The 11th Century, a timeline, a history.
The 11th century, when Leif Ericson of Greenland was the first to reach North America and when Sweden became a Christian country following the conversion of their King Oluf.
Another Scandinavian, Canute, invaded England with a powerful fleet. He conquered the kingdom of Wessex and secured his position to rule the country by marrying Emma, the widow of the King Ethelred of Wessex, who was a devout Christian. This was an important event in the history of England because at this point, Canute converted to Christianity and proclaimed his intention to rule in a Christian fashion. He used the power of the European Christian church to support his rule in England, the idea of a king, who had God on his side was a powerful illusion. He strengthened political and commercial ties between England and Normandy.
Before the end of the 11th century change as never before comes to Britain
The Norman invasion of Britain changed the face of England forever. Anglo Saxon rule was over. When the French cast off from their northern shores, they could have had little idea how successful their campaign would be. They ruthlessly strode through the country, wasting no time in taking land and possessions and dividing it between King and noble French lords. They quickly built wooden stockade castles and within a short time began building stone structures. Churches and castles built in the Norman style as the new conquerors sought to stamp their authority on the people of Britain.
Domesday, the great 11th century book
Once the the English are dispossessed of their property, King William I undertakes a census of the lands, citing ownership and recording churches, woodlands, mills etc. It was nicknamed ‘Domesday’ because of the sense of impending doom it generated in the general population.
The church in the 11th century
Pope Gregory VII was pursuing church reform, in an attempt to make the Roman church ever more powerful. This was a time when a struggle for power between the church and dynastic rulers became more and more polarized and would thus continue for the next 600 years. The great Muslim, scientist and enlightened thinker, Avicenna, writes his book ‘Canon on Medicine’. This mighty tome and other works influenced scientific, particularly medical thinking, through the coming centuries. It was far in advance of any thinking in Western Europe, where the dark ages held back progressive scientific thinking.
Money, trade and community in the 11th century
By 1000 AD, money, and the increasing amount of reliable coinage in circulation, provided the crucial factor for growth in towns which developed from King Alfred’s military posts, into marketplaces. Towns such as Oxford, were a product of the expansion of trade seen in the 11th century. The important centres for Anglo Saxon trade, such as Southampton and London continued to thrive. There was a move towards urban living, by 1000 AD about 10% of the British population lived in towns and this is, in itself an interesting fact because it means that farming methods had to deliver a 10% surplus. Trades began to flourish in the new market places, generating profit, which in turn generated more trade.
By the end of this 11th century, the face of Britain will start to take on the appearance of the country we know now. The Norman churches we are so familiar with start to emerge, market towns with squares also begin to be developed. The change, from an Anglo Saxon culture to a Norman culture took place in this critical century in British history.
Our 11th century timeline is being created and curated but already via each century page you can quickly locate our collections for each 100 years of history. These will evolve as we explore topical themes, but if you are looking for something you can’t see here then please feel free to contact us and request, Thanks for taking a look.