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Published by mpasso

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Published by: mpasso on Feb 07, 2009
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History of England
Chapter 1: The Foundations of England The early history of England is essentially a chronicle of invasions.Long before recorded British history began with the Roman invaders,wave after wave of warlike settlers landed on English shores. Here themigrants mingled with other tribes so that the Britons became themost mongrel of races. These early invaders came because the islandlay so invitingly open to invasion. After the last of these migrantsettlers, the Celts, had subdued the island the Roman legions, in turn,subdued the Celts.An Island PeopleCentral to the history and character of the British people is thegeographical location of Britain, Its location, twenty-one miles fromthe Continent, makes England part of Europe, but with a separate andinsular identity. “Thus, in early times, the relation of Britain to the seawas passive and receptive; in modern times, active and acquisitive. Inboth it is the key to her story.”
(G.M. Trevelyan,
History of England ( 
GardenCity, New York; Doubleday, 1953), I,
 The land and Its Resources. The physical formation, climate, andminerals of the country tempted the early invaders to settle, andexplain the paths of settlement they followed. Not having masterednature, the successive invaders claimed the rich and accessiblelowlands of southern and eastern Britain and drove the earlierinhabitants to the north and west.
The Islands.
 The five thousand British Isles, dominated by the majorislands of Britain (labeled
by Julius Caesar) and Ireland,cover approximately 120,000 square miles, with the area of Englandtotaling less than half this amount (50,331 square miles). Presumablyman first came to Britain in the Old Stone Age when the land was still joined to the Continent. With the closing of the lee Ages, the recedingglaciations transformed the physical surface of the land and left it anisland. But the early connection with the Continent meant that theflora and fauna of Britain were closely identified with the flora andfauna of northern Europe.
Geographical features
. The physical map of Britain will show whyEngland was so accessible from the Continent, for the land slopesdownward from the highlands to the north and from the craggy coastof the Atlantic to the low, flat plains of the southeast. Because of thegeneral slope of land from north to southeast most English rivers havetheir outlets on the south and the east coasts. Invaders moved inlandby following the Trent, the Welland, the Nen, and the Thames rivers tothe Midlands. Later, these rivers doubled as main arteries of trade. Inthe southwest the Severn River served the same dual function for thearea of the Welsh border. As the invaders reached the highlands of the north and west, they displaced older cultures. Consequently, the
Scottish Higlands, Wales, and Cornwall were inhabited by the ilderstocks; and to this day, they are commonly called the “Celtic fringe”.
In the third millennium before Christ the first agriculturalistcrossed the Channel and revolutionized the existing society of eave-dwelling hunters by introducing a new way of life: they bred cattle,sowed grain, and later developed a flint-mining industry. The moretemperate climate of England after teh Ice Ages was well suited to thegrowing of crops, because the prevailing winds from the southwestfollow the Gulf Stream and keep England at a warmer and moreequable temperature than its latitude would ordinarily permit.Although the rainfall is moderate, the oceanic climate produces fog,mist, and haze so that visitors, from Tacitus to modern tourists, writeabout the wretched weather.
Natural Resources
. The temperate climate, coupled with a farily richsoil, promoted the growing of barley and wheat. Good harbors and thelong, irregular coastline encuoraged fishing and ocean trade. In fact,the trade of the Levant with Britain antedated the Celtic conquest,and Mediterranean traders had long heard exaggerated tales of British gold and pearls. Copper and tin were found in abundance. Bysmelting the two metals together, the inhabitants manufacturedbronze, and so marked the close of the lengthy Stone Age. Later,conveninetly located deposits of coal and iron would supportEngland’s industrial revolution.
Prehistory of Britain
. In Britain, as elsewhere, the story of man and hissociety can be traced through the various stone and metal ages. Manmoved westward in Europe and arrived in Britain during the Paleolithis(Old Stone) Age. Since each succeeding period or “age” was also atransplanting from the Continent, Britain became largely a recipient of cultural change in the period of prehistory.
