The Normans in the South

Course details


Wed 23 Jan 2019 - Wed 27 Feb 2019

The Normans in the South


Normandy only emerged as a distinct political unit in north-western France during the 10th century. Yet this small duchy was to play a pivotal role in European affairs for over two hundred years. The Conquest of England was the Normans’ most notable achievement, but their influence and power spread over a far wider area than just the British Isles.


The earliest activities in southern Europe involved Norman mercenaries who participated in the early stages of the Christian reconquest of Muslim Spain. Many Norman knights went on pilgrimage to Jerusalem and, as a consequence of travelling across Italy on the way to the Holy Land, became involved in conflicts between the various city states in the southern part of the peninsula. Their presence became so dominant that they began to acquire lands and eventually gain control of large areas of southern Italy. Unlike the Conquest of England, the conquest of Italy was not undertaken by a ducal leader with the support of the whole duchy and achieved through a single battle, but by a process of piecemeal acquisition by different groups of Normans over many decades. One family in particular, the Hautevilles from the Cotentin peninsula in Normandy, was to provide the driving force behind the Norman take over. They led the Normans to replace the existing power groups in the region, notably the Byzantines, the Holy Roman Empire and the Muslims.


The Hautevilles used their newly acquired base in southern Italy to launch a series of campaigns against Muslim-held Sicily, which eventually led to the emergence of the Norman Kingdom of Sicily. In the 12th century the Normans were a major player in Mediterranean politics, at one stage even holding part of the north-African coast and challenging the Byzantines for dominance in the region. The Normans also played an important role in the Crusades, establishing their own crusader kingdom at Antioch, which proved to be the longest lasting of all their territories.


This lecture series will trace the story of the Norman Conquest in the south and the eventual demise of Norman power. It will look at the unique blend of Frankish, Byzantine and Muslim culture expressed through government and art. It will also look at the Norman artistic achievement in the region through its castles, palaces, cathedrals and churches. Finally, it will pose the question of how were the Normans able to achieve so much from such a modest beginning and why the ’Norman Empire’ in the south disappeared so quickly.

Programme details


11.00am – 12.30pm

Coffee/tea is provided in the Common Room before each lecture, from 10.30am

10.30am Registration (first week only 23 January in Rewley House Reception)


23 January 2019

The making of Normandy

30 January 2019

The cross and the sword: early Norman ventures in the south

6 February 2019

From small beginnings: the Norman conquest of Italy

13 February 2019

The Norman Kingdom of Sicily

20 February 2019

The Normans on crusade

27 February 2019

Was there ever a Norman Empire?


Recommended reading

Suggested Reading

Brown GS., The Norman Conquest of Southern Italy and Sicily, McFarland and Company, 2003

Norwich JJ, The Normans in Sicily, Faber and Faber, 2011, reprint

Rowley T., The Normans, The History Press, 2009, reprint


Tuition (includes coffee/tea) : £112.00


If you are in receipt of a state benefit you may be eligible for a reduction of 50% of tuition fees.

If you do not qualify for the concessionary fee but are experiencing financial hardship, you may still be eligible for financial assistance.

Concessionary fees for short courses



Mr Trevor Rowley

Course Tutor

MA, MLitt, FSA,  was formerly Deputy Director in the Department for Continuing Education and before that Director of Archaeology in the department. He is now an Emeritus Fellow of Kellogg College and a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries. He has published many books on landscape history and the Normans, most recently a biography of William the Conqueror’s half-brother, Bishop Odo of Bayeux and an examination of the landscape of the Bayeux Tapestry.    


Please use the 'Book' or 'Apply' button on this page. Alternatively, please contact us to obtain an application form.