GEOGRAPHY OF THE BRITISH ISLES (see map)
The British Isles are divided in two big islands: Great Britain and Ireland.
The union of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland forms the United Kingdom. Its flag is called "The Union Jack". It's important to point out that Ireland is divided in four provinces, one of them Ulster. Ulster is then divided in 9 counties, 6 forming Northern Ireland and the other three belonging to the Republic of Ireland.
The first thing to take into account when studying British geography is the importance of the sea in its History. Since the British Isles, as islands, are surrounded by the sea, they are isolated. The sea acts then as a good frontier and allows an independent life. Sea can be a way of getting into the British Isles (before 1.066 they suffered lots of invasions), but it is also a natural defensive barrier (nobody was able to invade the Isles from 1.066).
In relation with its geological history (which is important to consider when studying its History), till 5.000 BC Ireland and Great Britain were united to the continent, but then Ireland separated from Great Britain and later on, both islands separated from the continent, till they reached their present configuration. The facts that take us to this conclusion is the presence of animals both in the British Isles and in the continent and the absence of, for example, snakes on Ireland (since this specie couldn't cross the land before the division).
It's important to remember its position between two political blocks (Europe and America), and the strong relation with America (since it had been a colony, with lots of people emigrated there when colonisation time).
When studying the physical map, one can realise how the natural division between Highlands (Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland) and Lowlands (England, Ireland) has influenced the division of countries. The Highlands is a more difficult place to live in, since it presents a harder climate; this made Lowlands a more attractive place to live in or invade (that's the reason why this part suffered more invasions). So, Lowlands has more population and that makes it have more weight in politics (especially England, although now the rest of the United Kingdom is searching for more independence).
London. It is the political centre of the United Kingdom. The main reason is that it has always been a commercial centre, since it's located near the continent. London was first made capital by the Romans, but it had been a commercial centre since long time ago.
Birmingham. It acts as a link between London and the industrial North, formed by a belt of cities and towns as Manchester or Liverpool.
Manchester, Liverpool... They are important industrial cities (mainly of iron or textile industries) that help in making England wealth in the XIX century. The goods manufactured there are then taken to London, and later on they are exported. Train is still the main way of taking those goods; the radial system in which the railway it's configured has to do with the location of the manufacture and the deliver of the goods:
From London to Birmingham and then to the belt of industrial cities.
From London to western ports: from Bristol the products are taken to America; from Southampton they are taken to the East (India).
In Scotland and Ireland this radial system is imitated:
In Scotland: from Edinburgh to Saxon Shore (then to France) or to Glasgow (it is both an industrial centre and a port).
In Northern Ireland: Belfast is both an industrial centre (shipbuilding) and a port with connections with America.
Another cities like Cambridge and Oxford are educational centres. They are situated near London because of the political weight of England caused by the more dense population.
Physical accidents and divisions.
The Solway Firth and the Tyne River act as a natural frontier between Scotland and England. Romans in fact made a wall to divide both countries following this natural line. It was later on called the "Celtic Fringe", since England was romanized but Scotland wasn't (it remained Celtic); that causes important differences in culture.
The Cambrian Mountains are also a natural frontier between Wales and England. This isolated position of Wales made the country a land of refuge after invasions. That was because the invaders (like Romans), generally coming from the continent, pushed Celtic people towards the West.
The conclusion we can obtain about these facts is that natural elements have an important influence in History and in cultural differences.
There is also a secondary division we can observe through the suffix "-shire" in the name of some places. This division comes from the Vikings times; a shire was a kind of county which is important when studying British History (medieval divisions). Every shire had a shire-reeve, that was a man who collected taxes and once a year took them to London. Then, shire-reeves from all England put the money on the top a chequered-cloth. When all the chequers of the cloth were full, the Queen said the collection had been successful.
BASIC CHRONOLOGICAL DIVISIONS in the History of the British Isles.
1066 AD. Battle of Hastings. Normans invaded the British Isles. It's an important point in the History of the Isles because it was the last invasion they suffered.
25000 BC. Paleolithic covers a huge range of years.
12000 BC. It was the start of Mesolithic. The Melting of the Ice took place round this time, which allowed an easier life in the British Isles, although clime remained quite cold. It isn't known if there was any human life before this point in the Isles, but there may be some hunters. From this time on, we had groups of hunters and gatherers moving to this region, but they didn't settle down (they were nomads). We have very little archaeological rests from this time, excepting some small tools called "microlites".
4000-3000 BC. In these years, Great Britain and Ireland separated from each other. So, they were no more so accessible as they had been before, and the only way of approaching the Isles was with good navigation skills.
