One gusty morning in March 1016, Earl Uhtred of Northumbria came with 40 followers to a wooden hall at a place called Wiheal outside York, to parley with the recently crowned King Canute who was attempting to bring his mighty northern subjects properly under his control. They were given guarantee of safe conduct, and came unarmed. But they were ambushed in the hall by an old enemy of Uhtred's, with Canute's connivance, and murdered, every one. From here, Richard Fletcher moves on to explore the whole culture of vengeance and reparation in early Medieval England. As well as the culture of aristocratic and inter-familial violence in Christendom, Fletcher looks closely at the Church's attempts to limit or discredit an institution closely tied with residual paganism. Another element of the book considers the tensions between monarchical authority and wilful local indulgence in vendetta on the one hand, and the influence of feud on high diplomacy on the other.
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Richard Fletcher is one of Britain's most distinguished medieval historians, and has for many years taught at the University of York. His The Quest For EL CID won the Wolfson Award and the Los Angeles Times History Prize; his most recent book, The Conversion Of Europe, was a best-seller for Harper Collins.
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