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 the migrants mingled with other tribes so that the Britons became the most mongrel of races. These early invaders came because the island lay so invitingly open to invasion. After the last of these migrant settlers, the Celts, had subdued the island the Roman legions, in turn, subdued the Celts. An Island People Central to the history and character of the British people is the geographical location of Britain, Its location, twenty-one miles from the Continent, makes England part of Europe, but with a separate and insular identity. “Thus, in early times, the relation of Britain to the sea was passive and receptive; in modern times, active and acquisitive. In both it is the key to her story.” (G.M. Trevelyan, History of England (Garden
City, New York; Doubleday, 1953), I, p. 12.

The land and Its Resources. The physical formation, climate, and minerals of the country tempted the early invaders to settle, and explain the paths of settlement they followed. Not having mastered nature, the successive invaders claimed the rich and accessible lowlands of southern and eastern Britain and drove the earlier inhabitants to the north and west. The Islands. The five thousand British Isles, dominated by the major islands of Britain (labeled Britannia by Julius Caesar) and Ireland, cover approximately 120,000 square miles, with the area of England totaling less than half this amount (50,331 square miles). Presumably man 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 receding glaciations transformed the physical surface of the land and left it an island. But the early connection with the Continent meant that the flora and fauna of Britain were closely identified with the flora and fauna of northern Europe. Geographical features. The physical map of Britain will show why England was so accessible from the Continent, for the land slopes downward from the highlands to the north and from the craggy coast of the Atlantic to the low, flat plains of the southeast. Because of the general slope of land from north to southeast most English rivers have their outlets on the south and the east coasts. Invaders moved inland by following the Trent, the Welland, the Nen, and the Thames rivers to the Midlands. Later, these rivers doubled as main arteries of trade. In the southwest the Severn River served the same dual function for the area 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 ilder stocks; and to this day, they are commonly called the “Celtic fringe”. Climate. In the third millennium before Christ the first agriculturalist crossed the Channel and revolutionized the existing society of eavedwelling hunters by introducing a new way of life: they bred cattle, sowed grain, and later developed a flint-mining industry. The more temperate climate of England after teh Ice Ages was well suited to the growing of crops, because the prevailing winds from the southwest follow the Gulf Stream and keep England at a warmer and more equable 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, write about the wretched weather. Natural Resources. The temperate climate, coupled with a farily rich soil, promoted the growing of barley and wheat. Good harbors and the long, 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. By smelting the two metals together, the inhabitants manufactured bronze, and so marked the close of the lengthy Stone Age. Later, conveninetly located deposits of coal and iron would support England’s industrial revolution. Prehistory of Britain. In Britain, as elsewhere, the story of man and his society can be traced through the various stone and metal ages. Man moved westward in Europe and arrived in Britain during the Paleolithis (Old Stone) Age. Since each succeeding period or “age” was also a transplanting 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 is surmised that Homo sapiens first appeared in Britain by a land bridge some 250,000 years ago. In the New Stone Age, long-headed agriculturalists, probably from the Iberian peninsula, crossed the Channel and set up mixed farming in southern England side by side with the older hunting communities. A thousand years later (around 2000 BC) these peaceful and mild-mannered settlers were attacked in turn by tall, powerful, round-headed warriors from Europe who overran all of habitable Britain. They brought with them metal implements and thereby introduced a new age of Bronze. The Beaker Folk. The latest invaders were designated as the Beaker Folk after the shape of the drinking vessels which they fashioned out of clay. These newcomers possessed a mastery of metal workmanship that was reflected in the variety of weapons and tools they produced. They wore woolen and linen clothes, greatly admired jewelry, but had little interest in farming. Where the earlier imigrants (Iberians) had worshipped Mother Earth, the Beaker Folk worshipped the Sun in temples open to the sky. Stonhenge, a circular grouping of massive stones, remains to this day a fascinating and impressive monument of the period (The hypothesis that Stonhenge was originally planned as an 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 the blending of traditions established the distinctive Wessex culture in Britain: an age of Bronze, an organized religion and priesthood, and a tribal structure centered around a kinglike chief and a slowly evolving aristocracy. The Celtic Invaders. The last of the early invaders were the Celts, the first of the conquerors about whom the Romans wrote. With the Celts came the higher civilization of the Iron Age. Celtic Origins. The word “Celt”, in terms of British identity, is more a matter of civilization and language than of race. Threatened by rival groups, the Celtic-speaking tribes of France and western Germany migrated to the British Isles to obtain relief from continental conflicts. During the last century before Christ, bands of Celtic invaders, armed with battle-axes and double-edged swords, landed on the south and east coasts and moved inland. Celtic Society. The invaders wove cloth, shaved their bodies, and made agriculture and grazing important industries for the first time. Communities of farmers lived in either hut villages or protected homesteads, and the clan became the center of their social organization. Over the years Celtic culture advanced as the tribes became expert in working tin, bronze, and iron; the pottery and their metal helmets indicate a growing interest and ability in the decorative arts and in ornamentation. The south Britons had a gold coinage similar to that of Macedon, and their tribal leaders led a revelrous life, enriched with imported wines and luxury goods. At least the Celts were not just primitive savages, painted with blue dye, and beyond the pale of civilization as was once thought. Celtic Religion. Druidism originated in England and spread to Gaul and Ireland. The druids were an organized caste of priests who exercised great power. They preached a religion of fear and immorality, worshipped various nature gods in sacred groves, and offered human sacrifices. Druid priests commanded prestige and served as judges and leaders of tribal opinion. Celtic Britain and Gaul. Druidims, trade, and racial affinity were three of the ties between Britain and Gaul. The link became even more direct in 75 BC when the Belgic tribes of Gaul claimed southeast Britain (modern-day Kent, Middlesex, and Hertforshire) as their kingdoms. These Gallic Celts dispersed the native Celts from the best lands of the southeast and were the first tribe to face the next invader, Caesar. Roman Conquest and Consolidation In contrast to the earlier Celt or later Saxon invaders, the Romans came to Britain to rule and exploit the island as part of a world empire, not to disperse the inhabitants and settle in their place. The Roman objectives in this new method of conquest produced quite different results. Roman rule became urban and efficient, but remained alien, and therefore only temporary in its effects.

