Roman family is of a husband, wife, children, and slaves. However, underneath that surface, the story of the Roman family is much more complex. The story of the Roman family can be told through statues and a few lines of script.
Beard then looks at Roman marriage. The tombstones provide a classic image of a Roman married couple, a husband and wife holding hands. The stonemasons were quite willing to churn out these types of statues. It showed a picture of equal marriage. The husband ruled the household and the wife spun and wove wool for cloth. Even the Emperor’s wife could be seen in the palace making togas for her husband. So is there additional evidence to help tell the story of the Roman marriage?
In the British Museum, there are rings from the Roman period. Mary examines the rings. These rings have imagery of clasped hands, however, there are examples where the husband professed his love for his wife on his ring. These statements highlight the underlying passions of the Roman people. The tombstones highlight some of these passions. In one tombstone, the husband wrote of his wife that not only did she have a sweet personality but she had a wild personality. Another tombstone highlights the dark side of Roman marriage. The husband of one Roman wife threw her into the Tiber River.
Beard then discovers another tombstone which was strange in the description of one man’s wife. She was the typical Roman wife. However, her body was described, and had two additional lovers under one household. This tombstone highlights how messy relationships could have been in the Roman world.
What does this tell us about the Roman home? Like relationships, the Roman home came in all shapes and sizes. The people could live in small apartments or grand houses. Beard explores the furniture that would have decorated the home. This furniture was preserved when Mount Vesuvius exploded and carbonized the furniture. Tables, cabinets, and even a cradle were preserved. The cradle held the remains of a baby who was sleeping when Mount Vesuvius exploded.
After examining the cradle, Beard looks at childhood and looks at the records of the children who lived in Rome. The records highlight that child mortality was high. The dead children were remembered fondly through their tombstones. What happened to the children who did survive? Bones were discovered around Rome and the bones tell the story of the children that survived. They would be doing hard manual hard. However, if you were higher up the social scale you were spared from hard work.
Children, especially boys, could be sent to school. Here they would discover poetry and public speaking. Education was a way for parents to climb the social ranks. The parents would push their children to do well. Beard discovers a tombstone of a schoolboy who had died from “too much studying.” What about the girls? There were raised to get married, have children, and run the household. To continue to learn more about the Roman family watch this episode. Beard explores the lives of Roman women and slaves at the end.
I would show this final episode to a classroom on Roman history in high school. This would also be an excellent episode to mine for clips for a lecture.
Good Morning! Mary Beard is back in episode two of Meet the Romans. This time, she is looking at the ancient slums. She starts off the episode looking at a model of Roman. The model may hint at the size of Rome, but does not answer the basic questions about ordinary people. What was it like to live in the city? What was it like for kids in the city? Where did you go to the bathroom? Where did you go for medical attention? Mary Beard hopes to answer these questions.
Beard looks at the tombstones of the Ancient Romans. These tombstones tell individual stories. Both the rich and the poor were represented in these tombstones. Beard reads a tombstone from a poor member of Roman Society. The man’s tombstone speaks of his relief that he no longer has to starve and no longer has to worry about rent. He is going to enjoy the afterlife. The man’s wife and daughter erected the tombstone and his daughter noted that her father spoiled her. This man’s tombstone highlights the plight of the Roman poor and the fear of the rent collector.
Next, Beard looks at the remnants of the ancient Roman high-rise apartment blog. These apartments would house the poorest people. She explores the remains of the apartments. On the first floor, there would be shops and then above the stores, there would be apartments. The second level would be bigger flats for the shopkeepers. The farther up you went, the apartments grew smaller and the light would disappear. Six people could be occupying those apartments at once. The apartments were a tight fit. The Roman attitude was to pack them in and pack them high. The higher you went up, the worse the apartments were. Beard quips “it was social climbing backward.”
Beard then explores a communal tomb. Everyone could be buried here and there were hundreds of tombs. It was a place where you could find every occupation. There was a bodyguard, a barber, a midwife, and others. All of Roman life was there. Not only did Romans live stacked up, but they were also buried stacked up. These tombs give a glimpse of ordinary Roman life.
A Roman map was discovered and Mary Beard explores this map. This map shows how the city was laid out. A few remnants survive on the map and at the time it was a huge map. The map shows the streets and apartment blocks. It showed where the ordinary people lived. There was no city plan and Roman grew up chaotically. The streets were narrow and places where you did not want to get caught in at night. It was joked that no one should walk on the street without making a will. A thirteen-year-old tourist was killed by a piece of flying roof tile!
Apartments were mainly used for sleeping. You had to go out for the basic necessities. Nothing could be done at home due to the size of the apartment. Life was done in the outdoors. Everything else could be done in public. The people used public toilets. There were public baths. Going to the bathroom and going to the baths were social activities. One man noted that going to the baths was “a great privilege of life.” The baths were the center of life. They were noisy places where people met.
This was an excellent documentary that looked into how the Romans lived with a focus on the slums. It was an education on how crowded Ancient Rome was. This would be a good episode to mine for clips, especially the discussion on the public baths.
Mary Beard is back and this time she is introducing the world to the Romans. She explores the lives of everyday Romans. Both the living and the dead are explored, from the poorest to the richest. Beard seeks out the ordinary voices. They were determined that they would be remembered. Their tombstones did not just leave behind the birth and dates of the Roman, but their thoughts and feelings. How did ordinary Romans think? Tune into this documentary to find out.
