Colombe de la paix entre deux soldats (France, Tours, Bibliothèque municipale, Ms. 568 f. 249v)

Call for Papers Conquering, Subduing, Governing: Theories and Practices of “Pacification” in the Norman Worlds

Picture: The Dove of Peace between two soldiers (France, Tours, Bibliothèque municipale, Ms. 568 f. 249v)

Conquering, Subduing, Governing: Theories and Practices of “Pacification” in the Norman Worlds (Viking World, Normandy, British Isles, Southern Italy and Sicily, 9th-12th Century)

[Click here for the French version]

Cerisy-la- Salle, October 5-9, 2022


  • Pierre Bauduin, University of Caen Normandy, CRAHAM
  • Annick Peters-Custot, University of Nantes, CRHIA
  • Simon Lebouteiller, Sorbonne University, CRAHAM

The transition from a state of war, which corresponded with a territorial conquest, to a state of peace, which was necessary for a new political construction, is less and less viewed as a qualitative gap between the violence of fierce conquerors and the peaceful establishment of new forms of government over conquered territories and populations. War and peace have often been perceived as two antithetical principles, so that contemporary historical thought leaves little scope for in-between situations in which violent confrontations are not predominant any more even if they still occur.

An important historiographical renewal has recently proposed new perspectives on these periods of transition, most notably in the “Norman worlds”, carefully distinguishing situations that cannot be reduced to a single model. A relevant example can be seen in the Viking experiences in Western and Eastern Europe. Their diversity has been highlighted in recent studies and depended on the different contexts and the societies where they were active.[1] Regarding Normandy, the fast integration of Scandinavian leaders into the Frankish social and political system, as well as the original continuity of Carolingian institutions, shows that the newcomers and the local population could make compromise and live together.[2] The conquest of England by William the Conqueror was marked by violence and the replacement of the Anglo-Saxon elites by continental leaders, but it was characterised by an unprecedented ideological enterprise to establish a consensus on the legitimacy of the new Norman rule and its continuity with the previous regime.[3] The “Norman” conquest of Mezzogiorno was less centrally-directed and somewhat slower, so that this process can be compared to an infiltration[4] and an impregnation which simultaneously combined war of conquest, defensive struggle and competition between the conquerors, and, as a consequence, conflicts and competition, fights and political construction. These phenomena were based on confrontation or alliances, marriage policies, and the cooperation of certain local populations. A few decades after the conquest of Sicily, King Roger II undertook a very original conquest project in Tunisia, where he carried an imperialist expansion and an economic “colonialism”.[5] Here again, a specific relationship with the Arabic and Muslim population flourished like in Sicily and particularly relied on the delegation of some public authority to local elites.

In fact, the transition from conquest to political construction, in the Viking world, in Normandy, in post-Hastings England as well as in Southern Italy and eleventh-century Sicily, should not be perceived as a binary process composed of two exclusive and successive stages – war and peace. Likewise, this transition cannot be only seen as a simple confrontation between glorious conquerors on the one hand and submissive and passive populations on the other. On the contrary, recent studies have highlighted that the conquered populations were active in the new political order and sought to find their place in this context.

This historiographical renewal on the various political constructions that resulted from “Norman” conquests leads to reexamine the forms and processes of the transition from conquest to peace and state stabilization. The prospect of a sustainable construction required a consensus on the rule of the conquerors over – and with – the “indigenous” populations. Thus, several observations regarding their relationships may be drawn:

