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1066: The Hidden History in the Bayeux Tapestry Hardcover – March 1, 2005


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 354 pages
  • Publisher: Walker & Company (March 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802714501
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802714503
  • Product Dimensions: 1.3 x 6.3 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,584,155 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The simple linen background and bright woolen colors of the Bayeux Tapestry have always been interpreted as a French tribute to William the Conqueror, celebrating his victory over England in 1066 with its depiction of soldiers, archers, ships and battles. In an often riveting but ultimately unconvincing revisionist account drawing on the work of other scholars as well as on contemporary accounts of events, Bridgeford, a British lawyer, argues that the tapestry was more likely designed by English monks at St. Augustine's abbey in Canterbury under the direction of Count Eustace of Boulogne. English women, more famous for their embroidery skills than the French, stitched a tapestry containing a covert anti-Norman message. Bridgeford also provides details on minor characters in the tapestry, such as the dwarf Turold—who Bridgeford thinks might have written the medieval French epic poem Chanson de Roland and been the tapestry's patron—and Aelfgyva, the only woman named on the tapestry. While Bridgeford offers a fascinating look into the tapestry and the events it depicts, his language and method are so tentative ("Could it be that...?") that one is left doubting his interpretation. 16 pages of color illus., one map. (Apr.)
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From Booklist

The Bayeux Tapestry, in the French town of Bayeux, draws half a million visitors a year. For more than 900 years it has been kept--and sometimes concealed--in several places around the town. The story of the Norman invasion of England in 1066 is set out in this masterpiece, recounting the Battle of Hastings, culminating in a victory for William the Conqueror and the death of King Harold. Although barely half a metre wide, the tapestry is about 70 metres long, embroidered on a plain linen background in wools of red, yellow, gray, green, and blue. Here are men feasting on birds, drinking from ivory horns, hunting, going to church, and loading provisions onto a ship. Bridgeford posits "the quest of [his] book is to unravel the millennial mysteries of the work, to investigate the true origin and meaning of it, to understand more about the characters who are named in it, and to gain a new insight into some of the darkest events of the Norman Conquest." The result is a fascinating study. George Cohen
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Customer Reviews

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Bridgeford really was able to make the times, and the tapestry, come alive with action and life.
M. Dog
If you have any interest in the Bayeux Tapestry or the Norman conquest of England in 1066 this is a book you should read.
K. Maxwell
I would highly recommend this book to anyone remotely interested in English history or in the Bayeux Tapestry.
D. Miller

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

59 of 60 people found the following review helpful By R. Hardy HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on July 28, 2005
Format: Hardcover
For a single day's battle, it is hard to think of any that is greater in consequence than the Battle of Hastings in October 1066. If it had gone the other way, and it was a very near thing, we would, for instance, be using a different language now, the descent of royalty in England would have been decidedly altered, and English and European (and therefore world) history would be unrecognizable from where we are now. The classical depiction of the battle is on a long piece of linen, and the cloth's story is told in _1066: The Hidden History in the Bayeux Tapestry_ (Walker Books) by Andrew Bridgeford. Everyone who has looked at this extraordinary work of art has tried to see one scene after another, as if it were some epic graphic novel, to tell the story of the invasion. If you don't know much about the history that has been taught from the tapestry, Bridgeford makes this a fascinating introduction, examining each scene and coordinating it with the written histories of the time. He is not, however, a professional historian, but a lawyer, and he has a case to argue. The tapestry has been interpreted the wrong way, he explains, and he means to set the matter straight. There is a good deal of guesswork and supposition in his explanation, but it is generally well-argued, and will make little difference to those who come to the tapestry without having been drilled in the old interpretations. Bridgeford does bring the tapestry to life, with its depictions of valor and brutality, and anyone reading his work is going to want to get to France someday to see the real thing.