3000 BC. It was the beginning of Neolithic. A revolution took place: it was the appearance of farming, which allowed people to settle down in a concrete place. These farmers who came from the continent followed two main routes. One was following the valley of the river Rhine and then cross the sea towards the Isles. The other one came from the Iberian Peninsula and sailed towards the North to reach England or Ireland (legends tell that Iberian people founded Ireland). In the Orkney Islands there was an important settle down at this time.
2000 BC. The British Isles suffered a foreign influence from new groups coming from the continent. The main innovations they brought in were the use of bronze and a more elaborated pottery. At this time there was a strong culture established in the centre of England, the "Wessex Culture", which built up monuments as the stone circles "Stonehenge". This culture remained important until 1000 BC.
1000 BC. The Wessex Culture disappeared. The Southern coast became the centre of attention and big stone walls (called "Brocks") were built with a defensive objective. The Celts were then trying to invade the Isles. Celt people were not a pure race, but a group of people from different places that shared culture and language (because they came from a group that had spread along Europe and developed their own particularities). Celts introduced the use of iron, which made them stronger at battles. Some legends deal with a fear to iron that obliged people to hide in the mountains, which has a relation with these historical facts.
Celts finally occupied the whole area in 700 BC. In some parts of the British Isles they absorbed the previous culture (even using earlier monuments), but in others they pushed population to the west. The result of this is the presence of a human type across the western coast of Ireland which has an Iberian origin and aspect (although some people think it's a consequence or the "Invincible Army" disaster, they're wrong).
Celtic culture was later on destroyed by Romans, who described Celts as wild and uncivilizated people. On the contrary, Celts were a very sophisticated culture and it was brilliant in some features that nowadays can still be noticed in language and culture; they were also excellent farmers. During the Celtic period women may have had more independence than they had again for hundreds of years; two of the largest tribes were ruled by women (like Boadicea, who fought against Romans and after some victories, was defeated and kill).
55 BC. A brief Roman expedition leaded by Julius Caesar arrived to the British Isles. The Romans invaded because the Celts of Britain were working with the Celts of Gaul against them, and they realised that the only way of conquering Gaul was attacking from the north. Once Romans won the war, they forgot about the British Isles for some years.
AD 43. Romans finally settled down, imposing their language, culture, laws and tradition, destroying the Celtic roots. Using the oral transmission, the Celtic druids tried to keep their cultural memory alive through generations, but Romans destroyed druids to make an easier imposition of Roman culture. So, we don't have much information about Celts.
Scotland (Caledonia) and Ireland were areas excluded from the Roman invasion. Romans separated Scotland from England by means of an artificial wall from coast to coast: the "Hadrian's Wall" (later on called the "Celtic Fringe").
Romans brought the skills of reading and writing to Britain, and soon Latin and Roman traditions were accepted, especially by town people. Latin disappeared when the Anglo-Saxons invaded Britain.
The most obvious characteristic of Roman Britain was its towns, which were the basis of Roman administration and civilisation. Many of this towns were at first army camps; the Latin word, “castra”, has remained part of many towns names to this days with the endings “chester, caster or cester” (Gloucester, Leicester, Winchester, Chester, Lancaster). They were connected by an excellent system of roads, which became the main roads of modern Britain. The biggest change during the Roman occupation was the growth of large farms, called “villas”.
AD 430. Three Germanic tribes invaded the British Isles: the Angles, the Saxons and the Jutes. The first two were strongest, so they are known as the "Anglo-Saxons". They had important differences with Romans:
Romans were urban (they created a radial system of roads and founded Londinium), modern and Christian (since the age of Constantine in AD 318)
Anglo-Saxons had a Northern Mythology (with gods as Tig, Thor, Wodin, Frei that are the origin of the days of the week...) and they imposed a new language, culture and religion. Christianity was then pushed to the west (Ireland). Anglo-Saxons also brought a new agricultural system: they used a heavy plough only suitable for long straight lines across the field (it was difficult to turn corners with it), but very useful for hard soils. So, each village land was divided into two or three large fields, then divided again into strips; each family had a number of strips. Anglo-Saxons also had a social division based on alderman (local officials, then warlords), manors (kind of local administrator)... this is the origin of a class system, made up of kings, lords, soldiers and workers on the land.
The first Anglo-Saxons who came to the Isles were mercenaries; they were paid by Southern inhabitants to defend from the pressure of the northern tribes (Pits and Scots) that had taken force after Romans left. Anglo-Saxons found England a good land to settle down, and being superior in war to the inhabitants, they invade it.
Anglo-Saxons didn't have one single kind, but several. This caused the division of England in 7 different kingdoms (it's known as the "Period of the Heptarchy"). It was the origin of places like Wessex (Western Saxons), East Anglia (Eastern Angles)... In fact, the name of England was originally Angleland (land of Angles). This was not a peaceful period due to the hard competence between kingdoms.
The crisis came at the end of the 8th Century, with the appearance of Vikings.
