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Medieval England was in thrall to the powerful French-speaking elite installed by William the Conqueror from 1066 As land-owning lords the Normans dominated politically and economically building grandiose castles to symbolise their strength So how did England preserve its emerging national identity despite this crushing new influence National Identity Writers in England in the twelfth century displayed national prejudices with no sign of shame For the mid-twelfth-century author of the Deeds of King Stephen Scotland was a potentially wealthy land but its inhabitants were brutal barbaric and filthy The English could be equally unpopular with others and were also criticised by their own the English are noted among foreigners for their persistent drinking wrote the learned John of Salisbury Such a capacity to identify and contrast peoples by distinguishing characteristics is a feature of a sense of national identity Yet such developing views are the more striking because England had been conquered twice in half a century in 1016 by the Scandinavian Cnut in 1066 by the Norman William the Conqueror For much of the next century and a half England and to a lesser extent the rest of the British Isles would remain part of an assemblage of lands spanning the English Channel And if the assemblage had a centre that centre was Rouen in Normandy How then did the identity of the English emerge given the imposition in 1066 of a continental governing class Some such as William the Conquerors archbishop of Canterbury said they hoped to learn to be Englishmen However such immediate and deliberate adoption of a culture - even if it was whole-hearted - appears uncommon Rather the assimilation was more gradual and had many causes of which the following are just three In part assimilation resulted from aristocratic families dividing their lands between different branches with separate English and Continental branches developing In part it stemmed from inter-marriage with the English In the late 1170s the royal treasurer could
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