Appendix III ..114 Appendix IV ...116 Vocabulary 125



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Earliest Time 4


Chapter 1 The foundation stones 4

Chapter 2 The Saxon Invasion ..10 Chapter 3 The Celtic Kingdoms . ..16 The early Middle Ages 19


Chapter 4 Conquest and feudal rule .19

Chapter 5 The power of the kings of England .23


Chapter 6 Government and society ...27 The Late Middle Ages .33

Chapter 7 The century of war, plague and disorder ...33 Chapter 8 The crisis of kings and nobles .36

Chapter 9 Government and society ...40 The Tudors ..44 Chapter 10 The birth of the nation state ..44 Chapter 11 England and her neighbours .47


Chapter 12 Government and society .51

The Stuarts ...57 Chapter 13 Crown and Parliament ...57 Chapter 14 Republican and Restoration Britain .60


Chapter 15 Life and thought ..64 Chapter 16 The political world ..68 Chapter 17 Life in town and country 73

Chapter 18 The years of revolution ...79 Chapter 19 The years of power and danger .82

Chapter 20 The years of self-confidence ...85 Chapter 21 The end of and age ..91 Chapter 22 Britain of war ..97 Chapter 23 The age of uncertainty ..100 Appendix I ..111 Appendix II 113

Appendix III ..114 Appendix IV ...116 Vocabulary 125


Literature ...130


Earliest time


Chapter 1


The foundation stones


The island


However complicated the modern industrial state may be, land and climate affect life in every country. They affect social and economic life, population and even politics. Britain is no exception. It has a milder climate than much of the European mainland because it lies in the way of the Gulf Stream, which brings warm water and winds from the Gulf of Mexico. The countryside is varied also. The north and west are mountainous or hilly. Much of the south and east is fairly flat, or low-lying. This means that the south and east on the whole have better agricultural conditions, and it is possible to harvest crops in early August, two months earlier than in the north. So it is not surprising that southeast Britain has always been the most populated part of the island. For this reason it has always had the most political power.



There were Stone Age sites from one end of Britain to the other. This stone hut, at Skara Brae, Orkney, off the north coast of Scotland, was suddenly covered by a sandstorm before 2000 . Unlike southern sites, where wood was used which has since rotted, Skara Brae is all stone, and the stone furniture is still there. Behind the fireplace (bottom left) there are storage shelves against the back wall. On the right is probably a stone sided bed, in which rushes or heather were placed for warmth.


After 3000 people started building great circles of earth banks and ditches. Inside, they built wooden buildings and stone circles. These "henges", as they are called, were centres of religious, political and economic power.


After 2400 new groups of people arrived in southeast Britain from Europe. They were round-headed and strongly built, taller than Neolithic Britons. It is not known whether they invaded by armed force, or whether they were invited by Neolithic Britons because of their military or metal- working skills. Their influence was soon felt and, as a result, they became leaders of British society. Their arrival is marked by the first individual graves, furnished with pottery beakers, from which these people get their name: the "Beaker" people.


The Beaker people brought with them from Europe a new cereal, barley, which could grow almost anywhere.

The grave of one of the "Beaker" people, at Bamack, Cambridgeshire, about 1800 . It contains a finely decorated pottery beaker and a copper or bronze dagger. Both items distinguished the Beaker people from the earlier inhabitants. This grave was the main burial place beneath one of a group of "barrows", or burial mounds.


The Beaker people probably spoke an Indo-European language. They seem to have brought a single culture to the whole of Britain. They also brought skills to make bronze tools and these began to replace stone ones. But they accepted many of the old ways. Stonehenge remained the most important centre until 1300 . The Beaker people's richest graves were there, and they added a new circle of thirty stone columns, this time connected by stone lintels, or cross-pieces. British society continued to be centred on a number of henges across the countryside.