AD 865. The term "Viking" apparently means "inhabitant of the fjords", but in fact they were not called that way at the time because they were Danes, Norwegians and Swiss. All three came from the North, following different routs that can be summarised in three:
Norwegians followed a West-South line and reached Ireland. They discovered Iceland, Greenland and North America (Erik "The Red").
Swiss followed a line towards the East, and got into Russia (establishing the capital in Kiev) and maintained relations with Constantinopla.
Danes. Their only alternative was following to the South, navigating both shores of the Isles. They were responsible for attacks in the French coast and Iberian Peninsula; they even crossed Gibraltar and attack the Roman Empire.
As a result of the position of the British Isles, they suffered attacks from the three invaders. The first attacks took place in the 8th century, and they were very quick. England was then a Christian land, with monasteries along the coast which were often destroyed by the Danes. Around AD 540, the Isles suffered huge expeditions with the idea of settling down. All Anglo-Saxon kingdoms fell with the exception of Wessex, dominated by king Alfred "The Great". It was the time when most of the British land was under the "Dane Law".
King Alfred "The Great" started then the "Reconquest of the Dane Law". Since he initiated the emerge of England, he is considered the first king of England. The reconquest took several generations, and it culminated with a mixture between Anglo-Saxon and Viking elements and population. This racial blend is visible in the case of king Cnut, which was from Viking origin.
1066. England was then a successful blend of Anglo-Saxon and Viking people, but it then suffered another invasion: the Normans. Normans came from the Duchy of Normandy, in the Norman France. They had a Viking origin, because France let Vikings settle down progressively in their own lands to protect themselves from the attacks.
William, who was Duke of London, is the responsible of the successful Norman invasion of England. He becomes king of England: William I "The Conqueror".
For understanding the reasons for the Norman invasion we need to go back in time. Before 10066 the king in England was Edward "The Confessor" (who started the building of many cathedrals like Westminster), but he died without leaving heir. Traditionally, kings were elected by the "Witan", which was an institution formed by a group of free men. Normally the system for choosing a new king was following the heritage line, but in the case of Edward's succession, Witan must follow a different rule. The main candidate that Witan thought about was Harold Godwinson, who was the strongest man in the land; he finally became King Harold I.
But there were two other candidates who argued that they had rights to the crown. One of them was Harald Haardrabe, who was connected to the old Viking line of King Cnut. The other one was William of Normandy, who claimed that with a past marriage, an Anglo-Saxon link had been established with his family.
Since Witan had yet decided to choose Harold Godwinson as king, two attacks took place in 1066. First, Harald Haardrabe attacks Harold I in the Battle of Stanfordbridge, but the king defeated him. Later on, William of Normandy fights against Harold I in the Battle of Hastings: William kills Harold I and becomes the new king of England.
Although William I had a small army in comparison to the Anglo-Saxon population, it was more a colonist expedition rather than a military one. Men of all ranges (soldiers, nobility...) formed this army, and in about two years they got all the titles of Anglo-Saxon nobility because William had divided all the lands he conquered among his army members. This was the way of introducing feudalism, and it allowed William to be the supreme feudal master. Each man owning a feud must be in service to the king with taxes (money) and soldiers for the war. Feudalism was a system that gave benefits both to the king and the nobility, but the ones suffering the bad consequences were the people in the lower classes, who must work the land without obtaining any benefit ("they were bound to the land").
Another reason for the Norman victory was that they were very well military trained. They imposed horror and they bring a strong weapon: the castle. Castles were the centres of power and terror, and they allowed the domination of the land around. So, the first thing after winning at Hastings or at any other place was always building a castle; it was build in wood in one day, and later the wooden walls were replaced by stone walls and other elements were added.
Normans imposed their law, culture, power and language (old English becomes the language of the poor people and it is culturally relegated; the language of the new aristocracy were Latin and French).
The problem of Normans was that they had divided loyalties: since they had lands both in Normandy and in England, they had duties with the French king and with the English king, William I, and they didn't know whether to defend England of France.
Even William, who was also Duke of Normandy, was then subjectof the French king. That's the origin of the conflict between the two crowns.
With feudalism, the king needed to know how much their lands produced so that he could impose taxes with a certain degree of justice. Taxation appeared; it was a system by which royal officers went through the counties collecting the taxes. The "Doomsday Book" was the book in which they took note of the taxes. It was called "Doomsday Book" because for some of them it was their last day.
When William died in 1087, he left the Duchy of Normandy for his elder son, Robert, and England for William, but his youngest son Henry didn't receive anything at all.