  • A logic of social and/or geographic mobility:[6] what was the conquerors’ trajectory? Was it already preceded by an experience of conquest? How? In what social or political strategy was this mobility inserted (exile, promotion, etc.) and, if applicable, in which network(s) did it take place?
  • A sociopolitical logic:[7] what was the attitude toward pre-existing sociopolitical structures and the elites who used to hold them? Was there a claim for continuity? A reuse of inheritances with or without modification of ancient institutions? Were they modified so that they lost their meaning? Was there a massive or a selective elimination of the former elites? Were the conquered communities involved in new forms of membership and participation? Was there a political reconfiguration of elites and, most notably, of so-called “middle elites” in rural and urban contexts (boni homines and community representatives)? Can we observe an ideological or matrimonial integration, as well as the formation of new identities? etc.
  • An economic logic: how was the economic integration (for example fiscal economy implemented, through taxation on market transactions and taxation on land) in the conquered territories? Can we see an appropriation or a sharing of land? A transformation (or not) of free peasants into dependents, and of the servile status of the slaves after the conquest? Specific forms of taxation? The establishment of an economy entrusted, or not, to foreign groups or individuals?
  • A legal logic: What was the system of legitimation of the conquest? Is it implemented treaties or other forms of compromise? What role does violence have and how is it legitimized? What were the statuses of the different populations, as well as their capacity to live under the law that was in use before the conquest? How were laws enforced or adapted?
  • A military logic: how was the territory “neutralised”? How were possible revolts of local populations perceived? Were the authorities’ responses to them different from their reaction toward « internal » struggles, such as revolts of barons?
  • A spatial or territorial logic, which is partly related to the previous issues: to what extent does the supervision of the conquered populations involve the construction or the development of places – often fortified – that were intended to control the country and its inhabitants?[8] We may also question the symbolic appropriation of the territory (for example, the fate of ancient places of power and their possible reappropriation).

All these questions and themes lead us to wonder whether there existed, consciously or not, strategies of “pacification” that could be compared – in spite of a (conscious) risk of anachronism – with the great pacification theorists of colonial wars in the nineteenth century, such as Lyautey, Gallieni or, their little-known inspirer, Pennequin in France.[9] Naturally, the aim is not to look for medieval roots in pacification theories of modern colonialism, nor to find very evanescent and questionable links of transmission between medieval modes of pacification and the strategies applied by the colonial powers of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. On the contrary, the idea is to go back to medieval historiographical, hagiographical, archaeological and diplomatic sources, and to ask, beyond documentary reconstruction, whether there was a policy, even implicit, pragmatic and eventually constructed, of “pacification” that consisted of repression and cooperation with the local populations.

In order to address the objectives of the proposed investigation, contributors are requested to consider the issues raised by the aforementioned questions. Papers may cross several themes presented above, but a comparative perspective between the regions of the Norman worlds and/or with other historical contexts will be encouraged.

30-minutes papers will be made in French or in English. Paper proposals are expected by the 1st of May 2021 with a short abstract (or at least the broad lines of the topic). They must be sent to one of the following e-mail addresses:


[1] Pierre Bauduin and Alexander E. Musin (ed.), Vers l’Orient et vers l’Occident: Regards croisés sur les dynamiques et les transferts culturels des Vikings à la Rous ancienne, Caen, 2014.

[2] Pierre Bauduin, La première Normandie (Xe-XIe siècles). Sur les frontières de la Haute-Normandie: identité et construction d’une principauté, Caen, 2004; M. Hagger, Norman Rule in Normandy (911-1144), Woodbridge, 2017.

[3] David Bates, Normans and Empire: the Ford lectures delivered in the University of Oxford during Hilary term 2010, Oxford, 2013; Idem, William the Conqueror, New Haven, 2016, French trans.: Guillaume le Conquérant, Paris, 2019; Véronique Gazeau and Dan Ioan Mureşan (ed.), Les couronnements royaux de Guillaume Ier et de Mathilde (1066, 1068): la Normandie, l’Angleterre, l’Europe, Actes de la journée d’étude du 30 novembre 2016 à l’université de Rouen Normandie, numéro des Annales de Normandie, 2019/1.

[4] Graham Loud, « Migration, Infiltration, Conquest and Identity: the Normans of Southern Italy c. 1000-1130 », in Le migrazioni nell’Alto Medioevo (Spoleto, 5-11 April 2018), Spoleto, 2019 (Settimane… LVI), vol. 1, p. 339-360.

[5] Annliese Nef, Conquérir et gouverner la Sicile islamique, Rome, 2011.

[6] Shane McLeod, The Beginning of Scandinavian Settlement in England: the Viking « Great Army » and Early Settlers, c. 865-900, Turnhout, 2014.

[7] See for example Annick Peters-Custot, Les Grecs de l’Italie méridionale post-byzantine (IXe-XIVe siècle). Une acculturation en douceur, Rome, 2009.

[8] John A. Davies, Angela Riley and Jean-Marie Levesque (dir.), Castles and the Anglo-Norman World: proceedings of a conference held at Norwich Castle in 2012, Oxford, 2016.

[9] See for example Jean-François Klein, « La « pacification », un processus impérial », Encyclopédie pour une histoire numérique de l’Europe, online publication 22/06/20:

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