We use cookies to enhance your experience on our website. By continuing to use our website, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Find out more

Edexcel GCSE History Anglo-Saxon and Norman England c1060–88 Glossary

The key vocabulary you need to learn for your Edexcel GCSE Anglo-Saxon and Norman England c1060–88 History paper. Find all the terms and definitions you need to understand, from ‘aristocracy ‘ to ‘writ’.

A – D (Aristocracy to domesday book)
The aristocracy is the highest class in a society.

Barons were Norman tenants-in-chief and governors within former earldoms, which William I split into smaller areas.

A burh is a fortified town within a shire where administration and trading took place.

centralised power
The term centralised power describes a governing system in which decision making is controlled by the top.

Chivalry is a moral code inspired by Christian teachings, demanding honesty, loyalty, and bravery in battle.

The clergy comprises people who are ordained for religious duties, such as priests and bishops.

Ceorls (‘curls’) were people sometimes called ‘freemen’. They had to do some work for their local lord, including fighting, but could work for another lord as well.

Each diocese was a district under the care of a bishop.

Domesday Book
The Domesday Book is a complete record of property ownership across England, written in 1086.

E - F (Earldom to fyrd army)
An earldom was a large area of land, divided into shires and hundreds, and controlled by an earl.

Earls were men of great power and influence who advised the king and made sure the king’s laws were enforced. Each earl controlled a large area of land (called an earldom) and was responsible for its local government systems (known as the shires and the hundreds).

An embassy was an official visit to another country.

A person has been exiled when expelled from a country and forced to live abroad.

feigned retreats
Feigned retreats are military tactics in which soldiers from one side pretend to retreat in the hope that enemy soldiers will follow and put themselves in a vulnerable position.

feudal system
The feudal system is based on land ownership, in which everyone knew their place and what they needed to do.

Feudalism is a system of give and take based on control of the land (for example, land in exchange for military service; tenancy in exchange for labour).

Forfeiture is a punishment given in which land is taken for the landowner’s failure to provide the service or duty required of him.

fyrd army
A fyrd army was made up of peasants, whom the earls and thegns could call on to fight.

G – M (Geld tax to motte and bailey castle)
geld tax
Geld tax was money raised as a tax to pay off Viking invaders.

A guerrilla is a member of a small group of combatants who use a variety of surprise tactics to fight a larger enemy.

Harrying of the North
The Harrying of the North was a campaign waged by William I to destroy vast areas of land around Yorkshire.

Housecarls were well-trained, professional soldiers who protected the king and earls.

Hundreds were sub-divisions of a shire, containing around 12 villages each.

knight service
The term knight service refers to a knight’s duty to provide weapons and money to the king and to fight on the king’s behalf.

labour service
The term labour service refers to farm work provided by peasants in return for food, protection and shelter provided by a knight.

Minting is the system for making coins of money.

motte and bailey castle
The first castles built by the Normans were motte and bailey castles, which were made of wood and were quick to build.

N – P (Nepotism to primogeniture)
The term nepotism describes the appointing of unqualified family members to positions of power.

An oath is a solemn promise made by someone about their future behaviour.

oath of fealty
An oath of fealty is a promise given to be loyal to someone of higher social status.

Papal Banner
A Papal Banner is a flag or banner, carried in battle, that shows formal support given by the Pope.

pay homage
To pay homage is to give a promise (sworn on a Bible) to stay loyal to someone.

Peasants were people who made up most of the population (around 70 per cent). They farmed land they had rented and worked for the local lord for up to three days a week.

The term pluralism refers to how members of the clergy held multiple paid jobs in the Church.

Primogeniture is the rule whereby the first-born son inherits everything.

R – S (Regent to succession)
Regents were trusted men put in charge of England by William I to act in his place while he was away.

Romanesque is an architectural style with clean lines, rounded arches, and vaulted ceilings.

royal demesne
The term royal demesne refers to land owned by William I himself, much of which he turned into ‘forest’ (any land he wanted to use for hunting).

shire reeve (sheriff)
A shire reeve (or sheriff) was a head of a shire, responsible for collecting taxes, carrying out justice for major crimes, and raising an army if needed.

Shires were county areas within an earldom (around 40 within each earldom).

The term simony refers to the practice of selling positions or jobs within the Church.

The term subinfeudation refers to the process whereby tenants-in-chief could reward followers with smaller grants of land.

Succession is the right or sequence of inheriting a position (for example, the role of king).

T – W (tenants-in-chief to writ)
Tenants-in-chief were people, such as barons, who held land given by the king for them to govern.

The Marches
The Marches was the name given to the border area between England and Wales.

Thegns were local lords who lived in a manor house. They carried out local duties and had to provide local men for the army when needed.

Tithes were a 10 per cent tax payment collected by the Church on everything that a farm produced.

Tithings were groups of around ten households each.

The treasury was a coordinated system of taxation and spending by the government.

Wergild was a system of compensation that aimed to replace taking revenge by blood feud.

The Witan was a small council made up of the most important landowners and religious leaders. It advised the king on important legal and national matters, and had a large role in choosing a new monarch.

Writs are letters from the king.