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Lecture 1: Celts and Romans, 2000 BC to 400 AD

• Europe (the continent) and Britain were united

• it was only roughly 20.000 years ago that large
territories were swamped and the cliffs of Dover
formed  arising of the British Isles
• so the British Isles themselves are quite recent

Roughly 4000 B.C.

What happened there?

• it is often called the Neolithic revolution  meaning introduction of agriculture (revolution in

the way humans sustained themselves), livestock, farming and with this the creation of
permanent communities like hamlets and villages as part of this revolutionary process
1. Pre-Roman Britain

• the oldest human settlements were discovered in Britain

• Apart from the stone constructions, archeologists are always busy in unearthing other proofs of
these pre-Roman settlements  one major object that is used to give us more information
about this time period are arrowheads

Where are the traces of those pre-roman peoples? (peoples meaning several tribal patterns)

• traces of the pre-Roman people: megalithic tombs like Stonehenge 

Stonehenge  quite clearly the most impressive manifestation of a Neolithic culture

 the stone did have some religious or ritualistic function

 Scholars argue to this day over the precise nature of the stones

 what also becomes clear when looking at Stonehenge is that people back in the day
linked their own faith with that of the stars and the Universe

• archeologists are always busy finding proofs of the pre-roman settlements

 one major objects that give us more information about that time are arrowheads

Bronze Age (another drastic innovation in the 2nd millennium B.C)

What happened there?

• bronze was introduced and through that a trade was established between what is today’s
Ireland and the main British Isle
• bronze was a very precious commodity to trade with
• the cultural contact accelerated through this innovative trading
• the creation of an ax industry – ax-heads became a very desirable product
• you could find these ax-heads all over the British Isles which testifies to their popularity
• ax-heads had a ‘status’ of currency - you could use ax-heads and trade them

Fact: Pre-roman peoples (the different tribal patterns) were very much concerned with nature,
God and many religious associations. Religious associations were linked closely to nature: spring
wales, trees etc. which gave them a sacred quality.

The Iron age

What happened there?

Innovations in Iron Age England:

• in this period we see iron as another commodity/product
• we also can trace the introduction of horses and horse-power  horses as chariots used in
military services (Triumphwagen) and from 1000 B.C onwards, horses were increasingly used in
many fields of agriculture
• from c. 750 BC: cheaper technology based upon iron took hold – it was replacing, substituting
the bronze industry, because iron was cheaper and also easier to find
• a whole an old pattern totally abandoned and a new pattern was set up through the
introduction of iron

What about the people who lived on the Isle?

The Celts

• when the first Romans entered the British Isles (which was no Britain at that time), they found
the Celtic population all over the Isles
• the Celts spoke Celtic
• habits:  they were using iron
 they had agricultural settlements
 they were organized in tribes
 you couldn’t find a united Celtic nation (were not a homogenous nation but scattered
into different groups) on the island but instead there were very different tribal communities,
who have fought each other all the time
• today: the descendants of the Celtic population live mainly in parts of Scotland, Wales and
Ireland and the Celtic languages are still present there
• arrival of the Romans: there was no coherent military force, but they met with many different
and small tribes on the Isles, which is a completely different military challenge
• the Celts on the Isles shared a common culture with the Celts in mainland Europe as the map

The Celtic language

• if we look for traces of the Celts today, then it is their language that has remained and that gives
us clues about the peoples themselves
• Celtic languages today are still present in Wales, Western part of Ireland and in Scotland
• the Celtic language itself is one of the main branches of the Indo-European language family
• it is a counterpart to Germanic, Roman and Slavic languages

We could say it is a Counter part to Germanic languages, romans languages or Slavonic languages.

The origin of the word ‘Celts’ – the languages as the most lasting evidence

Etymology – looks at the source or the first appearances of words and tries to find out how words and
meanings develop and change over the centuries

Name: ‘The Celts’

• this modern name derives from the classical Greek word ‘Keltoi’ which meant ‘strangers’,
however it was only used by Greek writers to refer to continental peoples and not to people on
the Isles
• the Romans used the term ‘galli’ for the Celts (the term was also used for the territory which is
today’s France  because it was a Roman province)

Are there any famous Celts?

No, there are no famous Celtic people because the Celts didn’t write down their history.
• mythical figure: Asterix
• we don’t know many individuals of Celtic origin from back in the day because the Celts were an
oral people
• they never wrote documents and didn’t write down their history
• because of this we have a very scarce knowledge of Celtic history and culture
Celtic traditions


• one major Celtic belief was the head cult

(they believed that the essence or the spirit of a person recedes in the person’s head)
• they payed special attention to heads in their sculptures and in their art
• the Celts would collect the heads of their enemies in their battles and fast those on their horses
just to show what fierce warriors they were
• part of the head cult is of Celtic origin


• they would use human sacrifice as a conviction to their gods (they had many gods)
• those gods could only be satisfied by ritual murder like burning, hanging or drowning
• there are archeological findings which prove that this was in fact part of their culture

The fate of the celts

• there was a Roman conquest in the British Isles

• there was also a huge Anglo-Saxon trend and colonization later on
• nearly all traces of the Celts were obliterated in the South but also in the East of England
(the reason for this is that there were many subsequent groups invading the British Isles)
• however, the presence of the Celts was not erased in Ireland, Wales and parts of Scotland

The Celtic societies in Ireland

• were very traditional, oral, a very static character of society

• Celts in Ireland traded west with the European mainland and Celts in the south of Britain
• we see a great importance in so called kinship groups

Kinship groups: Groups where all the members are related to each other. Kinship groups as the
dominant category of how Celts thought of themselves. The kinship was very central.

British Isles on the eve of Roman Invasion

• on the eve of Roman invasion we can see a broad contrast between the South of England (like in
Shakespeare’s notion), which was much more advanced and had progressed a lot more than those
poorer regions in Ireland, Wales or parts of Scotland

• today: contrast between the wealthy regions of London, the South part of England in general
and the poorer regions in the North of England (the broad contrast isn’t a new characteristic)

 the differences in terms of wealth have existed for thousands of years

The pre-Roman era is usually judged to belong to prehistory rather than history.

Because there are no written documents from that period.

• in the south of Britain, we have a lively trade with Celtic trades in today’s Belgium and in today’s
• there were very close relations developed
• the people from the British Isles exported cattle, grain and slaves
• they imported e.g. wine and glass from mainland Europe

The name of the Isles

• Greek merchant and explorer Pythias: 325 BC, named the island Prettanike or Brettaniai
• this is where the name derives from
• this term Prettanike goes back to a Celtic word, meaning ‘land of the painted people’

Why painted people?

Because Celtic warriors painted themselves with blue colors before they went to battle. They
became quite famous for this.

• the Romans romanized this Celtic word and called the Isles Brettaniai
• there is also a more poetical name which is Albion (this is the original roman name for Britain
and the cliffs of Dover might be the idea behind this name)
• other Roman names were: Caledonia, Britannia for England, Hibernia for Ireland etc.

The roman arrival in Britain

• the Romans met societies that were organized in tribal patterns (approximately 15 to 20 large
tribes could be found on the territory which is today’s England)
• the south of England was already very flourishing and wealthy, which was the perfect
opportunity for Romans to grasp
• Romans did not go to regions that didn’t offer anything
• (but) since the British Isles did offer a lot, the Romans became increasingly interested in
corporating the British Isles into their expanding roman empire
• this region must have been quite wealthy before the invasion took place, because we could
already see links between Rome and the British Isles in terms of trade mainly
• the Celtic tribal leaders of the Isle were very keen on luxury goods from Rome (a lot of import)
• we could even some sort of a slight romanization of southern Britain took place
(meaning the Celtic tribes took over or adapted Roman ways of life)
• the soft power of Roman lifestyle became very attractive (especially) in the south of Britain to
many Celtic leaders

Fact: We have Greek-Roman scholars of history who write about the barbarians in the north. They claim
that the most civilized people in the British Isles lived in the very east of the main island.

They also claim that the further you go inland, the more savage the people become.

(savage: people who dress themselves in skins of animals, that was seen as very bankrupt by the

The Romans found it ‘exciting’ to colonize the British Isles because it was seen as the edge of the world,
they were the ‘outskirts’ of Europe. A ‘country’ very far away from Rome.

Julius Caesar
Julius Caesar’s invasions of 55 and 54 B.C. (first person to be known in British history)
• British history starts with the Romans (British history meaning the written documents and the
beginning of continuous tracing of British history)
• first person known in British history: Julius Caesar (he was the proconsul of Gaul)

Why did Julius Caesar want to invade the British Isles?

• he had conquered Gaul before and his idea was that ‘hey if I conquered Gaul, let’s make one
more leap and let’s get the British Isles as well’
• the norms or patterns of Roman rule in the Roman government
(The more that you could conquer, the more regions you could bring into the Roman empire,
the greater you would be known as a politician or a military leader. So there’s this idea of
prestige: conquering foreign regions and with this elevating or raising your own prestige as a
leader. Julius Caesar wanted to use this opportunity of colonizing the British Isles with the
ulterior motive of him becoming even greater.)

Some other facts

• Caesar himself thought of the people on the Isles as a more aggressive and less civilized
‘branche’ than the people that he had conquered in Gaul
• there were also very good prospects for an invasion because many of these Celtic tribes on the
British Isles were at war with each other (they could use some tribes and set them against each
other and with this help the invasion)
• Caeser was not the one who conquered the British Isles
Julius Caesar: two failed expedition attempts to Britain in 55 and 54 BC
• he failed two times, which seemed quite probable if you think about the very regular roman
military force, by far the most advanced military force in the world back in the day

Reason why he wasn’t successful:

How could the British Isles resist against the power of the Romans?
First attempt in 55 B.C: failed because of bad weather conditions
• the main reason is the city: when Caesar set sail from Gaul to cross the channel and land on the
British Isles, he thought that the North Sea would be similar to the Mediterranean, but he was
mistaken in this: the North Sea is a much rougher sea than the Mediterranean one
(because we have the tides in the north)
• Caesar brought his fleet and parts of his fleet were destroyed by wild storms raging on
the British coast and it took them much longer to take everything out of the ships and
start invading the country
• some troops were scattered somewhere else because of the storm, and all the plans that
were drawn before had to be adapted to this new reality of conquering in those regions

What happened in his first attempt?

• when he arrived in 55 B.C, there were some battles with the people living on the Isles and he
managed to make some captives (he thought ‘well, I have these captives so I can always claim in
Rome that I have in fact conquered the Isles’)
• Caesar went back to Rome dragging British captives through the streets of Rome, showing his
military progress (but the Isles weren’t conquered)

Second attempt in 54 B.C: failed out of numerous reasons

• one year later he decided to come back and make a second attempt to conquer the Isles
• the second attempt was similar to the first one: bad weather conditions, some problems
within the roman troops themselves and most prominently Caesar had to go back to
Rome because there were some struggles within the Roman elite back in Rome
 impossible to follow the course of invasion
(the Roman settlements were much more important than invading those regions of the British
• Caesar turned back and with this the British Isles remained unconquered for nearly one hundred
The Roman Invasion of AD 43
(Roughly 90 years later)
• there was a new emperor Claudius
• Claudius like Caesar before thought ‘I can always raise this team and my military reputation by
conquering the Isles’
• there was not much left in Europe since the Romans had conquered nearly everything, so the
Romans turned to the British Isles
• this time they were more professional and had many more troops in the land (nearly 20000
• the people on the Isles realized more and more that there was no use in fighting the romans on
their own agenda
• the Romans arrived and they were victorious in Celtic tribes in the south  people started to
realize that the Romans were too strong and fighting them was of no use
• another reason why the Romans were more successful was because there was absolutely no
unity among the people living on the British Isles  the Celts fought each other all the time,
they were constantly at war with each other (which made it much easier for the Romans to
conquer them)


• this invasion had a powerful impact on the Isles

• Colchester was the first Roman capital
• the Romans moved on half of the island
• the problem of the Romans was that they had to conquer ever tribe on the Isles:
+ there was no unity, so it is easier to conquer a tribe if there is no leader
- downside to it is that if there is no leader, then you can’t get to him and make him admit
defeat  the Romans had to conquer every tribe
• they had to move across the regions to safeguard their claim of the isles

Persecution of the Druids (A druid was a member of the high-ranking professional class in
ancient Celtic cultures)
• the Romans also tried to exterminate those the religious traces of the Celts (most probably the
• there are many stories of the Druids (very mysterious qualities are attached to these stories)
• unfortunately many of those Druids died in the first years of the Roman rule since they were
seen as the centers of persistence against Roman rule
• although the Romans followed this course of conquest (Eroberung) and colonization
(Besiedlung), they never got beyond the sitting points: Romans stopped roughly in the middle of
the Isles

Why didn’t the Romans go further?

1.) they stopped in the middle of the Isles, because as they went on there were those very wild,
savage and dangerous tribes (‘the pigs’) –> so it was seen as life-threatening to go further
2.) the region was also very hilly, so it was very difficult for the Roman troops to have the same
efficiency as in the flat south, which was perfect for the Roman welfare

Course of conquest and colonization

• the Roman success almost led to the total destruction of the Celtic ways of life
• traces of the Celts are very hard to find in the south of Britain because it is here that the Romans
were most successful at replacing the Celtic ways of living and introducing their own Romanized
version of life
• the Romans only conquered half of the British Isles, because they decided to stop since the
sacrifice of conquering all of the Isle was too intense
• there was no point in conquering the rest of the isles because it was not a rich region anyway 
the trouble that would’ve followed wasn’t worth the effort

Hadrian’s Wall

Why did they even build a wall?

Because in the north of the Isles there were some very fierce Celtic tribes who intended on pushing
the Romans out again. As a result, the Romans decided to build a wall.

• Hadrian’s wall can still be seen today, it is very famous

• it had to be guarded at all times
• even today, you can still see the connections between the popular culture and the British history
for example in TV shows like: Game of Thrones
• Highlands like Yorkshire were never completely subdued
• Hadrian’s Wall cut the island in two almost equal part
• the intention of the Romans was to keep those Barbarians out and to control
who would pass this boundary
• it was also seen as a sign, a symbol of Roman power  it signified the end
of the Roman rule and

Taxation was crucial

• there was a revolution in the whole system of how you can get money as an elite
• they used taxation to get even more money
• taxes had to be paid by people  wealth could be collected  this would become a very
important part of the Roman Empire itself

Why was taxation necessary?

• Taxation was specifically crucial in order to be able to pay for a standing army
• the Roman needed a standing army that would always control those fierce tribes in the north
and also suppress rebellions within the territory of Roman rule
• an interesting fact is that Britain demanded more military resources than any other Roman
province within the empire
• over one-tenth of the Roman army was stationed in Britain (which was massive)  this gives
you an insight about the fierce resistant struggles within the Isles (making it quite hard for the
Romans in those regions in the north of England)

Impact of the Romans

How did the Romans change the ways of living on the British Isles?

• Roman invasion imposed one culture upon another: as a very basic statement we could say it
was a form of colonization  the Romans colonized parts of the British Isles and imposed their
own culture upon the Celts
• what is still unclear is to what degree the Celts tolerated this kind of modernization brought by
the Romans
• modernization of the various tribal societies in Britain: the Romans romanized the various tribal
societies in Britain
• they ended this kind of tribal and scattered patterns within the British Isles  instead there was
one great region which was ruled by one central source  very typical pattern of Roman rule
• by the end of the first century AD all those small tribal monarchies in the south of Britain had
given a way to the Roman rule as one centralized monarch
• first half of the 4th century: ‘golden age’ for Roman Britain
 period of great prosperity and wellness, many parts of the British Isles were densely
cultivated  Britain had never been more prosperous than under roman rule in the 4th century

- all these facts show the ambiguity of this whole invasion and its subsequent history -

The Cosmopolitan elite (the very rich Celts at the top)

• the very rich Celtic people have imitated the Romans as the top of this Columbus society  they
also traveled to Rome and to other parts of Italy
• we see some kind of ties forming between the formally very remote British Isles and the
European centers of civilization

The Romans and their impact on Britain today

Fact: The way we know Britain now, the way we know the main big British cities, this is largely a Roman
invention. It was the Romans who built all the roads, linking those places together. It was the Romans
who decided where to have economic centers or centers for trade, momentums.

Christianity as the state religion of the Roman empire

• Christianity was introduced quite aggressively to those colonized societies of the British Isles
• Christianity was the most important Roman influence in Britain (in the 4th century)

How did Christianity work back in the day?

• dioceses ruled by bishops in a monarchical system (administrative religious units that were ruled
by bishops in a monarchical system  this system was established very rapidly)
• the Roman church at that point in time was no longer just a network of sects, but a
transnational organization that could increase its influence more and more
Advantages of Christianity

Why should Celtic people under Roman rule also take on the religion of the Romans, why not stick to
their Celtic gods?


1.) The main reason for that is much more personal. Christianity offered the idea, it promised the
idea of a better afterlife.
2.) Also, Christianity is a monotheistic faith meaning there is only one God. The monotheistic faith
replaced the many gods of the Celts. There was finally one God and one ruler, which mirrored
the worldly conception of society which seemed more logical to them.
3.) Christianity was a religion based on written sources, so you could follow the instructions of the
religion if you were able to read, which offered guidance.
4.) The last and most attractive reason is that Christianity made you more fashionable than your
neighbor since it was the religion of the powerful, the wealthy and the successful. It had a great
appeal among the elite of the British society. It also trickled down to the common people
increasingly. Trickle down meaning gradually benefitting the poorest as a result of the
increasing wealth of the richest.

The Rebellion of Boudica

The story
Boudica was the leader of the greatest rebellion against the Romans in AD 61. It all had to do with the
death of Claudius, the emperor. He was the one who had conquered the British Isles. When he died,
Nero took over and he was very keen on still getting more money out of his provinces, especially the
British Isles. As a result, he reshaped the policies. Boudica herself was the widow of the Iceni King (in the
very east). The Iceni tribe had been one of the most submissive Celtic tribes ever, very much in tune
with Roman aspirations. However, when the Iceni king died, Boudica was punished and fought by the
Romans in order to reduce her powers. Because of this there was a very sudden uprising led by Boudica
herself against the Romans. She managed to be successful at something that many others have failed at.

She managed to unite some of those Celtic tribes against the Romans. Through uniting the tribes, she
presented an altogether different scenario. She was very successful in her first battles against the
Romans. In this conflict between Boudica and her forces with the Romans, we also have the first hint of
London that was probably called Londonium as the Roman train center. The Romans moved back to
Londonium trying to keep up this fortified terror against Boudica, but the Roman were crushed.

Boudica successfully chased the Romans out of Londonium. There was a war and thousands of people
were killed. Finally, the romans have realized that they should bring in fresh troops from their Germanic
regions. Thanks to those fresh troops, Boudica’s rebellion seemed doomed. The main problem is that
when you fight the Romans (the most advanced military force in the world), you should not use their
own tactics and strategies. Fighting against the Romans was only successful when you employed some
sort of guerrilla tactics, meaning not meeting the Romans in the open field, having small attacks and
then vanishing again.  that was the successful strategy

In Boudica’s war both parties met in the open field, which was a very sinister decision. She had no
chance to defeat the Romans. Unfortunately, she was defeated. She didn’t want to fall to the hands of
the Romans, so she poisoned herself. The rebellion was over.

Boudica is still remembered in British history as one of its major heroes. As a mythical figure, she
symbolizes British or English unity and ‘exercise of resistance’.

So what happened after the Romans crushed Boudica’s rebellion?

The tribes in the south rose against the Romans.

The ‘Barbarians’ in the North (300 years after Boudica’s rebellion)

Great Barbarian invasion in 367
• the Picts and Scots (two major tribes in the north) invaded Roman territory
• they did it because Roman provinces were rich  could use the wealth collected under Roman
• the Romans managed to suppress the north (what became clear was that the Romans were a lot
less powerful than in their heyday in their first century AD (Blütezeit)
• historian’s term for this is ‘imperial overstretch’  implies that empires have a natural size and
when empires become too big or too expanded, they collapse  reason for that is that it’s not
possible to have this kind of administration in such large territories
• in the 4th century AD, the Romans were becoming increasingly attacked by Germanic tribes
(Völkerwanderung) in the 4th century  the Roman south was in dire straits  they did not
have the same resources they used to, to defend these colonies (the British Isles were one of
these colonies)

‘Picti’: term refers to ‘painted people’ (tribe)

• they used the color blue to look more ferocious, they wore tattoos  which added to the idea
of being seen as barbarians from a roman perspective
The British Isles c. 400 AD
• there was a contrast between the cultural areas:

- the southern part was heavily Romanized

- the north of England was less influenced and less shaped of Roman ways of life

• Ireland, parts of Scotland and the tribal kingdoms of Wales were largely untouched by the
Romans (Romans did not go for Ireland and Scotland)
• the development within the British Isles was quite different at that time already  those
differences would become more pronounced throughout the century  reason why Scotland,
England and Ireland are quite distinct parts of England today (and have different
traditions as well)

The Romans Depart

• they were expelled in 409
• the ‘British’ finally managed to throw off the roman colonizers and free or liberate their

There were several reasons to why the Romans were not wanted anymore:
• they have become weak due to the developments in Rome itself
• lessened military power
• the internal pressure in the British Isles and external attacks from Germanic tribes in
northern Europe
• there was also a loss of confidence in the system of the Roman emperor  he could not
command such respect any longer as in the peak of Roman rule in the couple of centuries
• they weren’t able to send troops to help deromanized tribes against those tribes in the
north  Rome wasn’t able to keep its colonies safe  so why should the British accept the
Roman presence in their land?
• the Romans decided they didn’t have the resources to keep up the Roman colony 
resources were reduced  this gave more power to local chiefs and tribes
• also, the barrier that the Romans have built wasn’t a barrier any longer: it had been difficult
for the Romans to maintain it, but in the final decades of the 4th century this power became
The whole structure of the Roman rule crumbled in those years.
Dissolution of roman empire
• what had once been a very homogenous Roman region of influence became fragmented into
different soils of influence
• Germanic tribes were occupying large parts of the Roman empire (perhaps very specifically the
north of Africa, which became the kingdom of vandals)  that was a region in Roman history
very famous for its corn fields back in the heyday
• with this region not being under Roman rule any longer  the romans lost a lot of money
• when your wealthy provinces fall apart, you have no way of raising any money to keep all
provinces guarded and protect them  this was the misery that the Romans experienced

The Roman Legacy

What was left after 400?

• the romans were gone

No lasting legacy, but there are different perspectives on Roman Britain:

a.) there are scholars who claim it almost seemed that they had never been there in the first
place: they left a few notes, a few ruins, but their influence was not very strong, they only
had fleeting influence on the British Isles
b.) other scholars claim exactly the opposite: maybe the Roman didn’t leave so much
importance behind, maybe the Roman way of life couldn’t be kept up, if they had left, but
their influence was very profound, because:
✓ they were the first ones who introduced Christianity (which was later, long after the
Romans had left, reintroduced to the British Isles)
✓ we could also claim that the Romans founded London, or Londonium: the British
capital  Roman achievement
✓ they provided the first written documents on the Isles
✓ we wouldn’t know many aspects without their help
✓ the Romans introduced a civilized way of life on the Isles
✓ they brought Latin as a language and as writing with them  they made the Celtic
societies more sophisticated through language and especially the written
✓ they fostered learning
✓ the Roman also brought bureaucracy
✓ they made it much more efficient to administer these societies
✓ they centralized the parts of the British Isles that they were guarding
These are quite a few achievements we can thank to the Romans.
isles that they were guarding – quite a few achievements that we can thank the
A Cultural and Political History of the British Isles

Lecture 2: The Anglo-Saxons, 400-800

Prof. Dr. Oliver v. Knebel Doeberitz


1.The Anglo-Saxon World, 400-800

2.Christianity and the Anglo-Saxon World

What you should know:

•Who were the Anglo-Saxons and why did they go to the British Isles?

•How did the Anglo-Saxons develop in the British Isles (450-800)?

•Describe the spread of Christianity in Anglo-Saxon England.

What happened after the Romans left?

the Romans left around 410

there were no English people on the isles before the arrival of the Anglo-Saxons
Christianity was now reintroduced by the English

1. The Anglo-Saxon World, 400-800  The Period called `The Dark Ages´

Why do we call the period after 400 the Dark Ages?

Two reasons:

1. derogatory, downfall of post-Roman civilization – leaving behind the darkness of a non-civilized

world; dark as opposite to light / savagery, barbarism as opposed to civilization

2. because there were only a few traces left (which is a more physical reason) – it is dark to us
because we do not know much about it, there are very few traces  reason: after the Romans
left, they also took their language and their written documents with them  we have very
scarce sources that can help historians shed light on what happened on the British Isles in those
centuries after 400AD

Some additional information:

Germanic peoples who arrived later were alliterate. They did not use written language, they could
not leave us their documents (similar to the Celtic people before).

Most of what we know about the developments that took place back then, we know from the
sources dating from the 7th and 8th centuries – the time when the first historians tried to shed light
on and write down the history of the Germanic and English people.

The Dark Age as a symbol of loss of information.

 in popular culture, in video games, films, shows the dark ages are among the most
fascinating topics, because you can fill that time gap in with whatever you would like to.

E.g. Game of thrones (minus the dragons)

What was the situation on the British Isles in 400?