In the first episode, Mary Beard looks at Imperial Rome. Imperial Rome was a place that where people came from everyone to live. New arrivals would have found themselves in a new type of city. Rome was the capital of a vast empire. People from three continents came together here and lived. So who were the ordinary people who called Rome home?
Mary Beard kicks off the episode by going to a triumph. Emperor Vespasian had returned to Rome, a victorious general. Everyone had the day off to greet the conquering hero. What would it have been like for the ordinary Romans to take in the site? First, they would have seen the spoils of war, models of fighting, trees, and maps of the conquering territory. What would have been on the minds of ordinary Romans? Perhaps a viewer would have picked up a girl while watching the spectacle before them.
Beard looks at the plaques everyone left behind. These plaques highlight where the people came from. These plaques tell the story of ordinary Romans and tell the story of where the people came from. The Appian Way highlights additional stories of the Romans. Beard comes across a stone with the names of three Jewish men. How did these men get to Rome? Were they part of the Judean rebellion? Were they brought as slaves? Roman conquests may have brought slaves, but they also brought new citizens.
The Greeks thought that the Romans were strange for freeing so many slaves. Being a slave was just a part of life. Oftentimes, the slave learned Latin and learned a trade. Eventually, the master would free them and the slave would be a Roman citizen. A Roman was a Roman because they came from something else. There was no guarantee that you would survive. With a high death rate, the city needed immigration to maintain its size. Roman was a place that consumed people, however, it was also a city for the opportunity. How do you keep the people alive?
Beard takes us to a hill outside of Roman. This particular hill was made up of broken amphora. The amphora was used to store olive oil. The present-day locals call it “broken pot mountain” and it was a giant rubbish dump. Normally, amphora could be recycled. However, olive oil seeped into the jars and made the jars rancid. They were broken up and stacked in the rubbish dump. Rome ran on olive oil. It was used for cooking and fuel.
Mary then reveals that there were fifty mosaics discovered, and these mosaics advertised goods from around the world. Roman had imported basic supplies to fee the city and to support a large population. Farms in Sicily and Egypt had to produce grain. The empire kept feeding the people. A staple of the Roman diet was bread. Here Mary gets her hands dirty kneading bread. If you lived in Roman, you got a free ration from the state and it could make enough bread to last a month. To continue to learn more about the Romans watch this documentary.
This would be a good series for a high school history class. Mary Beard is a delightful narrator. She lays out what it means to be a Roman in this first episode of Meet the Romans.
What caused the Viking Age to end? Did the Vikings stop sailing? Were they so ingrained in the political life in Europe, there was no point in conquest? This episode answers the question: Why did the Viking Age end? It is 1066 and there is a power struggle for the throne of England.
It is 1066, and Edward the Confessor has died. He had ruled England for twenty-two years. His death would lead to a power struggle for the throne of England. Upon hearing about his death, William, Duke of Normandy is making plans to become king. William was Edward’s cousin. Edward's mother, was Emma of Normandy, sister to Richard of Normandy who was William’s grandfather. William was also a direct descendant of Rollo of Normandy. William felt that these connections entitled him to the English Throne.
On top of these connections, during the 1050s Edward, the Confessor promised William the throne. However, Harold Godwinson was also promised the throne. He had been helping Edward the Confessor rule England towards the end of Edward’s life. Harold was the son of the Earl of Wessex. Both men were distant relatives to Edward so the blood connection led them to believe that they were entitled to the throne of England. Another complication was that Harold Godwinson swore an oath of fealty to William while Harold was a hostage in Normandy. Through visits between William and Harold, they became friends.
Despite this, Harold Godwinson seized the English crown. The Anglo-Saxon Nobility supported Harold Godwinson’s claim to the throne. A third claimant to the English throne emerged. He was promised the throne by one of Edward the Confessor’s predecessors. So who would become King of England? Would Harold be able to keep his throne? Or would William, Duke of Normandy seize it? Everyone held their breath as they watched events unfold in England.
William, Duke of Normandy prepares for the invasion of England. He was going to seize the throne of England by conquest. Even before William landed, there was an event in the sky that made the people nervous. Haley’s Comet passed over the earth and everyone saw that it was the sign of trouble. Even with this knowledge, Harold moves his arm south to try to block William’s invasion force.
However, another man was claiming the English throne. He was the King of Norway and was called Harald Hardrada. He is working with Harold Godwinson’s brother. Together, they start heading towards York. They wanted tribute and a foothold in England. Anglo-Saxon forces try to stop him but fail. Harald conquers York. Harold Godwinson marches his forces to intercept the Norwegian King. They fight at Stamford Bridge, Harald Haldrada was killed, and Harold emerged victoriously.
While Harold was in the North, William Duke of Normandy invades the south. Harold has no choice but to head south to stop William’s invasion. The men under Harold were tired, but they had no choice but to stop William’s invasion? What if Harald Haldrada did not invade at the same time William was planning his invasion?
The forces finally met together at the Battle of Hastings. William brings a calvary into the battle. The Normans rode to the battleground and fought on their horses. While the Anglo-Saxons rode to the battle site and then dismounted to fight on the ground. William planned to use the calvary as an effective tool against Harold’s foot soldiers. Did Norman’s Calvary tactics give them the advantage?
This final episode would be an excellent episode to show in a history class, especially for an English history class. The discussion about the events that led up to the Battle of Hastings was excellent because it provided additional context to the fight for the English Throne. Then I would pair this episode with the Time Team episode about the Battle of Hastings.
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