However, from about 1300 the henge civilisation seems to have become less important, and was overtaken by a new form of society in southern England, that of a settled farming class. At first this farming society developed in order to feed the people at the henges, but eventually it became more important and powerful as it grew richer. The new farmers grew wealthy because they learned to enrich the soil with natural waste materials so that it did not become poor and useless.


From this time, too, power seems to have shifted to the Thames valley and southeast Britain. Except for short periods, political and economic power has remained in the southeast ever since. Hill-forts replaced henges as the centres of local power, and most of these were found in the southeast, suggesting that the land successfully supported more people here than elsewhere.


The Celts


Around 700 , another group of people began to arrive. Many of them were tall, and had fair or red hair and blue eyes. These were the Celts, who probably came from central Europe or further east, from southern Russia, and had moved slowly westwards in earlier centuries. The Celts were technically advanced. They knew how to work with iron, and could make better weapons than the people who used bronze. It is possible that they drove many of the older inhabitants westwards


into Wales, Scotland and Ireland. The Celts began to control all the lowland areas of Britain, and were joined by new arrivals from the European mainland.

The Celts are important in British history because they are the ancestors of many of the people in Highland Scotland, Wales, Ireland, and Cornwall today. Celtic languages, which have been continuously used in some areas since that time, are still spoken. The British today are often described as Anglo-Saxon. It would be better to call them Anglo-Celt.


Our knowledge of the Celts is slight. The Celts were organised into different tribes, and tribal chiefs were chosen from each family or tribe, sometimes as the result of fighting matches between individuals, and sometimes by election.

The last Celtic arrivals from Europe were the Belgic tribes. It was natural for them to settle in the southeast of Britain, probably pushing other Celtic tribes northwards as they did so.

The Celtic tribes continued the same kind of agriculture as the Bronze Age people before them. But their use of iron technology and their introduction of more advanced ploughing methods made it possible for them to farm heavier soils. However, they continued to use, and build, hill-forts.


The hill-fort remained the centre for local groups. The insides of these hill-forts were filled with houses, and they became the simple economic capitals and smaller "towns" of the different tribal areas into which Britain was now divided. Today the empty hill-forts stand on lonely hilltops. Yet they remained local economic centres long after the Romans came to Britain, and long after they went The Celts traded across tribal borders and trade was probably important for political and social contact between the tribes. The two main trade routs were the settlements along the Thames River in the south and on the Firth of Forth in the north. It is no accident that the present-day capitals of England and Scotland stand on or near these two ancient trade centres. Much trade, both inside and beyond Britain, was conducted by river and sea. For money the Celts used iron bars, until they began to copy the Roman coins they saw used in France.

According to the Romans, the Celtic men wore shirts and breeches (knee-length trousers), and striped or checked cloaks fastened by a pin. The Celts were also "very careful about cleanliness and neatness", as one Roman wrote. "Neither man nor woman," he went on, "however poor, was seen either ragged or dirty."


The Celtic tribes were ruled over by a warrior class, of which the priests, or Druids, seem to have been particularly important members. These Druids could not read or write, but they memorised all the religious teachings, the tribal laws, history, medicine and other knowledge necessary in Celtic society. The Druids from different tribes all over Britain probably met once a year. They had no temples, but they met in sacred groves of trees, on certain hills, by rivers or by river sources. We know little of their kind of worship except that at times it included human sacrifice. During the Celtic period women may have had more independence than they had again for hundreds of years. When the Romans invaded Britain two of the largest tribes were ruled by women who fought from their chariots. The most powerful Celt to stand up to the Romans was a woman, Boadicea. She had become queen of her


tribe when her husband had died. She was tall, with long red hair, and had a frightening appearance. In AD 61 she led her tribe against the Romans. She nearly drove them from Britain, and she destroyed London, the Roman capital, before she was defeated and killed.


The Romans


The name "Britain" comes from the word "Pretani", the Greco-Roman word for the inhabitants of Britain. The Romans mispronounced the word and called the island "Britannia".

