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Gr. Br. The historic review.


1) Prehistoric period in the history of Gr.Br.

2) The Celts.

3) The Romans

4) The Anglo-Saxon conquest of Britain.

5) The Christianity in Britain.

6) The Norman Conquest of England.

7) The Feudalism in Middle Ages X-XII.

8) Development of crafts and trade in England in the XII-XIV.

9) The Wars of the Roses (1455-1485).

10) The Tudor age.

11) The Civil War (1642-1649).

12) The 18th century – of wealth, technological revolution and power.

13) The British Empire.


1) In prehistoric times Britain was joined to the rest of Europe. The first people and many animals came there over dry land. The first inhabitants of the island are the Iberian or Megalithic people who lived in the western part of the country. The ancient people left behind impressive monuments of which Stonehenge and Avebury are most remarkable. Stonehenge is located in the middle of Salisbury Plain to the northwest of Southampton, the other famous ancient site is located in Wiltshire, the village of Avebury.

2) In the period from the 6th to the 3rd century B.C. new invaders, mainly from France came to England. They were the Celts. The arrival of the Celts from Central Europe opened up a new and important page of British history. The name “Britain” comes from the name of a Celtic tribe known as the Britons who settled in the country. The Celts spoke the Celtic language. The influence of the Celts was greatest in Wales, Scotland and Ireland. The most interesting description of the life of the Celts was given by Julius Caesar, the Roman ruler, who first invaded Britain in 55 B.C. He tells us that the Celts were tall and blue – eyed. They wore long moustaches but no beards. The Celts had no towns, they lived in villages. They kept large herds of cattle and sheep. The Celts worshiped Nature. They also believed in many spirits who lived in the rivers, lakes, mountains and forest. The Celts believed in another life after death. Their priests were called druids.

3) In 55 B.C. a Roman army of 10000 men with J. Caesar as the head of it crossed the Channel and invaded Britain. J. Caesar didn’t stay in Britain. He left the country and received a promise from the Celts that they would pay a regular tribute to Rome. In 43 A.D. the country was conquered by the Romans again. This occupation of Britain continued to the beginning of the 5th century (about 410). Not all of Britain was in the hands of the Romans. In the south and south-eastern parts Roman influence was great, while north and west of the country remained much untouched. The Romans imposed Roman peace which stopped tribal wars and protected Britain from the attacks of outsiders – Picts in the North, Saxons from overseas. A high wall was built in the North, it was called “Hadrian’s Wall”. The Romans built towns: York, Lincoln and London became the chief Roman towns. But together with a high civilization the Romans brought exploitation and slavery to the British Isles. In the 3-4 centuries the power of the Roman Empire gradually weakened. The unproductive labor of the slaves led to the economic decline of the empire. The struggle of the exploited against the slave-owners weakened the Roman Empire too. Roman culture and civilization had a positive influence on the development of the country. Early in the 5th century (407) the Roman legions were recalled from Britain to defend the central provinces of the Roman Empire from the attacks of the Barbarian tribes. They didn’t return to Britain and the Celts were left alone in the land.

4) The fall of the Roman Empire is regarded as the end of ancient history. Then came the Middle Ages which lasted for 12 centuries from the second half of the 5th century till the middle of the 17th century. After the departure of the Romans the Celts remained independent for some time, but soon the country began to be attacked by Germanic tribes from the continent. They were the Jutes, the Saxons and the Angles. The Jutes landed in Kent (the south-east). The Angles settled to the north of the Thames, and soon the country began to be called “the land of the Angles”, later “Engla-land” and “England”. The Saxons settled in the South, south-west and partially east forming the ancient kingdoms of Wessex, Sussex and Essex. In the 7th century there were 7 kingdoms: Essex (East Saxons), Sussex (South Saxons), Wessex (West Saxons), East Anglia (East Angles), Kent, Mersia and Nothumbria. The Anglo-Saxons settled in small tribal villages or towns. Many of the Celts fled to Wales Cornwall, the northern part of Britain, Ireland. Thus the Celts continued their culture, language and Christianity which was brought by the Romans. The Northern part of Britain was the home of the Picts and Scots. After the conquest of the Picts by the Scots in the 9th century this northern territory came to be called Scotland and a united Scottish kingdom was formed in the 11th century. In the course of struggle of the Celts against the Anglo-Saxons many legends and stories about King Arthur and his knights came to light. The Anglo-Saxons were pagans and worshipped different gods. As a result of the conquest the Anglo-Saxons made up the majority of the population in Britain and their customs, religion and language became predominant.

5) An important event in the history of the country was the adoption of Christianity in 664. Christianity began to spread in England much earlier. In 597 the Roman Pope sent about 40 monks to Britain to convert the Anglo-Saxons. The spread of Christianity brought about important changes in the life of the Anglo-Saxons. Many new churches and monasteries were built all over the country. Besides the spread of Christianity was of great importance for the growth of culture in Britain. The Roman monks brought many books to Britain. Most of them were religious books and were written in Latin or Greek. Thus the spread of Christianity promoted a revival of learning.

