The Anglo-Norman Territories


The countryside


    The most important aspect of Anglo-Norman civilisation in the 10th – 12th centuries is that which is least visible. All the achievements of architecture, the arts, culture, the organisation of society and the state rested on accumulated wealth. This wealth came from the land, from its exploitation or from the rents that could be drawn from it.

This hidden face of Anglo-Norman civilisation can only be seen through acts of sovereign power in which the lay and ecclesiastical lords who, whether on the occasion of pious donations, or of the concession of fiefs, or of private acts governing their inheritance, always attached great importance to the land and to the revenues which were linked to it. The related written sources are studied scrupulously and have nourished debates between historians which are not yet settled.

Neither in Normandy in the 11th and 12th centuries, nor in England in the 11th , did the conquerors have a clean slate. On the contrary they organised for their profit an economy which, especially from the beginning of the 12th century, but even more so during the 12th century, was in a situation of ‘take-off’. The Norman expansion took place against the background of strong growth: increase in population, large-scale reclamation of land, great enterprises by the powerful to take control of agricultural surplus, the resistance of the peasants. A great part of the organisation of rural society was put in place in this period: the network of parishes and villages, the great lay and ecclesiastical domains and, in the Plantagenet realm, some specialisation of regional economies: wool in England, cows and horses in Normandy, wine in Aquitaine.


Work in the fields
The Norman village
The peasant cottage
The English village at the time of the Domesday Book
Manor house and peasant house
Livestock and crops

previous page  The Anglo-Norman Territories  next page