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The Normans in Sicily: The Normans in the South 1016-1130 and the Kingdom in the Sun 1130-1194: 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 – September 1, 2004

by John Julius Norwich (Author) › Visit Amazon's John Julius Norwich Page Find all the books, read about the author, and more. See search results for this author Are you an author? Learn about Author Central John Julius Norwich (Author) 15 customer reviews
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    southern italy norman conquest normans in the south italy and sicily kingdom in the sun norwich roger england kings period byzantium important roman empire fascinating historian island knowledge orthodox playing

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    R. C. Schmults 5.0 out of 5 starsFascinating history, great story June 27, 2002Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase Norwich is a storyteller as much as he is a historian. He resembles Barbara Tuchman -- you might not base a doctoral thesis on his work, but he certaily provides a great read. In many ways, this work is superior to his Byzantium trilogy. This may be because he has bitten off a more managable slice of history. This allows Norwich to go deeper on the main personalities and events he is covering. You really come a way with a feeling for this remarkable adventure of the Normans in Southern Italy and the advanced and powerful state they were able to create. It also highlights thier impact on the crusades, Byzantium, and the broader struggle between the Pope and secular power. I really enjoyed this book -- so much so that I travelled to Sicily to visit some of the many amazing artifacts left behind by this underdocumented "other conquest" of the Normans. 30 people found this helpful Helpful Comment Report abuse A Reader 5.0 out of 5 starsCould not put it down. June 14, 2015Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase Outstanding history of the Normans in southern Italy, particularly in Sicily. The author's clear writing, and expansive knowledge of history and art make this book indispensable for those interested in this period in Italy. I had always thought Sicily might be interesting to visit, but now I'm sure I must make the time to see this unique island. Helpful Comment Report abuse Russell 5.0 out of 5 starsBest book purchase ever! February 15, 2014Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase I only wish I could have afforded the hardback version of this excellent tome. It details a little-known chapter in Sicilian/Norman history. Norwich is one of the greatest living history writers. If you are familiar with his work, then you must get a copy! Helpful Comment Report abuse anthony rubino 5.0 out of 5 starsThe Real Game of Thrones May 23, 2014Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase Excellent read. Norwich is a master storyteller who brings this period to life with a vast array of colorful characters, court intrigues, battles, betrayals, and ever shifting alliances that occur in the sometimes unbelievable Norman conquest of southern Italy and Sicily. I've previously read the three volume Byzantium series and History of Venice by Norwich, and this book adds dimension to his portrayal of the world at that time. One person found this helpful Helpful Comment Report abuse Rms Military Antiques Stumbo 5.0 out of 5 starsA great read! September 10, 2013Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase Very well written as are all this author's books that I have read so far. In depth research and great story line, you can't make this up, factual history much more interesting than any fiction out there. Rick Helpful Comment Report abuse Vanth 5.0 out of 5 starsMasterful Storytelling by a Talented Historian August 25, 2017Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase Deeply researched, this is a massive and masterful piece of storytelling about a little-known period and place. Superb. Helpful Comment Report abuse lassalle 5.0 out of 5 starsFive Stars October 25, 2016Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase brilliant Helpful Comment Report abuse JPS 5.0 out of 5 starsHomage and Monument that reads almost like a novel May 5, 2015Format: Paperback 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. 2 people found this helpful Helpful Comment Report abuse See all 15 reviews Write a customer review

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