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(This is an article about the Norman people. There is also a place named Norman in the State of Oklahoma in the United States; see Norman, Oklahoma.)

The Normans (lit. "Northmen") were Scandinavian invaders who began to occupy the northern area of France now know as Normandy in the latter half of the 9th century. Under the leadership of Hrolf Ganger, who adopted the French name Rollo, they swore allegiance to the king of France and received the lower Seine area from him (911).

The Norman people adopted the French language and a new cultural identity separate from that of their Scandinavian forebears and French neighbours. Norman culture, like that of many other migrant communities, was particularly enterprising and adaptable. It led them, for a time, to occupy widely dispersed territories throughout Europe.

The Normans in England

The most famous Norman leader was William the Conqueror (Duke William II, also known as king William I of England), who successfully led an invasion of the British isles in 1066. Following the Battle of Hastings, he, his fellow Normans and their descendants formed a distinct population in England. Ousting most of the previous Saxon rulers (as the Saxons had, generations before, displaced the leaders of the Celtic tribes in the British Isles), they occupied most of the influential places in the political structure. (Historians debate whether pre-Norman England should be considered a feudal government - indeed, the entire characterization of Feudalism is under some dispute.) Many of the Saxon English lost lands and titles; the lesser thegns and others found themselves lower down the social pecking order than previously. A number of free geburs had their rights and court access much decreased, becoming unfree villeins.

The degree of subsequent Norman-Saxon conflict (as a matter of conflicting social identities) is a question disputed by historians. The nineteenth century view of intense mutual resentment, reflected in the popular legends of Robin Hood and the novel Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott, may have been considerably exaggerated. Some residual ill-feeling is suggested by contemporary historian Orderic Vitalis, who in Ecclesiastical Historii (1125) wrote in praise of native English resistance to "William the Bastard". Likewise, a law called the "Mudrum fine" established a high (46 mark) fine for homicide against a Norman; this law was thought to be necessary due to the high rate of English attacks against Normans.

Whatever the level of dispute, over time, the two populations largely intermarried and merged, combining languages and traditions. Normans began to identify themselves as Anglo-Norman; indeed, Anglo-Norman French was considerably distinct from the "French of Paris", which was the subject of some humor by Geoffrey Chaucer. Eventually, even this distinction largely disappeared with the Anglo-Normans identifying themselves as, simply, English.

Norman Conquests on the Mediterranean

Opportunistic bands of Norman successfully established a foothold far to the south of Normandy. Groups settled at Aversa and Capua, others [?] conquered Apulia and Calabria.

From these bases, more organised principalities were eventually able to capture Sicily from Saracen rulership.

[The decline of Norman power in the south?]

[The disappearance of Norman identity more generally?]

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