War and battles are supposed to be the turning points of the flow of history – yet in reality they rarely decide anything much more than petty disputes between people and states, generally leaving the overall background unaltered. There are, however, several battles in it that have actually changed the way the history developed – during one day or even less they defined how the world will look for centuries afterwards. These battles created a wide field for speculations about what world would we be living in if… The battle of Hastings can undoubtedly be named among them.
The battle that was fought on October 14, 1066 has defined the further history of England and, taking into account how big the role the Great Britain played and plays in the events going on in the world is, we may say for sure that it influenced the whole world as well. England that existed before that date and what it turned into afterwards are two different countries and, what is more important, two different nations. Pre-Hastings England was occupied primarily by the Saxons; after Hastings the population became strictly divided in two uneven parts: the natives with the Saxons being the most numerous, and the conquerors, mostly the Norman and the French people.
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This fusion of two cultures was the thing that led to the creation of the English nation and English culture as we see it today. The English language, mostly of Germanic origin before, fell under the direct and acute influence of the French, creating an altogether new speech and writing. The way of life of less developed Saxons was also considerably altered after the coming of much more civilized and progressive Normans – who knows how soon would England have come to that level without external intrusion?
It is hard to imagine how would a “what if” for this event look and to what consequences it would later lead. England might have stagnated for decades and centuries afterwards, or, perhaps, launched an invasion against the Normandy, or the defeated Viking army could have returned and finished off both foes weakened by mutual destruction. We may judge only what has really happened. And what has happened is not actually understood as the battle.
The modern British don’t consider the Battle of Hastings to be their victory or their defeat; two nations and two constituents of the modern British people have met on the field of battle and fought it in order to meld together afterwards, creating something new. In its modern perception this battle is not the deed of destruction, but the deed of creation.