The tapestry is not a tapestry at all, really, but an embroidery; the pattern is not in the weave of the fabric, but stitched into the linen.
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31 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Michael K. Smith TOP 500 REVIEWER on May 26, 2005
Format: Hardcover
When I was living in Europe as an army brat in the late 1950s -- a period that cemented a deep interest in history, which became a career -- I had the opportunity to spend an entire day studying the 300-foot-long embroidered panels (miscalled a "tapestry") that is almost our only near-contemporary source documenting the Norman conquest of Anglo-Saxon England. I've been fascinated by it ever since, I read everything published about it, and about the Conquest, and this is one of the best studies I've ever seen. The author is an English attorney, not an academic historian, which means this is not a scholarly publication, but it's nevertheless a very well written, thoroughly judicious, extremely well-informed treatment of a well-trodden subject. He begins at the beginning, with the first scene depicted on the tapestry: King Edward on his throne, followed by Duke Harold (he was actually an earldorman, but this is a French work, after all) and the beginning of his visit to the Continent that would lead to the battle at Hastings. Bridgeford summarizes all the past interpretations of depicted events and weighs each in the light of later discoveries, notes the effect of 19th century repairs to the needlework which "rewrote" some of the tapestry's scenes, and discusses the accuracy (or not) of the later ballads and poems. He also makes an excellent case for the tapestry being in part a piece of pro-French (not pro-Norman) propaganda. Two extensive sets of color plates -- of the tapestry as a continuum and as a series of key scenes -- make the text very easy to follow. Highly recommended for anyone with an interest in the Conquest.
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29 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Bruce Trinque VINE VOICE on July 4, 2005
Format: Hardcover
As Bridgeford carefully explains, of course, the Bayeux Tapestry is really not a tapestry, but instead an embroidery, created something more than 900 years ago to tell the story of, and the story behind, the Battle of Hastings, in which Willaim the Bastard became William the Conqueror of England. Although the Tapestry is certainly famous, its origins and even the meanings of certain of its embroidered scenes are mysterious. In this book Bridgeford provides persuasive, if not necessarily final, answers to many of the old questions, including who was the patron who had the Tapestry created (Bridgeford believes it was Count Eustache of Boulogne, as a sort of peace offering to Bishop Odo, William's half-brother, who might have been just a little unhappy after Eustache had attacked the bishop's castle at Dover), who was Aelfgyva and what was she doing with that cleric (Aelfgyva was a rather popular name at the time, but Bridgeford argues that the Tapestry's Aelfgyva was the mother of Norway's Harold Harefoot, a rival contender for the English throne, and it was a reference to an old scandal, made to undermine the legitimacy of Harold's claim), and who the dwarf Turold was (Bridgeford speculates that the horse-holding Turold may have been the artist-designer of the Tapestry and the author of the famous Chanson de Roland). This is a book worth reading about one of the great art treasures of Europe and about one of the critical turning points of European history.
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By M. Dog VINE VOICE on November 16, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I found this to be a very interesting and worthwhile book. To briefly summarize, the author examines the famous Bayeux Tapestry, traditionally thought to be a work celebrating the Norman conquest of England in 1066, and comes up with a very interesting theory concerning its origins and meanings. I won't spoil the work for you by revealing what the author's theories are, but he does make (for the most part) an interesting case for them.

Although the author does describe the history of the tapestry itself, which is fascinating (an odd bit of ironic trivia: the Bayeux Tapestry nearly was destroyed on more than one occasion and suffered its greatest threat from the French themselves, during their revolution. The occupying Germans, during WWII, seemed to treat it with the most respect), the bulk of the book is taken up with scene by scene retelling of the Norman Invasion, using the art of the tapestry as a text. I found this section very enjoyable. It was rather like a favorite uncle going through a photo album and embellishing the pictures with fantastic stories. It was fascinating to see how much the author was able to read into the artwork of the tapestry, filling the woolen characters with action and personality. Bridgeford really was able to make the times, and the tapestry, come alive with action and life.

Are his theories true? I have no idea, and as the author himself admits, there will never be a way to know for sure about any of it. I can tell you this, though; he makes his case with vigor and it will really make you think about a time and people nearly a thousand years passed.

That's what good history writing is supposed to do.
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