1066: The Year That Changed Everything

Course No. 30070
Professor Jennifer Paxton, Ph.D.
The Catholic University of America
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Course No. 30070
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What Will You Learn?

  • numbers Learn what makes 1066 such a pivotal year in the history of Western civilization
  • numbers Delve into how the meaning of the Norman Conquest has been debated and interpreted over time
  • numbers Investigate how the relationship between Edward the Confessor and William the Bastard put England and Normandy on a collision course
  • numbers Revisit one of the most important moments in English history: the Battle of Hastings

Course Overview

If you were to look back at hundreds of years of history in search of the one critical moment after which the history of the English-speaking world would never be the same again, it would undoubtedly be the year 1066. It was during this pivotal time that an event occurred that would have untold ramifications for the European continent: the Norman Conquest of England.

But why does this moment matter so much, both for the medieval world and for us today in the 21st century? While the true meaning and importance of the Norman Conquest has been sharply debated, medievalist and professor Jennifer Paxton of The Catholic University of America argues that the Norman Conquest, and the entire year of 1066, matters deeply for two key reasons.

  • It turned England away from a former Scandinavian orientation toward an orientation with mainland Europe, making the island nation a major player in Europe's political, social, cultural, and religious events.
  • It created a rich hybrid between English and French culture that had a profound impact on everything from language and literature to architecture and law.

In fact, it was only with the tumultuous events of the year 1066 that England was equipped to become a full participant in the unprecedented developments of the Middle Ages and the centuries that followed. And with 1066: The Year That Changed Everything, Professor Paxton's exciting and historically rich six-lecture course, you can experience for yourself the drama of this dynamic year. Taking you from the shores of Scandinavia and France to the battlefields of the English countryside, 1066: The Year That Changed Everything will plunge you into a world of fierce Viking warriors, powerful noble families, politically charged marriages, tense succession crises, epic military invasions, and much more.

Meet Intriguing Figures, Follow Powerful Battles

Your journey starts in the 10th and early 11th centuries, when power in England and Normandy was very much up for grabs—and when the small island nation was under continuous assault from Viking forces. Professor Paxton helps you gain a solid grasp of the complex political alliances and shifting relationships between figures such as

  • Emma of Normandy, whose marriage to the English king Aethelred II in 1002 brought the two powers together against invading Vikings and planted the seeds for future conflict;
  • Cnut, the fierce Danish conqueror who succeeded in taking over England in 1016 and then married the widowed Emma of Normandy, making her the queen of England—for the second time;
  • Edward the Confessor, who in 1042 brought the kingship back into English hands after Danish rule but who eventually came under the dominion of the powerful Godwinson family; and
  • Harold Godwinson, brother-in-law to Edward the Confessor and the controversial successor to the royal throne after Edward's death in 1066.

Edward the Confessor's death and Harold Godwinson's succession sparked two invasions that form the centerpiece of 1066: The Year That Changed Everything. With her powerful storytelling abilities and her intricate knowledge of this period, Professor Paxton recounts the two seminal battles that pitted England against the Scandinavians and the Normans.

  • The Battle of Stamford Bridge: The Scandinavian king Harald Hardrada and the king of England's own brother Tostig invaded England from the north, defeated local English forces, and steadily made their way inland. Racing north, Harold Godwinson defeated the Scandinavians at Stamford Bridge—yet was now on the wrong end of the country to meet the impending Norman invasion from the south.
  • The Battle of Hastings: Considered one of the definitive conflicts of the medieval world, the Battle of Hastings pitted Harold Godwinson, whose forces were still reeling from the Battle of Stamford Bridge, against William the Conqueror, the Norman ruler whose invasion was backed by papal authorities and was supplied with men and ships from surrounding French territories. After a battle filled with twists and turns, William emerged master of the field.

It was this last battle, you'll learn, that forever enshrined in the pages of history the name of William the Conqueror, whose military and political prowess made the Norman Conquest a success. You'll follow how he managed to solidify his conquest of England in the subsequent years.

Probe Lasting Controversies and Enduring Legacies

Throughout the lectures, Dr. Paxton opens your eyes to continued debates and controversies over this year and offers her own take on the Norman Conquest's enduring legacy and the fascinating results of this epic clash. A seasoned historian whose teaching and scholarship focuses specifically on this unique chapter in the grand narrative of Western civilization, she makes an engaging and trustworthy guide for this visit to a year that literally made history.

By exploring 1066: The Year That Changed Everything—what led up to it, what happened during that fateful year, and what changed as a result—you'll gain a sharper perspective and a greater understanding of everything that would come afterward.

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6 lectures
 |  Average 32 minutes each
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x

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What's Included

What Does Each Format Include?

Video DVD
Instant Video Includes:
  • Ability to download 6 video lectures from your digital library
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
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Video DVD
Instant Audio Includes:
  • Ability to download 6 audio lectures from your digital library
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
  • FREE audio streaming of the course from our website and mobile apps
Video DVD
DVD Includes:
  • 6 lectures on 2 DVDs
  • 120-page printed course guidebook
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
  • FREE video streaming of the course from our website and mobile apps
  • Closed captioning available

What Does The Course Guidebook Include?

Video DVD
Course Guidebook Details:
  • 120-page printed course guidebook
  • Photos and illustrations
  • Suggested reading
  • Questions to consider

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Your professor

Jennifer Paxton

About Your Professor

Jennifer Paxton, Ph.D.
The Catholic University of America
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...
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Reviews

1066: The Year That Changed Everything is rated 4.7 out of 5 by 27.
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 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 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
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent account of convoluted period of history. I acquired the audio version of this course several years ago. The video course adds a needed dimension that was missing from the audio version. Ms. Paxton is a great speaker and has produced an excellent account of a sometimes confusing period of English history.
Date published: 2020-08-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from 1066: The Year That Changed Everything One of the best. This is one I will retain and return to periodically.
Date published: 2020-08-06
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