The Romans had invaded because the Celts of Britain were working with the Celts of Gaul against them. The British Celts were giving them food, and allowing them to hide in Britain. There was another reason. The Celts used cattle to pull their ploughs and this meant that richer, heavier land could be farmed. Under the Celts Britain had become an important food producer because of its mild climate. It now exported corn and animals, as well as hunting dogs and slaves, to the European mainland. The Romans could make use of British food for their own army fighting the Gauls.


The Romans brought the skills of reading and writing to Britain. The written word was important for spreading ideas and also for establishing power. The people who used to reject Latin began to use it in speech and writing. Further the wearing of our national dress came to be valued and the toga [the Roman cloak] came into fashion. While the Celtic peasantry remained illiterate and only Celtic- speaking, a number of town dwellers spoke Latin and Greek with ease, and the richer landowners in the country almost certainly used Latin. But Latin completely disappeared both in its spoken and written forms when the Anglo-Saxons invaded Britain in the fifth century AD. Britain was probably more literate under the Romans than it was to be again until the fifteenth century.


Julius Caesar first came to Britain in 55 , but it was not until almost a century later, in AD 43, that a Roman army actually occupied Britain. The Romans were determined to conquer the whole island. They had little difficulty, apart from Boadicea's revolt, because they had a better trained army and because the Celtic tribes fought among themselves. The Romans considered the Celts as war-mad, "high spirited and quick for battle", a description some would still give the Scots, Irish and Welsh today.


The Romans established a Romano-British culture across the southern half of Britain, from the River Humber to the River Severn. This part of Britain was inside the empire. Each of these towns was held by a Roman legion of about 7,000 men. The total Roman army in Britain was about 40,000 men.


The Romans could not conquer "Caledonia", as they called Scotland, although they spent over a century trying to do so. At last they built a strong wall along the northern border, named after the Emperor Hadrian who planned it. At the time, Hadrian's wall was simply intended to keep out raiders from the north. But it also marked the border between the two later countries, England and Scotland.



Roman control of Britain came to an end as the empire began to collapse. The first signs were the attacks by Celts of Caledonia in AD 367. The Roman legions found it more and more difficult to stop the raiders from crossing Hadrian's wall. The same was happening on the European mainland as Germanic groups, Saxons and Franks, began to raid the coast of Gaul. In AD 409 Rome pulled its last soldiers out of Britain.


Roman life


The Romans left about twenty large towns of about 5,000 inhabitants, and almost one hundred smaller ones. Many of these towns were at first army camps, and the Latin word for camp, castra, has remained part of many town names to this day (with the ending chester, caster or cester): Gloucester, Leicester, Doncaster, Winchester, Chester, Lancaster and many others besides. These towns were built with stone as well as wood, and had planned streets, markets and shops. Some buildings had central heating. They were connected by roads which were so well built that they survived when later roads broke up. These roads continued to be used long after the Romans left, and became the main roads of modern Britain. Six of these Roman roads met in London, a capital city of about 20,000 people. London was twice the size of Paris, and possibly the most important trading centre of northern Europe, because southeast Britain produced so much corn for export.

Outside the towns, the biggest change during the Roman occupation was the growth of large farms, called "villas". Each villa had many workers. The villas were usually close to towns so that the crops could be sold easily. It is very difficult to be sure how many people were living in Britain when the Romans left. Probably it was as many as five million, partly because of the peace and the increased economic life which the Romans had brought to the country. The new wave of invaders changed all that.


The reconstruction of a Roman kitchen about AD 100 shows pots and equipment. The tall pots, or amphorae, were for wine or oil. The Romans produced wine in Britain, but they also imported it from southern Europe.


Chapter 2


The Saxon invasion


The invaders


The wealth of Britain by the fourth century, the result of its mild climate and centuries of peace, was a temptation to the greedy. At first the Germanic tribes only raided Britain, but after AD 430 they began to settle.