• in 400: Britain was a complex country

…when the romans left in 410, the British Isles were quite a complex region.

Many of the inhabitants were still descendents from the Celtic people (the ‘old people’).

• interaction of four distinct cultures

There were four different cultures that interacted between 400 and 800:

1. The British – meaning the Celtic

2. The Picts – they were living in Scottish regions or what would later become Scotland
3. The Irish
4. The Anglo-Saxons who would later on become the English
What happened after the Romans left?

• the Roman empire was quickly crumbling away, their political influence was declining  making room
for other peoples from the Germanic tribes like the Goths or the Vandals etc.

 this kind of political void wasn’t filled for centuries on the British Isles- there was no new central
authority that would govern

• no new coins minted after 410

 after 410 archaeologists have found out that there were no new coins minted  always a symbol for
economic prosperity (shows that there must have been some progress in economical terms)

• Roman towns in the South declined

 the Roman towns in the south got emptier and emptier  people were leaving the towns

Roman roads

- almost 5000 miles of Roman roads

- the Romans put roads everywhere structuring the country, many of the roads were not
repaired after they’ve left  transport and infrastructure likewise decreased, became less

Depopulation and migration

- there was a drastic depopulation on the isles, many of its inhabitants fled from those formal
Roman territories to the West (to what is Wales), where the Celtic people were still reigning
- many communities stopped their trade with the European continent (especially with what is
today’s Belgium, since trade was simply not a prosperous undertaking any longer)
- there was a long chain of migrations going on in those areas where the Romans had left
- this is also due to the fact that when they left, no one knew any longer how to build stone
buildings, so stonemasons and the knowledge about stonemasonry went away with the
Romans  when the new buildings were built, settlements and buildings were again made
of wooden structures  in some ways we see a return to kind of Pre-Roman ways of living

The Arrival of the Anglo-Saxons

• New start in Britannia which was unique in western Europe, but why? Who were the Anglo-
Saxons and why did they come?

new arrival – new groups sailed to Britain  scholars speak of a new start on the British Isles,
which was very unique in Western Europe
we see the arrival of a new population on the British Isles, from the 430ies onwards, Germanic
settlers arrived in large numbers in eastern England and then spread through many parts of the
British Isles
historians always mention ‘the Celts and the Anglo-Saxons’, but in reality we had more than these
two tribes; the Saxons were the most powerful, but also the cruelest ones from the Germanic
- there were people from four different groups:
the Angles
the Saxons
the Jutes

The homelands of the Anglo-Saxons

They came from what is today’s Schleswig Holstein – and also parts of the today’s Denmark and
Anglo-Saxon reasons for the invasion

they travelled from their homelands to the eastern coast of the British Isles and their intention
was to plunder on the coasts of Britain and to get their riches (in this period, the Saxons were
referred to as pirates, as very ferocious or cruel warriors)
they also wanted to settle there and establish their own territories
Historians argue to this day why this sublime migration took place; one of the main explanation
for their immigration could be that the sea levels were rising in that period, so many isles and
regions were swamped or put under water- this reduced the space for people to live and to
sustain themselves – we also see shifts in population in northern Europe – new groups arriving,
pushing away those groups who were formally inhabiting those regions – that was a great
dynamic of migration also going on in Northern-Europe  this led to the spread from Northern-
Europe to the British Isles

The Anglo-Saxons: Allies or Invaders?

Argument: Where do we find the roots of Anglo-Saxons? Were they allies or invaders?

Thesis: When the Romans had left, the British felt defenceless. They needed to be defended from those
tribes in the north (the Picts), they were threatened and they were allegedly calling the Anglo-Saxons for
help. The Saxons were also known as mercenaries (=soldiers you could pay to fight for you). Supposedly,
the ‘Britains’ called the Anglo-Saxons to help them out (=they hired
Anglo-Saxon soldiers from abroad to help them fight against the north).
The Anglo-Saxons didn’t help the Britains, but they helped
themselves get those British territories. This was a very common strategy
used back then. The Romans used foreign troops to fight their battles,
because it was a lot cheaper than using Roman soldiers that you had to
bring along from Rome. Those Anglo-Saxon groups of mercenaries
were led by two brothers (this is not a proven fact) Hengist and
Horsa, who founded the kingdom of Kent in 450.
Hengist and Horsa being welcomed by an English king, who needed help in his battles against the northern tribes

The two brothers weren’t happy with just helping out and instead they defeated the local British tribes and
founded their own kingdom, the first Anglo-Saxon kingdom on the British Isles. At the same time, the Jutes
and the Frisians were making their way across the North Sea, symbolizing the multiple streams of migration
in the 5th century.100 years later, by the end of the 6th century, invaders controlled half of the island.
They (the local kings) often gave themselves the title ‘Bretwalda’ (an Anglo-Saxon term meaning ‘Lord of
Britain’), ‘Bret’ for Brettania, ‘Walda’ for king or leader.

In those different regions, those groups also behaved quite differently. In some areas, like in Sussex, the
original native population was almost wiped out, killed. In other regions, like in the northern regions, the
invaders had a kind of uneasy, but nevertheless more peaceful relationship. There was a very complex
mixture of cultures between those Germanic peoples.

Anglo-Saxon Society
The Anglo-Saxon languages, religion and culture

the Anglo-Saxons were Germanic tribes speaking Germanic languages (Anglo-Saxon replaced
Latin as the so-called Lingua franca: common language of communication)
the English language is born with the arrival of the Anglo-Saxons, their culture and also their
language  Anglo-Saxons brought new society, new religion and new political values
they believed in Germanic gods, some of those gods gave their names to days of the week (see
we can still see traces of this Germanic heritage in the English language today
those Germanic tribes were strictly patriarchal (we had a very traditional society that was based
on the rule of men over women, they also passed on their properties on the eldest son  they
formed this new society
they also brought their own laws that quickly replaced the Roman jurisdiction/law
the Celtic population (the original inhabitants on the British Isles) saw them as Barbarians ‘those
barbaric Anglo-Saxons’
many of those Celtic people were Christian and they met new comers of pagan religious
persuasion  confrontation in terms of religion and value systems

Similarities in terms of culture between Anglo-Saxons and Celts

both were tribal cultures with small kingdoms next to each other and were quite often at war
 there was no centralized political structure as with the Romans
dominance of villages

We know very little about the early Saxon invaders coming to the British Isles, so where do we get our
facts from?

documents written by religious scholars in the 7th and 8th centuries – 300 years later
information from stories
archaeology (see below)
Anglo-Saxon map

- there was quite a string of kingdoms in today’s England

- the Saxons, the West-Saxons, the South-Saxons forming Wessex, Sussex and Essex
- there was Northumbriea and Mercia as two other kingdoms founded by the Anglo-Saxon
- the north, the very west and Ireland remained largely free from Anglo-Saxon invasion
The Burial of Early Anglo-Saxon Kings

archeology: we can still find traces of those tribes coming to the British Isles
the most famous locations for these places are Sutton Hoo
1939: shortly before the second world war broke out, remains of a great burial site were
discovered: Sutton Hoo, on the East Anglian coast (this is where the first invaders arrived)

Anglo-Saxon king was buried in a ship (wooden structure); an amount of earth was heaped upon
the ship  very typical burial method

buried with armour, weapons, treasures  communities thought about the afterlife  what
happens when we die, they thought ‘obviously, there must be something’, that’s why they have
riches to accompany them to the next world wherever that is
Sutton Hoo is a symbol that those Anglo-Saxon groups placed huge emphasis on the leader, the
king; as the richest individual  shows his position in the kingdom or the tribe
shows royal wealth, but also: no dynastic reign; there were no dynasties  otherwise the riches
would have been given to the son and the dead king would have not taken his riches with him
there was no line of succession established
these were the early stages of kinghood, of the way kings are selected and the way this kind of
selection is continued

Anglo-Saxon kingdoms (7 of them)  HEPTARCHY  term used by scholars to refer to those political
units of early Anglo-Saxon England

Northumbria, river Humber: very important boundary in early English history

Mercia, March, meaning boundary (against Wales)
East Anglia- land of the East-Angles who gave their name to the English and England
• Land of the Saxons:
• ‘Heptarchy’  meaning structure of the seven kingdoms

Establishment of First English Towns (7th century) in the subsequent decades

• Canterbury, York, Winchester, Worcester –> the most prominent urban centres in Anglo-Saxon
• building of cathedrals
• many of the English towns that became established were formally Roman settlements
 shows the legacy of the Romans + they largely defined the spaces of future towns and cities
in England

• place names that give away a lot about history e.g. place names ending with ‘ham’ like
Tottenham, Nottingham etc.  settlements founded by Anglo-Saxon arrivals, very clearly linked
to their language and culture
• the Anglo-Saxons also brought a new way of governing/a government

The Witan (council)

an Anglo-Saxon term meaning the council or the group of counsellors
this group consisted of the noble men, bishops and local rulers
from this presence of the so-called Witan, we have the later idea that the Anglo-Saxons had
some kind of a proto-democratic institutions, although this is a very anachronistic term
using democracy in the early middle ages
but compared to other groups and other ways of governing, it seems that there was a lot of
participation of many sections of Anglo-Saxon society available in that period

The spread of Old English

originally the Anglo-Saxons did not use writing, they would use runes instead
introduced lower-case letters as well as some specific to Anglo-Saxon pronunciation, such as the
letters thorn (þ), eth (ð), wynn(Ƿ), yogh (Ȝ), ash (æ), and ethel(œ) ( innovations of the Anglo-
Saxon language), some of which derive from runes
linked the British Isles to northern Europe, whereas the Celts before were mainly linked to
southern Europe and middle Europe like France or Austria (which is often referred to as the
birth place of the Celts, cultural and geographical shift with the arrival of the Anglo-Saxons)
very evident in one of the Anglo-Saxon epic tangles Beowulf, setting: nowadays Denmark – link
between Anglo-Saxon literature and northern Europe, very clearly

Relationship between Anglo-Saxons and British (Britains – still meaning the Celtic groups)
they were usually enemies
 mainly antagonistic, hostile, colonizers vs. colonized

Offa’s Dyke

Mercian king Offa (757-96) as the most powerful English king before Alfred
one great visual legacy of this relationship is Offa’s Dyke  another trace that can still be seen
in parts of England, specifically Wales
it is a continuous barrier that was erected between England and Wales in order to separate
groups; clear signal that the Celtic population in Wales and the English, or the Anglo-Saxons
population of Mercia was on bad terms, this can be seen in many regions of England, where we
see traces of battles and confrontations between the Anglo-Saxon invaders and the native
in many regions we don’t see any ethnic blending (mixture of communities of different ethnic
origins), the DNA analysis shows clearly that in many regions of England there was no mixture
between the native population and the Anglo-Saxons, in other regions this mixture was more
pronounced  shows clearly that there were many different procedures on the isles and that
there is not just one way to describe the relationships or the situation between Britains and
Offa governed in the 8th century – towards the very end of Anglo-Saxon settlement period –
• the first king who saw himself as the king of the English  very crucial – a process
towards unification, a process towards a kind of English nationhood  tells us that
the process of homogenization or centralization was clearly on the way in Anglo-
Saxon England later on
• Offa was also a contemporary of the German emperor (Karl der Große)  saw Offa
as some likewise King  Offa must have been a very powerful and influencial king
on the British Isles  recognized as equal by Karl
King Arthur

was allegedly a British king, meaning a king of the Britains fighting against the Anglo-Saxons
he was brought into public consciousness in the medieval period – it was French author
Geoffrey of Monmouth wrote the Historia Regum Britanniae (he wrote about this mythical famous king
Arthur, who few hundred years back once reigned in Britain)

the myth, the legend of Arthur has been very profound in British and English history  we see a
king of the defeated group of the Britains who tries to re or bring the Britains back to power
against the Anglo-Saxon invaders and tragedy is always attractive to scholars and author alike
King Arthur has been present since the middle ages, although we still don’t know whether he
existed or not, although he is one of the very few individual names we can link with the period
Britain (the Anglo-Saxons, the Normans, the Tudors all claimed that king Arthur was part of their
own history, their own king  attraction of the idea of King Arthur
presence in popular culture, dozens of films made

Christianity and the Anglo-Saxon World

renewed Christian mission of Britain

 renewed because the Romans already introduced Christianity, those monks arriving from
Rome weren’t the first ones, they tried to reignite the fire of the Christian religion

Christianity had actually survived in Wales and also in parts of Ireland after the Romans had left,
however when the Anglo-Saxons arrived, they crushed Christianity where they’ve found it (they
did not go to wales or Northern Ireland  so Christianity did survive in those territories)
the Heptarchy seemed to be a very promising field for re-Christianization
Pope Gregory (the Great) sent Augustine to Kent, who became the first archbishop of
Canterbury in 598  he gave Augustine the mission to Christianize Kent and start a process by
which Anglo-Saxon England would become a Christian territory

597 (very late 6th century)

Why did the pope send Augustine to Kent?

Because the king in Kent was married to a Frankish princess and this princess was already a Christian.
That was probably the easiest way to start reintroducing Christianity in Kent and he wanted to persuade
the king to become a Christian as well. At this point we see the start of the Christian mission. Augustine
became the first archbishop of Canterbury, which is the highest position to be achieved (still exists today
in the Anglican church  continuity between the 6th century and today).

When Augustine was sent to England, he was very much afraid to go and some of his followers even
turned around and travelled back to Rome. They were afraid of the Anglo-Saxons, because they were
seen as notorious, cruel communities. However, pope Gregory wrote a heartfelt letter saying they
shouldn’t fear anyone and that they have to do it in the name of God. Augustine and their followers
returned to England and started their mission. They became very successful in the end. This whole
process is called the Gregorian mission after pope Gregory.

Kings & Church

Why did Anglo Saxon kings support Christianity?

We have to consider the relationship between the king and the church – generally we can say that kings
helped the church to grow and to become more powerful. The reason for that is that the church
enhanced the status of the king. Both institutions helped fortify and strengthen each other – which was
a win-win situation.

The king was regarded as God’s chosen and anointed royalty. In terms of government, Christianity also
brought back literacy to the British Isles. This means that there was a reintroduction of written
documents by the church. The leaders quickly saw the advantages of the new faith which offered them a
link with the Roman past.

Being a Christian king gave you some participation in the idea of a glorious Roman rule. Throughout the
whole medieval period, the era of the roman empire was seen as the golden age of power. Many
medieval kings in England, but also in Europe everywhere tried to style themselves in the tradition of the
roman emperors, so it did have a lot of appeal to be linked to the Roman church. It was kind of an
honour to be linked to the fallen, yet still very powerful concept of the Roman empire.

Literacy as another selling point of Christianity

Literacy made it possible to administer a government more efficiently  it made it possible to
write down who owned what and what resources were available (a king should always be
interested in knowing about the resources and their distribution)
there was no ‘instant’ Christianisation of the Anglo-Saxons (example of Beowulf)
the church itself preferred the rule of strong kings, since strong kings always meant a population
that could be governed in religious affairs (advantage to both the king and the church)
religious control could be achieved much easier, because the church could get support from the
king and vice versa
the Christian faith preaches obedience, you have to obey in this life but your reward is in your
next life – interesting philosophy for rulers – this pact between the church and medieval
monarchs became stronger and stronger – in the decades after the first introduction, we see
one king after the other submitting to the Christian faith
Beowulf – very interesting mixture of Pagan and Christian ways  there wasn’t a kind of an
instant point at which the old Pagan culture was thrown away and the Christian culture was
accepted - it was a long process with overlappings between Pagan ideas and the new Christian
Pagans and Christians coexisted for a while in England, even for many decades, it took centuries
for the last traces of the old faith to die away – it did die away but it was a long process
in many ways, Christian beliefs were blended with older Pagan rituals e.g. polytheism was quite
often replacing older rituals of those Pagan kind
in 655 the last Pagan ruler was defeated in a battle  from that time onwards all kings in
England were Christian
the Anglo-Saxon gods vanished – they only survived as the days of the week

Interesting finding – proof of the Christian and Pagan religious beliefs mixture-

in 2012 a grave was found – rare discovery – Anglo-Saxon teenage girl was buried in a wooden bed
with a cross

a mixture of Pagan beliefs but also the acceptance of the new religious dogma – the cross
the idea of burying a body with its possessions/riches was an ancient idea (not a Christian idea,
but choosing the Christian symbol clearly shows that the new faith had arrived and this makes
this burial method even very interesting to scholars)
symbolizes this process when the new is kind of accepted but the old is not yet discarded –
interesting combination of the new Christian system and old Pagan beliefs
Christianity and the Anglo-Saxon World

The Anointment
Church and kingly power became more intertwined and dependent on each other
most visible sign: anointment, to anoint – usually done by the archbishop of Canterbury
he gave divine blessing to the new king  he legitimized the power of the king
the church helped support the right candidate (helped the king choose his successor) 
important foundation of kingly rule and kingly succession
coronation of King Edgar, 973: church and king together shaped or defined who was in charge
 tells you a lot about the role and importance of religion in the Anglo-Saxon England

 it set the king above human laws - by investing him with this kind of a divine, godlike power  a win-
win situation of kind and church in the period

The Work of the Monk Bede (673-735)

Why is he important:

a lot of the things that we know about early English history, we know because the monk once
wrote it down and the document survived

wrote the Ecclesiastical (religious) History of the English People and completed it in 731
Monk Bede is quite often called the father of English history – because we owe him so much for
his writings  was the first one to write down any kind of history of England in the 8th century

Bede’s main theme:

 his work was written in Latin and it is a conversion of the English Christianity – reinterprets
Anglo-Saxon history - he treats the Anglo-Saxons as the chosen people, the ones that were
chosen by God- he creates this idea of a kind of English identity  he provided the Anglo-
Saxons with a kind of a version of their past in which Christianity was the dominant factor- he
manipulated history but he was very successful with this
the first one to use the word ‘Angleland’ in his writings – ‘Angleland’ later became England-
his work was a big help for scholars
Bede provided the Anglo-Saxons with a Christian version of their past

Lecture 3: Vikings and Normans, 800-1066


1. The Viking Invasions, 800-1066

2. The Norman Conquest, 1066

What you should know:

•How did the Vikings influence the developments on the Isles?

•Who was King Alfred and why is he an important figure in early English history?

•Why and how did the Normans conquer England?

Arrival of the Vikings around 800

1. The Viking Invasions, ca 800-1066

Term Viking  ‘Scandinavian pirates who plundered the coasts of Europe from the 8 th to 10th centuries’, ‘a sea-
roving bandit’

 old English word for ‘pirate’ –but it wasn’t used at that time, only much later at the end of the 19 th century; the
usage of the word is very modern

❖ arrival of the Vikings from the end of the 8th century onwards (around 800)
❖ the Vikings arrived raiding all the monasteries, slaughtering monks and attacking those sacred places on
the east coast of Britain
❖ historians claim that the post-Roman centuries came to an end with the arrival of the Vikings  making
room for another period in British and English history
❖ the Anglo-Saxons had hardly established their own kingdoms, pushing the Britains to the west and to the
north and there we already had a new force threating the Anglo-Saxons (who themselves had been
invaders a couple of centuries before)
❖ Vikings: Danes (Danish people) and “Norsemen” (i.e. people from the North- Norway, Denmark) started
attacking the English coasts in the late 8th century
❖ the Vikings started attacking many regions in Europe, which was not an isolated movement - you could
find them in many places in western Europe and in today’s Russia
❖ England was in a state of shock at the end of the 8th century, there were new invaders in the north 
large problems were rising with the arrival of another group struggling for the riches and the wealth of
those territories under English rule

Central puzzle: Why did the Norse communities suddenly arrive?

 England or the English regions must have been rich – like the Romans and Anglo-Saxons before, the Vikings
were attracted by those wealthy regions on the British Isles  seemed to be the perfect object for London

Reasons for Vikings moving abroad

1. The Viking raiders did not intend to settle. They were rather interested in attacking coastal regions,
grabbing the riches and bringing them back to their own communities. There was a process of
settlement later on  Viking communities gradually established themselves on English soil 
COLONIZATION. They started colonizing parts of the Isles.
2. Demographic levels – overpopulation in the regions of Norway and Denmark, it became more
appealing to move to other places and to settle there.
3. Another motivation to move was the scarcity of the resources in Norway and Denmark – not enough
fruit, commodities and goods to keep all those people happy.
4. Another trigger for the expansion were the threats from the south like the German regions under Karl
der Große, his kingdom was stretching more and more, threatening Danish communities and making
their existence more unsafe.

Elements we associate with the Vikings

the strange helmets with the horns (seems to be an invention of the 19th century)
Our view on the Vikings is very much coloured and shaped by those historians before our period like the
Victorian age. In the Victorian Age, there was a great fascination with the Vikings and their history.

Viking advantages – What made the Vikings that successful in their attempts of colonizing and raiding
English territories?

crucial invention of the longship (Viking ship)  the Vikings were the most professional sailors of their
 longships could sail 50 miles in a day (quite spectacular if you look at the standards of travel from a
1000 years ago)  Vikings were able to dominate the sea and the Northwestern Europe and also to
establish settlements along the coasts of Britain but also in Ireland  the Viking communities remained
in existence for the centuries to come  in some regions the Viking presence was very stable and long-
DNA analysis: the English gene has 1% Norwegian roots and 4-5% Danish roots  tells us that some
Viking communities were able to mix with the English population

Two main routes

❖ one around the north of Scotland to the Western Isles, the other to the east and south coasts of England
and to Gaul
❖ they even sailed into the Mediterranean
❖ debate: some Vikings have even established the Russian empire
❖ the Vikings travelled to England, Scotland, parts of Ireland, Iceland, Greenland and America (new found
land)  making the claim that Columbus was the first one to discover America insecure
❖ during the 9th century Viking trading posts came into existence  in Ireland it was the Vikings who
founded Dublin, Cork and Limerick

The language of the tribes

❖ the Germanic and Scandinavian peoples were deeply related  Anglo-Saxons (or the English) and the
Vikings had much in common, they could understand each other because the language was not so
❖ the Anglo-Saxons or the English shared more with the Vikings than with the Britains in the west (in Wales)
❖ the English language today is filled with Scandinavian words e.g. sky, die, skin, bread, eggs etc.  Old
Norse words entering Old English
❖ the Vikings were not literate and they were not using written language, they were using runes  a very
restricted system of delivering information
❖ being alliterate is not a new characteristic  the Anglo-Saxons were oral people with oral traditions as
❖ the Vikings were a Pagan group and they spoke Old Norse  the sentence structure of Old English took
the grammatical features of Old Norse, we still use grammatical categories and parts that were
introduced by the Vikings

How did the English react to the invasion of the Vikings? How did they cope with the
threat of becoming overrun by the Vikings?

