The Anglo-Norman Territories


Great cities of the Norman World


    A striking aspect of the growth of western European towns in the 11th – 12th centuries is the emergence of a small number which stand out from all the others. They do this by virtue of their size and wealth, and their ability, as in the case of Rouen or Norwich, for example, to dominate the economic, political and religious affairs of their regions or, as in the case of London, those of a nation. These great cities were usually favoured by a geographical location which gave them, firstly, a hinterland rich in agricultural and other resources, and, secondly, excellent communications which in turn allowed overseas trade to flourish; the waterfront structures found running along the banks of the Thames in London tell their own story of the city’s rise to greatness. Another reason for the success of a favoured few towns relative to the rest lies in their being chosen either as centres for the exercise of either royal authority (for example, Caen and Winchester) or of religious authority (for example, Canterbury and Bayeux). For a visitor fresh from a country village each of the great cities of the Anglo-Norman world was surely a marvel of unimaginable splendour, with its castle and walls, its busy streets, its enticing shops and inns, and, last but not least, its splendid churches embodying the latest ideas in architecture and the visual arts


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