Saturday, September 12, 2009

Review: 1066 - the battle for middle earth

I watched 1066 - the battle for middle earth last night, all about the last time England was successfully invaded from the eye view of the 'ordinary people' who took part in those events. The first episode dealt with the invasion of the north by the 'Vikingers'.

I'm generally inclined towards this sort of thing so I can't say I regret watching it, but it was rather thin. I don't think it was full of glaring historical inaccuracies (although there was a field promotion to 'housecarl' at one point which seemed unlikely) but the amount of information it contained was minimal to say the least.

We never properly saw either King Harold (Hadrada or Godwinson), which may be accurate for soldiers in a modern army but when the forces were only around 8,000 strong it seemed like a deliberate and strange artifice when the decisions that they took would have had life and death consequences on the heroes of our tale. Our boys seemed to be positively shunning their poor leaders.

Secondly, whilst there were hints of some sort of social stratification going on in the English army historically both forces were riddled with strict social relationships that would have defined every aspect of the participants lives, and what sort of war they had. I'd have liked to have seen that explored rather than summarily glossed over.

For example at one point two groups of English soldiers meet on the way north and to much excitement one has with it 'wife men that are not our wives'. Were these slaves, captives, prostitutes, good time girls, what? All we know is the women seemed generally happy to be there and were up for anything as long as you had a hunk of bread spare.

For something that was over an hour long I came away feeling quite disappointed that there was not even one aside that told me something about the events I didn't know before and I don't regard myself as an expert on the period in any way.

I can't fault the acting, narration or the budget which seemed more than adequate but the tale they told just didn't seem up to the job, particularly when it was implied that Harold marching north to meet the Viking army was a mistake that let the Normans sneak in - surely history would have condemned Harold had he let the Vikings run riot unhindered?


ModernityBlog said...

Did the Vikings run amok? There was some new research, recently, that suggested the tales of their violence were hyped by later authors.

I think there might have been a book out on that very topic. Not sure.

Jim Jay said...

Well the vikings were formidable traders, Russia even takes it name from their word 'Rus' meaning stranger. So your general point is right that they didn't spend centuries harrying everyone they came across.

But in 1066 they had a deal with William to invade Britain simultaneously and take over the country so this particular occasion was an armed and violent invasion - our Harold's army defeated the Vikings but was too pooped after running up and down the country and loads of fighting to deal with William's lot near Hastings...