6) For 3 centuries a struggle went on between the Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms. At the end of the 8th century another branch of Germanic people began to attack Britain, they were called Danes. The Danes were brilliant sailors, well armed. In 793 the Danes carried out their first raids on Britain. The Danish raids were successful because the kingdom of England had neither a regular army nor a fleet. The Danes raided the Eastern Coast of England, and by the middle of the 9th century all English Kingdoms were defeated. Wessex had united the small Anglo-Saxon kingdoms under the reign of King Alfred (871-899) who became known in English history as Alfred the Great. In the 10th century the united Anglo-Saxon feudal monarchy was consolidated. In the 10-11 centuries the Danes invasions were resumed, and from 1013 to 1042 the Danish royal power triumphed in England. In 1042 the house of Wessex was restored to power in England, when Edward the Confessor was elected king. In the 9th century while the Danes were plundering England another branch of North men who were related to the Danes were doing the same along the Northern coast of France. They were called the Normans. In 1066 William, the Duke of Normandy, began to gather an army to invade Britain. He was a relative of Edward the Confessor who died that year, he claimed to have the English Kingdom as his inheritance. At that time Harold was elected king of England. 1066 was a crucial year for the Saxon king, and for the history of the English Harold had to fight against 2 enemies at the same time. In the South William of Normandy was preparing to land in England, in the North, in Yorkshire, the Danes renewed their attacks against England. After a hard and long struggle Harold and his brothers were killed in the battle of Hastings. William I or William the Conqueror became king of England, he ruled for 21 years (1066-1087). The Norman Conquest had social and cultural implications.

7) During the Early Middle Ages (the 5-11 centuries) feudal relations were developing in England like in all other countries of Western Europe. A serf class was gradually appearing. At the end of the 11th and at the beginning of the 12th century England had a population of about 1500000 people. Most of them lived in villages. The church was of great importance in the life of the villagers. The position of the serfs worsened as time went on. The bravest peasants ran away from their lords. They lived in the forests. Many popular ballads express the peasants` hatred for the exploiters and their determination to fight against the feudal lords. The most popular and favorite hero of the English ballads was Robin Hood. At that time there were 2 different languages spoken in the country. Norman-French became the official language of the state. All the official documents were written in French or Latin. But the peasants and town people spoke English. The Normans couldn`t subdue the popular language which was spoken by the majority of the population. In time English became the language of the state.

8) During the Early Middle Ages both agriculture and crafts gradually developed and became more productive. In the 10-11 centuries handicrafts began to separate from agriculture. They were carpenters, thatches and smiths. In the 10-11 centuries towns had begun to spring up in England as centers of trade and crafts. By the 13th century there were more than 160 towns in England. Most of the towns were still small. By the 14th century London had 40000. In the 13-14 centuries the inhabitants of the bigger towns had to rely more and more on the country – side for their food-stuffs and raw materials for their crafts. Trade between the town and the country began to develop. There appeared certain market-days, also the fairs. The growing trade led to the establishment of contacts between different parts of the country and to the development of commercial contacts between England and other countries. Of all trades the most important to England was the wool trade.

9) The 13th century was the century of new gothic style in architecture of Salisbury Cathedral, foundation of universities, the development of the Common Law and the Parliament (1265) and the emergence of English as the language of the nation. But the following 2 centuries were filled with wars and discontent. The 14th century brought the disaster of the 100 Years` War (1337-1453), the Peasants Revolt in 1381, extermination of the population by the Black Death (1348-1349) with positive achievements in literature (Geoffrey Chaucer “The Canterbury Tales” 1393). The 15th century saw the continuation of the struggle for the crown and the establishment of the Lancaster dynasty in the person of Henry IV, king of England (1399-1414). The Lancaster Kings continued campaigns in France in the 100 Years` War, Henry V (1413-1422) was successful in his expedition in France, but Henry VI lost French lands and his reign ended in (1422-1461) confusion and a cruel war – the Wars of the Roses, a term coined by Sir Walter Scott. The Wars of the Roses began when in 1399 barons of the North supported the Lancaster who had a red rose in their crest. The barons of the South supported the Yorks whose crest was decorated by a white rose. The bloody struggle for the crown and rule lasted for about 30 years (1455-1485) with some breaks. Finally, the 2 dynasties had been destroyed, and a distant relative of the Lancaster family – Henry Tudor was crowned Henry VII of England (1485-1509). The 15th century saw a development of woolen textile manufacture, steel making development trade facilitated the growth of the Navy and shipbuilding. William Caxton (1477) brought a printing press and started book printing in England. The middle of the 15th century saw a development of folklore – ballads of Robin Hood were dramatized. So, the 15th century laid foundation for destroying feudalism, for developing capitalism and formation of the English national economy.

