‘1069’ Historical fiction novel in progress

What was it like when soldiers came to 11th century York?

What was it like when soldiers came to 11th century York?

I am absolutely delighted that ‘1069’, my historical novel in progress has been selected for Writers’ Block North East 2017, a creative development programme.


Twenty writers will receive training and mentorship to complete exciting stories.


My project  was inspired by many people I have met while writing for Yorkshire’s Dalesman magazine.  Historians, archaeologists and folklorists have all inspired me to visualise the people of the past in Yorkshire.


I imagined the vibrancy of Jorvik, the Viking city of York, where archeaologist have found coins struck as far afield as Samarkand.  Other evidence, of imported clothing, food and luxury items, points to people enjoying an affluent, international lifestyle. 


They appear to have enjoyed trade over all of their known world, together with free movement (no passports in those days).  Surviving written laws provided the King’s protection to foreigners.


Just like folk today, they liked to look good, and archaeologists find fragments of fine silk clothing, brilliantly coloured glass beads, lavishly decorated leatherwork, and endless hair-combs.


And so I wondered: what was it like to live this surprisingly modern, globalised lifestyle, but then be caught up in the Harrying of the North? 


How did it feel to have soldiers come to kill you, your family and your neighbours?


The Harrying of the North was an 11th century war crime, caused when William the Conqueror unleashed a ‘final solution’ to his problem of indpendent-minded Northerners who refused to submit to him.


I’ve been thinking myself into this world – and now, with the support of Writers’ Block, I am working on the novel.


Provisional ttitle: 1069




About Helen Johnson

Freelance writer specialising in Yorkshire's history and heritage.

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