1066 Turned Upside Down

Written by Alison Morton Anna Belfrage Annie Whitehead Carol McGrath Eliza Redgold G. K. Holloway Helen Hollick Joanna Courtney Richard Dee
Review by Nicky Galliers

This volume is a collection of short stories by nine well-known authors, all concerned with the same theme – the intriguing ‘what if?’ of the events of 1066. The year 1066 has been declared one of the two memorable dates in English history, and we all know what happened in October of that year. This volume not only explains what else of great significance happened that same momentous year, but each story examines what might have been.

As a student of the Norman Conquest, I am well versed in the histories that these short stories challenge, and they present the most tantalising glimpses into what England could have been, had things happened differently. We could now be ruled by Danes, or by Anglo-Saxon descendants of Harold or Edgar the Atheling.  We see what happens if just one tiny thing changes, the butterfly effect of time travel, and we meet some wonderful characters as we go. One story is set entirely in the present and near future; another has the potential to have been entirely true because we do not know enough to argue that it couldn’t be. The rest are glorious re-imagining by their authors, revelling in doing what I think most students of the era want to do – dispose of William of Normandy.  And, let’s face it, if in the Game of Thrones you either win or you die, any revision of those events is going to lead this way, so I don’t think I’ve given the game away!

In those moments, when the injustice of the Norman victory on that blood-soaked field of Senlac grates, at a distance of nearly a thousand years, even a descendant of one of William’s soldiers can pick up this volume and retreat back into ‘what if…?’ and indulge in what might have been.

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