A Brief History of Great Britain

Great britain is almost 2,000 years old and during its history has seen many invasions:

IBERIANS

The Iberians were a primitive population that lived on: hunting, fishing, picking roots and berries. They didn't know farming, and the use of tools and metal weapons and writing. They were short, robust, black haired, dark eyed and dark skin. Their religion was: polytheistic, animistic, fetishism.

CELTS

They arrived in Great Britain in 700 b. C. and mixed with the Iberians. They lived in the bronze and iron - age, therefore their civilisation was more evolved. They used metal tools and weapons. They also made jewels. They practised farming and trade. Their religion was druidism. The druids were priests who were considered experts in: astronomy, medicine, science and teaching. Druidism worshipped all the elements of nature: rivers, woods, trees, water, fire, sky, earth.

ANGLO-SAXON

We know very little of the first several hundred years of the Anglo-Saxon, or "English", era, primarily because the invaders were illiterate people. Our earliest records of them are little more than highly inventive lists of rulers. We know that they established separate kingdoms, the Saxons settling in the south and west, the Angles in the east and north, and the Jutes on the Isle of Wight and the mainland opposite. They probably thought of themselves as separate peoples, but they shared a common language and similar customs.


THE ROMANS

They invaded Britain in 43 A.D..


In 55 and 54BC Julius Caesar came to Britain with a Roman Army. Both times he made some progress into England before returning to France having not successfully conquered Britain. Caesar reported that the Britons were a strange breed of people, that they dyed themselves blue and were very barbaric. Caesar's visit may not have overwhelmed the island but the Romans now new that Britain really did exist (many people thought that it was a magical or even made up Island before his visit) and that it had lots of valuable crops and minerals.Remains of the time that the Romans were in control of Britain are not hard to find. The City of York has much that was made at this time and Hadrian's Wall is testament to the impact of the Romans on this country.




Norman Life

The Normans had an interesting mix of cultures. Historically, they were a combination of viking settlers who had married into the local Frankish cultures and as a result their society was a conglomerate of the two.

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Norman Cavalry Soldiers
Norman Cavalry Soldiers

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As befits their descendancy from the vikings, the Normans were a warlike culture and prized mounted soldiers. The Norman cavalry were to form the basis for medieval Knights and what we now look at as "Chivalry" stems from the Norman codes of conduct on the battlefield.


Norman Architecture - Arches
Norman Architecture - Arches


The Normans were more than just mobile killing machines (although they excelled at this), and with their invasion of England they brought in some fantasic examples of architecture and style. As they were devout folowers of the medieval Christian church, the best examples of Norman style can be found in the churches and chapels that still exist all over the countryThis changed with the arrival of the Normans. They brought with them the massive stone structures we still see today. Norman castles were a stamp of authority as much as a defensive structure and the conquerors spent little time building hundreds of them accross the country.

Normans brought also their language ,the tracks of which can still be found in English

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Example Norman Castle - lots still survive to this day
Example Norman Castle - lots still survive to this day

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MAIN EVENTS

´╗┐Christianity

Christianity had gained a foothold in Britain by the middle of the second century-think of all those calligrapher monks working in isolated abbeys on rocky islands.

When St. Augustine baptized King Ethelbert of Kent (tradition says the conversion occurred in 597, but more likely it was in 601), the religion had hit bedrock.

Medieval London had its highlights.

Its first Lord Mayor was elected in 1192; a stone London Bridge was completed in 1209; William Caxtonestablished his printing press (England's first) in Westminster in 1476.

Medieval London life could also be brutal. The Black Plague or Black Death (we now know it as bubonic plague), first appeared in London in 1348. London would suffer repeated plague outbreaks, the last in 1665.

By the time of Queen Elizabeth I's reign (1558-1603), London had a population of 200,000. London and the rest of the country had weathered the religious upheavals caused by Elizabeth's father, Henry the VIII, who broke with Rome and placed himself as the head of a Protestant church, and then by her half sister, Mary I who attempted to return England to Catholicism.

The last Tudor monarch, Elizabeth stabilized and ruled a country that held off the Spanish Armada, initiated colonization in distant lands, and sponsored voyages of discovery by such men as Sir Francis Drake and Sir Walter Raleigh. Southwark became London's entertainment and red-light district, complete with bull- and bear-baiting rings and theaters.

The Globe Theatre, where many of William Shakespeares plays debuted, was built in 1599.

The Great Fire of 1666led to a rebuilding of London. Although the great architect Christopher Wren did not succeed in carrying out his plans for a perfectly laid out city, the London that grew out of the ashes would become a world economic superpower long before that word was coined.

Colonizationand the maritime-driven trade that accompanied it helped to create the British Empire, turning London into the world's busiest port city and a banking capital by the 18th Century.

Queen Victoria's reign(1837-1901) provided a name for the era and saw London's population grow from 1 million to 6 million in one century. A city of enormous wealth for some, London was also a city of enormous poverty, with a population that outstripped the limited city services.

As reformers focused on the living and working conditions in slums and factories (dramatically described by Charles Dickens), some laws, such as compulsory education for children, did improve lives. The 1880s and 1890s marked an increase in the membership and power of trade unions.

London in the 20th Century was shaped by two world wars. Monuments to the fallen remind us of the many lives that were lost in the Great War of 1914-1918. A generation later, Britain entered World War II in 1939. The Blitz-an intensive bombing campaign by the German Luftwaffe during 1940-1941-and the V1 and V2 rocket attacks of 1944 killed tens of thousands of civilians and damaged or destroyed much of London.

Post-war immigrants from countries that were formerly part of British Empire, together with the large number of European Jews who had fled to London during the 1930s, contributed to the city's cosmopolitan makeup. The London that faces this new century is a vibrant and multicultural city loved by many.