John R. Bliese
Nottingham Medieval Studies: v.35 (1991)
The Normans thought of themselves as a distinct ‘race’ or ‘nation’, a separate people different from other peoples. The belief took form as they developed a consciousness of their own historical identity, which is reflected by a number of histories written or commissioned by Normans. The notion of ‘racial’ unity, however, was not unique. As G.A. Loud has shown, in the middle ages it was commonly thought that each and every gens had distinctive, innate characteristics. Fora people to hold such belief about itself, it must identify with some tradition, some collective self-image or ‘myth’, and the Normans were no exception. Therefore, as R.H.C. Davis contends, if we are to understand the Normans, we must discover what their self image was, for this would show what they thought distinguished themselves from other people’s. There are several outstanding modern works that analyse their notion of Normanitas.
The Normans were pre-eminently a military people, and marvellously successful warriors. As William of Malmesbury described them, they scarcely knew how to live without warfare. Their expansion from Normandy, their exploits all over the known world, and their conquests in England, Italy, and the Holy Land have been often chronicled.