History of England Explained

The history of England is one of invasions, cultural-revolution, and change.

When the Ice Age ended and the sea levels rose, the low-lying land of modern-day England was swamped, creating an island.

It was first inhabited by “modern” humans during the Upper Paleolithic period but took its name from Angles, a Germanic tribe from the Anglia peninsular who settled there in the 5th and 6th centuries.

The Iron Age followed the Ice Age when hunting continued as a source of food but farming technology developed allowing the nomadic

peoples to create settlements and early farmsteads began to appear on the landscape.

Named due to the use of bronze and copper to create tools, weapons and decorative items by peoples known as the Celts, the Bronze Age existed from 2500 until c.800 CE.

It was during this period that large stone meeting places, or Henges, such as Avebury and Stonehenge were constructed.

Eventually the Celts came to the attention of the Roman Emperor Julius Caesar, who sent a military expedition to England in 55BCE but failed to conquer it.

The Romans succeeded in 43CE when Emperor Claudius successfully led an invasion and they ruled England as a colony for the next 600 years.

They brought with them elements of their own civilization, they constructed roads and cities with forums, baths, aqueducts and theaters.

Traders and craftsmen arrived and the Anglo-Roman population grew.

In 120CE Emperor Hadrian commissioned a massive wall between England and Scotland

to dissuade attacks from the Picts and Scots. Known as Hadrian’s Wall it marked the northern boundary of the Roman Empire. As the Empire began to crumble troops were

Withdrew from England to defend Rome but in 410CE it fell to a Visigoth army and England, was left to defend itself.

Forty years later (around 450AD) Vortigen, a

A local ruler, invited Danish mercenaries to defend his area of England from attacks led by the Picts and Scots.

However the Danes turned on their host and established the first Saxon Kingdom of England Other mercenary groups invaded, resulting in the establishment of a patchwork of rival Saxon and Angle Kingdoms that were continually at war. These rivalries were known as the Dark Ages,

a period when Anglo-Saxon art and literature, inspired by Christianity, became refined.

This period was violently ended by the constant invasion of Viking armies who established settlements and took over Saxon Kingdoms. Eventually, after many battles the separate Kingdoms were unified during the reign of Æthelstan and an untied England was created.

In1066, on the death of Edward the Confessor, three men vied for the English crown, Harold I,

the man who took the throne, Harald Hardrada King of Norway, and William of Normandy. This rivalry led to two invasions.

Harold I defeated the Viking army at Stamford Bridge, but was defeated himself at Hastings by William, who on Harold’s death, crowned himself King on Christmas Day 1066.

To control the defeated Saxons William gave vast tracts of the land to his own Lords and

constructed a number of large stone castles. To raise money, he instructed that a detailed

inventory was taken of all English lands, an undertaking that became the Domesday Book.

William was succeeded by King John who believing he was above the law, forcefully took what he needed from the people.

However the Barons disputed his demands and in 1215 they presented the King with an ultimatum, a document that became known as the Magna Carta.

The year after its signing, King John died and in 1216 his son, the nine year old Henry inherited the crown.

During the next hundred years England was scourged by the plague, known as The Black Death and responsible for killing one third of the population.

In 1485 when Henry Tudor, defeated Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth Field, the Tudor dynasty began.

Henry VII ruled wisely but, after his son Arthur was killed, he decreed that his younger son, also called Henry should marry Arthur’s widow Catherine.

The wedding followed his and his son, the 18 year old Henry VIII’s, subsequent coronation.

After 20 years of marriage, and one daughter Mary, Henry divorced Catherine as she had not produced a son.

To ensure the divorce he broke with the Catholic Church and declared himself to be the head of the Church of England. In 1533, he married Anne Boleyn.

This marriage resulted in another daughter Elizabeth. Three years later, he had Anne tried for treason.

She was executed at the Tower of London in 1536.

Henry VIII married six times.

During his third marriage to Jane Seymour, he fathered a son

named Edward.

Jane died shortly after her son was born. In 1547 n Henry himself died and Edward, who was nine years old, inherited the crown, but when died, aged just 15 the crown to pass his cousin Jane Grey who was forcibly deposed after just nine days by Mary,

Edward’s elder half-sister, who wanted England to revert to Catholicism.

She died childless in 1558, leaving Elizabeth to become Queen.

Under Elizabeth I, the navy established by Henry VIII,bdeveloped into England’s major form of defense and became the means by which the English explored, colonized and traded around the globe in a prosperous period called “England’s Golden Age.”Elizabeth never married.

Dying she indicated she wanted James VI of Scotland to succeed her so, in 1603, James VI of Scotland became James I of England.

His personal debts and Catholic baptism were the sources of some dissension and gave rise to the infamous assassination

attempt known as the Gunpowder Plot.

His successor and son Charles in 1625 took to the throne in 1625.

