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5. Why do sources from the time disagree about the Battle of Hastings?

This lesson takes a different approach to the Battle of Hastings. It offers an alternative way of developing students’ understanding of this significant moment in English history.

Here, students will not receive a straightforward, uncontested narrative of the key moments in the battle.

Instead, they will come to understand the conflicting, contradictory nature of contemporary accounts.

This will help them to realise the difficulty of determining precisely what took place almost a thousand years ago.

In the lesson, students are first introduced to two contrasting descriptions of William, Duke of Normandy, and are asked to reflect on how it is possible for them to offer such different accounts of the same man!

Then, they delve into the key aspects of the battle itself, comparing contemporary writers’ views on things like the size of the two armies; the types of weapons used by the two sides; the extent to which the ‘fake retreat’ was pre-planned; and, perhaps most controversially, how Harold Godwinson was finally killed.

Students reflect on some of the reasons for the differences in these accounts, before finally deciding on the most likely turn of events so that they can travel back in time and ‘commentate’ on the unfolding battle. 

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