When Robert went to fight the Muslims in the Holy Land (the crusades), he left his brother William II in charge of Normandy. But William II died in a suspicious hunting accident in 1100. He had not married and didn't have any heirs, so Henry decided to take the English crown. Since his brother Robert was coming back from the crusades, Henry, who had been with William a t the time of the accident, acted quickly and was crowned king: Henry I. His brother Robert tried to invade England, but it was a completely failure and he returned to Normandy. But Henry I knew that lots of the nobles want to win back their Norman lands, so he invades Normandy and captured Robert. Normandy and England were reunited under one ruler.
Henry I solved the quarrel about investitures between the State and the Church, and he did his best to keep peace between Normandy and England. There were many ups and downs during this time. Henry I's most important aim was to leave everything to his daughter Matilda (who was married to the Duke of Anjou, in France). There had been no queens in England before because it was a male universe. The nobility rejected Matilda as a queen and defended the candidature of Stephen of Blois, who was Henry's nephew and was in Boulogne, nearer England. It was the beginning of a period called "The 19 Winters" because most of the years were dominated by a civil war between Stephen and Matilda. Finally, in 1153, both sides agreed that Stephen could keep the throne but only if Matilda's son, Henry, could succeed him. Stephen died the following year and England and the lands in France (Normandy, Anjou) were united under Henry II.
Henry II was probably the strongest king in medieval British history. He was just 19 when he received the crown. By his marriage to Eleanor of Aquitaine, he obtained much more possessions south of Anjou. Anyway, Henry II was still a subject of the King of France, although he was stronger.
Henry II was a great political organiser. Thanks to him England had a well judicial system organisation: he made the "Assize of Clarendon", which was the origin of the "Common Law"; it guarantied justice to all the subjects.
The only problem was that the religious figures possessed their own Common Law. Thomas Beckett defended the rights of the religious to have their own law, but the king killed him. This problem won't be solved during Henry II's reign.
Historically, Ireland has been very much a marginal land. The Church punished Henry II with excommunication for murdering Thomas Becket. Henry II had to pay a fine consisting in receiving 100 lashes in public, and he was offered to command an army on crusade, which he did against his desires. Ireland was occupied and it became a duchy. This was the first state of colonisation, and that's the reason why there are many Irish surnames (like Fidtgerald) with a Norman origin.
What we know as the "Irish problem" started then, in the XII Century. When Henry III died, the land had to be divided: the throne was first for his son Richard I ("The Lionheart") and then to his other son John ("Lackland").
Richard I only spent six months in England, a fact that shows how disastrous he was. John was worst than him and all his decisions were terrible for England; he was called "Lackland" because he lost all his father's possessions. Nobility also lost many territories, so they fought against John and forced him to sign the "Magna Carta" (also called the "Charter of English liberties"); thanks to it the rights of the crown were regulated. But John's son, Henry III, didn't accept the terms of the "Magna Carta" and he founded the Parliament.
The Parliament brought a time of splendour for the British Empire. Henry's descendants, Edward I and Edward II tried to conquer Wales and Scotland, (but both suffered an enormous defeat in Scotland).
This was the time of "The Hundred Years War", which was a period dominated by the struggle between England and France. It was, in fact, a time with many periods of war. England's troubles with France resulted from the French king's growing authority in France, and his determination to control all this nobles, because those who had lands in England (even the king of England) refused to recognise the French king's ovelordship. This war can be divided in two parts: the first half of the XIV century and the second half.
The first part of the struggle started during the reign of Edward III. Those were years of victory for Britain (battle of Poitiers), and England conquered many new territories from France. War became a business for many people.
The reason for this success is mainly military training. Some years ago, England had learned terrible lessons in Scotland and Wales, when England tried to dominate them. In the case of Wales, England had succeeded, but not in the case of Scotland (battle of "Bannockbum"); Scotland and England had become then enemies. After this defeat, England developed a new kind of war (being lightly armed and quickly in movement was crucial), which was very effective in France. Its most important weapon was the Welsh longbow, used by most of the ordinary footsoldiers. But when the French army learnt these techniques, things changed.
Another important reason for England's success was the changing in the feudal services of the early days (taxes and men for the war), that were in fact a deficient system because the men for the war weren't professionals. Then the king decided to collect more money instead of men for the war. With this money, he could pay professional soldiers, who were entirely dedicated to war.
In the second part of the XVI century, France adopted new military techniques, and it was united as a nation. Soon France conquered back all the territories that England had won during the first part of the straggle, excepting Calais. It's the time of the French splendour, because France is fighting at its own territory, it is united as a nation and it has new tactics of war.
From 1348 to 1349 war was interrupted due to the "Black Death" (bubonic plague), which was a devastator illness which could killed half the population of a country in one year. In the case of England, the effects were terrible, causing a grave depopulation. After the "Black Death", the nation was weaker than France, which had recovered better and faster. This was another reason for the emerge of France.