❖ a very difficult and dangerous clash of the two groups

❖ an English king that was called the GREAT

Alfred the Great (871-99)

•succession of able kings, beginning with Alfred (871-899)

❖ today King Alfred is known as the King, who saved England from a seemingly hopeless situation of Viking
 the saviour of the English preventing England from being turned into a Viking area’
❖ King of Wessex
❖ first writer known to use ‘Angelcynn’ (literally ‘the land of the English folk’) in his official dealings with this
adding to the idea of an overarching English identity
❖ he is famous for his interest in learning: he gathered a circle of court intellectuals around him, he even
translated books, was very interested in religion, learning and Latin, which was not very common for a
medieval king back in the day
❖ his most famous moment however is a decisive battle: the battle of Eddington

Battle of Eddington

❖ in this battle, Alfred managed to keep the Vikings at distance and to defend the territories of the English
❖ he defeated a huge Viking force
❖ historians always like to speculate what would’ve happened if: their claim is that if Alfred had lost this
battle in Eddington, there would be no England today or that England would’ve turned into a part of the
Scandinavian empire (like a colony) shows the status of King Alfred
❖ defeating the Vikings didn’t mean that they would go away, but through Alfred’s negotiation, the Vikings
would stay in one part of the country and the English in another  uneasy peace between the two
groups that would last for a couple of decades throughout most of the 10th century
❖ Alfred was not strong enough to chase the Vikings out England, that was impossible, but he could keep an
English identity
❖ his reign was significant both for the direction of the country’s development and for the riches of his
❖ Wessex was one of the seven kingdoms of the Heptarchy, however because of his victories he was seen as
the King of all English  helped spread the influence of Wessex  Wessex became the dominant
kingdom of all those other kingdoms on the British Isles

The Vikings during the 10th Century

❖ the whole east of England and London was given to the Danes in that period (more than half of England
was governed by Scandinavian or Viking groups)
❖ struggles for power between various Viking groups
❖ along the east coast of Britain, Anglo-Saxon England ceased to exist, replaced largely by a pagan, oral
culture, which looked to Denmark and Norway
❖ ‘Danelaw’ = those regions of England were not just occupied by the Danes, but also governed and
administered by Danish people
The ‘Age of Wessex’ in the 10th Century – England was divided between English and Viking
regions  this struggle is not to be solved in that period

the 10th century is often called the Age of Wessex  Wessex became more centralized and militarized

❖ it’s in this period that this part of England or this region becomes predominant
❖ King Alfred’s efforts were quite successful in keeping the Danes at bay
❖ Wessex had to react to the dangers that the Vikings brought with them
❖ Best way to fight an external danger trying to occupy your territory?
o You have to do military reforms & reforms of administration.
❖ an interesting consequence is that Wessex became more centralized and militarized  the English
kingdom was getting stronger and stronger in its desire to fight off the Danes

Strategies of Wessex kings trying to deal with the Danes, their neighbours

❖ Christianization (Vikings were Pagans, but not all of them stayed Pagan)  King Alfred
baptized the Danish king and tried to make him a Christian as well in order to establish cultural
❖ Danegeld – he paid the Danes for not invading English territories – it is a specific historical
term that was already used in that period
Age of Feudalism (as a system)
process of centralization
the situation remained very tense, but feudalism helped raise resources
King on top, he owns all the land and he gives his land to the nobles that are loyal to
him, he makes sure that the noblemen support him
the nobles have to provide military services if they want the king to keep giving
them land
The king himself can’t fight the Danes, but having loyal vassels that provide military
support makes it more efficient and easier
the nobles give their land to the knights and vassels, who own military service to
the noblemen
the knights and the vassels give their land to the peasants to work upon it and to
make it productive
this system of power becomes more established in the 10th century in Wessex and
in most parts of Europe
Feudalism is the system on which political power is exercised
The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle

 the second most important source of information in history for that period in England

 an old English manuscript that was created in the late 9th century during the reign of King Alfred

❖ many different copies were made of the chronicle

❖ each year, the chronicle was updated with information on what had happened in that specific year
❖ there were different versions in different places of the same document
❖ in some regions, this chronicle was kept alive for more than 200 years  continuity of religious life
and of the monks who were interested in keeping the chronicle
❖ purpose of the chronicle was to give information to subsequent generations on English history
❖ only a tiny part of the Anglo-Saxons could read and write and they were usually the monks
❖ monasteries were becoming the centre of learning – typical medieval process that could be found
all around Europe
❖ one product of this is the Anglo-Saxon chronicle
❖ much of the information we have on the Anglo-Saxons and the Vikings is provided by the Anglo-
Saxon Chronicle

The British Isles in the early 11th Century

❖ 1016 was a very interesting date in English history  England had no English king
❖ 1016: Dane Cnut became king (1016-1035)  Cnut as English king in 1016 reigning for almost 20 years
❖ the Danes were so strong in that period that they could establish their own royal line in England
❖ in this period England seemed to be a virtual colony in England, inferior as a part of a Scandinavian empire
❖ it took another almost 1000 years for Denmark and England to become part of one political structure
again, the European Union
❖ the period in which the future of England seemed very remote and insecure (was very likely for Britain to
become a Scandinavian territory with Scandinavian traditions)
❖ apart from England:
✓ there were Vikings as reigned in Dublin (Ireland) and in Wales
✓ much of Wales remained under the dominance of the English
✓ the history of the English is more illuminated to us than the history of the other groups

The Vikings in hindsight (looking at them from today’s perspective)

 the 19th century is the century of the Vikings in cultural imagination of European countries

- there was no interest in the Scandinavian, Pagan part of English history until the 19th century

- historians were looking at other periods and groups, mostly at Greek and Roman civilization

- interest in Viking history was revived because Victorians were fascinated by them, for they were fierce, brutal
warriors, always successful, they had this manly warrior-like spirit, the Victorians even compared themselves to
the Vikings  ‘bravery’

- seen as primitive barbarians

- 19th century: Scandinavians used the Vikings as a positive example of national history – they were seen as the
birth of Scandinavian nations and they were firmly incorporated in national traditions

2. The Norman Conquest, 1066

Conquest  when someone is conquered

❖ the Vikings didn’t really conquer England, although they occupied parts of it
❖ the Norman invasion is very different, because it was a conquest: it captured the home of England
❖ most historians claim that this is the most decisive date in English history

Edward the Confessor: who was that?

General information about Edward - a king from the Wessex royal line -
❖ the word confessor denotes a religious dimension, it stresses the religious characteristic, his
intention to lead a line of godly disposition
❖ Edward himself grew up in Normandy and not in England  important link – he had to flee from
England to Normandy because the Danish royal dynasty was taking more and more control in
❖ all the people from the Anglo-Saxon royal line were rivals and persecuted
❖ he was one of the few kings who didn’t fight any wars, he wasn’t interested in military welfare
❖ he was interested in raising and discussing religion, but also making people more religious

Historical details

❖ there was a Danish king on the throne, but he died in 1034, so a new king was sought
❖ unfortunately, the Danish king had no children
❖ first there was another Danish king on the throne, but in 1042 the line of Wessex was restored
through Edward the Confessor  an English king on the throne of England  final years of the
history of Anglo-Saxons, he was the last king of the Anglo-Saxon royal dynasty

Who were the Normans?

❖ they were the next group of invaders

❖ the Normans were Vikings as well, or they had been Vikings before their arrival in France
❖ originally, about 150 years before, the territory of Normandy was given to the Viking chief Rollo
to keep the Vikings happy that they were no further terrorized by French regions
❖ the Vikings became Normans and they became the vassels of the French king
❖ they were in France only for a couple of decades, the Normans were migrants as well, but they
blended with the French population and they also adopted Christianity
❖ they became quickly incorporated into the French system of government and also in taking
French traditions and customs
❖ the Normans also learned how to build stone buildings, churches and cathedrals
❖ in the 11th century, the Normans were an aggressive force that sailed to many parts of western
Europe and became a threat to many regions (to England as well)
❖ the Normans were a warrior aristocracy, a society in which the qualities of a warrior were most
❖ in that time period, the Normans had an asset that was unbeatable  they had the best army in
the world
(they were the Romans of this medieval period)
❖ the main asset of the advanced progressive army was the knight in chainmail armour (new
invention in welfare) and the Normans were leading this invention  this made Norman troops
the most powerful
❖ England faced a very dominant opponent
❖ in January 1066 king Edward, the last Anglo-Saxon king died, the king not having children was a
big problem in medieval societies  ‘Who was to succeed on the throne of England?’
❖ there were several claimers of the throne of the England

The Duchy of Normandy

❖ feudal duchy of France

❖ originally, the Viking chief Rollo was given the territories by the king of the West Franks

Edward the Confessor died, so there were two claimants of the throne now: HAROLD and

❖ Godwin’s son Harold – Godwin was the most powerful and richest man in England
❖ the Godwin family was a very wealthy and influential aristocratic family, they have influenced English
politics for decades
❖ when Edward died, Harold claimed that he had been given the throne of England by the dying Edward
 no one could ever prove this, but the circle of noblemen elected Harold as the rightful king of England
 unfortunately, this was soon questioned by the Lords, because William, the duke of Normandy
claimed that the English crown had to be given to him and not to Harold

But what right did William have to claim that the throne belonged to him?

❖ William and Edward were cousins, so the mother of Edward the Confessor was a Norman princess, Emma
❖ Emma was the mother of Edward the sister of Robert and Robert was the father of William
 brother and sister and their children, Edward and William
❖ William’s claim  bloodline, relation to Edward (the last king of the Anglo-Saxons)  naturally William
would be the next in line, because Harold wasn’t related to Edward
❖ Harold was only the son of the most powerful man in England, there was no blood relation
❖ conflicts were arising between king Harold the first - legally crowned monarch- and William, who was
across the channel of Normandy waiting to conquer the crown and make himself king of England
❖ history is written by the winner, the winner in this contest was William
❖ the Normans claimed that they were the rightful heirs to the English crown
❖ they presented a story – that a couple of years before, Harold once shipwrecked in Normandy and he had
to promise William that William will be the next king and that Harold would not press a claim to the
English king – story told by Norman sources -

William, Duke of Normandy

❖ Harold realized there is a rival in Normandy, just across the channel, wanting to raise an army
❖ ‘I will fight William for the crown of England, I want to keep the English crown’
❖ William himself also had some problems -he was an illegitimate child, he was born out of wedlock - so
throughout his life, William was very careful to make sure that he was the most powerful one that no one
could dispute his rightful decision as the duke of Normandy
❖ English and Norman sources about this period are very different – but it’s the Norman version of the story
that has been mostly accepted throughout the subsequent centurie
❖ William and Harold were trying to raise armies, William wants to invade England to get the crown, but he
wasn’t alone
❖ there was another claimer of the throne: King Harald, the Viking king of Norway

Long story short: William was a distant cousin of Edward the Confessor and wanted to be the next
king. He claimed that both Edward and Harold had promised him the throne, but English supporters of
Harold challenged this.

When Edward was a boy in 1016, King Canute invaded England and Edward ran away to Normandy for
safety. Edward stayed in Normandy until he became King of England in 1042. Edward invited William
of Normandy to his court in 1051 and supposedly promised to make him heir.

King Harald I and the Stamford Bridge battle

❖ first invasion: William, Godwinson’s son

❖ second threat of an invasion: King Harald of Norway together with Harold’s brother Tostig
❖ England was being threatened by two rivals – William in the south and king Harald of Norway in the north
❖ English king Harold had to fight two opponents at the same time
❖ the Norwegians invaded northern England with more than 50.000 men making it a very serious problem
for the English
❖ Harold had to rush his troops up to the north
❖ near the region of York, the battle of Stamford bridge took place- in this battle, the English king Harold
manages to defeat the Norwegians  this rival was out of the game
❖ he was successful in fighting the first opponent
❖ very soon the Normans landed on the southern coast of England and king Harold had to rush back to the
south to fight the other opponent
❖ when the Normans arrived, Harold was still in the north, he had to be very quick and march his troops for
hundreds of miles
❖ the troops of the English king were very weakened because they have just fought the other battle in the
❖ now they had to fight the next battle  chances of winning were not very high

The Battle of Hastings 14 October 1066

❖ we have the English on top defending the territory, we have the Normans pressing up uphill,
the English were on foot and had arches
❖ the Normans are also on foot and had some kind of arches but they had something else:
troops on horseback, the cavalry (in the back)

❖ trick by king William: William acted like he was defeated, so he pretended to escape
❖ the English realized ‘Yes, we are victorious, let’s rush down the hill and kill those escaping
❖ this was only fiction, so the English gave out their position on top and rushed down the
valley  unfortunately, they were slaughtered by the cavalry waiting in the back
❖ finally, it was only king Harold and his bodyguards left
❖ King Harold was allegedly killed with an arrow that was shot through his eye
❖ the last English king was killed in the battle of Hastings
❖ the Normans were successful, but winning one battle doesn’t really mean victory, you had
to make sure that all England would submit to you
William the first takes power
How did William consolidate his victory?

❖ William the first: was crowned at Westminster Abbey on Christmas Day (in London)
❖ the ceremony of the crowning was given in French spoken by the Normans
❖ William tried to make himself appear as someone, who would value and cherish the traditions of Anglo-
Saxon England
❖ ‘it was not a military defeat of the English, it was just the chasing of an illegitimate king, namely king
Harold’  story fabrication by the Normans

William as the king and some changes he brought with him

❖ tactic: bringing a lot of Norman noblemen (who didn’t have any possessions in Normandy) to England and
he gave them English territories  he pushed out the Anglo-Saxon elite on top and replaced the top line
of society with Norman noblemen, who’d be loyal to him  substitution of the English upper rank
❖ he brought a new military invention to England, something England didn’t have before his succession,
namely: the castle (the castle is a truly French, Norman innovation)
❖ the Normans built the famous tower of London

❖ the tower of London was built by William the first, shortly after his arrival in London, showing us that
London must’ve been an important centre already back in the day
❖ Normans took control of England and they claimed they they would just continue the traditions of Anglo-
Saxon England
❖ the control of the Normans didn’t make that much of a difference for many, e.g. the English peasants
didn’t really care whether they were supressed and exploited by Anglo-Saxon lords or Norman ones
❖ the end of English rule and the beginning of a new Norman dynasty
The Emergence of England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland
The Vikings in hindsight

❖ in the 5th century, when the Romans had left, Scotland didn’t really exist, there was no Scotland
❖ the Irish, the Picts, the Britains and the Anglo-Saxons all struggled for supremacy in the territories of
today’s Scotland
❖ in the 11th century half of England was linked to Denmark and in the second half of the 11 th century
England was linked to Normandy
❖ the beginning of a Scottish identity developing: in the 9th century, when King Alfred defeated the Danes in
the battle of Eddington – the groups in the north were alliterate, we don’t have much written information
on this topic
❖ we only know a lot about the English because of Monk Bede, but we can’t say much on the history of the
Scottish because there was no historian writing it down for us in the early medieval period
❖ the 10th and the 11th centuries make the division between the four main regions of the British isles very
clear  division of England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales  we could then speak of those four regions
that remain with us until today


Lecture 4: Norman Britain, 1066-1300

1. The Norman Centuries, 1100-1300
2. English Monarchs

What you should know:

1.) Describe the impact of the Norman Conquest on the British Isles.
2.) What happened to the English language?
3.) What is meant by the ‘Norman Yoke‘? (Yoke oppression, misery)

1. Norman Britain
❖ revolutionary changes in English society
❖ South of England: as the first region to be influenced by the invaders, then the rest of the Isles

Norman conquest and the interpersonal situation on the Isles

❖ no other conquest in European history had such disastrous consequences for the defeated (in
this case the English)
❖ the Scandinavian context of English history vanished  never again did Scandinavians or Vikings
have the same power over the English as before  their influence was gone
❖ colonial character of society (it is tricky to use the term ‘colonization’ in the early medieval
sense, because colonization is a modern concept, starting from the 16th century onwards
❖ BUT! There was this process: younger sons of Norman families went to England and they were
given land by the king, replacing the Anglo-Saxon nobility
❖ very typical for a colonial society: the native elite gets replaced by the victorious newcomers
❖ the Anglo-Saxons gained a second class, inferior status
❖ there was a partition between the Normans (the ruling class) and the English (the Anglo-Saxon
rest of society)
 two class society - upper class speaking French and the lower class speaking English

❖ for a long time, the conquerors and the conquered remained separate  there were very few to
no marriages between the Normans and the English in the first decade (rigid division)
❖ mixing between the two groups in the subsequent centuries

Strategies of consolidating power

❖ William the first conquering England: you need more than battles and armies to rule- strategies
that were used by William the first that helped him fortify his victory and his claim to be the king
of England: - the Domesday book
The Domesday Book, 1086

- How can a book magnify the power of the king? -

What is the Domesday book?  rich source for historians today

❖ it’s the result of a great survey that king William I undertook in 1086
❖ shows basic outline of the English economy at the time
❖ written in Latin, not an old English text
❖ it was kept at Winchester, the capital of the old Anglo-Saxon kings
❖ the name Domesday book was given to this text in the 12th century

Meaning of the title – RELIGIOUS METAPHOR

❖ it is a strange title, but there is a reason behind it: no one could ever escape this
survey, ‘no one would be spared, it would be as strict as the day of judgement’  it
would list ALL PROPERTY in the land

What do you need a survey for as a king?

❖ William commanded his ‘workers’ to go into the communities and villages

and write down and list all the properties in the land
What do I actually own? What have I conquered here? What resources, what
properties can we find in England? I need to know who owns what? –
❖ the book was very essential for the new king, because he now knew who
owned what and he could make sure that enough of those resources
could’ve been given to him
❖ he could also allocate and distribute his favours according to the obligation
he could get

Some demographic facts about the Isles

❖ more than 90% of the English population lived on the country side
❖ 25% were servants
❖ 75% were free and not bound to a master by obligation

England & Normandy  two territories joined together with William the first as the
❖ a cross-Channel political community with a single Anglo-Norman aristocracy
❖ two regions bound together  it was one kingdom that was governed by one single monarch, a
Norman monarch
❖ 50 years before there was a Danish king on the throne and England was kind of an attachment
for/to Denmark – now we had Normandy as the dominant territory
❖ England was dominated by Norman customs and politics

Relationship between William I and the French king

❖ Interesting relationship: William was the king of England but not king of Normandy. There was
already a French king and interestingly, William had to be loyal to him. William was the vassal
of the French king.
❖ William owned allegiance to the French king
❖ the French king wasn’t happy about the fact that William was a king too  he saw it as a
 ‘One of the people that he governed was almost as powerful as him.’

❖ this relationship between France and England remained troubled for the centuries to come

The Rise of Feudalism

❖ the rise of feudalism as the dominant political structure

❖ William I had a very clever way of dividing and controlling the country
 all land belonged to the king
 it was divided into distinct areas
 they were given to the men who had sworn him allegiance and fought for him
The ideal, typical pact of feudalist nature

The king gave the land to the noblemen and the barons. They had to promise
that they’d support the king in military, in further conquests and in internal
rebellions within England as well.
Each baron had to provide a number of nights for the king to serve in the royal
Those nights would be gathered when there was a reason for fighting and there
was no standing army. William had complete power and he always had an army
at hand when it was necessary due to the feudal obligations.

❖ Problem: Constant uneasy relationship between king and barons, because

the barons had to be controlled by the king and they always tried to get as
much power for themselves as possible (since they were a powerful elite

English & French languages

❖ Names changed: names like Aidan, Selwin etc. of Anglo-Saxon origin became less and less frequent
after the Norman conquest
❖ the Normans bought their own names with them, replacing the names of the Anglo-Saxons: Robert,
Henry, William  Norman names still very present today
❖ the Normans also gave the English the idea of an inherited surname (unknown in Anglo-Saxon

French Loan words

❖ the influence of the French entered the English language (the English language has a lot of
words and synonyms because thousands of words of another language were imported in the
process of the Norman conquest)
❖ old English as a language changed drastically
❖ French-speaking elite (the well-educated) English men spoke three languages now: English,
French and Latin
❖ rigid separation between the two languages at first  mix of vocabulary later on
❖ meeting of two languages, of old English and old French is called Middle English
❖ starting point of Middle English as a distinct language spoken from the 1060ies onwards

A few examples, new words, old French words side by side to the English expressions:

bow –beef (boeuf); calf –veal (veau); pig –pork (porc); sheep –mutton (mouton), chicken –poultry

England in the12th Century – 50 years after the Norman conquest

The image of England and its position in Europe

Early 12th century:

❖ the Viking influence vanished, their legacy was almost forgotten

❖ there was less migration
❖ Anglo-Saxon history was written by Anglo-Saxon monks, the negative portrayal
of the Vikings

Late 12th century:

❖ the British Isles are part of a wider empire, which included more parts of
❖ we can’t speak about English monarchs or English history in this period, since it
was clearly dominated by the Normans
❖ way of living: we have the old French language and the Norman perspective as
❖ all affairs of the state were dealt with in French and Latin
❖ the English kings spoke French, they didn’t know any English for a couple of
Further Norman strategies
The Role of Castle, Church & Borough  instruments of power

 ‘instruments’ of empire – interesting combination between architecture and


The Castle - visual symbol of Norman domination, Norman invention

The Great Tower at Chepstow Castle, one of the earliest Norman stone structures in the British Isles.

❖ demonstrated to the people who was in charge, showed the realities of

local power
❖ the function of the castle was to bring the subject into submission, to
show that is futile to fight those powerful new rulers
❖ stone castles did not exist in England before the Norman conquest
❖ Scholar estimation: Normans built more than 1000 castles in England
alone, and 300 more in Wales after they’ve conquered it
❖ the castle is the central idea of the modern people when thinking about
the medieval period  automatic connection with the medieval period

The Church – the second instrument of the Empire

❖ the Normans have rebuilt many cathedrals and churches as another way
of showing
‘Who has the power now?’
❖ The Normans didn’t just bring their system of rule, armies and castles,
they’ve rebuilt the Anglo-Saxon church and made it similar to the Norman
ways of practising religion
❖ instrument or a tool to make sure that the English would be obedient
❖ the church underwent interesting changes
❖ after 1066 almost every English cathedral was destroyed and substituted
by Norman architecture
❖ Change in the way of practising religion for priests
 Anglo-Saxon time: priests could have children and they passed on their
priesthood to them
 problematic for the Normans: they had to cut the ties between the
generation of the Anglo-Saxon priests
 local, hereditary priesthood replaced by a celibate clergy
❖ they built more churches than the Anglo-Saxons, every village was given
its own church  strengthening the social control of the population
❖ monasteries were also changed by the Normans  new religious orders
came into existence
Hales, one of the first and smallest Norman churches

The Borough–structuring the country into regions helped the supervised,

secured and govern each section -
❖ Necessary, because: new Norman colonists, new settlers were arriving,
there were new ruling class structures  reorganization of the land was
❖ these structures were kept intact for another 1000 years  1970ies:
administration of the boroughs was changed  lasting
❖ establishment of new towns
❖ attraction of towns: vital  towns had markets  markets meant money,
trade, business  taxes could be raised  control of the established
markets  the ruling class would gain financially through these market
❖ manor: most characteristic institution of medieval economy and society
 consisted of the land which was worked on by an unfree label force 
servants and peasants were given a slice of the land that they could work
for their own maintenance

❖ huge proliferation/enlargement of records  the 12th and 13th centuries

were essential in bringing about a new bureaucracy  a new way of
governing that relies on documents and written sources
❖ beginning: Domesday book
❖ the king needed literate and educated advisors that would list, exchange
information  keep recording of the properties owned and general
❖ there was a growing need for more people to read and to write
 before: only the monks were interested in spreading education to small
 literacy became a more official policy because ‘keeping the machine of
the government’ alive required more effort (literacy became very central to the
❖ a larger part of the population now participated in reading and writing
❖ businesses were increasingly transacted through the medium of written
❖ Oxford and Cambridge making their first appearance as institutions of
learning: two universities become established to cater to the demands of

The 12th and 13th centuries wanting entertainment

❖ more interest in entertainment that needed written sources

❖ a lot of castles were inhabited by barons, lords and ladies who wanted to be
entertained  interested in groups of actors, singers that would provide this
sort of entertainment  they would pay for the entertainment  culture
becoming more prominent and becoming some sort of profession: ‘people
could live as poets or singers or actors’
❖ numerous texts were composed around that time
❖ the most popular genre: romances  French innovation meaning tales about
brave knights and their adventures in battles, in killing dragons and in
romantic adventure as well
 pleased the aristocratic audience
• the mythical figure king Arthur only became famous in history because
French writers composed romances about him  the idea of king author
spread through literary texts

The Normans beyond England  they also dominated regions beyond England, greatly
influencing the further history of those regions

Conflict: Norman aristocracy owning some of these territories


- defying yourself as ‘Scottish’ or ‘Irish’ was very unfamiliar at that time

- you owed loyalty to your Lord and not to your region or nation
‘Wales’  Norman conquest of Wales

- Wales used to be a region where the British still ruled, where the Anglo-Saxons have not
penetrated into
- this wasn’t the case with the Normans
- they conquered the Welsh borders and that they’ve established themselves as the Lords of
- by the 14th century, most of Wales was occupied by the Norman ruling class
- Wales: Normans imposing their language and their customs on the Welsh population (similar
to the history of England before)


- the Norman kings of England made no attempt to conquer Ireland

Historians on the Norman Conquest

❖ tendency among English historians:

✓ Normans as the not so strong group of people, English as super strong  idealized
 ‘domestication’ of the Norman Conquest: the English were so strong in customs and culture that
they managed to bring the Normans to adapt to English lifestyles and to bring them to see the world
through their eyes in the long run; ‘to domesticate the Normans, to make them English’

✓ ‘Norman Yoke’  the more negative vision of the Normans

 concept of Norman oppression, the Normans were invaders, colonizers, deeply disrupting the
Anglo- Saxon world and imposing their values on a colonized and conquered English society

‘Norman Yoke’

- this very negative and disastrous term came up 600 years later, in the 17 th century  the
reason why this idea of Norman oppression gained population after a period that was long
gone by, is that there was a significant feeling of an anti-French sentiment in the 17th century
 the Normans were seen as French, so their - role in the English history was very criticized
- the term Norman yoke was invented and given later in history by subsequent generations

General conclusion:

There are differing opinions, it’s hard to form an objective judgment when looking at the Norman
conquest, but we can say that the Normans reformed English society, made it more modern, and also
introduced cultural and political innovations.
13th Century – 1215 – key date in English history in which Magna Carta was first published or

What is the Magna Carta and why do we have it?

❖ it is a very important document

❖ throughout the medieval period there were a lot of ongoing conflicts between the barons and
the king  constant struggles for power
❖ barons decided they needed to check the power of the king
❖ rules or regulations that describe the relationship between the King and the barons
❖ 1215: King John was forced by influential aristocrats to sign a document later to be known as
‘Magna Carta’
❖ 1258: ‘Provisions of Oxford’: another document trying to curb and restrict the power of the
king and to safeguard the liberties of the barons and of the noblemen
❖ Magna Carta was never about the common people, it was about the barons trying to make
sure that their power remained as large as before and that the king would not have the total
control over them

First occurrence of the parliament in the medieval 13th century

- the birth of the English parliament –

❖ the beginnings of a circle of noblemen that were there to give advice to the king and share
their opinion
❖ occasionally, the king called these members of the parliament together and certain issues
were discussed and debated
❖ it wasn’t a parliament as we know it (not an institution), but the first beginnings of widening
of power, participation of broader levels of the English upper class
❖ Magna Carta was always celebrated as the birth of democracy or as the beginning of a
modern liberal tradition in European or Western politics

History – true or misleading?

❖ today this document is seen as the birth of democracy, which is very misleading
❖ after Magna Carta was written down, it was almost forgotten for a few centuries
❖ a few centuries later, it was revived when people thought about the tradition of English
❖ interesting example of how national identity is created
❖ selection: historians look at the past and they select certain events, figures and claim this is
our history

All history is contemporary history.

