A three part BBC series presented by Professor Robert Barlett which first broadcast in 2010, it explores the expansion and ambition of the Normans between the 10th century and 13th century which saw them expand their presence from Great Britain all the way down to Sicily and even to Jerusalem. The series consists of three one hour long episodes, all of which can be watched here on Documentary Vine.
The first episode explores how the Normans developed from a band of marauding Vikings into a highly organised group of formidable warriors who conquered England in 1066. It tells the story of how they established the province of Normandy in Northern France, built some of the finest churches in Europe, and under the leadership managed their greatest achievement of invading and conquering England.
Episode two focuses on the impact that Norman rule had on Britain and Ireland, telling the story of how William the Conqueror imposed a new aristocracy, destroyed all opposition to their regime and built numerous large cathedrals and castles to help keep control over the population. William also commissioned the Doomsday book. Bartlett argues that it was the Normans who created the blueprint for colonialism in the modern world, Great Britain would of course go on to become the worlds greatest economic and military force in the 18th and 19th centuries.
The third and final episode explores the impact of the Normans on southern Europe and even the Middle East as they expanded their territory south in the 11th century, they won control of Southern Italy and Sicily where they created their most prosperous colony and it became an important region for medieval culture and learning. Initially Christians and Muslims lived in relative peace in the area until the Normans answered the Pope’s call for holy war against Islam and joined the first crusade in 1095, their capture of the Holy City of Jerusalem from Muslims created a deep rift between Christianity and Islam which still exists today.
Unlike many other BBC history series this one didn’t have a companion book, but there are numerous excellent books about this period in history including the 2013 book The Norman Conquest by the historian and broadcaster Dr. Marc Morris, available in kindle, hardback, paperback and audio formats.