The moment that England started to suffer defeats, the initial unity between crown and nobility collapsed, which the brief exception of the reign of Henry V (who had some success). There's a panorama of disruption which causes a civil war in England, "The War of the Roses" (it's called like that because the roses were in the emblems of the houses of York and Lancaster, the two leaders of the straggle). It began with a "coup d'etat", and the crown changed from the York house to the Lancaster house. Lancaster thought they could do better at France, but for they couldn't, York fought back. All the houses of Britain fought in the two blocks. This period was closed in 1485 in the battle of Bosworth, fought between Richard III (York) and Henry VIII (Lancaster), where Richard III was killed and Henry VIII became the king. Later, Henry VIII married to a princess of the house of York to bring peace and unity to both houses. It brought a new dynasty of kings, the Tudor, which will last more for more than a century.
The beginning of the Renaissance in Britain is marked by the battle of Bosworth. The most important kings and queens during this time (1485-1603) were Henry VIII (first part of the XVI), Mary (central XVI) and Elizabeth I (last years of XVI).
The situation of England at the beginning of the XVI century is the following: it had suffered a civil war, it was surrounded by enemies (Scotland and France) and it was very weak in Europe. In the XVII century, England started the expansion overseas and colonise America, becoming a colonial power. It's in the XVII century when the United Kingdom is founded, including the adhesion of Scotland. And it is also a culturally important time (Shakespeare,...).
Henry VIII was, at the beginning, a defender of the Catholic Church (he even wrote a book against Martin Luther). But this changed with the problem of his succession: Henry's first wife, Catherine of Aragon, gave him no male heir but a daughter, Mary. Henry wanted a boy desperately so he tried to persuade the pope to allow him to divorce from Catherine. But the pope was controlled by Charles V, who was king Holy Roman Emperor and king of Spain, and also Catherine's nephew; for both political and family reasons he wanted Henry to stay married to Catherine. In 1527 the pope was caught and locked in the castle of Sant Angelo in Rome, and so he was forced to forbid Henry's divorce.
Another problem was the financial situation, which had deteriorated along the years. Henry had too many businesses to pay, while the English Church was rich (it possessed a fifth of all the wealth at the country). Henry took then the decision of creating his own Church, and be the head of the Church to gave to himself the divorce. He created then the “Anglican Church”, widely Protestant, of which Henry VIII was the supreme head. Everyone in England was obliged to make the “Oath of Supremacy”: they had to swear that they wanted Henry as the supreme head of the Church. When he gave himself the divorce, he married Anne Boleyn. He also made the dissolution of the monasteries, which meant that all the lands of the Church went to Henry's hands. This was a tremendous tragedy for thousands of people who worked as religious figures (most of them became beggars), and despite the fact that the population accepted Henry, a number of catholic rituals remained (Northern regions of England suffered the “Pilgrimage of Grace”, because they went against Henry).
England became again a very wealthy kingdom thanks to the appropriation of the richness of the Church. Anne Boleyn gave Henry a daughter, Elizabeth, but not a male child. It was his third wife (Jane Seymour) who gave him a boy, Edward, but she died during the birth.
When Henry VIII died, in 1547, there were three legitimate candidates for the crown: Mary, Elizabeth and Edward. Edward became king simply because he was a man. Edward VI followed the line of his father, but the two girls were different, since Mary was a catholic (because her mother was it) and Elizabeth was a protestant. There was then an uncertain future in religious terms.
Politically, Edward VI was the supreme ruler of England, and he had plans for expansion that would never come true. He was very young and sick, and he finally died in 1553, provoking a problem of succession because or the different religion of the legitimate heirs (Mary was Catholic and Elizabeth was Protestant).
Mary was crowned queen, and she made England return to Catholicism. She imposed this religion in a very cruel manner; that's why she was called “Bloody Mary”. It was a time of instability, in the point of a civil war. Mary died in 1558, and her sister Elizabeth becomes queen of England the following year.
Elizabeth I represented the union of the two roses, Lancaster and York. For years, she never showed clearly if she supported Catholicism or Protestantism, which brought peace and stability to the country.
Elizabeth I became a kind of Goddess in Earth thanks to the official propaganda. She was the symbol of purity and virginity. Some historians consider that she occupied the place that the elimination of Virgin Mary in times of Henry VIII had left. Even the official pictures of Elizabeth I are perfectly studied: they don't have any shadow and show a queen who never becomes elder. This propaganda allowed a feeling of unity and stability. At given times, Elizabeth I was shown to the public in “processes” along the reign, to make the population feel that they were seeing a living goddess. These were very elaborated rituals with the idea of promoting her image.
The reason for this propaganda was fear. It wasn't in fact a golden age (excepting the cultural life) as some historians say; England had serious problems. The state elaborated the myth of Elizabeth I to keep people quiet and united around her figure. There were two main reasons for the English fear: Europe and the problem of religion.
