Although the immediate results of the Battle of Hastings may have been of less importance to the world than were those of some othergreat battles, the struggle has, in the long run, had a greater influence upon the destiny of mankind than any other similar event that has ever taken place. That admixture of Saxon, Danish, and British races which had come to be known under the general name of English, was in most respects far behind the rest of Europe. The island was, as it had always been,--except during the rule of two or three exceptionally strong kings,--distracted by internal dissensions. Broad lines of division still separated the North from the South, and under weak Kings the powerful Earls became almost independent.The enterprise that had distinguished their Saxon and Danish ancestors seems to have died out. There was a general indisposition to change, and except in her ecclesiastical buildings, England made but little progress in civilization from the time of Alfred to that of Harold. Its insular position cut it off from taking part in that rapid advance which, beginning in Italy, was extending throughout Europe. The arrival, however, of the impetuous Norman race, securing as it did a close connection with the Continent, quickened the intellect of the people, raised their intelligence, was of inestimable benefit to the English, and played a most important part in raising England among the nations. Moreover, it has helped to produce the race that has peopled Northern America, Australia, and the south of Africa, holds possession of India, and stands forth as the greatest civilizer in the world. The Conquest of England by the Normans was achieved without even a shadow of right or justice. It was at the time an unmixed curse to England; but now we can recognize the enormous benefits that accrued when in his turn the Englishman conquered the Norman, and the foreign invaders became an integral portion of the people they had overcome.For the historical details of the story, I have only had to go to Freeman's magnificent History of the Norman Conquest of England,which I hope will be perused by all of my readers who are able to obtain it.
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September 26, 2010
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