He believed God had created him King and due to that belief, he did not trust the English Parliament and between 1629 and 1640, he dismissed it, choosing to rule by royal decree, a situation that led to the English Civil War. Charles was tried and found guilty of treason on January 26th, 1649, and beheaded.

The war ended when Cromwell’s Parliamentarian New Model Army defeated King Charles II’s royalist at the Battle of Worcester on 3rd September 1651.

Charles was exiled and the monarchy was replaced with the Commonwealth of England and then the Protectorate under the personal rule of Oliver Cromwell.

Cromwell died 1658 and his son Richard became Lord Protector, but he lacked his father’s talents.

In May 1659, he resigned and Parliament arranged for Charles II to take the throne.

In 1685 when the Catholic James II took the throne several English politicians objected

and wrote to William of Orange, a popular Protestant who had married James II’s daughter.

He accepted the offer and landed at Brixham on November 5th, 1688, and began a march on London.

Before he arrived, James II fled to France and William was crowned on April 21st, 1689, alongside his queen, Mary II.

They couple ruled jointly until Mary’s death in 1694;

William lived on for a ten years, dying in 1702 when Mary’s sister, Anne ascended to the throne.

When Anne’ died in 1714 the Georgian period began, named after the four Hanoverian George’s and includes the short reign of William IV it is a term used to describe the social and political history, architecture and fashions between 1714 and the 1830’s.

A period of the start of the industrial revolution that began around 1769 and lasted into the 1840’s, that helped to make England one of the richest countries in the world.

However it was also the period when England lost control of its American Colonies.

When Queen Victoria came to the throne in 1837 aged 18 she was the ruler of Great Britain, Canada, Australia, India, New Zealand, and parts of Africa.

Her rule heralded an unprecedented series of inventions and discoveries.

When she died in 1902, her reign had seen the invention of steam power, industrialization, and major advancements in the arts.

The 20th century began with the death of Victoria succeeded by her son Edward.

Edwardian England was a period of decadence and enjoyment.

However his reign only lasted nine years.

He died in 1910 and was succeeded by his son George V.

The causation of the First World War 1914-1918 was long and protracted as each European country found themselves dragged into the conflict after Germany declared war on Russia on 1st

August 1914 and in France three days later.

On the 4th August Britain too declared war.

When it ended in 1918 on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month it had been the deadliest conflict in human history.

As an outcome of the war some women, who had worked at jobs usually filled by men,

were granted the vote in 1918 whilst all women gained the same voting rights as men in 1928.

Post WW1 England underwent a period of unrest when different industrial workers went on strike for better working conditions and higher wages leading up to the General Strike of 1926 which was followed by a financial crash known as the Depression.

In January 1936 King George V died and was succeeded by his eldest son Edward VIII however, Edward had fallen in love with a divorced American woman, Wallis Simpson.

Even in the 30’s a member of the Royal Family was not allowed to marry a divorcee and Edward as refused to break off his relationship, on December 11th, 1936 he abdicated, passing the crown onto his brother.

War broke out again in 1939 when England stood firm against the aggression of Nazi Germany.

It ended in 1945 and the reconstruction of London and England began. In 1951, the Festival of Britain was staged to celebrate national recovery.

The 1960’s saw a huge social and sexual revolution with the invention of the pill and when groups such as Beatles led youth culture and “swinging London” led the world in fashion trends.

It also saw great technological advances, such as the Moon Landing, supersonic flight, the joining of the EEC, and the establishment of London as a global financial centre.

However as the 20th century came to an end England’s power began to wane, where its future and global position in the 21st century lies, only time will tell.

A Captivating Guide to English History, Starting from Antiquity through the Rule of the Anglo-Saxons, Vikings, Normans, and Tudors to the End of World War 2.

As an outcome of the war some women, who had worked at jobs usually filled by men,

were granted the vote in 1918 whilst all women gained the same voting rights as men in 1928.

Post WW1 England underwent a period of unrest when different industrial workers went on strike for better working conditions and higher wages leading up to the General Strike of 1926 which was followed by a financial crash known as the Depression.

In January 1936 King George V died and was succeeded by his eldest son Edward VIII however, Edward had fallen in love with a divorced American woman, Wallis Simpson.

Even in the 30’s a member of the Royal Family was not allowed to marry a divorcee and Edward as refused to break off his relationship, on December 11th, 1936 he abdicated, passing the crown onto to his brother.

War broke out again in 1939 when England stood firm against the aggression of Nazi Germany.

It ended in 1945 and the reconstruction of London and England began.

In 1951, the Festival of Britain was staged to celebrate national recovery.

The 1960’s saw a huge social and sexual revolution with the invention of the pill and when groups such as Beatles led youth culture and “swinging London” led the world in fashion trends.

It also saw great technological advances, such as the Moon Landing, supersonic flight, the joining of the EEC, and the establishment of London as a global financial centre.

However as the 20th century came to an end England’s power began to wane, where its future and global position in the 21st century lies, only time will tell.

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