For understanding the fear of Europe we need to go back in past. The Spanish possessions in the Low Countries had became rebelled in 1556, and Spain wanted to defend Catholicism and to recover the control over them. The king of Spain, Philip II, needed then to send troops and money to the Low Countries, but there was a part of the sea dominated by France (which was an enemy). Philip II, by his marriage to the English queen Mary, had achieved the guarantee that his ships could take refuge in England. But when Mary died and Elizabeth I came to the throne, she declared Protestantism and, gradually, Spain became an enemy. Spanish ships had to follow then a larger and more expensive route, the “Spanish route” (Cartagena>Naples>Milan>Low Countries). That's why Philip II decided to invade England, which is the origin of the English fear in times of Elizabeth I.
Another reason for fear was the question of religion. Although Elizabeth I had declared Protestantism, they were lots of Catholic people. From 1568 the queen of Scotland, Mary Stuart, who was catholic and legitimate heir to the throne, had been kept prisoner in England by order of Elizabeth I. Soon the Catholics, assisted by Spain, decided to kill Elizabeth I so that Mary could heritage the throne, but hey failed in the four occasions they tried. In 1587 Elizabeth gave the order of executing Mary Stuart; this was a disaster not only for English Catholics, but for Spain also. As a result, in 1588 Philip II decides to invade England and then catch the throne with the enterprise of “The Armada”. It was a complete failure, which marked the starting point of the Spanish decline and the English growth. But the problem had not still been solved, and Philip II tried it again and again, although he never succeeded.
The new Spanish strategy was using Ireland as a “back door” to attack and conquer England. At that time, Ireland was a tribal society, divided into clans in which the majority was Catholic. The idea was to promote an internal acceptation of the Spanish “invasion” to then jump into England. Since this situation was extremely dangerous for the country, England was forced to take an action in Ireland: the immediate colonisation of Ireland. It was a brutal and savage colonisation, in which Irish Catholics suffered a lot. When Elizabeth died in 1608, England had “planted” new people in two conflictive areas: the “Ulster plantation” (North) and the “Munster plantation” (South). That meant that lands belonging to Catholics had been given to Protestant families, so Catholic population was expelled and a new artificial Protestant population was created. That's the origin of the Irish problem.
At the end, although the propaganda Elizabeth's counsellors had been effective to success in the crisis, the entire thing collapsed when the queen died, giving birth to the civil war that had been postponed for years.
The tension between Spain and England, which hadn't finish with the failure of “The Armada”, decreased in 1604, because both Philip II and Elizabeth I had died; from that time onwards, there is peace between the two countries.
Since Elizabeth I had died without leaving any heirs, a new dynasty came to the throne: the Stuart. Elizabeth I had executed Mary Stuart (queen of Scotland), but she had a son who was alive. He was James VI of Scotland, who became King James I of England. The Stuart dynasty is going to “dominate” the XVII century, which can be divided in 3 periods:
James I, Charles I
Charles II, James II
One of the characteristics of the Stuart Kings was that they gradually became inclined to Catholicism. James I was totally protestant; Charles I was protestant but married a catholic; Charles II was secretly a catholic and James II was openly catholic. Religion is then one of the great problems of the Stuart dynasty, because their inclination towards Catholicism made them little popular. Although in times of James I the Catholic Church was considered an enemy, the later inclination to Catholicism was probably due to political interests; Catholicism was the faith of European absolutist monarchs, so Stuarts saw in this religion a support for absolutism.
Another common feature was their tendency towards absolutism. It the case of England, absolutism was practically impossible, because the decisions of the king were always controlled by Parliament. But Stuart dynasty came from Scotland, where the king was the absolute ruler, and therefore they wanted to declare absolutism.
The situation went worth as the time passed. James I had accepted the supervision of Parliament, but Charles I decided to rule in his own and closed it. The result was the First Civil War, in which King Charles I and Parliament were confronted. Parliament won the struggle, and Charles I was executed. This was the fist official execution of a king, because he hadn't respected the rights of Parliament.
But this execution provoked a convulsion in the population, because it was popularly believed that James I and Charles I had a sort of miraculous nature. This instability provoked the Second Civil War, which confronted those who wanted to go ahead without a monarchy (called “Puritans”, “Roundheads” or “Republicans”) and those who wanted a restoration of the monarchy (called “Realist Parliamentarians”). This second war had devastating effects, and the winner were the “Puritans” or “Radicals”, commanded by Oliver Cromwell. He gave himself the title of “Lord Protector of the Commonwealth”. That's why England is called “Protectorate” under his rule.
In 1568 Oliver Cromwell died. A minority wanted to declare his son new “Lord Protector”, but the majority wanted Charles II (Charles I's son) to come back from France where he was refugee. So, in 1616 the monarchy is restorated with Charles II: it's the “Restoration”.