The Roman Conquests. The annexation of Britain was scarcely a primary objective of Roman expansion, for the British Isles marked the fringe of civilization to those who ruled in imperial Rome. However, when the Romans decided to conquer and colonize Britain, their superior military and political organization was decisive. The Invasions of Julius Caesar, 55-54 BC. Two attacks on Britain were made by Julius Caesar during his conquest of Gaul. Certainly one of his reasons was to punish the South Britons who were providing aid to their kinsmen in North Gaul. No doubt, too, Caesar’s popularity and position would be enhanced by another victory that would provide tribute and slaves for his supporters in Roman and booty for his soldiers. His first expedition (55 BC) was a military failure. After a skirmish with Kentish tribesmen near Dover he withdrew, but returned the next year with five legions. This time Caesar won several battles against Cassivelaunus (king of the Belgic tribe of the Catuvellauni), forded the Thames, and penetrated inland approximately to where London now stands. The Britons sued for peace, and Caesar granted a treaty on easy terms because, with renewed disturbances in Gaul, he was content with hostages and a promise of yearly tribute. The Romans then departed from Britain without making a permanent occupation. Caesar, lured on by larger stakes in Rome, crossed the Rubicon to his final triumph and tragedy. Results of Caesar’s Invasion. Caesar described his conquest graphically in his commentaries On the Gallic Wars, but his sortie into Britain had few permanent results except to increase trade between Britain and the Latinized province of Gaul. Roman traders and settlers now entered Britain peacefully and spread Roman culture and influence. Caesar’s invasion also proved that the Romans could conquer Britain at their convenience if they were ready to devote time and men to that purpose. Almost a hundred years passed before it was convenient to do so. The Coming of Claudius. While Rome was preoccupied with more immediate matters, Britain remained unmolested until 43 AD, when emperor Claudius ordered Aulus Plautius to invade the island. The decision was made because the emperor was anxious for glory and irritated by a revolt in Gaul instigated by the druids; and also because his Gallic origins increased his interest in conquering Brtain. The British defenders, who were led by Caractacus, a son of Cunobelinus (Shakepeare’s “Cymbeline”), displayed a vigorous but disunited resistance. Tacitus later commented upon this fact: “Our greatest advantage in coping with tribes so powerful is that they do not act in concert. Seldom is it that two or three states meet together to ward off a common danger. Thus, while they fight singly, they all are conquered.” (The Complete Works of Tacitus. Translated by Alfred Church and William Brodribb; New York: Random House, 1942, p. 684). Claudius himself came for a brief period to command the legions. Within three years Plautius reduced the divided Britons to guerrilla reprisals and brought southeast Britain under Roman rule. But when the legions reached the Welsh mountains and the northern