10) The 16th century was the age of a growing absolutism of monarchy and centralization of the state. The son of Henry VII, Henry VIII (1509-1547) appeared to be a wasteful monarch. On his death his treasury was practically empty. Henry VIII`s despotism was fatal for the country`s progressive minds and terrible for his family. In 1536 he managed to unite Wales with England, it was the first Act of Union in the history of Britain. Henry VIII had destroyed the power of the Pope in England, but he didn`t change the religious doctrine. He was succeeded by his son Edward VI (1547-1553) who died of consumption aged 15 years. After the death of Edward VI there was a highly unstable situation in the country. People supported the claim of Mary, who was also the daughter of Henry VIII, she earned the nickname Bloody Mary because she pursued an aggressive policy against protestants. She was succeeded by Elizabeth I also daughter of Henry VIII. Elizabeth was well educated, remarkable woman. Elizabeth gave her name to the historical period, her reign (1558-1603) was described as “the Golden Age of Elizabeth”, the most colorful and splendid in English history. Elizabeth saw the foundation of the British Empire and the flowering of the Renaissance in England. The works of Edmund Spenser and W. Shakespeare were the foundation of the English literary and dramatic heritage. In the 16th century the economic growth was getting faster, though still limited by feudal relations. Trade and industry were growing. Education was further developing. Many Grammar schools were founded in the 16th century. The 16th century was the age of transition from the medieval twilight to a more progressive age.

11) On the death of Queen Elizabeth I James VI King of Scots became James I (1603-1625) of England. James I and later his son Charles I (1625-1649) were extravagant and wasteful. Charles`s refusal to hand over to Parliament control of the Army brought about the Civil War (1642-1649). In 1653 Oliver Cromwell accepted the title of Lord Protector of a United Commonwealth of England, Scotland, Ireland and the colonies. Charles II, the son of Charles I, returned to England in 1660, he was more French than English. He governed the country through the inner Council. James II became the King of England after his brother`s death in 1685. When James`s wife gave birth to a baby son, the English Parliament was alarmed by that. The Parliament decided that James II had lost his right to the Crown. His sister Mary II and her husband William III came to England as the reigning Monarchs. The 17th century was the age of the Stuarts – their rise in 1603, their tragedy and defeat from 1648-1660 their restoration in 1660, their constant struggle against the Parliament which resulted in the victory of the Parliament. The economy of Britain was developing freely, new economic institutions like the Bank of Britain (1695) were founded. Trade and colonies were flourishing. The East India Company was the greatest corporation in the country.

12) After the death of Mary and William they were succeeded by Anne (1702-1714), her sister. The end of the 17th century was the period of wars in Europe. In 1707 the Scottish Parliament voted itself out of existence and together with the British Parliament adopted the Act of the Union with Scotland. The new British flag united the flags of England and Scotland, England and Wales were united. Queen Anne was the last Stuart monarch, she died in 1714, she was succeeded by Protestants of Hanoverian Dynasty. George I (1714-1727) was a German who could speak no English. After George I came his son George II (1727-1760), in 1760 George II was succeeded by his grandson George III (1760-1820). The technological Revolution was a new breakthrough in the economic and social development of Gr.Br. Mechanical inventions facilitated the growth of iron and coal production. James Watt made a steam engine in 1769. In 1764 a spinning machine was invented. The end of the 18th century was the period of disintegration. The country was splitting into 2 nations – the rich and the poor. The Revolution in France in 1789 was first welcomed in England by liberals. In 1793 France declared war, a new general appeared on the political scene –Napoleon. The British were rescued by their Navy which was under the command of admiral Horatio Nelson who won brilliant victories.

13) When the old King George III died in 1820 he was succeeded by his son George IV (1820-1830). After the reign of her uncle William IV (1830-1837) 18 years old Victoria became Queen (1837-1901). It was a great age for novels. Such writers as the Bronte sisters, Ch.Dickens, W.Thackeray flourished as never before. The English drama was represented by Irish talents: O.Wild, B.Shaw. Victorian science was to become greatly influential on the developments in the Modern Time. The last 35 years of reign of Queen Victoria were a period of struggle between the new Liberal Party and the Conservatives. The Empire, that Gr.Br. had gained by the middle of the 19th century was the result of the greatest power that Britain possessed through its command of trade, finance and manufacturing. The colonies were united by English law and by trade. The whole population was growing due to the emigration from the British Isles. In 1850 New Zealand became the responsibility of the Crown. The population of Australia was expanding rapidly. By the end of the century the Empire was spreading over the continents of Africa, Asia, North America, South America, Australia. The role of the UK at the end of the Victorian Era, at the end of the 19th century was important.



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