The third chapter of Life in the UK, 3rd edition is called “A Long and Illustrious History”. As the title says, Britain’s history is very long. We have divided this chapter into sections to make studying easier. This is Part 1 of the third chapter !
Britain has been ruled by many peoples over the centuries. The first peoples came during the Stone Age and were not warlike. Later countries were more aggressive and invaded Britain with their militaries. The major groups that you should know are:
– The Stone Age:
- Hunter gathers were the first people that came to Britain many thousands of years ago. These people followed animals across the land to hunt them for food. During that time, Britain was connected to the rest of Europe by a piece of land, called a land bridge. About 10,000 years ago the land bridge disappeared and the English Channel was formed.
- Farmers from the South and East of Europe started to settle in Britain about 6,000 years ago. Some buildings, tombs and monuments that were built during this time still survive today. The most famous of these is Stonehenge, in the county of Wiltshire. Another is Skara Brae on Orkney, in Northern Scotland, which contains the ruins of a pre-historic village.
– The Bronze Age:
- During 4,000 BC the people of Britain discovered how to make bronze. Many tools, weapons, and other items were made from bronze or other soft metals.
- People began to live in large group houses called roundhouses, and bury their dead in tombs called round barrows.
– The Iron Age:
- Once the people learned to create iron, the Bronze Age ended and the Iron Age began. Most tools and weapons were then made of iron.
- People still lived in roundhouses but also built hill forts, such as Maiden Castle in Dorset, which still survives.
- The first coins were also made during this time. Some were marked with the faces of the kings of the time, which allows us to know who they were. This marks the beginning of British history.
- The language spoken by Iron Age people was Celtic based. It is related to the languages spoken in Scotland, Ireland and Wales today.
At the end of the Iron Age Britain entered a time in which it was attacked and ruled by several outside peoples. There are four of particular note:
– The Romans:
- The Romans attacked twice. The British won the first attack, under Julius Caesar in 55 BC,but the lost the second attack, under Claudius in 43 AD. The Britons fought valiantly but most areas were defeated. There is a statue in London to Boudicca, queen of Iceni, one of most courageous fighters.
- The Romans were unable to conquer some areas of Scotland which were ruled by a people called the Picts. Instead the Roman Emperor Haridan built a wall to keep the Picts out. Some parts survive today.
- While the Romans ruled Britain they set up a system of law, built roads, and introduced new plants and animals.
- Christianity was introduced to Britain during the 3rd or 4th centuries AD.
- The Romans left Britain to defend other areas during 400 AD. The Anglos, Saxons, and Jutes were all tribes from Northern Europe who attacked after the Romans left. The Britons fought fiercely but by 600 BC Anglo-Saxon kings ruled much of Britain. However, most of Scotland, Wales, and some of Western Britain were still under British rule.
- The burial place of one of the Anglo-Saxon kings still exists at Sutton Hoo, which is in modern Suffolk.
- The Anglo-Saxons introduced the language that would become the basis for today’s English. They were not Christian, but Christianity spread in the south due to missionaries from Rome. Their leader, St. Augustine, became the first Archbishop of Canterbury.
- The Vikings came from Denmark and Norway and began to attack coastal villages in England and Scotland during 789 AD. They eventually formed towns and settled in these areas.
- King Alfred the Great united the various areas of Britain and defeated the Vikings. Some Vikings remained however, especially in north-eastern England, an area known as the Danelaw. Some mixed with other communities and converted to Christianity.
- In the northern area which is now Scotland, Britons united under a single king, Kenneth MacAlpin, to fight the Vikings. This was when the name “Scotland” began to be used for the country.
- The Anglo-Saxons continued to rule except for a short period when Britain was under Danish rule. One of the Danish kings was known as Crut or Canute.
- In 1066 the Duke of Normandy attacked Britain from Northern France, and defeated Harold, the Saxon King of England at the Battle of Hastings. Harold was killed in the battle and William became known as William the Conqueror. One piece of artwork that depicts this battle is the Bayeux Tapestry, which is still in France today.
- The Normans also attacked Wales and Scotland. Scotland successfully defended against the Normans. The Welsh were conquered but gradually took back some of their land.
- The Normans made many changes to British government and society, giving it the basis for what it is today. William sent people to towns all over Britain to create a count of the people, their land, and the animals they owned. This document still exists and is called the Doomsday Book. It is used today to examine life in Britain during that time period.