The invaders came from three powerful Germanic tribes, the Saxons, Angles and Jutes. The Jutes settled mainly in Kent and along the south coast, and were soon considered no different from the Angles and Saxons. The Angles settled in the east, and also in the north Midlands, while the Saxons settled between the Jutes and the Angles. The Anglo-Saxon migrations gave the larger part of Britain its new name, England, "the land of the Angles".



The Anglo-Saxon invasions and the kingdoms they established.


The strength of Anglo-Saxon culture is obvious even today. Days of the week were named after Germanic gods: Tig (Tuesday), Wodin (Wednesday), Thor (Thursday), Frei (Friday). New place-names appeared on the map. The first of these show that the earliest Saxon villages, like the Celtic ones, were family villages. The ending -ing meant folk or family, thus "Reading" is the place of the family of Rada, "Hastings" of the family of Hasta. Ham means farm, ton means settlement. Birmingham, Nottingham or Southampton, for example,are Saxon place-names. Because the Anglo-Saxon kings often established settlements, Kingston is a frequent place-name.


The Anglo-Saxons established a number of kingdoms, some of which still exist in county or regional names to this day: Essex (East Saxons), Sussex (South Saxons), Wessex (West Saxons).



King Offa of Mercia (757-96) was powerful enough to employ thousands of men to build a huge dyke, or earth wall, the length of the Welsh border to keep out the troublesome Celts. But although he was the most powerful king of his time, he did not control all of England.

Government and society

The Saxons created institutions which made the English state strong for the next 500 years. One of these institutions was the King's Council, called the Witan. By the tenth century the Witan was a formal body, issuing laws andcharters. It was not at all democratic, and the king could decide to ignore the Witan's advice. But he knew that it might be dangerous to do so. For the Witan's authority was based on its right to choose kings, and to agree the use of the kind's laws. Without its support the king's own authority was in danger. The Witan established system which remained an important part of the king's method of government. Even today, the king or queen has a Privy Council, a group of advisers on the affairs of state.


The Saxons divided the land into new administrative areas, based on shires, or counties. In 1974 the counties were reorganized, bur the new system is very like the old one.) Over each shire was appointed a shire reeve, the kind's local administrator. In time his name became shortened to "sheriff".


Anglo-Saxon technology changed the shape of English agriculture. The Celts had kept small, square fields which were well suited to the light plough they used, drawn either by an animal or two people. This plough could turn corners easily. The Anglo-Saxons introduced a far heavier plough. This heavier plough led to changes in land ownership and organisation. In order to make the best use of village land, it was divided into two or three very large fields. These were then divided again into long thin strips. Each family had a number of strips in each of these fields, amounting probably to a family "holding" of twenty or so acres.


One of these fields would be used for planting spring crops, and another for autumn crops. The third area would be left to rest for a year, and with the other areas after harvest, would be used as common land for animals to feed on. This Anglo-Saxon pattern, which became more and more common, was the basis of English agriculture for a thousand years, until the eighteenth century.




Reconstruction of an Anglo -Saxon village. Each house had probably only one room, with a wooden floor with a pit beneath it. The pit may have been used for storage, but more probably to keep the house off the damp ground, each village had its lord. The word "lord" means "loaf ward" or "bread -keeper", while lady means "loaf kneader" or "bread maker", a reminder that the basis of Saxon society was farming. The duty of the village head, or lord, was to protect the farm and its produce.


In each district was a "manor" or large house. This was a simple building where local villagers came to pay taxes, where justice was administered. The lord of the manor had to organise all this, and make sure village land was properly shared.


At first the lords, or aldermen, were simply local officials. But by the beginning of the eleventh century they were warlords, and were often called by a new Danish name, earl. Both words, alderman and earl, remain with us today: aldermen are elected officers in local government, and earls are high ranking nobles. It was the beginning of a class system, made up of king, lords, soldiers and workers on the land. One other important class developed during the Saxon period, the men of learning. These came from the Christian Church.


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