Harriet Harvey Wood studied mediaeval languages and literature at Edinburgh University and worked as an orchestral manager before joining the British Council, where she was head of its Literature Department for 14 years. She has published editions of poetry and letters, has collaborated with Peter Porter on a collection of banned poetry for Index on Censorship in 1987 and, with A. S. Byatt, edited an anthology on memory. She was appointed OBE in 1992.
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The date of the battle of Hastings – 14 October, 1066 – is probably the most famous in English history. This book brings to life the world of Harold the King and Duke William in a compelling narrative history that reads as vividly as reportage. Harriet Harvey Wood’s original and fascinating book shows that, rather than bringing culture and enlightenment to England, the Normans’ aggressive and illegal invasion destroyed a long-established and highly-developed civilization which was far ahead of other European peoples in its political institutions, art and literature. It explores the background and lead-up to the invasion and the motives of the leading players, the state of warfare in England and Normandy in 1066, and the battle itself. By all the laws of probability, King Harold ought to have won the battle of Hastings without difficulty and to have enjoyed a peaceful and enlightened reign. That he did not was largely a matter of sheer bad luck. The result could just as easily have gone the other way. This gripping and highly-readable book shows how he came to be defeated, and what England lost as a result of his defeat and death.