❖ invention, tradition and history of the past is always invented by later generations, who
decide what is important and then they take these parts of history and they celebrate it
❖ they write books about it and also create a tradition that is continuous
❖ selection of history: tradition is a creation and invention to some degree
❖ example: Magna carta – nowadays it is treated as a document of high important, which wasn’t
the case for many centuries
❖ history serves certain needs – a typical English trend is to establish an English identity - which
places a lot of focus on liberty or freedom
❖ Historical circumstances around the time must be kept in focus  otherwise we create a false
image of history

Interpretation: liberty is a very vital value; the barons claim they can’t be imprisoned by the king
without a legal complaint and a legal preceding – the common people were not concerned by the
Magna carta.

Struggles within the ruling class  Magna Carta was produced by the Barons for the Barons.

Robin Hood – stands for English tradition

❖ mythical figures in English history – most famous character living on as an English idea - we
don’t know whether he existed or not- completely unimportant since he lives as a part of the
English tradition- celebrating a hero who gave to the poor and took from the rich (very
modern idea).
‘English Monarchs’
❖ there were no English monarchs at that time, we had French or Norman ones
❖ in the first 250 years after the Norman conquest, no king spoke English, they were all Normans
with Norman values

William the Conqueror (1066-1087)

(defeating king Harold in the battle of Hastings)

❖ He is known with three different names  William I., William the Conqueror, William the
❖ William the Bastard: William himself was an illegitimate son, his name is not justified, since
his mom was a peasant woman and not a Queen or nobility
❖ his father died when he was 8 years old, so William became the Duke of Normandy (Herzog), a
vassal to the French king
❖ he was very known for being a very mean and brutal ruler – he always had to make sure that
all would accept that he was the lawful ruler (which is more common when considering the
fact that he was perceived as illegitimate)
❖ William the Conqueror died, he had ruled England for 22 years and he divided his kingdom
into two regions: England to one son, Normandy to another - political union between England
and Normandy was finished for a specific period but later the parts became united again with
the next king
❖ interesting story about the death of king William: kings who were Normans were never buried
in England, they needed England because it gave them the title of a king, but they were not
really seeing themselves as kings of the English (burial in Normandy)

English Monarchs: Henry II (1154-1189)

ruling in the 12th century, he marks the beginning of a specific dynasty of rulers called the Plantagenet

❖ beginning of the ‘Plantagenet’-era, dynasty took its name from the ‘Planta Genets’ (French
term for today’s broom, a flower)
❖ Geoffrey of Anjou, husband of Empress Mathilda and father of Henry II always used a part of
the planta genesta, he would put it on his hat, he was given the title of Henry Plantagenet
(another theory is that the name came from the habit of planting broom in order to improve
his hunting covers)
❖ Plantagenets would rule England for 331 years
❖ Henry II: the most powerful and famous monarch in English history
❖ he ruled England, Normandy and Aquitaine  a region that was more than half of France
back in the day
❖ he was married to Eleanor
❖ Henry the 2nd seemed more powerful than he French king but still he was the vassal of the
French king (French king was enraged by the power of the English monarch – as always Lol)
❖ he is very famous because he was one of the most powerful emperors at that time, the only
one more powerful in Europe was Friedrich Barbarossa – they were both ruling at the same
time - in that period England gained wide recognition as a well-structured kingdom that was
quite powerful
❖ this was quite new because the most powerful regions at that time were France and the
German regions and territories
❖ Henry II put England on the map of powerful European countries

Edward I (1272-1307)

❖ remarkable monarch of the late 13th and early 14th century

❖ 1282: Edward I: conquest of Wales successfully completed
❖ conquered Wales, because of him, Wales was incorporated into the English kingdom
❖ started a brutal occupation of the Welsh territories - in order to make the Welsh submit, he
used the Norman strategy of building mighty castles throughout Wales, signifying the power
of the English king
❖ when he conquered the Welsh, he promised them that he would bring them a ruler that
would not speak English, meaning a ruler that would be closer to the Welsh tradition
❖ he took his pregnant wife and brought her to Wales, she gave birth to Edward II, who quite
obviously couldn’t speak English after being born #funny king
❖ in order to show the Welsh that they had no chance of keeping their own traditions politically,
he named his son the Prince of Wales
❖ from this date onwards, the first born male heir is always called the Prince of Wales
❖ title that was given to heirs of the English crown starting with Edward the first
❖ he also fought a war against the Scottish
❖ he took the famous Stone of Scone upon which the Scottish kings were crowned
❖ he brought it to London and he put it under his throne
❖ He got the title ‘the hammer of the Scots’ because he defeated them and established this idea
of English dominance
Lecture 5: The Later Middle Ages, 1300-1485

1. The Hundred Years’ War

2. English Politics, Society & Culture

3. The Various Regions in the Later Middle Ages

4. The Wars of the Roses

What you should know:

• What was the Hundred Years’ War and how did it influence the British Isles?

• How did the status of the English language change during the later Middle Ages?

• What were the ‘Wars of the Roses’ and what was their result?

Historical Periodisation
- Historical periods have a clumsy nature
- the term Middle Ages didn’t exist at that time – it was a term given to the Middle Ages later on in
order to mark them off from other periods
- no one in the middle ages has actually thought ‘yay I am living in the Middle Ages’  It was a
completely unknown concept to them.
- periods are always constructions; they are invented by scholars who are trying to make sense of
how history developed
- We use periods to understand more about those specific time frames.

The Later Middle Ages?

- the MA have this reputation of violence and revolution
- this period is full of struggles, conflicts and battles
- disorder in the countryside
- wars: 100 Year war in France, the War of the Roses, ...
- many kings in this period were pushed aside or murdered – like nowhere else in Europe
- England as a specifically violent place when it comes to the royal dynasty and the conflicts of
kings and the barons/nobility
- some historians claim that the year 1399 has the worst crisis of the monarchy – example: since in
1215 – the Magna Carta – in this year Richard II was chased away and another king illegally took
the crown from another sub-dynasty

The Hundred Years War, 1338-1453 – raged for more than 100 years!
The Age of War & Political Turmoil

- all of this war happened on French soil

- the English were fighting the French in France
- it didn’t happen in England
- the kings of England and of France were the two most powerful rulers in Europe at that time
- much of France was divided into several dukedoms and those dukedoms quite often fought
against each other

The trigger of the war

- 1328: French king died without children

- kings dying without children is always a crisis
- there is a struggle over succession: powerful noblemen in the country tried to grasp the
opportunity and take the crown for themselves  always a period of conflict and insecurity

Who should be the next king?

Start of the conflict
- Similar example in history before: in the late Anglo-Saxon period, 300 years earlier when Edward
the Confessor died with no children and we had several rivals struggling for the throne
- French king is dead, English king said he should be the king of France as well
- He wanted to be king of England and France because his mother was a French princess
- Edward III claimed that he was related to the royal dynasty and that the crown belonged to him
- French Noblemen were split into two main fractions:
1.) the ones that disliked Edward, they said there should not be an English man on the throne of
France, they thought they had to fight the English if they ever wanted to become powerful over

2.) the fraction in Burgundy, the Burgundians made a pact with the English showing support

two main fractions in France competing against each other  having regions in France
supporting the idea of an English king was an advantage for the English
from 1337 onwards there were military confrontations between the English and the French
Edward III claimed that he was the only legal successor to the French king
he carried out military campaigns to finally become the King of France

The Hundred Years’ War (1337-1453)

•decision of ‘England’ to fight for territory in France

•Battle of Crécy near Calais (1346)

group of English men that was quite inferior to the French army (inferior in numbers)
it looked as if it was impossible for the English to win, but miraculously they remained victorious
reason for their success: their weapons
 the French had the crossbow (effective weapon), but the English came up with an invention
that was super powerful: the longbow
superior military technology of the English (the longbow was a lot more powerful than the
crossbow) helped them win and they remained dominant for a long period, they could push the
French out of their own territories, since the war was raging in France and not in England
there was much fighting over Gascony
French and English fighters in the battle of Crécy

The Hundred Years’ War

this wasn’t one long war, but rather periods of fighting and then long periods with no actual
battles  frozen conflict
military revolutions: first use of English cannon, first use of artillery in a European battle
climax of English domination was reached with Henry V
Henry V (1413-1422) managed to defeat the French in several battles
he was even promised the French crone after the French king had died
another famous battle was the Battle of Agincourt

The disastrous, outnumbered French army

the French army was disorganized in contrast to the English

they were very proud of their cavalry
in one of their battles we had the French crossbow men in the front, who started shooting their
the French cavalry couldn’t wait, they were pressing out
they were killing their own men, who couldn’t escape

1453: English territories in the South-West were entirely lost: the war was at an end and the
English had not won the war
they had even lost most of their possessions in France

Theory behind the V sign

the origin of the V sign: the French had this habit of cutting off the fingers of the English longbow
men (punishment to make them incapable of using their weapons)
if the English showed the V sign, it meant ‘I still have my fingers, I can still use my bow and kill

The Hundred Years’ War: Joan of Arc

French warrior
Jeanne d’Arc, Joan of Arc, Saint Joan (1412-31)
most important woman in the conflict
she was the daughter of a poor peasant, but she had this idea that
God had spoken to her to resist the English and summon the
French troops, so she revived them with stamina
she managed to raise a national movement against the English
(bottom up resistance from the common people)
she was so successful, that they could defeat the English at
Orléans and crush the English troops that had invaded the city
she had a big contribution in this
the French didn’t pay her back for her contribution, they even imprisoned her after the battle
was won and then they sold her to the English (poor gal )
What did the English do to her? They accused her of witchcraft, of being a witch and then she
was burned at the stake. The English took revenge.
she remains one of the earliest French heroes

Scotland (The North) and the 100 Year war

the borderline between English and the Scottish was truly disputed in that time
the 100 Year war brought confrontations between the English and the Scottish as well
key event: battle of Bannockburn in 1314
the Scottish managed to defeat the English and to keep their independence
the English on horseback, superior in weaponry, advanced military technology, sophisticated
military campaign <-> the Scottish looking like peasants, yet they still managed to fight the English
this idea of the Scottish as underdogs and the English as the superior English men has been part
of Scottish mentalities ever since
‘the English are far more powerful than we are, but we are honest, common, simple but we
cherish our Scottish identity’

The Glorification of Warfare in the 14th Century

warfare became a purpose

war was seen as glorious, as the highest option that was open to the English noblemen
notion of war as romantic enterprise  knights get out of the castle, finish the enemies, raise the
glory of their ladies, of the Queen - doing service to the superior lady was celebrated in literary
texts of the period- poems, very positive and glorious
cult of chivalry
The Order of the Garter in 1348  Garter (Hosenband) – it was a community of knights

club, organization that was founded by the English king, Edward the III
he wanted to collect the most courageous knights of his kingdom, bring them together in unity
they would meet regularly and celebrate their brotherhood
Edward III was very impressed by the literary romance about Arthur some centuries prior, so he
wanted to recreate this idea of a brave knight in community with other knights
he used a literary example to fashion or style his own club

The Club today

the club still exists today, the English kept this tradition alive for centuries
it is one of the highest orders in England
the Queen gives membership to this order to specific selected people, who are known and
respected in English society (‘important people’ that have contributed in some way or another)
The Garter only has 24 members, the Queen can only appoint a new member when one of them
dies, because the members are elected for life (quite exclusive ;))
Idea behind the club: inventing, keeping up traditions in order to celebrate national identity,

Chivalry (Ritterlichekit)

a very popular concept celebrated all along the medieval period  a knight had to embody certain
character traits and values e.g. main aspects of chivalry were: courage, loyalty, honesty, friendship,
sacrifice and dedication
English Politics, Society & Culture
The Black Death – Pest

in the middle of the 100 Year war, England was not only tormented by chaos, but also by bacteria
was called ‘the great mortality’ back in the day
arrived from ships from the east (probably from Crimea)
those ships carried rats that were infested with the plague
Disaster in Europe: roughly 35 percent of the people in England died- every third person died as a
result of the plague
Catastrophic demographic situation
Consequences of the plague

+ Far reaching social consequences:

- many families were torn apart

- many fields were not attended any longer
- famines (not enough peasants to work the fields, for too many of them had died)
- Jewish people were persecuted because people thought them to be responsible for the disease
- social life could not be sustained in many villages, there were not enough clergymen anymore,
people couldn’t bury the dead
- no up to only few churches that were still intact
- people saw it as God’s punishment for the sins of mankind – a popular way of looking at evil
+ wages rose since workers and peasants became a very precious resource

+ they could now earn more money than before

+ this set emotion and development that was quite unique in England

+ centuries later in the industrial revolution: English labourers were paid more than workers of the

The Role of the Church

we always link the church with conservative and backward notions

church as a transnational, European organisation supported by an European infrastructure
all clergymen spoke Latin, they could also read and write – made them very powerful for the
monasteries fought a system of communication and clearance, clergymen were very respected
people in society
many people did not dare to rob the clergymen, because they were anxious that God would
punish them
they controlled all aspects of life in villages and towns:
 birth, baptising, marriage, death – major stages of human life, accompanied by church rituals

 church remained the main institution that governed your existence by giving importance to the
events in your life and through that structuring your life
the Pope was the European supreme authority – his institution organized the crusades – famous
phenomenon of the medieval period
The pope also controlled the bishops of the respective kingdoms of Europe
The struggle between King and the Church – German history date signifying the struggle in 1076 –
the German emperor walking around with naked feet to beg for forgiveness from the pope- they
struggled for authority - the church regarding himself as the highest authority, but the King said
his authority should be higher
The whole western world was structured by this conflict

Political power

political power in favour of the landed aristocracy

little sign of the political rise of a middle class during the period

The English nobility - ENGLISH NOBILITY is a complex phenomenon with many different levels.

Ascending order
The prince of wales standing next to the king
The royal dukes (Herzöge) – were usually the closest piers of the king
The marquesses
The earls (Graf)
All different levels of nobility were guarded fiercely.

The commoners – the common people

Barons (still a baron, but not a noble one, a different title then the one above)
Esquires (usually linked to the knights)
The gentlemen
the peasant farmer
the husband men
the labourer

The Peasants’ Revolt

Reason for the outbreak of civil unrest and rebellion: introduction of a new tax, the so-called poll
tax (meaning head in Middle English) imposed in 1381
Meant that every person had to pay the same tax, disregarding whether they were poor or rich
Poor thought this was a highly unfair treatment
They organized themselves into a revolt
One result of the black death was that there were fewer labourers around, peasants and labourers
realized that they had some power and that they could ask for better pay and better working
 unified force starting this rebellion
leaders Wat Tyler, John Ball and Jack Straw – famous names, songs, ballads, stories, they have
been admired by later authors

‘Meeting’ between peasants and the king

it looked like the rebellion of the peasants would take over London
the English king at that time Richard II (who was 14 at that time) promised them that he would
meet their demands and that he would take care of their worries and their problems; he begged
them to go back to their villages
the peasants did go home but Richard did not take care of their worries
The rebellion was crushed, the king had made a very clever move
 he gained the upper hand over the peasants
Groups of peasant rebelling wasn’t much organized and unified, very easy to for the nobility to
play off the fractions against each other -> causing internal confrontation between the peasants
themselves and all these factors contributed to the fame of the peasant’s revolt
Greatest social unrest in English history for a long time
The greatest rebellion in English history started by the common people

The Lollards
demanded important changes from the king
religious background
Lollardy (name probably derived from lollaer, a mumbler (of prayers)
Movement that criticized the power and the unchristian nature of the church
Claim: clergymen are unworthy of their office
 they were drinking and not following the demands of their people and the church itself had to
be reformed
they believed that organized religion like the Roman church was manipulated- it led people
astray, away from the one true God, and the church itself was a corrupt institution in the eyes of
this group
purification of the church was required
many Lollards in England were punished severely (burnt at the stake and they were quite often
they questioned the power of the church
social situation in that period was full of struggle
The Revival of English – feelings of patriotism

English lost its status as the dominant language after the Norman conquest took place
In the first centuries after 1066: the king and the noblemen didn’t speak English and it was just a
local, inferior language
This changed in the later medieval period, because of the spread of literacy
More people were needed for working in official jobs of the government  had to be able to
read and write
The revival of English also had to do with the War against France, because French suddenly
became the language of the enemy
The French language lost its prestigious status within England  Return to English  Rise of
English as the dominant language started again after being supressed for centuries
English was common for formal business, but there wasn’t one English language at that time, just
many dialects spoken in England (e.g. West-Saxon, West-Anglian etc.)
the midland’s dialect became more dominant than the other in business administration and it
was spoken in the middle of England
many people that spoke the dialect moved to London for trade, their language set the standard
for communication
1362: English became the official, national language after the French dominance
spread of literacy and the increased use of the English language
English became common for formal business

English Literature
English literature became widespread and popular

Not so much prose literature, but verse like poems, poetic forms as the superior form
lyric and romance, comedy and tragedy, allegory
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Piers Plowman as outstanding works ( + The Canterbury Tales:
most famous literary text in the whole medieval period of England)
English miracle and mystery plays on stage – dramatic performance becoming a major part of
entertainment in villages and towns
The mistery plays usually took texts or situations from the bible and illustrated them for the
common people
Main goal: show the people the rights and wrongs of behaviour

An Age of Decadence? Dark and sinister age, where morality is at its lowest.

Voices calling for reformation

They used fashion
one popular poet, writing in 1389, thought that this was a decadent age
Medieval thought: in medieval thinking, the age was an age of decline and sorrow, natural state
of the world, the world itself was sad and negative, the most that one could hope for was a little
stability that things wouldn’t turn worse, but no one believed it would turned better
The past was the golden land, before were looking back and Greek or Roman antiquity and they
saw the superior quality of culture back in those eras. The old was celebrated and the new was
very criticized, because everything that was old was closer to the golden age of the past. 
gloomy idea of their philosophy

The Various Regions Scotland

Scotland: beginning of the ‘invention of tradition’

The period that the Scottish would become aware of themselves as the Scottish people- common
people with a tradition that allegedly stretched back for many centuries
New sense of national consciousness developing in Scotland
Emergence of Scottish pride (also because of the battle with England)  proud nation

Scotland’s pact with France

The French made a pact with the Scottish against the English  the pact would survive the next
very unpleasant for the English because now they had an enemy in the North as well
the Scots needed this pact for survival, since the English realized that attacking Scotland would
mean they would have to do with France again
Norman Scots: they wanted to establish a kingdom of Scotland  declared for a kingdom of
Scotland, there wasn’t such a kingdom before  successful because of the rivalry between
England and France  England had other interests, its main attention was directed on getting the
French throne  Scotland became more independent from English dominance  the history of
Scotland was shaped by the English’ military campaign in France


1282, Edward I: conquest of Wales and crushing of Welsh resistance

it finished almost 200 years of warfare between the English Normans and the Welsh
for 200 years, Wales was able to fight off the Normans (Wales still has many Norman castles in
order to curb resistance against the English)
Edward I: brutal military occupation - 13th century: final defeat of Wales
Wales became attached to England and lost its independence status  it became a region that
was governed by the English


the Normans were trying to conquer Ireland

in the 14th century: Black Death  changed the situation in Ireland  many of the English-
Normans died
the area controlled by the English shrank to this small part around Dublin (Ireland: area under
direct rule contracted to the ‘pale’ around Dublin)
real autonomy of the Normans in Ireland

The South of England

- The centre of trade and prosperity, the powerhouse
wool as dominant commodity the English could sell to their European neighbours
responsible for the massive wealth of southern England
partial industrialization
development of towns and villages in the south of England
partial industrialisation of the southern counties
the southern period of England became richer and richer
difference between South and North (still to be seen today)


´London in the early 15thcentury:

city of narrow streets, wooden houses, and a great disorder

in that period London’s population grew immensely
status as the centre of the British Isles

The Wars of the Roses

1453: the 100 Years War ended in humiliation for the English
they have been kicked out of France
they could only still keep some tiny spots in France like Calais
losing a war is never good for a king, it makes the nobility dissatisfied and makes them rebellious
Henry VI – became king when he was two months old – his carrier as king was always dominated
by external advisers like powerful Barons who wanted to have the crown for themselves (and not
to serve a child)
Rivalry developing between the houses of Lancaster and York
 two powerful noble houses in England that were even related to each other
They struggled for dominance starting the wars of the roses, raging for 30 years in England
Series of battles and conflicts – not one continuous war – emergence of several confrontations
The Lancasters were victorious supporting the king - but Henry VI was pushed out of his throne
by the Yorks in 1416 (the Yorks were successful)
Edward was on the throne, struggle for dominance extends in the 1480ies
7 August 1485, Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond, landed in Wales – first king of the Tudor dynasty,
he was part of the Lancastrian camp
the Lancastrians needed a new figure head to rule and to guide the troops and they were using
the noblemen of Welsh origin - Henry Tudor
1483: the battle of Bosworth – two rivals Henry Tudor was fighting Richard III (Yorkest King) for
the Lancastrians
Henry Tudor was victorious, his army defeats Richard the III and his men – the Wars of the Roses
end and the Lancastrian family wins – they establish a new dynasty the ‘Tudor dynasty’
red rose(Lancaster) and the white rose(York).

Winners (House of Lancester)

Losers (House of York)


the North gained greater political prominence – towns growing in importance

great economic hardship
a great reduction of the English nobility
many noblemen died in the battles, the English nobility was almost extinct – many sons and
brothers, and relatives of the noblemen died in this battle - people who weren’t part of the
nobility could now enter the nobility and fill up the ranks – made the development in England
different than the development of the other European societies
end of the Middle Ages and the beginning of a new age: Renaissance

Lecture 6: The Sixteenth Century
Early modern period

• 1. The Tudors

• 2. Renaissance & Reformation

• 3. The Elizabethan Age

• 4. Scotland, Wales, Ireland in the 16th Century

• 5. English Foreign Policy

What you should know:
• Provide main ideas concerning the Renaissance/Humanism.

• Describe the impact of the Reformation on England and on the British Isles.

• Outline English foreign policy in the 16th century and also consider England’s

role as a rising world power.

The Tudors: they were always styling themselves as God-given monarchs

- string of five monarchs that make up the Tudor dynasty, starting with Henry II who beat
Richard III of the House of York
- the Tudors had a humble/modest beginning
- the origin of this dynasty goes back to a Welsh aristocrat called Owen Tudor
- he had an affair with the widow of king Henry V, who died shortly before becoming king
of France
- child of this affair was Henry Tudor who was born in 1457 (became the successor of the
throne after beating the yorkest Richard III

❖ Henry VII (1485-1509)

 had a very clever strategy of bringing together the houses of Lancaster and York  he
married Elizabeth of York, uniting the two rivals in marriage between the king of England and
Elizabeth of York
❖ Henry VIII (1509-1547)  one of the most famous English kings
❖ Edward VI (1547-1553)  died as a teenager
❖ Lady Jane Grey – Queen for 9 days only (1553)
❖ Mary I (1553-1558)
❖ Elizabeth I (1558-1603)

Tudor achievements
❖ the Tudors reformed the government
❖ they chose London as the permanent seat and center of government
❖ kings usually travelled around the country, having theirs courts in a mobile fashion with them,
which was necessary in order to control the regions and to curb any rebellions
❖ the Tudors weren’t mobile, decided to have a more stationary seat of power, in this case
London and its surroundings
❖ London was the biggest city in the Western world in this period
❖ the court itself became the center of power and access to the monarch, the greatest privilege
for any noblemen
❖ English nationhood prospered, because the Tudors had this idea that in order to keep the nation
together, national identity was required  they spread the idea of the Tudors as an English
dynasty – rooted in English history and traditions
❖ Ironically, the Tudors were of Welsh origin, and not of English
❖ power was related to symbols and performance – the Tudors loved possessions, they loved to
show kingly power and to demonstrate it in public  relevance of showing off and of impressive
❖ rise of the lower gentry (see below)
❖ when the Tudor left with the death of Queen Elizabeth, there was a Scottish dynasty replacing

Why did the rise of the lower gentry take place?

The Wars of the Roses were very destructive. The conflict between the two houses almost killed the
whole aristocracy of England. In the 1450ies we had more than 50 members of aristocratic origin, but
this number was reduced to only 8 in the 1485ies, when the war ended. Whole families were wiped out
and since there was not enough aristocracy left, Henry VII had to use people from the lower gentry as
his advisers and chosen politicians. Because of this phenomenon, the boundaries between aristocracy
and simple people became weaker, making it a lot easier for common English people to rise up the social
scale. This was not the case in other regions in Europe.

Tudor struggles/problems
❖ the biggest problem of this dynasty was legitimacy – people of Welsh origin on the
English throne
❖ people were always questioning if it was right to have people of Welsh origin on the
❖ another problem was linked to religion – the change of religion in England produced a
lot of insecurity and hate in England, for there were a lot of people who weren’t happy
with the changes  enemies  threatening to the Tudors
❖ external threats such as external agents (e.g. Spain and France) intend upon damaging
England or English rule

Is it right to have the Tudors as the royal dynasty?

