There are many events throughout history that played a big role in the development of specific national identities. Two of the most recognizable cases of this is seen in the significant events that helped in the shaping of England and France. Some of the specific historic moments that had a large effect in the development of these two national identities was the Norman Invasion, the imposition of the Magna Carta on the kings of England, and the Hundred Years War.
One of the significant historic events that had an impact on the development of England is the Norman Invasion. From 1066 – 1071, William, the Duke of Normandy invaded England, which resulted in political, administrative and social changes in England. The Norman Invasion came about as a result of the claim that William, nicknamed “William the Conqueror” was a distant cousin of the previous King of England, Edward, who died without an heir to the throne. William said that Edward had promised him the throne when he visited France in 1051. He then invaded England to claim the throne and become the rightful King of England. One of the major changes William made as he overtook the throne, was the transformation of the character and structure of the Church. He had received the Pope’s benediction for his invasion by vowing to reform the “irregularities” of the Anglo-Saxon church, which had contracted its own customs. After these changes were made, Anglo-Saxon England then developed a very organized local and central government, and a newly effective judicial system. William also revolutionized the higher ranks of the English society as he divided the country by naming a few Norman tenants-in-chief and even more intermediate tenants, whose fiefs were held by knight service. The Norman Invasion is just one of the many historical events that had a heavy influence on the development of England. A few years later, the creation of the Magna Carta had a great impact.
Another important event in history that impacted the development of England is the imposition of the Magna Carta on the kings of England. The Magna Carta is one of the most important documents in history because it established that all people, including the king, is subject to the law. Also, it guarantees the rights of all individuals, especially the right to justice and the right to a fair trial. The Magna Carta came about in May of 1215 as a peace treaty between the barons and the king after the barons captured London, when then forced King John to finally negotiate with them. The barons as well as the knights were angry with John due to the fact that they were paying taxes for the wars that he had lost. This document created a lasting effect in England, as Parliament was formed from the council of 25 barons, and some of the clauses of the Magna Carta are still enforced in the English law. Many of the clauses included were very similar to ancient English customs that were considered traditional rights of Englishmen. Along with that, it upheld a fundamental principle that the Kingdom’s approval was required for all taxation, as well as making it necessary for the king to be taxed because it blocked many sources of income. The Magna Carta included due process of law, a council of 25 barons who would watch over the king, no new taxes without the agreement of the barons, and protection from illegal imprisonment (habeas corpus). The signing of this document truly changed the power of the monarchy and the well deserved rights of the general English citizen. The signing of the Magna Carta led to many improvements in England, and a few years later with the fighting in the Hundred Years War, more developments followed.
Finally, an event that strongly impacted both England and France in their development is the Hundred Years War. This historical event took place from 1337-1453, as England and France fought over the succession to the French throne. Although the name of this War suggests it, this was not fought consecutively throughout the 116 years. There were multiple major battles including the Battle of Agincourt (1415) which was a huge English victory over the French. There was not one specific cause of the Hundred Years War, there were a series of conflicts and an abundance of causes. Some of the main issues involved in, and leading up to the war include protracted conflict between king of France and England over territory on the continent, the English claiming the french throne, the status of english possessions in France, the French king dying without an heir, status of the duchy of Aquitaine, and French succession. An important immediate impact of the Hundred Years War, was the balance of power in England and France, as well as the development of weapons used for battle. Along with weapons, the size of the band of knights increased, as the kings needed a larger army. At the conclusion of the war, people felt a great sense of duty and citizenship to their country; unlike people under feudalism before. A very important impact that the Hundred Years War had in England, is the fact that Parliament and the king had developed a much closer relationship. The growth in this relationship had an important impact in England becoming unified. Also, England decided to trade and conquest more distant land as they discarded the idea of feudalism. Some of the more enduring impacts that the Hundred Years War had can include the English nobles losing their holdings in France. In addition to the immediate impact regarding the development of weapons, the armies were now composed of large infantries, bowman, and there was an increase of importance in the use of cannons; making heavily knights much less effective. Along with the Norman Invasion and the imposition of the Magna Carta on the kings of England, the Hundred Years War truly shaped England and France as national identities.
These three historical events played a very important role in the development of England and France as national identities. The Norman Invasion, the imposition of the Magna Carta on the kings of England, and the Hundred Years War each played a specific role, and had great effects on each of these nation-states. All three of these events had immediate and enduring impacts on either England or France, and in some cases, both.