The Whigs were a group of MPs who were afraid of an absolute monarchy, and of the Catholic faith connected with it, so they didn't want Charles as a king. They were opposed by the Tories, who upheld the authority of the Crown and the Church, although they believed that king's authority depended upon the consent of Parliament.
Charles II was politically fool and he followed the style of his father. He secretly supported Catholicism and put some catholics in his government, which implied corruption. He wasn't in fact very popular to the people.
When Charles II died, the crown passed to his brother James II, who was openly catholic and wanted desperately to declare Catholicism in England. It was the most unpopular measure in English history, and in 1668 he had to abandon the country by popular demand and take refuge in France. This event is called the “Bloodless Revolution” or “Glorious Revolution”, because it was pacific and popular.
A new king is then called to the country: William de Orange, who was king of Holland and was married to one of James II's daughters. He was also the official defender of Protestantism, so in Ireland, which had been traditionally catholic, there were people ready to fight against the new king (the Jacobites, defenders of James II). There was then a Jacobite rebellion, but they were defeated by the protestants (defenders of William de Orange) in the “Battle of the Boyne”.
The XVII th century it's the first time in which we can talk about the “United Kingdom”. The idea of the United Kingdom comes from the past, but it's in the XVII th century when there is a real political union represented in the new king, James I, who was at the same time king of England (including Wales and Ireland) and of Scotland.
But in fact there was not a total political union, because there was division caused by the problems of religion: England and Wales had become Anglicans, England was still very Puritan, Scotland was Presbyterian and Ireland was Catholic. This diversity of religions caused problems (like the expulsion of Catholics from Ireland) and were the seed of later problems (problem of Northern Ireland).
Another important question in the XVII th century was the expansion and growth of colonialism, that had began in times of Elizabeth I (with the first colonial voyages by Sir Walter Ralegh and Francis Drake). With the Stuart monarchy, the foundation of the first British Empire takes place (by the end of the XVII th century, England has 13 colonies). But across the Atlantic, there was the same religious division that there was in the U.K. There were three main reasons for starting the race of colonialism: wealth, population and the official propaganda.
Wealth. Spain was at that time a colonial force, and it was the mirror everyone looked at, because thanks to its colonies it had obtain tremendous economical benefits. America was then a kind of “golden cake” where Europeans searched for gold and silver (e.g.: legend of “El Dorado”).
Population. By the beginning of the XVII th century, England was overpopulated. This implied a growth in crime, unemployment and housing necessity. Colonialism was then seen as an answer to these problems: colonies we the place for those people who were out of society (criminals, religious dissenters...).
Official propaganda showed colonies as place where a new beginning was possible to everyone who worked hard. This propaganda attracted many people at the U.K. who had nothing at all, and could search for a new status in the colonies. That's the origin of the American dream: anyone can build himself a new life, independently from his origin. So, both the government and the people in search for opportunities didn't matter if there were any natives in the land.
The problem with colonialism was the location of the new colonies. When Britain started the colonialist race, Spain controlled South America, some places of North America and the old possessions of Portugal in the East. So, the only place where Britain could place its colonies was the empty lands of North America. They started then in Rhode Island, in the coast. But this provoked several fights against Spain, because it was considered that America was only for Spain (the Pope had given the land to Spain in the “Tratado de Tordesillas”). Most of the struggles in Europe in the XVII th century had a colonial reason, because England, France and Holland were trying to start a colonial empire, and Spain defended its territories (e.g. “War of the Thirty Days”). In these wars, England gained more colonies, like Jamaica (occupied by Cromwell).
The question of colonialism in the XVII th century is also the cause of latter struggles between England and France (e.g.: Napoleonic wars as “Trafalgar”), because they both had an increasing power (since Spain and Holland were in decline).
The First Civil War is the reason of the cultural tragedy of the XVII th century. When Puritans won this war, all the theatres were closed, and it was the end of the golden age of Shakespeare and Marlowe. With the Restoration in 1616 there was a revival in culture, although the level in drama was not the same as before. But thanks to Charles II there was a second golden age in music, architecture, painting, literature, and science.
From the year 1714 onwards the Hanover *dynasty would rule England. This dynasty had a German origin, and it is known as the dynasty of the “Georges”. The XVIIIth century was characterised by the expansionism and the lost of colonies.
By the year 1773, England was the first colonial empire in the world. The whole century would be full of wars between France and Spain (the Bourbon Dynasty) and between England and Holland. In both cases, one of the blocks is catholic, whereas the other one is protestant. Wars of the XVIIIth century are different than before: they are long campaigns, with many different battlefields, and they become international. Wars are fought in Europe and in the colonies; they are highly positive for England.
In the case of the Spanish Succession, England captured the territories of Minorca, Gibraltar and Canada.
In North America, England occupied 13 colonies (all the eastern coast) and Canada (war of Spanish succession). As a result, by the year 1773 England was the only power present in North America.