❖ Tudors conflicts because of having children and the succession of the throne
- Tudors had trouble with having children (& with the idea of heir)  the succession
between one monarch and the other was disputed and full of conflict
- Henry VIII had six wives during his long reign, but only three children (all of them would
become monarchs one day)
❖ Religion: reformation – change of religion – this change of religion in England produced
a lot of insecurity and hate in England, for there were a lot of people who weren’t happy
with the changes  enemies  threatening to the Tudors
- external threats: external people wanting to damage the English rule (e.g. Spain and
France as the worst enemies)

The ‘Tudor myth’

❖ one of the most powerful dynasties in British history
- myth meaning something unreal, relates to the idea of how the Tudors have always celebrated
who they were as a dynasty and created great stories about themselves in order to further their
- the idea of the Tudors was celebrated and talked about at the court of Henry VIII
- William Shakespeare wrote history plays and incorporated the Tudors in his writings up to some

Based on three main themes that contribute to the Tudor myth:

1. Emphasis on the rottenness of the medieval church – religious practice and the medieval church
was so corrupt, it had to be changed. The Tudors were successful at doing so.
2. The idea of an English monarchy and of ‘Englishness’ itself fostered and developed English
patriotism. This patriotic worldview created English identity.
3. All non-English elements were excluded from the story, especially Welsh identity was
marginalized. There was this intense focus on England and the English greatness.

The Tudor myth is still alive today and it represents the idea of contemporary or modern beauty

2. Renaissance & Reformation – European trend

- part pf the early modern period - from 1500 to 1800

A new age? Can we justify calling the 16th century ‘a new age’?
Justification of calling the 16th century a new age:
❖ 1492: discovery of America by European sailors
(Many historians, especially American ones, claim that this is the single most important
date in history, which is a popular idea but very arguable.)
❖ 1492 is seen by many as a diving line between medieval history and early modern
history  only happened in hindsight, because when Columbus died, he still thought he
had discovered India
❖ England in 1500: almost everyone on the British Isles followed one coherent religion,
which was Catholicism
❖ All English, Scottish, Irish and Welsh belonged to great community of Christianity with
the pope as the spiritual leader and supreme authority

A more or less peaceful England

❖ Situation in England: the wars between England and France were now over, just like the
conflict of the houses (The War of the Roses)
❖ there was enormous potential for new developments
❖ gradual emergence of an English empire  England’s influence abroad becomes
Renaissance (French: rebirth) – Italian ‘rinascimento’
❖ ‘invented’-the idea by a rebirth was created by the scholars in the 19th century (see below)
❖ there was an immense interest arising in the 19th century regarding this period
❖ beginning of the Renaissance: hard to say, but around 1453 in Europe
(England: end of The Wars of the Roses; Europe: fall of Constantinople and the end of the
Byzantine empire in Europe)

‘Inventors’ of the Renaissance

• Jacob Burckhardt, Kultur der Renaissance in Italien (1860)

• Walter Pater, Studies in the History of the Renaissance (1874)

• John Addington Symonds, The Renaissance in Italy (1875-1886)

What does the finalization of the Byzantine empire have to do with the Renaissance?

The changes brought by Renaissance were visible in terms of art and literature.

❖ many Byzantine or Greek scholars migrated to Europe (they were not wanted in their own
countries anymore) and enriched the continent with their knowledge
❖ the revival/rediscovery of Greek and Roman antiquity is the most crucial element of the
❖ Renaissance in art: in terms of subjects and architecture (e.g. Gothic and Mediterranean)
❖ Celebration of the human body in art (before this the human body was only present in the form
of Christ on the cross)
❖ Humanism is linked with the Renaissance, they go hand in hand; ‘you can’t think of the one
without the other’

❖ a philosophy that puts the human being and its potentials in the center,
❖ replaces Scholasticism (medieval religious practice of looking at texts and phenomenon)
❖ Closely linked to humanism is a technological innovation which was the printing culture
and press in Germany and in England with Johannes Gensfleisch aka Gutenberg (ca.
1400-1468) and William Caxton
❖ Gutenberg is seen as one of the most influential people of all time, because the
invention of the printing press changed everything (e.g. it changed literacy levels,
changed how information spread and generally speaking, the whole way of looking at
life through the newly earned knowledge)

More Renaissance Facts

❖ many classical texts had already been known during the Middle Ages, but they had been known
in Latin translations but not in Greek
❖ Renaissance scholars revived Greek as a language of learning  massive cultural exchange and
❖ Latin remained the language of learning, but reading original texts in Greek was seen as a virtue

Renaissance & Reformation

❖ Reformation originated in Germany and Switzerland with Martin Luther, Calvin
and Zwingli
❖ the idea of a new way of looking at God apparent in writings
❖ there have been religious reform movements in history before (Lollards in England), but they
were not very successful at spreading it
❖ The reformation was very powerful and it changed how religion was practiced
❖ originally, the attempt of the inventors was to reform the Catholic church and not to bring about
a new Christianity

Why was the catholic church so bad? Why did Luther, Calvin and Zwingli want to
reform the it?
It was too

- worldly: didn’t focus much on spiritual affairs

- greedy: it only wanted to magnify its wealth
- not very spiritual: it didn’t really care about the relationship of the Christians with God.

These factors brought forward the rise of Protestantism as a rival fraction of the Catholic church.

❖ the Protestants refused to accept the pope (and its cardinals and bishops) as the dominant
religious authority
❖ protestants emphasized that there was no need for the pope, but rather the individual relation
to God was the most important factor
❖ everyone could practice religion, so there was no need for an interference of other institutions
 only God, the individual and God’s word, the Bible

Influence of the Renaissance on Reformation

❖ scholars call it a spiritual renewal
❖ Martin Luther challenged the papacy with his thesis
❖ Martin’s influence grew and spread beyond Germany, reaching England in the 1520ies
❖ Martin’s success was also due to the fact that there was a widespread dissatisfaction with the
church anyway
❖ he didn’t create the storm regarding the medieval church, he just took the opportunity and did
something effective about it

Henry VIII and the Break with Rome: The English Reformation
❖ Henry was very interested in religion, heard sermons for hours on a daily basis, wrote religious
texts etc.
❖ Henry’s wife didn’t bear him a male heir; she only gave him a daughter, but Henry needed a
male heir for his succession
❖ Henry wanted to divorce Catherine of Aragon because she was already 40 and she would
probably not bear him a male heir anymore, so Henry informed Pope Clement VII that he
wanted a divorce
❖ Pope had to allow the divorce but he refused
 reason: the pope was very much in tune with the French and the Spanish: Katherine was a
Spanish princess
❖ Henry couldn’t legally divorce her, he decided to get rid of the pope’s authority in England

❖ he started a gradual abandonment of the allegiance of England to Rome and the Roman church
❖ he used several laws to do this:
• Act of Appeals (1533) – proclaimed that the king was the sacred emperor and that
authority comes from the king and not from the Pope
• Act of Supremacy (1534)- made the English king the highest religion authority in
England, he became the supreme head of the church
• Act of Succession (1534)- tackled the idea of royal succession without the interference
of the pope
• Act against the Pope’s Authority (1536) – the pope shouldn’t have a say on religious
‘matters’ in England
❖ This string of acts together finished the link between the Roman church and England

The pope’s power was gone, Henry married a few other women:
❖ Anne Boleyn (the mother of Queen Elizabeth, no son, but gave birth to the future Queen)
❖ Elizabeth in 1533, still no male
❖ Henry then married Jane Seymour, she brought forth a legitimate male heir, Edward VI (Jane’s
childbirth lasted two nights and three days, she became ill and died)
❖ Anne of Cleves (divorced)
❖ Catherine Howard (executed in 1542 for adultery)
❖ final wife was Catherine Parr

The English Reformation

❖ the English king didn’t change religion out of spiritual problems or religious convictions, he
wasn’t really interested in changing anything at all apart from the authority (in terms of
theology the new Anglican church remained very similar to the Catholic church)
❖ Henry’s advisers persuaded Henry that remaining too similar to the Catholic church was a
mistake, because you wouldn’t be able to convince the people that something new has started
❖ only then did the Anglican church start to build up an own way of practicing religion
❖ the most visible strategy of change was the dissolution of the monasteries (had been in England
for centuries and centuries, but they were closely linked to the Roman church
 Henry decided to abandon the monasteries and the monks)
❖ great advantage: monasteries were very rich and the monks controlled almost one sixth of the
English land  powerful, wealthy land owners  Henry could grab the land of the monasteries
as a result of his policy
❖ he used the money of the monks to spread it and give it to his barons and the loyal supporters
of the aristocracy
 distributing the land of the church to his own supporters created a very loyal base to the
English reformation
❖ England hadn’t seen such a redistribution of land since the Norman conquest (500 years before
when the Normans got the land of the Anglo-Saxon elite)
❖ very different from continental Protestantism: the king was the head of the church in England,
which was very unusual

Henry VIII and the Break with Rome: Legacy

❖ ^very few English kings who had the same impact as Henry the VIII
❖ he changed the makeup of the English society and had a great impact on people regarding
❖ Henry died as one of the greatest English monarchs of all time
❖ he had established the church of England, an institution that has survived until today
❖ changed religion but rebellions have been avoided during the reign of King Henry
❖ Henry had to fight the pope and Catholic dogma, but he hadn’t adopted a protestant alternative
because his dissatisfaction with religion was purely personal

❖ wealth and power in the center of the Catholic church
❖ the protestant church’s conviction wasn’t based on wealth but rather on a church that
allowed people to ‘meet God’ on a personal level
❖ direct meeting with God, church as no worldly institution
❖ protestants abandoned the colorful ways of Catholicism, the Protestant religion was
much more logical
❖ most people in the villages were not interested in the Anglican church because they
liked their colorful traditions and rituals (they stood for Catholicism)
❖ term ‘puritan’ – used as a very negative, abusive term – someone who would be a
religious rebel
Edward VI and Mary I.
❖ Henry VIII died in 1547
❖ his son Edward VI (only 9 at that time) was crowned, he needed
advisers to guide him
❖ Edward VI died in 1553
❖ Lady Jane (16) proclaimed Queen of England, she was only
Queen for a couple of days and then she was imprisoned and beheaded by those fractions
that were not happy about her crowning

❖ Queen Mary I: 1553-1558 – first child of Henry VIII became the Queen of England
❖ she reigned for five years
❖ often called Bloody Mary (John Foxe’s Book of Martyrs (1563)): when she first came to the
throne, she married a Spanish prince, and Spain at that time still had the Catholic faith
❖ Mary was keen on bringing England back on the road of the Catholic faith
❖ she saw it as her great mission to introduce Catholicism to England
❖ abandon the reformation that her father successfully carried out
❖ she is most famous because she imprisoned more than 280 protestants and then burned them
on stakes

The Impact of the Reformation on the British Isles

❖ results of the Reformation in the Isles were very divisive (especially in terms of religion)
 the reformation in England also divided communities or groups from each other

The British Isles:

❖ Scotland became protestant and founded its own church: the Scottish church (distinct from the
Anglican church)
❖ Ireland remained Catholic

Religious and cultural isolation as a result of the Reformation

❖ it cut off the British Isles from the rest of Europe (France and Spain remained Catholic), so the
countries became rivals
❖ Catholic minority in England, not all English people accepted the new faith (no coherent group
of worshippers in England)
❖ nearest friendly ports for Protestant ships from London were in Germany Bremen and
Hamburg, French and Spanish ports were seen as hostile
❖ religion was seen as the dominant factor shaping one’s identity

3. The Elizabethan Age

Elizabeth I. (1558-1603)
❖ when Queen Mary had died after five years on the throne, the third child of King
Harry followed her to become a monarch
❖ ascended the throne at the age of 25, nobody thought that she would reign for
a long time because she was a female, so everyone doubted her
❖ her advisors pressed her to find a suitable partner and to marry a French or a
Spanish prince  would help England a lot, because of their Catholic powers
❖ ‘Virgin Queen’ because she chose not to marry

❖ interested in bringing religious peace in England  she wanted to solve the problems linked to
her sister’s rebellion on the throne
 religious settlement of 1559: ‘Act of Supremacy’ & ‘Act of Uniformity’ (established in
common Protestant ritual) – two laws that tried to achieve religious tolerance and a common
protestant ritual

Mary Stuart (not Queen Mary, she was daughter of the French Queen, Queen of the Scots
from the age of 6, she was also the cousin of Elizabeth the 1 st
❖ there were struggles for power in Scotland and she had lost her husband; she remained
vulnerable and decided to escape to England
❖ the favorite of all those Catholic people in England (she was a Catholic)
 many claimed that she was the rightful heir to the kingdom of England
❖ Elizabeth put Mary Stuart under arrest – remained that way for 18 years – she was
discovered in making plans to push Elizabeth off the throne and to murder her even
(Catholic plot)
❖ Elizabeth had to decide to have Mary Stuart executed – DEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAD
❖ her reign seemed more secure after executing her cousin

Literary history:
❖ 1586: Mary Stuart lured into giving consent to plot to murder Elizabeth,

Catholic plot, beheaded

❖ Schiller’s play Maria Stuart (1800) which sentimentalizes the Scottish Queen as a Catholic victim
❖ Elizabeth is the heartless one killing the innocent Mary
❖ reality was a different story

4. Scotland, Wales and Ireland in the 16th Century


❖ Scottish Reformation in the 1560s

❖ famous figures are John Knox, Scots Calvinist
❖ Henry the VII had already married his daughter to James IV of Scotland
❖ connection between the Tudors and Stuarts very early on (will become crucial after the Death
of Elizabeth)
❖ Scotland remained a fully independent country throughout the 16th century
❖ great achievement of the Tudors: managed to loosen the connection between Scotland and
France (Bell alliance struggle)
❖ due to these marriage between the Tudors and the Stuarts this danger evaporated  English
was safer than before, because the Scottish were not its enemies any longer
❖ the Scottish had their own parliament and their own ruling dynasty


❖ there was no Welsh parliament nor a ruling dynasty

❖ instead there were two important laws: Acts of Union in 1536 and 1543 – it legally incorporates
Wales into the English administration  Wales became a part of England
❖ Henry VIII was responsible for these measures – managed to Wales very closely to England and
to bring them together
❖ English as sole language of administration


❖ Ireland as prime attraction for colonists from Scotland, Wales and England
❖ it had fertile ground, attractive region, not many enemies – process of colonization in that
❖ England became interested in Ireland during the rule of the Tudors
 because the population in England grew too rapidly over time, Ireland was a very appealing
destination for settlers
❖ the Irish was seen as 2nd class people, as inferior barbarians
 convinced the English that this was actually a region worth occupying
❖ Ireland as a perfect new destination for settlers
❖ Ireland remained Catholic and it could make pacts with European powers – England was still
protestant  danger to England, more English influence was required


• Ulster
• The Nine Years’ War (also known as Tyrone’s Rebellion): 1594 to 1603

5. Foreign Policy
England in the 1600s – approaching the final years of the Tudor Age

❖ new safety for England: the French did not seem interested enough in warfare with the English,
the Irish were mainly controlled by the English, the Welsh have been elapsed by the English, the
Scotts had been made more compromising and obedient within the English and Scottish ruling
❖ heart of England became one of the safest locations in the world – there was less violence in
England than in other European regions  sign of a very well-organized administration
❖ England must’ve been quite well governed in that period

The Race for the Globe

❖ Spain was not only an enemy in terms of Europe and religion – Spain was the first to exploit the
discovery of this new continent America by claiming immense parts as Spanish colonies
❖ Spanish increased their power in Europe to a great degree
❖ the English realized they should also start some kind of exploration and occupation of those
foreign lands
❖ England envied the Spanish because of the gold and the silver they brought from America
❖ they were preoccupied with the reformation and the idea of succession, it was the first in the
very late 16th century that the first geographical expeditions took place,
❖ the English were too late and by 1600 there was still not a single English colony
❖ the first American presence of the English only happened in1606: first successful English
settlement (Jamestown)

Foreign Policy: The Role of Maritime Ventures

❖ 1600: foundation of East India Company – economic venture to exploit trade with non-European
❖ the English imitated the Dutch, the Dutch had founded their own company before

Specific economic theory: theory of mercantilism

- there’s only a specific amount of wealth available in the world and this wealth will always stay
the same - it will never get bigger or smaller, so every nation has to grab as much as possible of
that wealth
- the strength of a nation defined by exporting more than importing
- foreign colonies were seen as glittery assets, they would promise more wealth, since you could
export their goods to their colony  you could use the resources of the colony
- first steps in colonization by the English were made amongst others, by the famous English man:
Sir Francis Drake: ship The Golden Hind
- he was sailing around the world
- the Spanish and the Portuguese were the first around the world
- the English were late, but at least they started their expeditions
- Drake was also famous for attacking famous ships (going home from America, full of gold –
English ships trying to attack many of them in order to get the riches – unofficial warfare going
on between Spain and England as a result
- Spanish: The Armada (1588) – an army collected together by the Spanish ruler and 1588 the
Spanish monarch decided to invade England – 1066 last invasion – 500 years we this potential
invader – it was mainly ships carrying Spanish soldiers to be unloaded in England, fighting their
way across to London and taking over the English regions- enormous unrest, the English knew
something was coming – they were afraid that the Catholic minorities in England would sign
with the Spanish and make it more difficult for England to defend itself. The English were lucky
because a succession of stormy weather dispersed the great Armada- many ships were
destroyed in storms and the idea of an invasion seemed remote – defeat of the Spanish Armada
by the English- the English battled those ships.
Selected Further Reading

• Hattaway, Michael, ed. A Companion to English Renaissance Literature

and Culture. Oxford et al.: Blackwell, 2007. Print.

• Kearney, Hugh. The British Isles. A History of Four Nations (revised

edition). Cambridge: CUP, 2005. Print.

• Morgan, Kenneth O. (Ed.). The Oxford History of Britain. Updated Edition,

1984-2010. Oxford: OUP, 2010. Print.

• Davies, Norman. The Isles. A History. London: Macmillan, 1999. Print.

• Starkey, David. Crown and Country. A History of England through the

Monarchy. London: HarperPress, 2010. Print.

Lecture 7: The Seventeenth Century

Prof. Dr. Oliver v. Knebel Doeberitz

1. The Stuarts

2. Charles I and the English Civil War

3. Restoration & ‘Glorious Revolution’

What you should know:

1. Describe the origins and the outcome of the English Civil War.

2. Which factors led to the restoration of monarchy in 1660?

3. What was the ‘Glorious Revolution’ and what were its effects?
1. The Stuarts

• a new royal dynasty started with the Stuarts in 1603

• the royal house of the Stuarts was regarded as one of the least
successful English dynasties  they did not take wise decisions
• 1714: last Stuart monarch on the throne

Who were the Stuarts?

• James I (1603-1625)

• Charles I (1625-1649)

• Charles II (1660-1685)

• James II (1685-1688)

• Mary II (1689-1694) (William III; 1689-1702)

• Anne I (1702-1714)

The Acts of Union (1707, 1800/1801)

Unification of England and Scotland in 1707

Union of the Crowns in 1603 (parliamentary union)

1603 was a key date because:

There was a unification between Scotland and England. King James had
been king of Scotland for 36 years. Up until the beginning of the 17th
century, England and Scotland were two independent kingdoms.
Unfortunately, Elizabeth I, the Queen of England died unmarried and
childless. The English crown is always passed down to the next available
heir. This time it was her cousin James VI, who was the King of
Scotland at that time. As a result, England and Scotland now shared
the same monarch, that’s what we call the union of the crowns.

There was one crown for James I, but he was the king of two

So why did they choose James the 1st?

✓ He was male- easier to have a male successor, for there would be less arguing and
✓ He was protestant (which was very important)
✓ Very interested in the job, was the son of Mary Stuart who had been beheaded by
Queen Elizabeth
‘Union of the Crowns’ in 1603

❖ the Union of the Crowns was a great advantage for the English, because they
felt they could remove the enemy in the north
❖ made it almost impossible for the English and Scottish to go to war against each
other, but they did go to war
❖ after three years on the throne, he decided there should be one flag for
England and Scotland

James I and Great Britain – James’ aspirations to bring about a unified kingdom

❖ he was interested in having a homogenous nation, so he introduced the terms

‘north Britain’ and ‘south Britain’ (something more general and less hostile)
❖ 1606: appearance of a common flag (national symbol), but it wasn’t accepted by
the people
❖ he gave his Kingdom of England and Scotland the name ‘Great Union’, soon called
‘Union Jack’ by the people (French expression of James was Jack)
❖ strong opposition: the English and the Scottish were not happy about this and
James’ plan didn’t succeed
❖ England and Scotland would remain separate kingdoms
❖ the British Isles remained divided into separate regions/nations
❖ James idea of calling his kingdom ‘the United Kingdom of Great Britain’ was not
successful in his time, but 100 years later his term was used to refer to Britain

2. The English Civil War & the Republic, 1642-1660

What happened?
❖ Republic: England is a monarchy
❖ 17th century:
- England was a monarchy
- there was a desire/attempt to abolish the monarchy and have a republic

Why the peculiar change of government?

- the civil war happened between two parties – the King (crown, monarchy)
VS the great rival, the parliament
- these two institutions were fighting for supremacy  it is often called
the ‘English revolution’
- in reality, this was a war focused on religion
- very similar to what happened on the European continent at the same
time: 30 Years war mainly fought in Germany

What did parliament mean at that time?

- was not the modern notion of parliament, different from today

- two chambers: the upper and the lower chamber
- the parliament wasn’t a regular steady institution in existence – they only
met when the King decided he needed to take decisions and that he
needed the help of the parliament
- sometimes they didn’t meet for years, until it was called upon by the king
and dealt with the kings’ ideas and wishes

Kings needed the parliament for two reasons:

- to make their ideas legitimate, they always needed the consent of the
- when the king needed money, he had to contact the parliament to get
their affirmation to be able to raise taxes

Upper Chamber/Lower Chamber

- Upper chamber: the members of the upper chamber were the aristocrats
and men of the church: religious holders of office and the nobility
- Lower chamber: elected, only landowners could vote at that time, about
3% of the population were landowners
- the decisions of the parliament weren’t the decision of all the population,
because only the landowners (the ruling class) had any say in this
- democracy in that period was basically non-existent

❖ King James Bible 1611

What is the divine right?

- English kings claimed that they were chosen by God, so nobody could reject or
criticize them
- divine right of kings  clever idea because it meant that the decisions of the
king were always right
- it led to a conflict between the parliament and the king
 Parliament: ‘we are powerful, we support you, we always want to participate in
-  King: ‘I am the chosen successor and I don’t need to consult anyone.’

What happened? Why the civil confrontation?

- in 1628 the House of Commons demanded rights

- the house of commons demanded rights
- Charles I seemingly accepted the demands: ‘Yes, I grant you more power and
participation in my politics.’, but then he decided to remove the parliament all
- he dissolved the parliament and he decided to rule without it
- this went well for almost 12-years, the parliament was nonexistent
- in 1640 the king realized he needed money: ‘I need to call the parliament again
to grant me money.’
- assembled the parliament and demanded new taxes
- the parliament remained strong saying he could have taxes and the money, but
only in exchange of rights and participation
- three weeks later he realized it was a wrong idea  closed parliament
- Decided to end parliament only after three weeks

 ‘Short Parliament’ of 1640 survived for 3 weeks

- only few later, Charles realized that closing the parliament was the wrong idea
- he decided to get the parliament together again
 ‘Long Parliament’, 1640-1660 survived for 20 years

Parliament deciding it was enough

- 1640: very influential

- the parliament decided to pass a bill, a law: it could only be dissolved or ended if
it agreed to it, wasn’t the decision of the King anymore
- Charles I had to react: Who has the power in the land?
- the king entered the parliament and tried to arrest some members, the most
rebellious ones against the crown, like the leader John Pym
- he entered to arrest some members, but since they were given notice before,
they were not present
- asked the speaker ‘Where are they gone?’, the speaker replied: ‘May it please
your majesty. I have neither eyes to see, nor tongue to speak in this place. But
as the house is pleased to direct me, whose servant I am here.’
- delicate situation: the parliament felt threatened by the monarch, it was custom
but Charles broke it
- unwise step by the monarch looking at it in hindsight
- the problem got worse with time, because no one wanted to back down

The Struggle between King & Parliament

The conflict between parliament and king was already existent, but there were a
few conflicts that were added to it:

- Ireland was Catholic and it was often seen as the enemy

- fear of the folk: What if Charles and the Irish Catholic rebels unite?
- the first wife of Charles was a French, Catholic princess: many feared that
Charles would threaten the English and their system of government
- the early 1640ies: view in parliament that the king is irresponsible: doesn’t take
wise measures but threatens the stability of the nation
- Religious struggles growing: formally Catholic nation of England was divided
between the Protestants and Catholics
- developments of the puritans
 radical fraction of protestant groups
 there were severe religious tensions on the way as well

Religion was a very crucial issue in the 16th and 17th century. There was the 30 Year War in
Germany, which was quite strongly based on religion. The struggle between the Catholics
and the Protestants was a broader feature of European politics in the period.

