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The Normans in Sicily: The Normans in the South 1016-1130 And the Kingdom in the Sun 1130-1194: Amazon.co.uk: John Julius Norwich: 9780140152128: Books

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The Normans in Sicily: The Normans in the South 1016-1130 And the Kingdom in the Sun 1130-1194 Paperback – 24 Sep 1992

by John Julius Norwich (Author) › Visit Amazon's John Julius Norwich Page search results for this author John Julius Norwich (Author) 7 customer reviews
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  1. The Normans in the South, 1016-1130: The Normans in Sicily Volume I (Normans in Sicily Vol 1) John Julius Norwich 4.1 out of 5 stars 21 Paperback £10.53
  2. The Kingdom in the Sun, 1130-1194: The Normans in Sicily Volume II (Normans in Sicily Vol 2) John Julius Norwich 4.6 out of 5 stars 17 Paperback £11.34
  3. Sicily: A Short History, from the Greeks to Cosa Nostra John Julius Norwich 4.5 out of 5 stars 78 Paperback £10.99
  4. The Middle Sea: A History of the Mediterranean Viscount John Julius… 4.3 out of 5 stars 30 Paperback £12.48
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This omnibus volume is made up of John Julius Norwich's first two works of history published 20 years ago - "The Normans in the South" and "The Kingdom in the Sun". The books tell the story of the dazzling Norman kingdom of Sicily founded in the 11th century by an enterprising band of adventurers from Normandy under Robert Guiscard. The state they founded was outstanding in medieval civilization.


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Zornitsa Dimova 5.0 out of 5 starsFive Stars 26 February 2015Verified Purchase A masterpiece documentary in great condition! Helpful Comment Report abuse Derek Ian de Villiers 5.0 out of 5 starsSuperb 9 November 2013Verified Purchase This is the definitive work on the topic of the Normans in Sicily. A history book that reads like a novel. Highly recommended. Helpful Comment Report abuse JPS TOP 500 REVIEWER 5.0 out of 5 starsHomage and Monument that reads almost like a novel 5 May 2015 This is a relatively old book, or, more accurately, it is two books initially published separately in 1967 and 1970, which can currently be bought together as a single volume. These two volumes tell the rather extraordinary story of “The Normans in the South” (the title of the first book) up to the crowning of Roger II as their first King in 1130, and of “The Kingdom in the Sun” which he founded but which only lasted some 64 years down to 1194 when the last Norman King died and the Kingdom was overrun by the German Emperor.

Together, the two books add up to a bit more than 750 pages of text, plus the bibliography and a few other things that bring the grand total close to 800. They can, of course, be read separately, although I think it preferable to read them together and one after the other in order to get the full and continuous story. Both volumes include maps of Southern Italy and Sicily which allow the reader to closely “follow the action.”

At first sight, the overall size could seem daunting and could put off a general reader for which these books were written. This, however, would be a pity, because such a first impression would be quite misleading. This is because the two books read almost like historical novels, as opposed to pieces of first-class scholarship. In fact, they are neither one nor the other, but something in between and this is largely what makes them so valuable up to this day.

Despite the author’s modesty and claim to be no scholar, they are meticulously researched and backed by a rather impressive bibliography, even if it is no longer up to date. They are not, however, the “usual” pieces of academic scholarship that you might expect because the author strived, and, in my view, fully succeeded, in making them lively. They do not contain the king of rigorous, comprehensive but cold analysis that you might expect to find in pieces of scholarship. Instead, the authors prose and views are, at times, somewhat biased, with the author clearly showing to what extent he found his subject fascinating and presenting the Hautevilles as open-minded and tolerant founders of an outstanding and cosmopolitan Kingdom. They seem to have been that, but they also had darker sides which the author gives, at times, the impression of minimising.

The way the story is told and the book is written will however allow you to fully empathise with many of the characters that it contains, whether the willy and ruthless Robert Guiscard, his dashing and just as skilful younger brother Roger or the various Kings, starting with Roger II, the first and the greatest of them. Empathising with his characters is certainly what the author does, to the extent that his prose becomes lyrical or even poetic at times. There is even what seems to be a touch of nostalgia as if the author regretted what he presents as almost a “Golden Age” where Christians, both Catholics and Orthodox, cohabited peacefully with Muslims within the same religiously tolerant and multicultural Kingdom. While the portrait may be somewhat idealised, it is certainly true that no other Kingdom around the Mediterranean exhibited such a level of tolerance. This was the result of a deliberate Hauteville policy which begun with the very founders (Robert and Roger) and which reflected their pragmatism. Norman warriors were few and tolerance was a tool allowing them to gain acceptance and adherence from their subjects.

Another characteristic of these books is the author’s deliberate attempt to reflect the intentions, feelings and emotions of his principal characters. This, of course, is rather risky for an academic and a professional historian, which John Julius Norwich claims not to be. However, he offers plausible, if unverifiable, insights about their possible state of mind, and it certainly makes the story telling both more entertaining and much livelier.

Then there are the stories of the main characters, starting with the founding brothers. They are so fantastic that they could be seen as implausible pieces of fiction, if they were not historically true. One reviewer mentioned these as being the “real Game of Thrones”. Apart from being incorrect - Game of Thrones is rather inspired from the Hundred Years War and the Wars of the Roses according to its author – R.R. Martin’s fiction does not come even close, in my view, and despite being remarkable in its own way. This, the story of the “other Norman Conquest”, of the foundation of a Kingdom that became very prosper, powerful and dominated the Central Mediterranean, and of its decline and demise, is a true story which is told in a rather breath taking way.

I can only recommend you to read it, as its author would have wanted you to. Five stars. 4 people found this helpful Helpful Comment Report abuse Dr. D. P. Weston 5.0 out of 5 starsRobert Guscards story of rags to riches..... 4 October 2000 John Julius Norwich breathes life into this tale of the sons of Tancred de Hautvilles in the sun drenched climes of southern Italy. The history begins with the arrival of the brothers Hautville and describes their rise from brigands and horse thieves to duke of Apulia (Robert Guiscard, who, by the end of his life, had emperors of east and west on the run and the pope eating out of his hand) and Count of Sicily (Roger, who laid the foundations for the kingdom of sicily). The character of the men and women desribed shines through the pages, described in Norwichs easy, enthusiastic style. They don't write novels or make films like this. Too much happens in real life, and yet Norwich delivers his narrative with great clarity allowing the actions of the characters to speak for themselves. I liked it. 28 people found this helpful Helpful Comment Report abuse Moises Enrique Rodriguez 5.0 out of 5 starsExcellent 22 August 2002 Like the other Norwich I have read (on Venice), simply MARVELLOUS. The author combines extremely thorough research with a style that is easy and enjoyable to read. Look forward to reading his Bizantium & all the rest. 9 people found this helpful Helpful Comment Report abuse NO PEN NAME 5.0 out of 5 starsBrilliant - An excellent read about a turbulent period in ... 1 November 2014 Brilliant - An excellent read about a turbulent period in a fascinating country. A must for all who wish to visit Sicily. Helpful Comment Report abuse Michael Coulter 5.0 out of 5 starsA excellent read. 21 January 2013 The book was delivered speedily and in good condition. I'm very satisfied. Thank you.
The book is just what I needed to get in the know for our holiday. Helpful Comment Report abuse See all 7 reviews Write a customer review

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