1066: The Year That Changed Everything

Rated 5 out of 5 by from 1066: The Star Wars Movie Where the Empire Wins What could possibly be so very important about a single year many centuries ago, a millenium, to justify the expense in time and resource of acquiring such a course? Well, for starters, nearly half the words I used in the previous sentence wouldn’t be in our language without it. Indeed, we wouldn’t have the word “language.” With Jennifer Paxton, I have found a new gold standard for Great Courses professor. Every sentence is clear, organized, and pithy, flowing logically from the one before. Yet she manages to sound conversational and unscripted. Her voice has a pleasant, cheerful lilt. It’s like that one really intelligent, super-articulate friend we’ve all had who seems to know everything but never makes you feel stupid. This is a very short course, only six lectures. But the information is densely packed. I haven’t done a side-by-side comparison, but I felt there was at least as much substance nested Tetris-style into Professor Armstrong’s course as in British historian David Howarth’s “1066: The Year of the Conquest,” which I have read many times. I have the audio version, which is fine for me. I have listened to it several times, and will certainly listen to it again in the future. If you live in an English-speaking culture, the tsunamis of 1066 are rippling against you to this day. And Professor Paxton, in her incisive, economical and captivating way, will help you see how.
Date published: 2020-10-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from This class is great! This is my fourth Great Courses class. I have learned much and enjoyed them all but this one was really special. The professor tells us a Story in such an engaging and fascinating way that I couldn't wait for the next lecture to find out more. Just wonderful.
Date published: 2020-09-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Learning Made Easy! This course helped me become much more knowledgeable about one aspect of British (and Norman) history. Professor Paxton explained clearly and effectively. Her lectures were well-researched. I especially liked her presentation about how the conquest affected the English language.
Date published: 2020-09-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great graphics! Dr. Paxton is terrific! The many revisitations to the family tree graphic was extraordinarily helpful in keeping this part of British history straight. I have always found this period of British history a bit confusing, but this course was very helpful!
Date published: 2020-09-17
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Very informative I got this to help supplement my own knowledge as a high school teacher. Dr. Jennifer Paxton gives so much information in such a clear manner, and I feel more confident teaching about the event to my students.
Date published: 2020-09-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fantastic! I really enjoyed watching and listening to this series. I will watch it again. I gained so much valuable information about English History. I would love to see a few more series by this Professor. She is knowledgeable and engaging. I loved her Celtic series.
Date published: 2020-09-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from 1066: The Year that Changed Everything Great overview of one of the critical turning points in Western history. Very enjoyable. Like Game of Thrones but real.
Date published: 2020-09-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Surprising and Informative! How could 1000 years ago be so fascinating, so instructive on the many duels between England and France. We loved this course.
Date published: 2020-08-16
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1066: The Year That Changed Everything
Course Trailer
The Norman Conquest through History
1: The Norman Conquest through History

What makes 1066 such a pivotal year in the history of Western civilization? How has the meaning of the Norman Conquest been debated and interpreted over time? And how did two weddings-between the English king Aethelred and the duke of Normandy's sister, Emma, and then, after the death of Aethelred, Emma's marriage to the Danish king Cnut-lay the groundwork for this tumultuous moment? Find out in this lecture that provides crucial information for grasping the Norman Conquest.

33 min
England and Normandy before the Conquest
2: England and Normandy before the Conquest

Take a closer look at the half-century between the Danish conquest of England in 1016 and the fateful year of 1066-a chaotic time when power was up for grabs. Two figures were crucial during this time. The first: Edward the Confessor, who succeeded to the English throne in 1042 but was dominated by the powerful Godwinsons. The second: William the Bastard, the ruler of Normandy, who brought the Norman nobles under control and then set his sights on conquering England.

34 min
The Succession Crisis in England
3: The Succession Crisis in England

Investigate how the relationship between Edward the Confessor and William the Bastard put England and Normandy on a collision course when the childless King Edward had to plan the succession to the English throne. You'll focus on Edward's plans for succession, meet the contenders to the throne, and learn how Harold Godwinson achieved victory at the Battle of Stamford Bridge-only to face another invasion of England from the south.

34 min
The Battle of Hastings
4: The Battle of Hastings

Revisit one of the most important moments in English history: the Battle of Hastings, after which the island nation-and the entire Western world-would never be the same. Dr. Paxton reveals how the Normans mustered up enough men and ships for their invasion; investigates some intriguing mysteries and controversies about the invasion; explains the tactics of medieval warfare; and provides a blow-by-blow account of the battle.

33 min
Completing the Conquest
5: Completing the Conquest

It took several years for William the Conqueror to consolidate the gains he made at the Battle of Hastings. Learn how he used a combination of diplomacy and clever military tactics to take control of London without a fierce battle; how he won over the church so that he could get himself crowned king; how he spent the early years of his reign responding to various rebellions in the northern part of the country; and more.

35 min
The Aftermath of the Conquest
6: The Aftermath of the Conquest

Why does the Norman Conquest matter? Take a closer look at the relationship between the Normans and the English in the generations immediately following the conquest, with a focus on the myriad ways that Norman and English culture intermingled. You'll realize the ultimate legacy of this vital year: the transition of England into the European mainstream.

35 min
Jennifer Paxton

It was a special joy to me to work with The Great Courses because I was already a longtime customer and fan! I know I had become a better teacher because of my years of listening to the excellent instructors in The Great Courses series.


Harvard University


The Catholic University of America

About Jennifer Paxton

Dr. Jennifer Paxton is Assistant Director of the University Honors Program and Clinical Assistant Professor of History at The Catholic University of America. She was previously a Professorial Lecturer in History at Georgetown University, where she taught for more than a decade. The holder of a doctorate in history from Harvard University, where she has also taught and earned a Certificate of Distinction, Professor Paxton is both a widely published award-winning writer and a highly regarded scholar, earning both a Mellon Fellowship in the Humanities and a Frank Knox Memorial Traveling Fellowship. She lectures regularly on medieval history at the Foreign Service Institute in Arlington, Virginia, and has also been invited to speak on British history at the Smithsonian Institution and the Shakespeare Theatre in Washington, DC. Professor Paxton's research focuses on England from the reign of King Alfred to the late 12th century, particularly the intersection between the authority of church and state and the representation of the past in historical texts, especially those produced by religious communities. She is currently completing a book, Chronicle and Community in Twelfth Century England, that will be published by Oxford University Press. It examines how monastic historians shaped their narratives to project present polemical concerns onto the past.

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