• rebellion in Ireland 1641

Puritans and Levellers

- two groups that became very dominant and famous as opponents of the king

- Puritans: characterized by: a group that advocated the relationship within the
individual and God, without any interference of the established Church
- their idea was there should be a religious democracy in England
- they were bitterly opposed to the King, they saw the King as a danger: danger to
their own goals and achievements

- Levellers: an even more radical group

- to level something means to make something equal, they wanted to abolish all
governments and establish a new and radically democratic state
- they were the more radical part of the Puritans
- they demanded that everyone should have the right to vote (not only the

The wood cut was a very dominant medium in the 17th century. Illustrations were
more important back then then they are today, because many people couldn’t
read and weren’t literate. Through wood cut and illustrations everyone could get
the message.
The Outbreak of the Civil War

- the struggle between the parliament and the king couldn’t be solved
- outbreak of war between the two groups
- the relations between King and Parliament were hopeless by 1642
 there was no common ground any longer
- since Charles felt increasingly in danger of being taken captive by the
parliament, he left his seat of power and fled to Oxford
- in Oxford he tried to build up an army to fight for his crown
- the composition of the army: no regular army in this century, only brought
together when there was a need to fight
- parliament and the king had to convince the people in the country to follow their
camp and fight for them
- early 1640ies: two armies coming into existence
- both were raised and they finally clashed
- the conflict could only be solved by military confrontation
- ‘Battle of Edgehill’ in October 1642 – marks the starting point of the civil war in
 Parliamentarians or Roundheads (because of their hairstyles) vs. Royalists or
Cavaliers (the word cavalier: chivalry, royal quality, aristocratic expression,
opposed to roundheads) – two names given to the armies
- different territories, different allegiances (King: north and west of England,
Parliament: forces in the south, south-east and London)

The Civil War- string of battles with different outcomes

- Marston Moor near York in June 1644- brutal battle with a lot of casualties -
one of the largest battles ever fought in England
- The region that supported the king shrank from year to year
 in the long run the forces of the king was inferior to the forces of the
parliament  the parliament was stronger

Why was the parliament stronger in the end? Why did the king have to give in in the end?

- Reasons: geography, wealth, army

- the south, south-east, the region of London was always the most prosperous
part of the country
- superior in resources: the parliament had the wealthiest part of the British
Isles: it could raise more money and pay more troops
- London is by far the most important economic center in England
- London was controlled by the ones who had the riches and the wealth
- the organization of the army

New Model Army: a new model of organization

➢ the officers were usually of aristocratic origin, the leaders were nobilities
➢ the soldiers are from the common people.

But! With this wasn’t the case with the New Model Army:
➢ the leader should be the one who is the most successful and not the richest
➢ based on soldiers were paid regularly; made it very stable and motivated
➢ strict discipline and training  professional armed force fighting for the
parliament (second main reason for its victory)
➢ institution that introduced the red coats: the famous red coats can still be seen
today as a reenactment of the civil war battles

The Beheading of Charles I

➢ the Civil War was over with the defeat of the Scots at Preston
➢ the parliament defeated the king
➢ they debated what to do with the imprisoned King
➢ fierce discussions:
1.) majority wanted to restore the king: ‘We need the monarchy and bring him back
to senses and make him restore our rights.’
2.) the second part thought ‘Let’s put the king on trial, accuse him of crimes against
3.) there were very radical parts in parliament that realized that the majority will
never abolish the monarchy and kill the king
Tricks of the parliament when they realized that most people didn’t want to abolish the

➢ they only let people enter the parliament who would support the radical measure of
killing the king
➢ The rest was kept from entering the building
➢ Parliament only consisted of those in favor of killing the King
➢ 46 members allowed to enter the parliament, only 26 voted for executing the king
➢ Charles decided not to acknowledge their accusations
➢ himself claimed that the parliament has no right to accuse him of anything since his
ruling was of divine nature
➢ he didn’t recognize the parliament as having the power of putting the king on trial
➢ ignoring their accusations didn’t keep him alive

 January 1649: public beheading of Charles at Whitehall in London

 the legal execution of an English King was the first in English history

 for the very first time in English history, there was no monarch (exceptional
character of this century)

New phase in English history

- new phase starting in 1649 in English history

- it is estimated that around 100.000 soldiers and civilians perished in the Civil
War, often described as the bloodiest war in civil history
- the Scottish was also involved in the conflict
- new era, new king, no monarchy
- we had a republic called the ‘Commonwealth’

The ‘Commonwealth‘, 1649-1660

- nowadays we use commonwealth in a completely different context: ‘The

Commonwealth of nations’ that links those formal colonies of Britain with more
than 50 members
- back in the day it meant a new concept ‘this is the nation that is governed for
the common interest of all people: the common wealth’
 established shortly after the king was beheaded
- No way of bringing back the monarch for those in charge
- from 1649 to 1660: England was a republic/protectorate  revolutionary period
- No monarch had ever been legally murdered before
- Scotland was fully integrated in Britain

Oliver Cromwell

- most powerful ruler of the British Isles since the fall of Rome
- leader of the new model army, the king’s fiercest opponent
- was very committed to puritanism – a very religious man
- all his decisions were clothed in religious metaphors
- most powerful ruler of the British Isles since the Romans had left
 be brought the different nations of the British Isles together: England and
Scotland and Ireland were forged into one United Kingdom
 massive military force, the military campaigns were always successful
 ruled the country as the ‘Lord protector’ (new title)  Head of state for five
- Parliament decided they wanted to bring back the monarchy (because that’s
what people were used to) and make Oliver Cromwell the king of England
- Was offered to become King of England  said no, didn’t want to take the title
of the king
- all of the British Isles were controlled by London, by one government
- King is gone, parliament firmly involved

Historians speculated ever since: What make him reject the title of a king?

- religious reasons: many soldiers in the new model army were deeply hostile of
the idea of a monarchy
- he would’ve lost the support of the influential parts of the army and endanger
his power
- Irony: Cromwell wasn’t a king; his power was bigger than that of any king before
and after in England
Why didn’t the Republic last? Why was monarchy reintroduced?

- Death of Cromwell 1658

- There was no one else with the same authority that could command
- the successor of Cromwell was his son, Richard – there was no election of the
leader, even though we had a republic and not a monarchy
- the son became the leader after the father died
- Richard wasn’t a person that could lead people and convince people the way
Cromwell did  was only in office for 8 months
- All power in England was based on the army at that time  Richard Cromwell
lost the support of the army
- Parliament decided to end the idea of a ‘Lord protector’
- Richard fled to Paris and lived there with a false name for decades until his

Why did the parliament support the restoration of monarchy?

- the reason lied in the army: dictatorship  those who governed the army had
the power
- parliament felt threatened by the army who could in one stroke take away its
- we need to control the army
- the idea of a Lord Protector was also rejected out of fear
- the parliament was familiar with the power of a king; with what he could or
couldn’t do (unlike Lord Protector, his power was immense, because it couldn’t be
controlled by the parliament and it constantly had an army)
- common people were used to having a king, they supported the idea of having a
Rising criticism of Puritans:

- were empowered, parliament was dominated by them and they brought very
strict rules with them: they believed that everyone should live their lives
according to the Bible
- If you work hard, you go to heaven, but every form of enjoyment was rejected.-
- examples: people couldn’t go to the theater, females had to dress properly and
wear long black dresses, traditional Christmas decorations were banned etc.
- people were fed up with the power of the Puritans, because they took away all
the pleasure
- they decided to support the idea of a monarchy

Consequences of the Civil War

- disintegration of English Puritanism, they were in power for 11 years but their
influence was finally declined
- the church of England weakened  realization that religious differences could
bring in a lot of conflict
- Idea: let’s tolerate all religious practice: RELIGIOUS TOLERANCE grew a lot
after 1660  Religion wasn’t that important anymore.
- conflicts over religious affairs were over, senseless, not worth the trouble
- trauma of regicide (means killing of a king)  many felt it was too far, wasn’t
the right decision to kill the king

3. Restoration & Glorious Revolution

Charles II and the Question of Succession

- parliament decided to bring back the king: Charles II was restored 1660
- Charles the first was dead, but his son was an exile in the Netherlands
- they wanted to make Charles II the king of England
- first discussions in the Netherlands with the advocates of the parliament and
the soon to be English king
- He agreed to not pursue any of the people that killed his father 11 years ago
- You can keep your power, but we keep our rights- said the parliament
- people joyfully welcomed him back in London and were happy about the
restoration of the monarchy
- reintroduction of the old traditional system of government in England
- King of partying: royal splendor, possessions, kingly power
 the less powerful the monarch was, the more powerful his demonstrations of
power became
- Power as a decoration and not as a real asset

James II wanting revenge for his father death

- When Charles took the throne, it was decided that his reign had officially
started when the father died (1648)  English trying to cover up their mistake
(reign only started 11 years later)
- one of his orders was to dig up the corpse of Chrownwell and hang him up in
public, because he was responsible for this father’s death
- basically his main purpose was to humiliate the dead man who killed his father

Churchmen and Dissenters: to descend, to move away from something, to disagree

- were the communities or people who didn’t belong to the church of England
- many formally Puritan people were now called the dissenters
- religious conflict was still there, but they were not powerful enough to start a
war (there were debates in writings, arguments about it but no military
- Exclusion Crisis of 1678-81: challenge for Charles II - parliament wanted to
decide/establish a law that there should never be a Catholic king on the throne
of England
- Parliament wasn’t successful

James II (1685-88)

• successor of Charles the second

• catholic brother James as King James II

• bedpen: when Charles II died, his brother James II became the king of England,
James the second was Catholic
• fear of reintroduction of Catholicism in the community
• they didn’t want him to introduce it again
- the parliament was relaxed about this at first since James II had no children, so
they thought that there would be another Protestant successor to the throne
- it will only be a limited period with James II on the throne ‘Let’s not fuss about
- 1688 James II’s wife gave birth to his son: brought many troubles in the parliament
because they realized there could be a Catholic successor
• many people wondered why the wife of James II gave birth to a child, for the
marriage had been childless for decades
 rising of the crazy story: ‘the child must’ve smuggled into the castle on a bedpen’
 ‘not the real child of James II’
- the parliament didn’t want a Catholic successor to the throne of England  this
brought about the Glorious revolution in 1689

- The Glorious Revolution, 1689

- fear of re-Catholization in England  had to be stopped
- the emergence of two different camps in the parliament, of the modern party
system: the wigs and the Tories
- one group that supports the king and his child  Tories
- bitterly opposed to the situation  the Whigs
- political groups that would become parties later on

The invitation of William of Orange

- the members of the parliament who were unhappy with the situation made up a plan
 Let’s invite another one to become the king of England:
• plan to invite William of Orange (Leader of the United Provinces)
- William was married to Mary, who was the daughter of Charles I
- he wasn’t a foreigner because he was married to an English princess
- very powerful Protestant ruler (which was very important)
- he was also at war with France
- Let’s make a pact with the Dutch and choose William as the king of England
- enters England together with Mary, crowned  becomes the King of England
- Mary was the daughter of James II  chased away her own father
- parliament had to use a trick to make the people accept a foreign king- this trick
made Mary and William joined monarchs
- Mary was Queen in her own right, both were rulers together  King AND Queen
Did James II fight for the throne of England?

- Should I fight for the throne against the new invader that is supported by the
- He didn’t have the power
- James fled the country

‘Bill of Rights’ – a document that removed the absolute power of a monarch

- Parliament was clever: ‘we have to have so many rights, that the king can never it
away from us’
- Parliament chose the king: King wasn’t the dominant one
- Package of laws that make it very clear that the parliament is in power and the King
is in subject of them
- the king couldn’t make decisions that the parliament wouldn’t accept
- this revolution was bloodless, no battles or conflicts
- The Bill of Rights became one of the most important documents in the history of
- the beginning of constitutional monarchy was introduced with this document
- Birth of modern Britain, modern system of government
- expression ‘Glorious Revolution’ was first used in 1689
- The Bill of Rights weakened the power of the parliament – this development was
never reversed ever since
Lecture 8

The Eighteenth century

▪ a lot of profound and fundamental changes took place -


1. The Acts of Union, 1707 & 1800/1801

2. British Politics & Hanoverian Monarchs

3. The Beginnings of Industrial Revolution

4. The 18th Century British Empire

What you should know:

1. Outline the political unifications on the British Isles

in 1707 and 1800/1801.

2. Describe the first stages of Industrial Revolution in Britain.

3. How did the British Empire develop throughout the 18th century?

1. The Acts of Union (1707, 1800/1801) - Happy Birthday Great Britain! :D -

Unification of England and Scotland, 1707

On this date, the Scottish Parliament and the English Parliament united to
form the Parliament of Great Britain, based in the Palace of Westminster in
London. The acts are therefore also known as the Union of the Parliaments.

‘Union of the Crowns’ in 1603

▪ the first attempt of James I wasn’t successful
(James was the first, who had this idea of uniting England)
▪ But! the English realized it’s better to have a union with Scotland that is also formally and
legally binding (and not just having one monarch who wore two crowns)
▪ England and Scotland have been separated throughout the 17th century, but this was a
new secure period with new ideas ‘Let’s unite England and Scotland!’

Queen Anne
▪ she receives the documents that outline the ideas of the Union and those legal acts
▪ the idea was let’s dissolve the Scottish parliament, because the Scots don’t need their
own parliament
▪ Great Britain was founded with the Act of Union
▪ there was no separated England any longer
▪ Wales was conquered by Edward I in the 13th century, it was linked to England in a
formal way with Henry VIII, he decided Wales has to belong to England
▪ England and Wales had been joined before, now it was the turn of Scotland
▪ it was not a symmetrical union: the English were in the strong position, the Scottish had
a weak role

England’s benefit from the Unification:

▪ the benefit for England was mainly that Scotland would stop being an ally with France
(which had been the problem for centuries)
▪ through the unification, the English lost the rivals in the north
Scotland’s benefit from the unification:
▪ England was very powerful in terms of wealth, it had already acquired American and
Caribbean colonies
▪ the Scots didn’t have access to such wealth before

Unification of England and Scotland, 1707

▪ people didn’t really celebrity this union, it was more seen as a very practical step
▪ the English saw it as an annexation ‘Yay. Now Scotland is added to England as well.’
▪ from this period onwards, there would be a British state, a British monarchy, a British
Parliament (instead of an English and Scottish one), a British Government, a British
Empire, a British army etc.

Unification of the Kingdom of Great Britain and the Kingdom of Ireland, 1800/1801:
▪ there was still one region of the British Isles missing
▪ another ’Act of Union’ took place in 1800: it was decided that Ireland should formally join
Great Britain as well
▪ Ireland was included in the Union flag (see above)
▪ one Parliament of the United Kingdom
▪ in 1714: British kings were automatically declared kings of Ireland as well
▪ Ireland consent 100 members to the House of Commons in Westminster, but it lost its
▪ from that point on, there was only one parliament in Britain in London
▪ first time in history: the whole of the British Isles was places directly under one British
ruler  crucial significance of 1800/1801 in the history of Great Britain

2. British Politics, Society & Hanoverian Monarchs

The Hanoverian Succession, 1714

Why would the English invite Hanoverian (German) nobility to become the ruler of
Hanoverian rulers were picked to become king of Great Britain. 30 years before the English
were getting someone from the Dutch to fulfil that purpose, but now the English were inviting a
German nobility to become the king of Great Britain. The reason for this is that the Hanoverian
dynasty was the closest to the throne of England. There were a lot of other nobles that could’ve
been picked, but they were Catholic. The Hanoverian dynasty became the focus for the future
monarch, because England DIDN’T want a Catholic monarch.

Act of Settlement 1701:

▪ another legal process
▪ this settlement made it clear that the next monarch would be Sophia of Hanover (the
granddaughter of James I)  Protestant relative

Why did the English need to pick another monarch again?

▪ Queen Anne was the last Stuart monarch on the throne
▪ unfortunately, she had 14 pregnancies but none of her children survived for more than
ten years
▪ Queen Anne tried desperately to raise children on her own, but that wasn’t granted to
▪ the English needed a new monarch, since Queen Anne was the last one belonging to
the Stuart dynasty  reason for the Hanoverian succession

George I

▪ only a very short period before Anne died in 1714, Sophia of Hanover died as well, so
the next monarch should be Sophia’s son
▪ crowned in August 1714: George I – he was the first one to be crowned as a British
▪ the four Georges reigned until 1820 – period called Georgian England
▪ when George I arrived in 1714, he couldn’t speak any English (this remained the case
until the end of the reign – the British had a king of the throne who wasn’t English and
who didn’t speak any English)
▪ he imported his most important advisers from Germany  strange situation  the very
top of the British society was made up of German people
▪ the English noblemen didn’t like this at all  they saw it as a foreign dynasty
▪ the British important a new Hanoverian monarch, but this wasn’t as important as it
would’ve been 200 years ago – being a British king wasn’t what it used to be  decline
of monarchy ongoing since the Civil War – Parliament was the boss :D
▪ the power of the monarchy decreased with the Georges on the throne

The son of James II

▪ when the Glorious revolution took place James II fled to France

▪ he escaped to France and he had a son
▪ the Stuarts were still in exile trying to persuade other European nations in their fight to
regain the crown of England
▪ throughout the early 18th century, the English were in fear of the exiled king coming back
and trying to invade England

The Rise of the Gentry – top group within British society

- a shift within British society
(L. gentis “clan”, “extended family”) means ‘well-born and well-bred people’, in England the
minor aristocracy
▪ rose to more dominance throughout the period
▪ rulers, landowners of the country
▪ idea of a gentleman arising: someone who didn’t work, because he had land and his
income was provided by his land and estates
▪ being a member of the Gentry always made you inferior in terms of ‘the aristocracy’
above you
▪ they imitated the aristocracy, the upper class was the ‘fashion model’
▪ then the middle class imitated the Gentry as the next higher level of respectability in
British society
▪ many of them were very conservative
▪ the Gentry built the fundament of the Tory Party that developed throughout the 18th

The Rise of the Middle Class – another shift within British society
▪ non-aristocratic parts of society and those who did not do any manual work in
agriculture, manufacture and industry  they did not own land
▪ the origins of this level of society can be found in the medieval period: bankers, traders
▪ many of them had a commercial background
▪ reasons:
- growth of commerce and trade throughout the era
- the whole period witnesses a massive rise in the business of trade within the British
Isles and also with the European continent, and the established colonies
- the upper class needed clever people, who would make them richer  they needed
bankers and business men
Consequences of the rise of the Middle Class
▪ increasing literacy – more men and women (not to the same extent) learned to read and
▪ development of new gender roles – the men had to do work, the women had to stay at
home and raise children (Middle Class moral)
▪ the people beneath the Middle Class couldn’t afford the luxury of having their wives stay
at home, both wife and husband had to work to sustain their living
▪ being from the Middle Class meant that man usually earned enough to sustain his family
▪ idea of gender relations that the woman ruled in the domestic sphere (the home),
whereas the man had to go out into the world and sustain his family  this idea survived
up until today
▪ the parliament itself became more focused on the Middle Class – their political power
developed as well, it wasn’t just about aristocracy anymore
▪ bourgeois: a term describing the Middle class
▪ bourgeois revolutions in Europe, but not in England, since England wasn’t a place for
revolutions any longer

The ‘First’ Prime Minister Sir Robert Walpole (1676-1745)

▪ the first developments of the modern system of government that is still present in
Britain today –

▪ the office of the Prime Minister which didn’t exist before

▪ the Prime Minister today is the most important person in British politics
▪ origins: The Glorious Revolution of 1689, this revolution ended with The bill of Rights
▪ it changed the power within the English constitution
▪ monarchs became less powerful
▪ the House of Commons as one part of the parliament was establishing its dominance
over the House of Lords
▪ the title ‘Prime Minister’ was introduced as a negative term, the Prime Minister as a
politician who considered himself more important than all the other ministers
▪ when Whig leader Walpole became the first official Prime minister, the office gained in

What are the benefits of having a Prime Minister?

▪ British kings weren’t so powerful any longer, but they could use an outstanding politician
to influence parliament
▪ he was the link between the parliament and the king
▪ he could advocate different interests
▪ the result of the struggle between king and parliament

Introduction of parties in the late 17th and early 18th century

▪ there was a formation of political parties
▪ Why? In order to carry out a specific policy, you need people of common interest who
support you.
▪ rise of fractions: unofficial circles of people with common interests
▪ two main circles: the Tories and the Whigs
▪ the Tories stood for a conservative way of looking at the world, influenced and shaped
by the Church of English; of a religious persuasion
▪ the Whigs represented the Middle Class and partly the Gentry

Parliament & Power:

▪ the term was first mentioned in the 13th century: the king decided to get help from a circle
of advisers
▪ the 17th century: struggle for power between king (‘chosen by God’) and parliament 
struggle ended with the Civil War
▪ the 18th century: gives us a shape of the parliament as we know it today
▪ the aristocracy  The house of Lords
▪ the Gentry  the House of Commons
▪ the Middle Classes’ time had not come yet regarding power
▪ same interest: both Middle Class and landowners wanted to raise profits
▪ the Middle Class became more firmly incorporated in the system of political power
throughout the 18th and 19th century

The Public Sphere & the Coffee House

▪ coffee and tea were introduced in Europe in the 18th century
▪ the establishment of hot drinks in Europe
▪ public institutions or place where you could consume tea and coffee (expensive
products, important to the colonies)
▪ it was expensive, so it became a Middle & upper class pleasure
▪ the place where intellectual and political debates took place
▪ they provided a public venue where people could meet and discuss politics or public
▪ the owners of those coffee houses realized that if they wanted to attracted customers,
you had to provide services  you could read newspapers for free
▪ beginning of the modern media, especially in terms of print media, newspapers became
more and more common in the cities
▪ rise of the public sphere and the media went hand in hand  rise of the national interest
and debate

The Enlightenment
▪ had its roots in Renaissance (the idea of the individual)
▪ very broad movement that shaped the topic and mental life of the whole era, not just in
Britain, but also in Europe
▪ the Enlightenment developed the idea of the individual further
▪ its emphasis is on ‘reason’ opposite to ‘emotions’, but also on ‘rationality’, ‘freedom’, also
‘democracy’ to some degree
▪ the rise of modern philosophy closely linked to the ‘Enlightenment thinking’
▪ there was a stronger emphasis on Empiricism (to gain knowledge by experiencing and
observing the world) and Positivism (similar to Empiricism, rational recognition of the
world, and the idea of getting knowledge from empirical observation and experiment)
▪ medieval period: getting knowledge only from the Bible

▪ triple emphasis on reason (rationality), freedom, and (increasingly) democracy

3. The Beginnings of the Industrial Revolution

▪ term Industrial Revolution was only used 100 years later
▪ people in the 18th century wouldn’t know about the idea, it was an alien concept to them
▪ it was seen as a distinct period in British history
▪ 1830: people became observant that something enormous happened and that had to do
something with Industrialization
▪ the roots of this can be found in the 18th century

How did this revolution kick off and why did it happen in England?
▪ textile industry
▪ social change in 18th century England

First reason why the revolution took place in England:

workers in England were paid more money, than the other ones in the European continent – for
the same activity you would earn more there than it France or Germany  example: if you are a
trader or a business man, your interest is to pay your employees as little money as possible in
order to make a profit, but if the workers are too expensive, you have to think about how you
can reduce the amount of your workers  let’s find something that could replace the labour of
the workers  innovation and machinery  motivation for British businessmen to discover ways
to replace human labour  technical revolution

(opposite to England was India: it had millions and millions of workers and a huge textile
industry, but the workers were so cheap that no one needed to think about changing anything)

Second reason
You need a great source of energy for machines to work properly. The main source of energy in
the 18th century was coal. Britain was very rich in coal and it was very cheap to gain it.
Third reason
We must go back to the Glorious revolution in the 17th century, when the Bill of Rights was
established. This document protected the interests of commerce and of trade. If you were a
businessman, you could invest your money without having to fear loss, since your business was
protected by the government. The constitutional monarchy granted you the security of no one
being able to take away your assets.
The fearless investments in technology and machinery by the British businessmen pushed
forward the British economy, making Britain more advanced than any other country in the world.

Steam Engine
▪ enlightened thinking and emphasis on experiment  let’s improve and experiment
▪ important invention: steam engine (Thomas Newcomen, 1705, improved by James Watt
in 1769)
▪ there was no Industrial Revolution in 1705, but James Watt improved it in 1769  made
all the difference, because it was cheaper and more effective to use steam engines
(replacing manual labour)
▪ first use of steam engine was in coal mines
▪ also applied in the textile industry

Consequences of Industrialization
▪ losers of the industrialization: many small manufacturers in the villages lost their income
 unemployment
▪ the factory system changed the landscape of British labour
▪ the British could produce textiles for a very cheap price, no one else could compete with
▪ emergence of the modern working class (18th century gives us the Middle AND the
working class)
▪ most powerful nation in the world in the course of this period

4. The 18th Century British Empire

The Early 18th Century
▪ the British went abroad in the 18th century

’War of Spanish Succession’ (1702-1713)

▪ France: the most famous French king, Louis XIV made France the dominant nation in
Europe, now it was the renewed enemy of England
▪ the War of Spanish was a conflict between the British and the French (also some
Germans involved)
▪ Britain was on the side of winners
▪ Treaty of Utrecht 1713 in the Netherlands: gave French and Spanish territories to the

Developments in America
▪ string of colonies developing on the eastern coast of America
▪ 13 British colonies that helped the British gain international recognition and dominance

James Thomson & David Mallet:

‘Rule Britannia’ (1740):

When Britain first, at heaven's command,
Arose from out the azure main, Arose, arose, arose from out the a-azure main,
This was the charter, the charter of the land,
And guardian angels sang this strain:
Rule Britannia! Britannia rule the waves.
Britons never, never, never shall be slaves.
The nations, not so blest as thee,
Must in their turn, to tyrants fall,
Must in, must in, must in their turn, to tyrants fall,
While thou shalt flourish, shalt flourish great and free,
The dread and envy of them all.