The Stone Ages
. From stone and bone tools and skeletal remains it issurmised that Homo sapiens first appeared in Britain by a land bridgesome 250,000 years ago. In the New Stone Age, long-headedagriculturalists, probably from the Iberian peninsula, crossed theChannel and set up mixed farming in southern England side by sidewith the older hunting communities. A thousand years later (around2000 BC) these peaceful and mild-mannered settlers were attacked inturn by tall, powerful, round-headed warriors from Europe whooverran all of habitable Britain. They brought with them metalimplements and thereby introduced a new age of Bronze.
The Beaker Folk 
. The latest invaders were designated as the BeakerFolk after the shape of the drinking vessels which they fashioned outof clay. These newcomers possessed a mastery of metal workmanshipthat was reflected in the variety of weapons and tools they produced. They wore woolen and linen clothes, greatly admired jewelry, but hadlittle interest in farming. Where the earlier imigrants (Iberians) hadworshipped Mother Earth, the Beaker Folk worshipped the Sun intemples open to the sky. Stonhenge, a circular grouping of massivestones, remains to this day a fascinating and impressive monument of the period (The hypothesis that Stonhenge was originally planned asan astronomical observatory is offered by Gerald S. Hawkins (with
 John B. White) in Stonhenge Decoded (Garden City, New York:Doubleday, 1965). Other immigrants followed and by 1500 BC theblending of traditions established the distinctive Wessex culture inBritain: an age of Bronze, an organized religion and priesthood, and atribal structure centered around a kinglike chief and a slowly evolvingaristocracy.
The Celtic Invaders
. The last of the early invaders were the Celts, thefirst of the conquerors about whom the Romans wrote. With the Celtscame the higher civilization of the Iron Age.
Celtic Origins
. The word “Celt”, in terms of British identity, is more amatter of civilization and language than of race. Threatened by rivalgroups, the Celtic-speaking tribes of France and western Germanymigrated to the British Isles to obtain relief from continental conflicts.During the last century before Christ, bands of Celtic invaders, armedwith battle-axes and double-edged swords, landed on the south andeast coasts and moved inland.
Celtic Society 
. The invaders wove cloth, shaved their bodies, andmade agriculture and grazing important industries for the first time.Communities of farmers lived in either hut villages or protectedhomesteads, and the clan became the center of their socialorganization. Over the years Celtic culture advanced as the tribesbecame expert in working tin, bronze, and iron; the pottery and theirmetal helmets indicate a growing interest and ability in the decorativearts and in ornamentation. The south Britons had a gold coinagesimilar to that of Macedon, and their tribal leaders led a revelrous life,enriched with imported wines and luxury goods. At least the Celtswere not just primitive savages, painted with blue dye, and beyondthe pale of civilization as was once thought.
Celtic Religion
. Druidism originated in England and spread to Gaul andIreland. The druids were an organized caste of priests who exercisedgreat power. They preached a religion of fear and immorality,worshipped various nature gods in sacred groves, and offered humansacrifices. Druid priests commanded prestige and served as judgesand leaders of tribal opinion.
Celtic Britain and Gaul
. Druidims, trade, and racial affinity were threeof the ties between Britain and Gaul. The link became even moredirect in 75 BC when the Belgic tribes of Gaul claimed southeastBritain (modern-day Kent, Middlesex, and Hertforshire) as theirkingdoms. These Gallic Celts dispersed the native Celts from the bestlands of the southeast and were the first tribe to face the nextinvader, Caesar.
Roman Conquest and Consolidation
In contrast to the earlier Celt or later Saxon invaders, the Romanscame to Britain to rule and exploit the island as part of a worldempire, not to disperse the inhabitants and settle in their place. TheRoman objectives in this new method of conquest produced quitedifferent results. Roman rule became urban and efficient, butremained alien, and therefore only temporary in its effects.

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