moors they, like every other successful invader, encountered stubborn opposition. Later Roman Conquests. During the governorships of Scapula (47-54 AD) and Suetonius (59-61 AD) the Roman occupation was extended northward and westward. While Suetonius was suppressing the druids at their sacred center of worship in Anglesey, the Iceni under Queen Boudicca revolted (81 AJX). The Iceni and their neighboring tribes attacked the Romans and the Britons who fraternized with them In the towns of Colchester, London, and Veralasmum, in retaliation for the Roman confiscation of their property and the public outrages committed against their queen and her daughters. Tens of thousands were massacred in the uprising. Governor Suetonius returned with his legionnaires and crushed the revolt in a crucial battle; Boudicca took poison, and Roman vengeance was inflicted upon the rebellious Britons. In 78 AD Agricola became the new governor, completed the conquest of Wales, and extended Roman rule into Scotland after his victory at Mons Graupius. More is known of Agricola’s able leadership and administration than of any other governor because Tacitus, his son-inlaw, was Rome’s most famous historian. Before Agricola was called bark to Rome he was able to pacify the south of England by his conciliatory statesmanship: elsewhere in Britain military expansion almost ceased. The Roman garrison was reduced to three legions located at strategic centers near the frontiers -Caerleon and Chester on the border of Wales and at York in the north. Military Consolidation. A rebellion in Scotland quickly swept away Agricola’s gains and prevented Roman rule from triumphing in Scotland. In 122 A.D., to protect northern England from barbarian raids. Emperor Hadrian ordered a wall built from the Tyne river to Solway Firth. This famous wall roughly divided England from Scotland (see map. p, 7) A later emperor, Antonius Pins’, extended Roman control northward and constructed a second fortification, tho Antonine Wall, in 143 A.D. However, the Romans overextended their resources and the northern tribes overran both walls. Not until Emperor Severus strengthened the fortresses- and frontiers (208-211 A.D.) did a semblance of peace prevail in the north. These northern wars were the price Rome paid during these two centuries for the protection and peace of southern England. EL MAPA DEL QUE SE HABLA ES DE ROMAN BRITAIN. TODA EL SUDESTE DE INGLATERRA (HASTA UN POCO MAS ABAJO DEL MEDIO DE LA ISLA) ESTA MARCADO COMO LA EXTENSION DE LA CONQUISTA DEL AÑO 49 AD. LA PUNTA SUDOESTE (LA PUNTITA DE LA ISLA) ESTA COMO “INTERMITTENT OCCUPATION” Y LO QUE ES AHORA GALES MAS LA ZONA SUR DEL LIMITE CON ESCOCIA ESTAN COMO “MILITARY OCCUPATION”. ADEMAS ESTAN MARCADAS LAS ROMAN ROADS, QUE PASAN POR LAS PRINCIPALES CIUDADES DE INGLATERRA Y FORMAN UNA RED CUYO CENTRO ES LONDRES. Pax Romana

Under Roman rule the Britons began to live in towns and traveled from town to town on stone highways, Romanization also introduced to the British Isles the atmosphere of the Mediterranean world with its Latin tongue, its country villas, and its new faith, Christianity. But Roman rule did not teach the Britons how to govern or how to defend themselves; thus, when the legions withdrew from the island, the Britons were once again easy for the next invaders. Roman institutions. The Roman conquerors imposed on the Britons their imperial administrative structure which included racial and religious toleration and respect for local chiefs and customs as long as no political opposition was involved. Since Romans were convinced that civilization was based on urban life, the first thing they did was to build cities. But outside these city walls Roman civilization remained alien to the rural tribesmen. Roman administration. Between the reigns of Claudius (43 AD) and Severus (211 AD) the province of Britain was administered by Roman governors whose duties included maintaining peace, collecting taxes, and providing justice. For local government the Romans, like the British later in India and Africa, employed “Indirect rule” by permitting loyal Celtic chiefs to continued to exercise authority over their tribesmen. On the frontiers the army administered the area, but in the Romano-British south, several privileged cities enjoyed selfgovernment. In the cantons (tribal areas) the magistrates in Roman togas were ususally loval chiefs. This policy served both to Romanized the Celt and to minimize friction between ruler and ruled. In later years, after several ambitious generals had used their position and legions in Britain to defy the emperor, and after increasing raids from the Scots and the Picts had jeopardized Roman defenses, Britain was divided into two, and then four, provinces. Roman achievements. Roman contributions to Britain were largely material. They built towns and established such features of urban life as forums, public baths, indoor plumbing, and amphitheaters. Towns were originally constructed for military or commercial purposes, but served equally as the centers for the diffusion of Latin civilization. Joining these towns was a network of splendid stone highways that permitted the rapid movement of troops and commerce. Many modern British roads still follow these Roman routes. The new city of London at the hub of this road system became the chief port of entry for commerce with the rest of the empire. The tradition of town houses and country estates (or villas) was another innovation. Probably the urbanized Britons lived more comfortable under the Romans than at any other time until the nineteenth century. The Romans were indifferent to local religions unless these challenged the omnipotence of the emperor (as did druidsm and Christianity). When Christianity was finally granted toleration by Constantine in 313 AD, Roman rule was already weakening, and Romanized Britain remained essentially paga. Christianity did gain strength in Wales, however, and was the only institution to survive the departure of the Romans. Roman Withdrawal. By the fourth century, the declining power of the Roman Empire encouraged the Picts, the Scots, and raiders from

northern Europe to harass Roman outposts in Britain and to force teh Romans to draw in their defensive borders. As the empire became paralysed by political factionalism and weakened by barbarian attacks from the East, Roman legions evacuated Britain to fight elsewhere and never returned. The last Roman soldier left the island in 407 AD, and Britain, which had been defended by Rome for nearly four hundred years, had to fend helplessly for itself. Invaders now entered England with ease and killed or displaced the Romanized Britons of the south and east. The conquest was made easier by the revival of intertribal warfare among the Celts. Celtic culture remained in Wales and Cornwall for the same reason that it survived the Roman invasion –by existing in such an inhospitable area that any invader was deterred. In England, only the roads continued in use to remind the invading Saxons of Rome; in Wales, a Celtic version of Christianity prospered; every other memory of Rome vanished. Perhaps, therefore, the greates fact in the Roman occupation is “a negative fact –that the Romans did not succeed in permanently Latinizing Britain as they Latinized France.” (Trevelyan, History of England, I, p.30.)

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