The 1750s and 1760s – making Britain the number one in the world
▪ Seven Years’ War (1756-1763): the British decided they wanted to beat France, but it
was difficult to beat the French since they were super powerful
▪ the British looked for other territories that weren’t content with France
▪ they made a pact with Prussia, stating that Prussia would attack French territories in
▪ France would have to fight against several armies and their chances of success would
be low  exactly what happened
▪ the French were beaten in those seven years
▪ successes of the Seven Years’ War: British attacked trading points of the French in
America, they seized French ships, they invaded French territories in America and in
Canada  first global war, France and Britain fighting in America, India and in the
Caribbean regions
▪ the British won this war, humiliating defeat for France,
▪ Britain won the main areas of the French territories in America, they gained Spanish
Florida, the Caribbean islands (also from the French) and in India
▪ ‘annus mirabilis’ of 1759: Britain gained a lot of military victories, which changed the
relations of global power

Europeans in India
▪ they have established trading points on the Indian coasts, to trade with the very rich
Indian and Chinese regions
▪ the Europeans were rivals
▪ a string of European conflicts took place in India between France and England
▪ finally, the British established their dominant on the Indian subcontinent as well

Regions where the British established their dominance

The West Indies – not India, but a Caribbean region
▪ ’jewels’ in the Crown
▪ assets of the Caribbean islands: they were used as colonies for sugar and tobacco 
Barbados (1627) as first great English sugar colony
▪ advantage of Caribbean possessions: valuable source of income and riches
▪ 18th century: sugar islands like Jamaica, Barbados were more important for the British
than those 13 colonies in America, because they were the wealthiest colonies in the
British empire
▪ The Slave Trade: gained in importance
▪ Slavery: Why did they import slaves from Africa? Europeans realize it was much more
difficult to enslave a population in their own land. You can’t make slaves in the country,
where the slaves were born. You had to relocate them to another place in order to
supress, exploit them and use them as a labour force.
▪ The slave trade triangle: Europe/Britain, North-America, West Indies and Africa – British
traders shipped poor slaves to Africa, sold them in America, took the natural resources –
bringing these resources back to Britain and selling them  circle of very profitable

The American War of Independence (1775-1783) – Britain also had some losses
▪ American Revolutionary War (1775–83, also known as American War of Independence)
▪ British settlers in America became very dissatisfied with the idea of having to pay taxes
to Britain, without any political representation
▪ 16 December 1773: Boston Tea Party
▪ July 1776: American Congress issued the ‘Declaration of Independence’
▪ war ended with American victory in October 1781
▪ ’American revolution’ of 1775-1783: parallels to the civil war of the 17th century, between
the cultures of Church and dissent (Puritans)
▪ the British lost the American colonies in the 1870ies  major setback of the British
▪ ‘First British Empire’

▪ huge difference between India and America
▪ in America, the British didn’t need any severe resistance, since the American coast was
thinly populated and the British were superior (military technology)
▪ India was completely different – the British met an ancient civilization that was very rich
and powerful
▪ the strategy of colonial rule was very different in India
▪ the British couldn’t just go to India and rule it like they did with the American colonies
▪ idea of an informal rule
▪ if we want to exploit this huge region, we need to make pacts with the local leaders ‘we
have to leave them in power, officially’, otherwise we won’t be able to control them
▪ ’Second British Empire’:
▪ ’India Act’ (1784):

It is commonly reported that the colonisation of Australia was driven by the need to address
overcrowding in the British prison system, and the fact of the British losing the United States of
America from the American Revolution; however, it was simply not economically viable to
transport convicts halfway around the world for this reason alone. Many convicts were either
skilled tradesmen or farmers who had been convicted for trivial crimes and were sentenced to
seven years, the time required to set up the infrastructure for the new colony. Convicts were
often given pardons prior to or on completion of their sentences and were allocated parcels of
land to farm.

Sir Joseph Banks, the eminent scientist who had accompanied Lieutenant James Cook on his
1770 voyage, recommended Botany Bay as a suitable site.


A Cultural and Political History of the British Isles

Lecture 9: The Nineteenth Century I
Prof. Dr. Oliver v. Knebel Doeberitz


1. The Industrial Revolution

2. The British Class System

3. The Age of Reform

4. Beyond England: Ireland, Scotland, Wales

What you should know:

1. Describe the British class system in the 19th century and pay particular

attention to the rise of the working class.

2. How did political reforms in the 19th century respond to a rapidly

changing society?

3. Comment on the main aspects of the Industrial Revolution.

The Victorian Age:

▪ the 19th century is often called the Victorian Age, which isn’t quite correct
▪ the Victorian era began with Queen Victoria on the throne of Britain in 1837, which was toward
the middle of the 19th century


▪ another concept to describe the period, especially the clichés about the Victorian age as a very
strict moral period and also as the rise of very fixed gender roles
▪ 1850ies onwards: British people considered themselves living in the Victorian age

The Victorian Age: Queen Victoria (1837-1901) – 64 impressive years on the throne

▪ the number is superseded by Queen Elizabeth, who is now on the throne of England
▪ ascended the throne in 1837
▪ she was 18 when she started reigning
▪ people thought a woman on the throne is always problematic ‘It’s going to be a short reign.’
▪ no one would remember Queen Victoria
▪ she managed to keep a presence throughout the whole period
▪ the real power of a king or a queen can be quickly destroyed, but she functioned as a symbol for
British national identity
▪ strong ties with Germany – she spoke German in private, married a German prince
▪ she even became an empress (Kaiserin)

Difference between Queen and empress

▪ the Queen is the head of the state

▪ an empress is supposed to rule over kings, also from other territories
▪ being an empress was much more prestigious
▪ she was elected empress of India (one of the main British colonies)

1. The Industrial Revolution

▪ Origins: British society changed due to the innovations in the British industry
▪ Britain was called the workshop of the world’ by a famous politician (Disraeli) in 1838 – it has
become a famous expression to describe the 19th century in Britain – most powerful power in
▪ urbanization: urban spaces were reshaped by industrialization

Why in Britain?

Main differences to North West Europe:

▪ three main sections:

✓ coal (cheap source of energy, abundantly available in Britain)
✓ iron (needed for creating machines and railways)
✓ the textile industry
▪ first industrialized and modernized country in the world
▪ Industrial Revolution: three sectors were dominant: see previous lecture ☺

France & Britain?

▪ the two nations drifted apart

▪ Britain had the upper hand, France couldn’t have the same climate
▪ France had been far wealthier than Britain, but this was reversed in the period
▪ English agriculture became more efficient and profitable

Shift in the importance in the Urban centers

▪ for a few centuries, the most important financial center in Europe was Amsterdam
▪ Amsterdam was the center for the emerging financial industries
▪ the position of Amsterdam changed  London took over this position as the dominant financial
center in Europe
▪ Britain left European neighbors behind in terms of technology and finance

Cotton & Wool – The textile industry

▪ English was famous for its wool industry – even in the late Middle Ages, the English were
exporting wool to the continent, making big profits
▪ wool as main commodity in Britain (sheep farming), but cotton became more and more
▪ cotton replaced wool as the dominant commodity
▪ advantage of cotton over wool: cotton was very easy to handle with machinery (they invented
the machines)
▪ hand-operated spinning jenny by James Hargreaves


▪ were first used in the mines

▪ railways were an amazing innovation – dominant source of transport greatly shaping the new
▪ no need for using animals to get from one place to another
▪ the first railways travelled with the speed of 30 miles/hour, very fast back then
▪ doctors warned the public not to use railways, because they thought people would become
mentally disturbed by looking out of the windows
▪ it was used as a means of transport in the mines
▪ originally used in the coalfields; many of the coal fields were in the North – the North of
England gained in prominence
▪ revolution in transport, first public railway between Manchester and Liverpool developing the
early 19th century
▪ the network of railway lines changed the way people lived: it now became possible to live
further away from your place of work, since traveling was easy
▪ suburbanisation as a consequence


▪ suburbanization: towns became larger, many parts of the towns situated on the outskirts
▪ urbanization: the movement of people from the countryside and the villages to towns and cities
▪ people would travel in the center every day and come back in the evening
▪ first state to generate a predominantly urban society
▪ rapidly growing cities: Manchester, Glasgow, Birmingham  industrial powers
▪ new industrial towns: only developed with the Industrial revolution, these were the places
where the factories were

Free Trade & ‘Great Exhibition’

▪ British economy in the 1850s and 1860s: extraordinary success, decades where the wealth
of Britain was most superior
▪ Philosophy of ‘Free Trade’: the state should leave its hands off the economy and not
interfere  ‘economy works best, when left alone’
▪ ‘Great Exhibition’ of 1851: decisive year because for the very first time in British history
more people lived in towns and cities than in the rural areas
▪ not so perfect living conditions in the cities: polluted water, diseases etc.
▪ period with lots of poverty
▪ self-health and individuality in the Victorian age: everyone is responsible for himself,
everyone can provide for themselves – no one needs support from the state

How did the Victorians know that they were ahead of the world?

▪ crystal palace: building erected in 1851 to host the Great Exhibition

▪ they wanted to show the power of their economy
▪ has become the symbol of British dominance in that period
▪ British businessmen and factory owners showed off their new inventions to the world
▪ amazing architecture, the whole construction of the building was using glass and iron

The Evils of Industrialization?

▪ famous philosophy Marx and Engels: communism described the evils of capitalism and the
inhumane system of economy in Great Britain
▪ in their opinion, Industrialization brought about a mass of very poor workers, misery all over the
country e.g. children having to work in the mines
▪ historian’s different view: this process was often grim, but also necessary, alternatives were
worse  there had been such a dramatic growth of the population in the early Victorian period,
that it was simply necessary to have this period of innovation
▪ 1860ies, 1870ies: living standards rose all over the country, for all classes (that was the point
where Engels and Marx started criticizing the horrible working conditions  made their idea

The Industrial Revolution & the World:

▪ this revolution also changed the world

▪ Industrialization of Britain de-industrialized the Third World: in 1750 China and India were the
greatest centers of manufacturing in the world; dominant producers of textiles, but this
economic power was eclipsed by British inventions in the Industrial Revolution  Britain took
▪ the losers of this revolution were: India, China, parts of North Africa and the Middle East – the
British could produce much cheaper than they could

• Example 1: the power loom (India):

• Example 2: porcelain/pottery (China):

The Industrial Revolution & Europe:

▪ second country in Europe to have an industrialized economy: Belgium used Britain’s way of
▪ reasons: the British were very envious of their inventions, they didn’t want any other European
country to have the same technology (they would’ve lost their power of superiority)
▪ exporting machines was banned
▪ one textile machine was smuggled to Gent (Belgium) making it the second wealthiest country
▪ soon other European nations would follow this trend
▪ abolishing tolls
▪ erecting high tariff walls
▪ investing in infrastructure and transportation
▪ system of universal education

2. The Class System

The Rise of the Working Class

▪ working class gained a reputation as a distinct group from other groups: developments of
▪ new social hierarchy in the 19th century: the worker as a dominant, new force in British society
▪ between 1860 and 1914 real wages doubled

Charles Booth’s Life and Labour of the People in London in the late 1880s:
Six main categories:

1. ‘highpaid labour’

2. ‘regular standard earnings’

3. ‘small regular earnings’

4. ‘intermittent earnings’

5. ‘casual earnings’

6. ‘lowest class’

▪ between 1850 and 1914 the wages doubled

▪ there were substantial improvements in living standards for the poorer parts of society as well
▪ 1840ies: the first attempt of the working class to organize itself, to be a social force, a force
whose interests had to be considered by the ruling class
▪ closely linked to this is the movement of ‘Chartism’: named after a document called the
‘People’s Charta’
▪ the leaders of this movement called for reforms of British society to accommodate the new
situation with the new, poor working class who had no political rights
▪ target of the movement was to demand more right for the workers, e.g. the right to vote
▪ they didn’t really mention women ‘Every men should be allowed to vote.’

The Working Class: Leisure & Travel

▪ Association Football, Sports  role of sport?

- the working classes in the late 19th century had more leisure time, they didn’t have to work for
14 hours like earlier, they had higher standards of living; earning more money
- football as the product of a highly-organized urban society, in every town and city football clubs
were founded
- establishment of clubs playing against each other
▪ travel for the working class: the rise of tourism
- before people only traveled to find work, mainly
- 1880ies: rise of tourism, tourist groups organized by travel organizations
- first travel agency: Thomas Cook sending common people somewhere else for leisure

The Middle Classes

▪ decades after 1850 as ‘golden age’ of expansion

▪ reasons:
- growing wealth and prosperity lies in the development of the service sector
- services were offered more and more to those who could afford it
- the rise of a new class of professionals, professional occupations e.g. civil workers who worked
in administration, city workers in London

The Upper Middle Classes

1.) those working in the professions: doctors, lawyers, the clergy, civil servants that worked in

2.) the manufacturing middle class: owners of factories, of shops, they had their own businesses

Middle Classes: Separate Spheres (meaning there’s a separate field for men: the world of business, the
outer world & the sphere for women: the domestic, interior sphere)

• Victorian ideology:

- emphasized the public role of men and the private role of women
- the Queen and her husband, Albert were seen as role models and they embodied the idea of a
Middle class home
- it was almost impossible for a woman of the Middle Class to have a professional carrier
- there were very few opportunities of finding a job
- the nearest women could get to a carrier was a.) nursing or b.) taking care of the children of
other people (or being teachers)
- not all women conformed
- Coventry Patmore’s “The Angel in the House” (1854) – literature shaped the way of how women
should behave

The Aristocracy & Gentry

▪ continued to have great power

▪ they occupied almost all positions in the administration of the British empire
▪ they ran the local government
▪ most officers in the army were from the upper class
▪ changed least in the 19th century
▪ noble families divided their time between two residences: country house and urban, London
based way of living
The Monarchy

▪ flourished under Victoria

▪ she eclipsed preceding monarchs, Queen Victoria as an icon
▪ the more urban Britain became, the more popular, ritualized became its monarchy
▪ her emphasis on family and religion contributed to her fame with the people
▪ contradiction: the more Urban and modern Britain became, the more it was focusing on the
very traditional institution of the monarchy
▪ the monarchy itself increasingly represented a pre-modern world: very strange to the urbanized
society of the 19th century
▪ idea of a pre-modern monarchy has contributed to its consistent power
▪ the monarchy stands for continuity, for ancient institution that is not dependent on the way
society changes

The 19th century is the first century where we have photography as a medium.

3. The Age of Political Reform

▪ the structure of society was changing very fast

▪ in many other parts of Europe, there were revolutions and rebellions, where the workers rebel
against the rulers
▪ throughout the whole period, the upper class and the richest industrialists were afraid of a
▪ idea: we have to give something to the working class in order to stop them from endangering
our wealth
▪ gradual concessions to the working class that somehow appeased this group  the probability
of a rebellion declined

The First Reform Act, 1832: a string of laws in order to redistribute power in Britain

▪ most visible results: abolished 56 rotten boroughs – every borough could send members of
parliament to Westminster
▪ problem: the distribution of the boroughs was very unfair
▪ the population changed drastically in the middle of the 18th century, but the boroughs hadn’t
▪ a very strange situation: a royal borough could send 20 men to Westminster (although it had
almost no population), whereas a new industrialized city like Manchester could only send 5
men to Westminster, while it had an immense population
▪ those boroughs with almost no population were called rotten
▪ the Reform Act tried to give representation to all the new centers within Britain
▪ many got their political representation for the first time due to the abolition

The Poor Laws and the Workhouse

▪ Workhouse was an institution that was introduced in 1834 via the Poor Law Amendment Act
▪ idea: there are people in Britain that are too poor and they can’t earn a living (because of
disease, missing qualification etc.)  let’s give them work and shelter them at the Workhouse
▪ everyone should leave the workhouse as soon as they find a job
▪ very bad conditions, no one wanted to stay there out of free will
▪ a very sinister, gloomy institution mirroring the idea of the Victorian era of ‘self-health’

The Second and Third Reform Acts, 1867 & 1884

▪ 1867 and 1884 Reform Acts: had the same goal which was raising the number of those who
could vote and take part in the political process
▪ increased the electorate meaning the group of people who were allowed to vote (from 20% to
60% of adult men in the towns)
▪ still, the voting right was still not given to everybody
▪ only those that had proper jobs and owned a house/property were qualified to vote
▪ poor, no landowners were excluded
▪ the group of those who could would was made larger and larger with time (changes should be
▪ national debate allowed for the first time

Educational Reform

▪ the classical way of education was still the ‘liberal education’ (Latin and Greek) remained
dominant among those – but only for the Middle and the Upper Class
▪ 1860ies: more needed to be done for the working classes who were uneducated
▪ Education Act in 1870: made a primary education compulsory – every child had to spend a
specific amount of years in school
▪ 1880: attendance at school was made compulsory for all classes and regions
▪ the state took responsibility for the education of the children
▪ the role of the church (which had provided education before) became weaker and weaker
The 19th century is often called the Age of Reform, mainly to make the working class take part in the
political process in a minor position.

4. Ireland, Scotland, and Wales


▪ dramatic changes within Scotland

▪ struggle between west (largely industrial following the English example) and east (largely rural)
▪ had to absorb great number of Irish Catholic immigrants
▪ ‘fashionable Caledonianism’ (fashion for all Scottish things) Middle Class people started to like
the idea of an industrialized living  idea of the Scottish being very different, but having their
own unique style
▪ Queen Victoria had a Scottish servant at one point


▪ industrialism in South Wales, changing very quickly because of coal mining

▪ the north of Ireland and the south of Scotland: remained less developed and much more rural


▪ Great Famine of 1845-1849: key event

▪ there was a series of very poor harvest in Ireland, much of the potato plants was destroyed by
▪ since Ireland was very poor anyway, it got even poorer  it all resulted in a horrible famine


▪ massive emigration: it is estimated that more than one million people died due to this famine,
so several millions of people immigrated (mostly to the United States)
▪ Ireland was the only country in Europe where the population decreased
▪ Fenian Irish independence movement of the 1860s: it became more popular and gained support
in the Irish population, they wanted an independent Ireland and straightening the ties with
England  influence by the poor and miserable conditions

Lecture 10: The Nineteenth Century part 2

Test: two parts - 6-8 short questions (30 points), two short essays on two periods

The British empire in the 19th century (in the Victorian period)
What you should know:
1. Provide an overview of major developments of the British Empire in the Victorian period.

The British Empire in the 19th Century

▪ most powerful phase of the British domination

▪ the British empire stretched across all continents
▪ they were powerful every corner of the world
▪ many colonies were ruled by the English
▪ more than a quarter of the world was dominated and controlled by the British

Reign of Queen Victoria: centrepiece of British imperial history

▪ the empire changed into a world-wide structure in the second half of the Victorian period
- dominant regions of which the power of the British was based on:
- Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Africa as the white colonies (white because these
were regions of settlement, the British immigrated to these countries + Africa to some
▪ also India was one of the most precious regions controlled by the British

The role of the British in Europe

How did they view their own position in Europe?
- 1st position: the British thought of themselves as a superior race – era of the concept of
race becoming an important factor regarding identity - racism was very wide spread in
the Victorian era
- 2nd position: given to the Germans, the British saw a kinship with the Germans,
because the Anglo-Saxons were Germanic peoples, tourism was also established as a
specific part of the economy (in the middle of the 19th century tourism was linked to
Germany, many British people travelled to this country – to Rhineland specifically- was
seen as a very romantic destination)
- Germany had a lot of interesting and famous scholars, plus they were also impressed
by the rapid technological and economic developments, Germany modernized itself
very quickly (Great Britain saw a rival in Germany)
3rd position: Switzerland and the Netherlands – they seemed to be closely related to the
Germans, they automatically got this position in the upper region of the European
4th position: given to the French – difficult people for the British, they had been the
main enemy for centuries, they were quite often styled as the anti-thesis of the English
in values and virtues – they were given negative characteristics like ‘unmanly’, ‘overly
pleased with dancing and eating’, ‘dishonest’, ‘unfair’ – the English did this in order to
‘cut themselves off’ from the French and to show how much better they were

The Victorians had a difficult relationship with Italy as well, even though they loved Italy
(the countryside, the ruins, but not the people because they were Catholics). It was also
the home of the Roman empire. They liked to compare themselves to the Roman

Victorian mentality:
The source of the Victorian idea of a hierarchy between the nation was Charles Darwin’s
book. They believed in the survival of the fittest, which was actually only based on
nature, but they thought of themselves as the fittest society (the logic were: survive or
parish, the fittest one survives). This hierarchy is supposedly based on biological ‘facts’.

Reasons for the rise of the 2nd British empire in the late 18th century onwards
How did Britain manage to become the global ruler?
1.) European balance of power after 1850
- restructuring of the European landscape
- Napoleon was defeated, the French aggression in Europe was curbed/finished
- there was a new balance in Europe
- the British made sure the balance would stay, because it made them a very powerful
country in Europe
- political period in Europe, the British could direct all of their energy to their empire
and to non-European territories
2.) East Asian empires were very weak
- for 1000 years China had been the most powerful country in the world
- in the 15th century, the influence of the Chinese declined
- they didn’t have the superior weapons or an Industrialization
- this made it easy for the British to attack Chinese ports to show them who was
- the Chinese had to give in and accept British ideas of trade
- China didn’t want to trade at first
3.) Britain’s advantage over most trading nations
Most advanced financial sector – very easy to borrow money in the British system and
you could get credit and use that money to invest and ‘make’ risky operations that
advanced trade + their economy experienced ‘boom’ (… coal etc.)
4.) British colonies are markets, the British could use their huge areas to sell their products
to, to strengthen their own local economy

+ coal as another reason

Stages in the growth of the Second British Empire

1. 1788: Australia formally included within the British empire
2. Peace of Paris 1814: Napoleon defeated the French, Britain acquired some French colonies
like Singapore (French was eliminated as a serious competitor)
3. China: - had no way out of dealing with the British, it also gave some of his ports to Britain
like Hong Kong
4. Decay of Ottoman Empire: Turkey and Middle East regions – empire that were ‘declining’,
because they didn’t modernize. Perfect opportunity for the British to step in and grasp their
5. ‘Scramble for Africa’: scramble = period of heated activity, in the 1880ies the Europeans
decided to carve out the African continent and to turn it into European colonies. France,
Belgium, Britain and Germany sitting in Berlin and discussing who should own what in Africa.
For a very short period of time (10 years or so) was allocated to the European powers, with the
British gaining most of his territories. The British wanted to rule from Egypt to South Africa. The
idea was to build a railway that would stretch from Egypt to South Africa. Dream didn’t come
true, but it was an Utopian idea to celebrate British dominance there.

•6. settlement at the end of the First World War: the greatest extend of British empire was not
in the Victorian period, but after the first WW. The British got the colonies and the British also
got Germany’s Namibia, for example.

How did the British manage to rule their colonies?

