The Battle of Hastings 1066 - The Uncomfortable Truth, John Grehan and Martin Mace

The Battle of Hastings 1066 - The Uncomfortable Truth, John Grehan and Martin Mace

The basic premise of this book as that the traditional site of the Battle of Hastings, in the grounds of Battle Abbey, is false, and that the battle was actually fought further north, on Caldbec Hill. It was inspired by a visit to an re-enactment of the battle at Battle Abbey, where the slope up the hill isn't as steep as descriptions of the fighting would suggest. The authors have gone back to the original sources to examine the justification for the current site (rather thin), and then looked for alternative sites that fit the sources.

The authors have done a good job with the original sources, looking at the few near-contemporary written accounts and the Bayeux Tapestry. A key problem for any attempt to move the battle is the story that Battle Abbey was built on the battlefield, with the high alter at the point where King Harold died. This turns out to be a later tradition, possibly invented by the monks during a legal dispute,

The title is a little over the top, but The Battle of Hastings - An Interesting Suggestion probably wouldn't sell as well, and to their credit the author's admit that the exact location of the battle isn't as important as the outcome. The same topic has recently been investigated by Time Team, with the assistance of John Grehan, and neither the traditional or the Caldbec hill sites provided any real archaeological evidence of the battle. One topic that neither the book nor the Time Time programme examined in enough detail for me are the changes made to Battle Hill by the construction and expansion of Battle Abbey, so there is still the possibility that the archaeological evidence was swept away hundreds of years away.

The authors make a good historical argument, demonstrating that there is little early evidence to support the traditional battlefield. Clearly more archaeology is needed in the area, and hopefully the true site will eventually be found. In the meantime this is a good examination of the evidence against the current site (or the lack of evidence in its favour).

Chapters
1 - The Contradictory Evidence
2 - A Family Affair
3 - Swords Around the Throne
4 - The Opening Moves
5 - Men at Arms
6 - The Battle of the Hoar Apple Tree
7 - The Sources
8 - The Interpretations
9 - The Battlefield
10 - The Archaeology
11 - Rewriting History

Author: John Grehan and Martin Mace
Edition: Hardcover
Pages: 180
Publisher: Pen & Sword Military
Year: 2012


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