996 and all that: the Norman peasants' revolt reconsidered


  • I am grateful to Kathrin Korn and Chris Wickham for reading drafts of this paper, and to participants at the Oxford Medieval Economic and Social History Seminar, convened by John Blair and Ian Forrest, for discussion of an earlier version.


Early in the reign of Richard II of Normandy (996–1026), a peasant movement, usually described as a revolt, was suppressed. This paper re-examines the evidence of William of Jumièges, Wace and an anonymous history of Fécamp. It argues that the movement cannot be securely dated to 996, was not a military enterprise, and was not revolutionary. Peasants attempted to mobilize quasi-Carolingian assembly practices in order to gain concessions concerning specific economic issues, but did not seek to re-order their society. The movement probably affected the Seine valley, rather than encompassing all of Normandy.