They had several ways to establish their dominance.
Strategies of British Rule
- settler empire meaning ruling a region because of the British migration to it, examples
are New Zealand, Australia, Canada – ‘rulers of the regions’
- India was a huge region, it was very difficult for Britain to dominate a whole subcontinent,
the British partitioned the country (some parts of India were ruled directly from Britain,
but many parts were ruled indirectly – the Indian rulers were kept in power directly, but
the British controlled it all indirectly
- many missionaries and traders went abroad into specific regions like Nigeria, the British
realized there were resources and markets – although ruling these regions were
expensive, the British had to occupy these regions officially (always more expensive)
- many missionaries went abroad to preach Christianity and to turn them into Christians 
the power of religion was still present

 it was expensive to rule directly, so they’d support the local elites

 the British were always had the supreme military power

Biological explanation for the British supremacy from the Victorian point of view
- one dominant scientific theory was looking at the heads and skulls of people  you can
measure those heads which gives away ideas about the intelligence of the person
The Settler Colonies
- the Victorian period saw an interesting demographic developemtn, the British population
rose  many people immigrated  ‘flood’ of emigration overseas throughout the 19th
- the British promised the settlers land and financial support to establish themselves
- the British turned some regions of the world ‘white’  referring to skin colour
- the British thought ‘you can’t treat White settlers in the same way as you treat colonized
people and natives’  they gave more political power to the white regions to keep them
happy  political acts giving a lot of autonomy to the regions: ‘Dominion of Canada Act’
in 1867 and the ‘Commonwealth of Australia Act’ in 1900
- the chance of the regions rebelling against Britain was minimized

India – no information on this, lesson was over

•‘chief jewel in the imperial crown’
•Indian rebellion 1857/58:
•Government of India Act
•in 1876 Victoria declared ‘Empress of India’

Africa: Egypt
•importance? Suez Canal
•inflow of capital

•device of the Chartered Company:
•Nigeria, East Africa and Rhodesia
•East and Central Africa: David Livingstone
•‘Cotton, Commerce, Christianity’
•‘Scramble for Africa’, Berlin Conference1884: Germany

South Africa
•South Africa: colonial rule as means of economic control
•events complicated by the Boers

South Africa
•Zulu wars
•Transvaal and Orange Free State as Boer territories

South Africa: The Boer War

•1899-1902, exceptional:
•guerilla tactics
•‘concentration camps’
•‘policy of scorched earth’

A Cultural and Political History of the British Isles

Lecture 11: The Twentieth Century I


•1. Great Britain, 1900-1914

•2. The Great War, 1914-1918
•3. Great Britain and Ireland between the Wars, 1918-1939
•4. The Second World War, 1939-1945

What you should know:

1. Provide examples of the emergence of the welfare state in early 20th century Britain.

2. Describe the impact of the First World War on Great Britain.

3. What was Britain’s policy during the Second World War?

Britain 1900-1914 lasted only a few years


- death of Victoria: ‘death’ of an age (in 1901) signals some sort of death of that era
- many Victorians were convinced that an age has died as well with its economic power,
- reign of a new monarch: Edward VII
• Burial: Her body was dragged through the streets of London
• Edwardian Age lasted until 1914

Technology and Modernity

Beginning of the new century:

- developments in applied sciences, specifically technology

- new technical appliances: electric lights in houses

- first telephones

- accelerated building of underground airways

- first automobiles/cars in Britain and Europe

- revolution in the entertainment industries, beginning of films as a medium

- 1907: first cinema opening in Britain

- the Victorian world ‘vanished’, it seems quite far away due to the technical innovations  the lifestyle
of the British became a lot more modernized  start of the modern period

Beginnings of the Welfare State

The Liberal party
• won the election of 1906
• first appearance of a new party in Britain: ‘the Labour party’
(reason for the establishment of the party: the new working class formed during the Victorian era
did not have a political representation, the political power belonged to the higher levels of
• founded by working class activists and politicians
• main purpose: help the working classes to follow their political ambitions and to make life easier for
them by providing a party that would fill their political needs
• two ‘left’ parties: Liberals & Labour

Rise of the welfare state

• welfare means providing help or supervises to the poor, to those with little money
• providing a social system that makes it possible to sustain a life

• 1907: free meals were provided in schools
• introduction of pensions
• 1911: national insurance bill: compulsory insurance for workers e.g. in times of unemployment or

Achievement of the early 20th century in Britain:

• social reforms in Germany were taken as an example of how to deal with the modern industrial
• these reforms seemed very different to the Victorian age before (Victorians believed that everyone
had to look out for themselves, there was no need for a social security system, the individual must
show responsibility)
• early 20th century: capitalism was a system that had its problems, there were groups/parts of society
who needed this social security  social reforms, welfare state

Britain in Europe and the World

Germany as a potent threat

• Germany became a potent threat, it very quickly modernized its industry

• it was often more successful than Britain (in the chemical industry, for example)
• it was obvious that Britain’s peek position was in danger, Germany also wanted to establish
its own colonies (historically speaking it never had any colonies before)
• Germans declared they wanted colonies in Africa and in the Pacific  rivals for Britain

New powers replacing Great Britain’s former position in Europe

• the British economic superiority that was visible back in the 19th century was gone, a more
complicated climate for Britain emerged
• Germany, France, Russia were the new powers, gaining authority very fast
• Britain found itself as one power among many other powers
• British superiority was a fragile act, it required certain conditions
• it would be best for Britain if the European continent was at peace, then Britain wouldn’t
have to interfere with European superpowers and it could concentrate on redeveloping its
own empire
• Britain needed its colonies to be quiet, but we see the first independence movement in India
against the British colonizers (big problem for the British)
• The United States had to be an ally and not an enemy  the British had to have friendly
relationships to the USA (based on their common legacy as a colonizing power)

Biggest struggle within the British Empire $$$€€€

• the maintenance of the British empire became more and more expensive
• having many enemies and safeguarding the empire cost a lot of money
• there was a gradual increase in money that had to be given for the administration of the British
• it was expensive and it made the British question whether the British empire was still needed and
The Great War, 1914-1918


• the point that led to this process of nations declaring war on each other was the assassination of
the Austrian archduke Franz Ferdinand at Sarajevo on 28 June
• the Austrian-Hungarian empire tumbled into a major crisis
• Germany was allied with it
• the allocation of allegiance of Europe around that time
• Germany showed loyalty to the Ottoman and the Austrian-Hungarian empire
• while France, Britain and Russia also linked together in alliance
• phase of a very volatile economic activity in the years leading up to the war
• economic insecurity raised tension as well
Question: How could such smart nations lead such a ferocious, deadly war?

Book: the sleepwalkers  famous historian tries to answer the above asked question  he claims Europe
was sleepwalking into this conflict  nobody really intended it  events led to other events  no one
would back down or retreat  major conflicts came about by these policies

Early Military Campaigns

• First campaigns in 1914  there were some initial minor confrontations
• The main idea: ‘a short war’, it would be a policy of a few weeks of some conflicts but it would be
nothing lengthy
• after a few weeks into the war, it became clear that the conflict would last a lot longer
• more and more powers were drawn into it, making it a global war
• repercussions for British/interior policy for example the idea of Irish Home Rule was suspended
• originally the idea was that the Irish would be given their autonomy in that decade, but the
British realized they couldn’t let Ireland go in that period, making sure that Ireland doesn’t sign
with the enemy
• the Irish had to wait longer for their autonomy and subsequent independence
• the British started some Easter expeditions to Greece to fight against the Ottoman empire, but
these campaigns were disastrous
• within British society, there was a broad consensus that this war had to be fought
• conscription was introduced in 1916 to raise military forces

The final years, 1916-1918

• Stalemate on the western front in autumn of 1914 – Germans and French were entrenched in the
trenches and there was very little progress
• very little mobility at the trenches
• the trenches became the symbol for the First World War
• for almost three years, the frontline did not move in the West
• In June 1916 British advance on the Somme, in French territories
• this proved to be a huge failure and the British lost 60.000 men
• Passchendaele in August/September 1917: also linked with an enormous loss of lives on the side of
the British
• military innovation was there: first tanks, first air fights, first use of chemical weaponry (gas)
• the gasmask was another iconic symbol
• statistics of war for the British: 750,000 were killed, more than two 2.000.000 people were
• many of them were permanently disabled
• the whole war led to a very sceptical evaluation of military campaigns in the British public
• rejection of military by the British society upon seeing the horrible changes the war brought with
• trenches became a symbol of ‘stern resolution’  ‘we will not give up, we will not back down’ as
a British conviction in the war
• it was now clear we had a world war
• the British and the French armies forced their ways in the German lines
• the contribution of the British empire: they used troops from India, they also received troops
from New Zealand, Canada and Africa
• Anzac Day: Austrian and New Zealand army corps – commemorated in many memorials
• Australian national identity is also based on the fact that they helped out the British in this World

3 Consequences for the British Empire

• The British Empire got bigger, because the British took the German colonies in Africa, they were
given responsibility for German colonies (e.g. Namibia)
• biggest extent of the British empire after the first world war
• The British gained control over many parts of the Middle East  in Palestine, Jordan, Iraq
• dividing Syria and Iraq was an agreement between the British and the French
• the British took Iraq, the French took Syria, the boundary between those two soon to be
countries was very artificial
• larger doesn’t mean more powerful – these new territories in the Middle East the British had to
pay more to establish an administration and to provide a colonial rule over this region
• the mass of land became very impractical and difficult to rule
• India: most important British colony  growing unrest, independence movement  making it
more difficult for the British to defend and to legitimize their rule
• the British Empire was immense now, but there was this growing weakness as well, an inability to
sustain themselves
• 1926: the ‘white colonies’ (Canada, Australia New Zealand, South Africa) were given the name
‘Common Wealth’, to stress the idea of ‘equal’, given the same status as Britain and other equals
with some common interests and goals

Impact of WW1 on British Society

Nationalization of industry

• immense: coal mines, railways and shipping were taken under state control
• the government realized they needed to take care of the important tools of industry in order to
regain their power
• the era of emancipation for women: 1.) women were the prime beneficiaries of the First World
War, a lot of them served as nurses on the front and 2.) since many of the men had to fight on
the front, the women took the jobs of the men in the British industry  there were brand new
options available for women now that have not been available before

Britain and Ireland between the Wars, 1918-1939

Franchise Reforms 1918

• emancipation of women: women profited from the first world war (claim)

 1000s of them served as nurses, it was women who took the jobs of the men in the British industry

 destroying the idea of middle-class women having to stay home

• 1918 franchise reforms extended the electorate from about 8 million to over 21 million
• women gained to vote for the very first time, but only those over 30
• 1928: all women over 18 were given the right to vote
• increased the electorate in general, making it possible for every man to vote and have this
political representation

The Irish Free State, 1922

• before 1914 there was a conflict in England, the British didn’t know what to do with Ireland
• the First World War interrupted this discussion, but was taken up again after 1918)
• United Kingdom in 1914: deep rift on the issue of the Union with Ireland
• creation of the Irish Free State in 1922 (becomes an independent nation after many centuries of
English control)
• many British (especially the politicians) were happy to let Ireland go, since Ireland would pose a
lot of problems and because of Ireland’s desire for independence that was constantly disrupting
the peace within the United Kingdom
• 26 counties in Ireland became independent, forming the Republic
• only six of the counties of Ulster remained within the UK
Economics and the Rise of Nationalism
• 1920s: major industries were returned to private hands, seemed that this situation would turn
out better for the British economy
• return of Capitalism
• huge increase in the national debt
• all leading to pronounced weakness of the British government and economy  led to
demonstrations and strikes
• the beginning of national parties outside of England: Plaid Cymru in Wales in 1925 (party
established to fight for the independence of Wales), National Party of Scotland in 1928  parties
were not that influential at that time

Global Economic Depression, 1929-1935

• 1926: a widespread General Strike – several branches of industry acting together to bring down
the government and to carry through reforms
• reason for the strike was the falling living standards within the working class
• Trade Unions (who were representing the working class together with the Labour party) striking
for better conditions for workers in general
• often called the Great Depression – it was making itself felt in Germany leading to a massive
• 1930s: crash in the American Stock Exchange in October 1929, leading to the great economic
• economic recovery: in the mid 1930ies on a global scale

Monarchy in Crisis, 1930s

• crisis within monarchy and mass democracy
• 1936: Edward VIII was in love with a divorced American woman
(no-go for the British monarchy)
• either King Edward had to give up his relationship to this American
woman or abdicate
• Edward decided to marry the woman
• for the first time in history there was a king that abdicated
• the monarchy remained, its reputation wasn’t demolished
• the monarchy didn’t have any function anymore whatsoever

The Shadows of War, 1930s

the first signs of a new global conflict

• Europe in the 1930s: the rise of totalitarianism
• Totalitarian regimes established in Italy, Germany, Austria
• there was a civil war in Spain
• Europe was in total disarray
• British foreign policy was cautious in the 1920ies and 1930ies

The greatest danger emanated from Germany

• 1936: Adolf Hitler marched into the Rhineland in 1936, occupying French
• 1937: abrupt change happening
• 1938: he annexed the ‘Sudetenland’ (parts of Czech Republic)

Hitler’s occupation of territory and the reaction of European

• he created a very difficult situation for the European powers, since they
didn’t really know how to react to this oppression
• Berchtes garden/Bad Godesberg and Munich in September 1938: the
British Prime minister, Chamberlain goes to talk to the German Führer
about this conflict
• the idea was to make sure that Hitler would understand that Britain and
France would not accept the aggressive policy of occupying territories
• policy of appeasement: Hitler got away with it
• Chamberlain returned to Britain and he was waving the documents with
the signature of Hitler on them, saying there will be no further oppression
• Chamberlain’s claim: ‘I had claimed peace in our time’

The Second World War, 1939-1945

Hitler and the Third Reich

• Hitler finally invaded Prague in March 1939

• Start of the Second World War: September 1939  Hitler’s invasion of
Poland, Britain declared war on Germany on 3 September  destroying
his agreement with Chamberlain
• PM Chamberlain entered into a military commitment to defend Poland
• if Hitler attacked Poland, Britain would be in the conflict too, since it had
this alliance with Poland
• for the first time in 100 years, the British interfered again with other
nations in terms of war
• since the 1850ies there were no military struggles involving the British

Many say that the Second World War did not start in Europe, but in China with
the Japanese attacking China in 1937. Japan was also very aggressive in the
Second World War.

Britain under Attack, 1940

• they were wearing an invasion by the Germans
• they were trying to defend themselves
• 38 million gas masks were distributed along the population in order to be
safe of chemical attacks
• many school children were sent to rural areas so that they would survive
the bombing of cities
• rationing of food, clothing, petrol  rising of the war economy throughout
• impact on Britain: war was omnipresent
• at first the war did not concern the British in Britain (up until April 1940)

Britain under Attack, 1940

• April 1940: first air raid attacks on British cities by the Germans
• there were numerous attacks on cities like Bristol, London etc.
• the war was difficult for the British to fight
• the last war in Britain happened in 1066 (Norman Conquest)
• completely new situation for the British
• security of the British Isles was now in danger
• change of prime minister: Chamberlain resigned, Churchill took over
• the British Isles were in danger of being overrun by the Germans

W. Churchill and Britain’s ‘Finest Hour’

symbolic moment of British history

• Churchill now emerged as wartime prime minister, he became the symbol of British resistance
• was very famous for his speeches, he was trying to give strength to the public to be able to resist
the invasion by the German
• attacking British cities was not enough for invading those cities, because the British pilots
successfully defended airspace  it became clear to Hitler that he couldn’t defeat Britain with
this strategy
• although the ‘blitz’ on London and other cities continued, Churchill’s reputation soared
• by the end of 1940 the idea of invading Britain had passed
• another reason was that half a year later in 1941 Hitler attacked the Soviet Union, opening up
another front with the East
• Britain saw itself as the only power still not dominated by the Germans, remained independent

Britain and the Global Theatre of War

• major long-term effect on the imperial status of Britain

• the war itself had started as a conflict of the European powers
• from 1940 onwards more powers were drawn into the conflict
• there were German and British armies Northern Africa, in Egypt mainly
• ’white dominions’: concerns the structure of the British empire – the British were immediately
supported by troops from New Zealand, Australia and the other ‘white colonies’, taking part in this
• the Soviet Union became a part of the conflict, at the end of 1941 the United States entered the
war as well  not a European confrontation, but a global conflict
• Empire also threatened in Asia: Japanese advance through Malaya, Singapore and Burma  British
were afraid of India being attacked (because of its wonderful riches)
• the Japanese conquered Singapore, the British were horrified, they couldn’t safeguard it anymore,
so they handed it over to the Japanese  one of the greatest military defeats in history for the
British troops
• it became clear to the world that England could not defeat its colonies anymore and this
contributed to the idea of a British weakness (influential consequences in the subsequent decades

The Allied Forces and the Surrender of Germany

• June 1944: invasion of France from the Normandy beach-heads by Allied forces fighting back,
regaining greater parts of Europe and pushing the German armies back into German territories
• British casualties in the Second World War were far fewer than in the First World War
• the First World War was the dominant catastrophe for the British
• 1945: Hitler commits suicide, Germany surrendered in May, Japan in August, the Americans
dropped their atomic bomb over Hiroshima  end of WW2
Lecture 12
The Twentieth Century II and the British Isles Today


1. Post-War Britain

2. The Dissolution of Empire

3. Great Britain and Europe

What you should know:

1. Describe the domestic policy of Great Britain after the end of the Second World War.

2. Explain how the status of Great Britain as a ‘world power’ changed after 1945.

Post-War Britain
The End of WW2:

• the situation in 1945 was contradictory for Britain

• Great Britain was the winner of the war
 Britain with the Soviet Union, France and America were able to liberate much of Europe
• the Germans and the Japanese were beaten
• although they’ve won the war, the situation in Britain was catastrophic
 this had to do with the huge post-war debt that the British had to struggle with

 brought Britain to the brink of bankruptcy

• it led to a growing dependence on the US, who had provided much of the financial resources for
the British
• one consequence of this poor economic situation was the rationing of food and other
commodities (went on until 1954)
• the war was over, yet the British still felt like living in a ‘war economy’
• consequence of the war in Europe: brought a lot of thinking and reflecting on the future and on
the idea of a new society ‘What kind of a society do we want to become?’

The Rise of the Welfare State

• consequence of the war

• not only a British, but also a European phenomenon
• the Welfare State became more and more popular after 1945
• social welfare provided social security for the people

Beveridge report of November 1942

• the British had time to reflect about the future and how social security should be organized
• it claimed that there needed to be more programs of social security, these programs should be
paid for by taxation
• taxes had to be raised to provide for the poorer fractions of British society
 these new measures included maternity benefits (allowances given to young mothers),
health insurance was modernized, employment ensurance was another initiative
• they first have been nationalized after the First World War, then they’ve been privatized again
and then there was a greater policy of greater nationalizing major industries again e.g.
electricity, gas, road transport, coal, railways
• roughly 20% of the whole industry was taken into the public sector, making it possible to the
government to greatly influence these branches
• National Health Service introduced in 1946: institution that the British are very proud of –
provided free health care for British citizens
• the country followed left-wing policies, dominant atmosphere after the war, wanting to provide
for the citizens

• large sections of the working class had no education at all (secondary education was still not
• Butler Education Act of 1944: introduces a new system of secondary schools, makes it possible
to have a free secondary and compulsory education for everyone
 no children would miss out on education any longer
• this act helped enhance occupational mobility: it made it easier for social mobility between the
classes due to occupational careers that were open to working class children as well (because of
the extension of secondary education)
• Britain’s main policies after the war were greater social security, more education and

The Dissolution of the British Empire 1945

• in 1945 Britain was still a great power

• one of the so-called ‘Big Three’: the USA, the Soviet Union and Britain
 powers that would determine the development of the global future
• the heads of state during the second world war meeting and discussing political policies after
the Second World War
(‘once Hitler is defeated, we can agree on a peaceful co-existence’)
• after 1945 seemed as if the constellation of the Big Three would continue
• in the early 1950ies it still seemed as if the British were still powerful enough to keep up the
idea of a global power
• this idea of global supremacy was kept up until 1963
• Moscow Test-Ban Treaty of 1963, it became clear that if the UK wanted to remain powerful, it
had to borrow military capacities from the US
• it couldn’t stand on its own feet any longer  ‘The Big Three’ turned into ‘The Big Two’

After 1945 gradual loss of influence and power in global relations

Four main challenges for the British Empire in 1945

1.) The end of the British relationship with the four white dominions: Canada, New Zealand,
South Africa and Australia
- they realized that Britain could not support them at all, so the policy ended

2.) the end of British power in India (see below)

3.) the economic situation was very difficult for Britain

- it made England dependent on American money and aid
4.) the situation of the Soviet Union with the aggressive Stalin as the Soviet leader
- it became important for the English to make the US their ally, it was dependent on the US for
military protection

Indian Independence

• 1947 is often called ‘annus horribilis’ by scholars because it was a horrible year for the United
Kingdom: The Independence of India took place
• during the WW2, Indian troops fought side by side with the British, even though they were
instructed to do so
• rising Indian national congress with Gandhi on top
• it seemed as the Indians would help the British fight the Japanese in Asia, but this came with a
price: ‘after WW2 you had to give us independence’
• after 1945 and 1946 there were some negotiations between England and India
• 1947: India is released from the British empire, entering history as an independent nation
• not a peaceful transition, there were bloody confrontations in India (conflict between Muslim
and Hindu India)  results: partition of India cost more than a million lives
• still debated, whether the British were responsible for this
• the British had left very quickly, because they saw that there was no chance for them of keeping
India anyway
• India was the major asset of Britain: it brought a lot of wealth and political influence for them 
very severe reprocussion for all the other colonies
• India was the first colony to leave the British empire

The Suez Crisis, 1956

• it greatly reduced the reputation of the British in the world

• Egypt contains the famous Suez Canal: shortest route from Britain to India
• national movement in Egypt: Egyptians stressing their independence and their resistance to the
formal colonial powers
• the leader threatened to shut down the Suez Canal
• the British made a plan ‘How can we keep the Egyptians from rebelling?’
 let’s make a secret pact with France and Israel
 Israel was to invade Egypt
 then England and France would step in to clear the situation  curb Egyptian resistance
• this plan was revealed to the world, that it was a secret operation that was not in in line with
the UN policy
• it was completely against the United States’ idea of how the problem should be solved
 now we have the Americans telling the British off and threatening to ruin the British
economy by not borrowing them money (if England did not stop the operation that is)
• the British left Egypt
• British was not a player any longer, it had to follow rule made in the United States
• one of the biggest humiliation for the British, making it clear that the British Empire was over
• Britain, France & Israel
- world opinion turned against Britain


• very important process in British history

• the beginnings of decolonisation happening in 1931
 Statute of Westminster: this document gave complete independence to the White colonies
 the idea behind is: we have to give these countries total independence and because of this,
they will stand by us and help us in times of need
• India became independent in 1947
 India, Pakistan, Ceylon and Burma in 1947,
 withdrawal from Palestine in 1948 (they had occupied this territory for a couple of decades
after the First World War) from the Suez Canal Zone in 1954
 unsuccessfully tried to reinstall their power in the Suez Canal
• Africa: Kenya, Nigeria, Simbabwe and many others gaining independence as well in the 1950ies

The Decline of Britain’s Power

• process of decolonization runs parallel to Britain’s loss of power

• PM Macmillan 1960: still had the belief that Britain must be a great power
 Britain naturally belongs to the leaders in the world
 several ways of trying to validate his point:
1.) called the American leaders to unexperienced to deal with the world, it needed British
2.) it had been a mistake to grant independence to all those colonies in such a short period of
time, since those colonies were too unexperienced and they would not be able to rule properly
 needed British advice too

• January 1968: PM Wilson declared the end of Britain’s ‘East of Suez’ commitment
 those countries still linked to Britain in the Common Wealth could not expect England to
safeguard them any longer, e.g. the United Arab Emirates
• the age of British dominance was over once and for all
• by the late 1960ies Britain gave up all of his territories, there were only very few still left under
British rule

The Legacy of the British Empire

• Are there lasting signs of the empire?

 in the long view of world history: Britain’s age of world domination was only a very brief
moment (100-150 years)
The British could grasp so many colonies, because:

- the Asian empires were weak empires that couldn’t offer resistance
- there was no competitor in Europe at that time that would match the navy of the English

• their famous moment was gone after the Second World War

Britain and its colonies

• a new prestige for Britain: the peaceful liberation of their colonies (without any conflict or
bloodshed)  peaceful transition for most of the regions
• many of the young nation states kept a close relationship to the formal ‘mother country’  no
bitter hatred like it was the case with France and its formal territories

British imperialism: positive voices were heard

• most historians say that the British Imperialism is mostly seen of the great evils of world history
 British Empire greedily grasping other territories, supressing and robbing those colonies of
their wealth  gaining wealth but offering not much in return
• other historians saying there were some benefits in the British empire:
creation of an infrastructure, arrival of modern medicine, immergence of those colonial
regions into the global economy
 the expert of democracy in India (biggest democracy in the world with more than one billion

Most people condemn the British Empire.

Post-imperial Britain

• a more introspective power

• uncertain role in world affairs, they don’t really know there their position in the world is
• shift of the British as the ally of the US – 1962: provided Britain with its nuclear deterrent and
weapons – Who has the power now?
• 1997: Hong Kong was given back to China, another sign that the British had to give up their
global power
Immigration as a legacy

• Europe: there is still a British colony today, Gibraltar

• first wave of immigrants came to Great Britain from the Caribbean islands
West Indian immigration: began in 1948 with the Empire Windrush
• a ship brought workers to England with the hope that the immigrants would fill in the gap
• migration to Britain continued – more than one million immigrants arrived to Britain from India
in the 50ies and 60ies
• there were also immigrants from African colonies
• after the Indian immigrants that wanted to settle in Africa were pushed out because they didn’t
want to have anything to do with betrayers who would have anything to do with the English
• Britain offered them to settle in the UK
 migration of Indians from East Africa to the UK from 1967 onwards

The language as a legacy

• English today is the dominant language in the world

• this would’ve never been the case if the British did not start conquering America
• English is the global language of business and communication: THE LINGUA FRANCA
• the popularity of the English language is to be thanked to the British Empire

Britain in Europe Great Britain& Europe Britain’s ‘uneasy’ Position in Europe

• the British have an uneasy relationship with Europe

• the British always struggled with whether or not they see themselves as part of Europe or being
opposed to Europe
• British had the main enemy, France as one of the central European superpowers
• Britain had its own navy for centuries, the only reason to check Europe was to look for their
• it is hard for them to accept the idea of being a medium European power and nothing more 
it’s hard for them to see themselves as less than exceptional
• the British always sighted their special relationship to their colonies, this was obligation they
wanted to keep  Europe seemed boring and a lot less interesting

• 1973: Britain joined the European common market, which would later become the European
Union  they joined only because of economic reasons (it was clear that the rest of the
European countries were more successful, they wanted to benefit from them)
• joining the UN clearly not out of emotional reasons, because they decided to leave the UN once
- still 20 islands that officially belong to Britain, Bahamas for example
- all in one it’s a population of 20000 that are still British subjects
- most of the islands are very unknown for example the Christmas Island
- there was a war in 1982 for the islands of England

• most important trend of post-war Britain:

• few natural ties linking GB with European nations across the Channel