Episode 69: From Conquest to Domesday

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.


8 thoughts on “Episode 69: From Conquest to Domesday

  1. At 32:00, it is stated that “Brittany is the only place outside of the British Isles where a Celtic language is still spoken.” This is untrue. As the Scottish highlands and islands were being depopulated over the late 18th and early 19th centuries, Gaelic-speaking individuals, families, and sometimes entire towns came to northern Nova Scotia, where they often recreated their communities from scratch. There were Gaelic-language newspapers and a flourishing Gaelic-language song culture, among other things. At the middle of the 20th century it was easy to find entire towns in Cape Breton where most people spoke Gaelic as a home language. By the 1980s there were few such towns left but there were plenty of Gaelic speakers around. Today there are few, somewhere between the hundreds and the low thousands depending how you measure things, many of whom struggle mightily to encourage the learning of the language. They may be a tiny group but they exist – no need to disappear them in this way.

  2. I am hooked on your podcast. It is so informative- not just about the English language but also the history of England. I am English but have only a sketchy knowledge of history. I know the names but not the details.
    By the way the Celtic south west of England is not on the borders of Wales. Wales and South West England are separated by sea – the Bristol Channel. South West England is South of Wales. Thank you again.

  3. I thought you might find it interesting to note that there is actually a series of historical fiction novels written by Edward Marston which are murder mysteries set immediately after the years of the Domesday Book, and which deal with some of the same issues you’ve mentioned here concerning land rights. The protagonists are sent out to different parts of England to clear up any confusion about who owns what, etc. and to see how local nobles are obeying the laws that William has laid out. Along the way, they become embroiled in different mysteries and have to solve them. They are quite good, if you like that sort of thing.

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