Winchester and York History Weekends: 5 minutes with Marc Morris

Everyone remembers the story, depicted on the Bayeux Tapestry, of William the Conqueror’s successful invasion, and poor King Harold being felled by an arrow in the eye. At our York and Winchester History Weekends this autumn, on the 950th anniversary of the most famous date in English history, Marc Morris asks: why do the events of that year matter so much?


At our Winchester History Weekend in October, Marc will also be examining the action-packed life of Edward I, the medieval king who attempted to conquer Scotland, killed the famous Simon de Montfort in battle, conquered Wales and constructed the most magnificent chain of castles ever created.


Ahead of his talks at our Winchester and York History Weekends, we caught up with Marc to find out more and to learn about his passion for history…

Q: How and when did you first realise you had a passion for history?

A: I’m not sure I’d describe it as a passion, but it’s certainly been a long and abiding interest. I remember enjoying history while I was at school, and also enjoying trips to historical sites with my parents. When I arrived at university I was excited to discover I could study the Norman Conquest, King John and other medieval topics – topics I hadn’t touched since I was child. In retrospect that was probably a decisive moment.
Q: Why do you love your period of history?
I like the Middle Ages because it’s both sufficiently different and familiar to today. Personally, I find the ancient world too remote to relate to, and when I look at the modern period I feel overwhelmed by the amount of surviving evidence. The medieval period, by contrast, has enough familiarity – castles, cathedrals, counties, parliaments – while it’s also possible to feel that you’ve covered most, if not all, of the evidence for a particular topic.
Q: Which other historical areas fascinate you and why?
I’ve always thought it would be fun to do American history. I never had the opportunity to study it at school or university, and consequently my knowledge is more informed by popular culture than anything else.
Q: Which history book(s) are you reading at the moment?
I’m re-reading The Anglo-Saxons, a compendium volume edited by the great medieval historian Professor James Campbell who sadly died recently.
Q: Are there any developments in your field that are really exciting you at the moment?
Things are gearing up for the 950th anniversary of the Norman Conquest later this year. There’s a conference about the Conquest in Oxford, which I’m hoping to attend.
Q: What are you most looking forward to about the York and Winchester History Weekends?
Both York and Winchester are splendid cities for a medievalist, with their castles and cathedrals. At Winchester I’ll be speaking about Edward I in the castle’s surviving Great Hall, under the giant round table that was commissioned by Edward himself.
Q: What can we expect from your talks?
In my talk on Edward I, the audience can expect an overview of his astonishing career and an exploration of his impact on the British Isles. From my talk about the Norman Conquest, expect an assessment of how the events of William the Conqueror’s reign altered England’s aristocracy, architecture and attitudes.

Marc Morris is a historian and broadcaster who specialises in the Middle Ages. His books include The Norman Conquest, King John and A Great and Terrible King: Edward I and the Forging of Britain.


Marc will be speaking at both the York and Winchester History Weekends this autumn. You can find out more about the events and Marc’s two talks, ‘The Norman Conquest: Why Did it Matter?’ and ‘A Great and Terrible King: Edward I and the Forging of Britain’, here.