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British History In A Nutshell

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British History In A Nutshell Britain: situated near the continent; coast easily accessible; fertile coun-try; temperate climate; mineral resources -> several invasions about 800 BC Celts (related to the Celts in Gaul) 55 ” 54 BC Julius Caesar landed twice; wanted to frighten them 43 AD Roman conquest began -> peace and order until about 410; roads, walls (e.g. Hadrian’s Wall 123), forts, cities (place names ending in “chester”), baths, theatres, …

410 ” 430 withdrawal of legions; Angles, Saxons, Jutes -> Celts were driven into mountainous areas.

7 kingdoms (“heptarchy”) -> Sussex, Essex, Wessex, Kent, East Anglia, Mercia, North Umbria; most important: Wessex (capital Winchester) -> 871 ” 899 Alfred the Great; supported learning, founded schools, great navy; Christianity; in 878 he defeated the Danes, they retreated to the “Danelaw” (NE parts of England).

England grew rich and strong under Alfred’s descendants, who unified the kingdoms.

Anglo-Saxon names: -ham (village), -hurst (wood), -ey (island); Danish settlement: -by (town), -thorpe (settlement), -garth (enclosure) about 1000 the Danes renewed their attacks -> 1016 Danish king Canute united Denmark and England; the Anglo-Danish empire fell apart again, in 1066 Harold II, the last Anglo-Saxon king, was elected by the council of wise men, but William, Duke of Normandy, claimed the throne. While the Saxons fought the Danes in the north, William landed near Hastings (new technique of fighting: archers; armoured soldiers on horseback); Harold’s army marched 250 miles south -> defeated in the Battle of Hastings. Normans became masters of England (French language and customs) 1066 ” 1087 William I, the Conqueror ” gave land to those who had helped him (vassals, serfs) ” strengthened royal power by having castles built all over the country to crush rebellion 1086 Domesday Book: first national census (information about the size and ownership of land) and stock-taking -> bases of taxation Feudalism theoretically all land belonged to the king -> granted the use of the land to some of his noblemen (tenant); instead of paying rent: military service (or they had to pay the cost of knights -> king could rely on an army). These barons gave parts of the land to lesser men; the serfs (unfree men) formed the lowest rank.

Danger of the system: weak king -> barons fought among themselves for power -> anarchy; privileges from the Crown.

Social aspects of feudalism: ” pages (young men learning the duties of knighthood -> “chivalry”) ” tournaments ” barons (noblemen who supplied the king with troops) The Normans adopted the French language and Christianity.

1154 ” 1189 Henry II Thomas Becket became Chancellor (Henry often in France; loyal, worked against the barons and the Church) Henry made Becket Archbishop of Canterbury; Becket at once opposed the king by supporting the privileges of the Church: ” hospitals ” schools ” universities (1167 Oxford; 1209 Cambridge) ” charity work ” courts for clerics ” monasteries -> inns, helped the poor, centres of learning and agriculture Becket murdered after a quarrel with the king (sent someone) Law -> consequences for today: ” beginning of the jury system (decide whether a prisoner is guilty or not) ” origin of the circuit courts (in order to restrict the barons’ power; royal judges toured the country at regular intervals -> today: 3 times a year in provincial towns) ” origin of the English common law (“common” because it was the same throughout the country) -> based on precedent 1189 ” 1199 Richard I, the Lionheart “Age of Chivalry”, together with Frederick Barbarossa leader of the Third Crusade; huge taxes for enormous ransom to Leopold, Duke of Austria 1199 ” 1216 his brother John (“Lackland”) 1215 the barons forced the weak and unpopular king to grant Magna Carta Magna Carta King John was forced by his nobles to grant (agree to) Magna Carta on June 15th, 1215 at Runnymede ” a mead, i.e. meadow, on the River Thames near London.

The Provisions of the Charter: ” No free man (a comparatively small group of the population) shall be denied right or justice.

” No free man shall be imprisoned or banished except by the law and the legal judgement of his peers, i.e. his equals.

” No tax shall be levied except by the general council of the kingdom, i.e. the assembly of the important barons of the kingdom.

The Importance of the Charter: It stresses the fact that the law of the land is above the will of the ruler ” that the law is binding on a ruler.

The Limitations of the Charter: The barons were thinking only of their own rights and privileges, not those of the people. However ” although it was not a democratic document ” it could later be applied without difficulty to all people.

1216 ” 1272 Henry III the Great Council was called “Parliament” 1265 Simon de Montfort, leader in the Barons’ War -> rebellion against the king to force him to keep the promises given in the Charter; first Parliament in which common people were represented (clergy, lords, 2 knights of each shire, 2 citizens of each town) 1272 ” 1307 Edward I most successful king of medieval English history; weakened the feudal noblemen; strengthened Parliament but called it only when he needed money to enlarge his kingdom -> 1276 ” 1284 conquest of Wales (title “Prince of Wales”) 1297 reaffirmation of Magna Carta Only Parliament has the right to tax the nation; today only the House of Commons decides matters of finance.

14th century invasions in Scotland 1314 Edward II loses Scotland (Battle of Bannockburn) 1327 ” 1377 Edward III England: wool-exporting and cloth-manufacturing country, wealth 1337 ” 1453 The Hundred Years’ War with France (was fought off and on for about a century) reasons: ” English kings had possessions in France, so they were vassals of the French king, which they didn’t like ” the French wanted to drive the English out of the country ” both were rivals in the wool trade with Flanders ” Edward III claimed the French throne Parliament became more powerful; origin of the two-chamber system (Commons and Lords); predominance of the Lower House (taxes!) 1348 ” 1349 Black Death: the plague reduced population dramatically: land enclosed by hedges and stone walls to make sheep pasture (shortage of labour) 1363 English took the place of French in Parliament and in law courts 1381 Peasants’ Revolt (under Wat Tyler) against serfdom ” failed but serfdom gradually disappeared 1413 ” 1422 Henry V 1415 renewed claim to the French throne Battle of Agincourt ” “end of chivalry” ” decisive victory of English archers against French knights on horseback and in armour Henry married the daughter of the French king Charles VI but Henry as well as Charles died in 1422 1422 ” 1461 Henry VI (only 8 months when he came to the throne ” bad advisers) 1429 Joan of Arc intervened; Charles VII became king of France 1453 the English were driven from France when Henry (member of the House of Lancaster: family emblem -> red rose) went insane; Richard (king’s cousin; House of York -> white rose) became regent -> 1455 ” 1485 extremely brutal Wars of the Roses for control of the throne (2 branches of the royal family descending from different sons of Edward III).

Soldiers who had fought in the Hundred Years’ War and many barons fought for profit and often changed sides; bad and cruel times 1476 printing introduced in England by William Caxton (influence on spelling) 1485 Richard III defeated and killed by Henry VII (-> last representative of the House of Lancaster) ” by marriage both royal lines united -> House of Tudor 1485 ” 1509 Henry VII Number of barons reduced ” rising middle-class of rich cloth-merchants -> they bought land from poor nobility -> new ruling class.

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