In the two decades that followed the Norman Conquest, most of the land in England passed into the hands of French-speaking nobles. This process not only brought the feudal system to England, it also brought the French language to the peasants out in the countryside. In this episode, we explore these developments, and we look at some of the first words to pass from Norman French into English. We also examine an early Middle English passage from Robert of Gloucester.
It may come as a surprise that William the Conqueror embraced English after the Norman Conquest. He also maintained much of the existing Anglo-Saxon bureaucracy. Had William continued those policies, the English language would be very different today. Despite William’s attempt to rule as an ‘English’ king, his favorable policies quickly vanished in the wake of a series of rebellions throughout his newly conquered kingdom. Afterwards, William initiated the process by which the Anglo-Saxon nobility and land holders were removed from power and replaced with his French allies. The new French aristocracy established a social environment which shaped the transition of Old English into Middle English.
In this episode, we look at the events of 1066 – one of the most important dates in the history of English. Of course, this was the year of the Norman Conquest and the beginning of the end of Old English. It was an incredibly active year. And if the events had not unfolded in the way they did, it is likely that William’s conquest would have failed, and English would be a completely different language today. As we look at the events of 1066, we also explore the etymology of the names of the seasons and other related words.
Many scholars consider the Norman Conquest of England to be the most important event in the history of the English language. The man who directed that conquest was William of Normandy. In this episode, we examine William’s rise from a young Duke to the eve of the Norman Conquest. It was a rise marked by a series of broken promises. Along the way, we will examine more features of Norman French which impacted English. And we will return to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle to see how this history was documented in the Old English language which was soon to be wiped away.
In the century before the Norman Conquest of England, Normandy gradually emerged as a powerful player in the politics of northern Europe. Meanwhile, the language of the Normans underwent a major transition. The original Scandinavian language of the Normans gave way to a unique French dialect. In this episode, we explore the rise of Normandy, and we examine the changing language of the Normans. We also examine the legacy of the Norman vocabulary on Modern English.
The Normandy of William the Conqueror was a product of the feudal age of Western Europe. In this episode, we explore the history of feudalism, and we examine words associated with feudalism which entered the English language. We also look at the early history of Normandy to see how it fits into the feudal puzzle. Along the way, we examine certain aspects of Norman French, and we explore some of the differences between the Norman French dialect and the standard Old French spoken in places like Paris.
In this bonus episode we look at the etymology of certain words related to animals. We also examine words related to stuffing.
In this episode, we explore two different types of restorations. We begin with the restoration of the traditional West Saxon monarchy under Edward the Confessor. Edward’s nickname reflects his piety and his purported ability to cure sick people with his healing touch. We then examine a different type of restoration – the restoration of health. We look at two Anglo-Saxon medical texts which contain a variety of charms, medications and other cures. Along the way, we explore English words which derive from ancient medical remedies.
In this episode we explore two aspects of the term ‘flesh and blood.’ We examine the human body from the perspective of the Anglo-Saxons by looking at their words for parts of the body. We also explore Old English words associated with sickness and disease. At the same time, we consider how the term ‘flesh and blood’ is utilized to describe one’s children or other very close relatives. Specifically, we examine the mothers who fought to secure the English throne for their respective flesh and blood following the death of King Cnut in 1035.
During his reign as King of England, Canute established a new class of nobles who became known as earls. The authority of the earls was second only to the king himself. The king and the nobles ruled over the common people or peasants who were known as churls. The peasants tended to the farms, and their culture and lifestyle produced many words which have survived in Modern English. We examine the etymology of words and phrases associated with farming, livestock, bread making and knitting.