In Central America, England got the Caribbean Sea (Jamaica, Trinidad, Barbados), which was a very strategic place.
In South America, there was an agreement with Spain, called the “Asiento”, by which England merchants could sell products to the Spaniards. This trade with South America allowed England to sell slaves in America.
In Asia, since the Spanish colonies disappeared, England got India, Sri Lanka, and some commercial links with China.
In the Mediterranean Sea, England occupied Minorca and Gibraltar (war of Spanish succession), which were of commercial importance.
In Africa, it occupied commercial positions like the Cape of Good Hope and St. Helena. These were strategic territories that guard the rout to India.
In Australia and Tazmania, Captain Cook took some territories.
But in the year 1773, the loss of colonies started and it culminated in 1776 with the declaration of independence in America. That was a terrible loss after a war between the colonies and the Mother Country, sort of a civil war. There are three main reasons for this quarrel:
Structure of the Empire. The whole British Empire was organised centrally, from London. England imposed hard conditions to the colonies about farming, industry and taxes, and none of them had degree of autonomy. All the products were taxed in England, so this tremendous taxation was good for England, but not for the colonies. As a result, the claim of the colonies would be “No taxation without representation”.
Absence of danger. The danger of France for the colonies had been expelled by 1773, so American colonies had a degree of security.
George II's policy decided not to let such liberty to America. This was a royal mistake, and the idea of the Empire disappeared.
The loss of the American colonies marked the end of an age and the beginning of another. One of the consequences was an important reversal in economy. The other one was the French Revolution (1789). The French Revolution took the example of the American colonies and their democratic principles (the idea of fighting the inequality of American citizens in respect to their metropolis). The idea of get independence without an unfair king or system was a bomb that influenced the French Revolution. It was the end of an ancien regine and the emerge of a new figure, Napoleon. This would be the period of the “Napoleonic Wars” between France and England.
The XVIIIth century marks also the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. By the time that the “Napoleonic Wars” ended (Waterloo, 1815), England was fully industrialised. It was a gradual develop due to various reasons:
The demographic growth in second half of the century meant a bigger market than ever before and plenty of cheap labour. This growth can be explained by the improvement of life conditions, although there were in fact great differences between England and Ireland. The real reason for this demographic growth seems to be the bigger birth rate, caused to a mayor availability of goods (and allowed this by the Agrarian Revolution).
The previous Agrarian Revolution > more births > Industrial R. The boom in science in this century caused the introduction of new crops, breading experiments, change in techniques of manure...and all of this made the agrarian production increase.
The Transport Revolution was necessary for transporting the production. A new net of roads were built thanks to private companies (“turnpikes”). Citizens had to pay a “toll” for using those roads. For the fist time, all the industrial centres were communicated by a radial system with centre in London. In this time, also a new huge net of canals were built to allowed an easier transport of products. The people who built these canals, the “navvies”, constructed later on the railway. These new roads and canals transformed the English landscape, and the system was exported to the colonies and other countries.
The Technical Revolution transformed the means of production. In England, it affected the most important industrial sectors: textile and iron.
In the textile sector, the introduction of the “Spinning Jenn” (a spinning machine operated by one man that made the work of 12 men) allowed a bigger production. But then more cotton was needed, and the commerce with the USA was re-established. At the end of the XVIIIth century, England became the main producer and exporter of cloth in the world.
In the iron sector, the steam engines and the use of coal as new source of energy made the production of iron increase; England became the first producer in the world.
Industries were to be found in the North and West of England, where a number of towns increased their population (Liverpool, Sheffield, Newcastle...). They were the “backbone” of the Industrial Revolution; in this cities industrial slums (suburbs) appeared, where people lived in miserable conditions.
As a result, the wealthiest country in the world at the end of the XVIIIth century had a part of its population in miserable life conditions. Distances between poor and rich people increased enormously and the clime was of unrest, which was the seed for a possible social revolution. But before, there are several questions to take into account.
The battle of Waterloo (1815) was very important for England, because it meant the final defeat of Napoleon, the end of Napoleonic Wars (which had started in the final years of the XVIIIth century) and it marked the consolidation of the second English Empire. There were three main reasons for the English victory in Waterloo:
Napoleon own mistakes guided by his ambitions. Both the Russian and the Spanish campaign had been disasters that weakened Napoleon's power.
Crucial role of the English navy, commanded by Nelson (death in the battle of Trafalgar). The well situation of the navy allowed England to be present in different stages and to make a naval blockade. This naval blockade was proved to be very effective to maintain the international trade by sea, whereas trade in France was restricted to the land.
The industrialisation of England, which allowed a massive production of coal, iron and cloth. These products were in many cases exported, and they gave an enormous profit although those were times of war. By 1851 England was fully industrialised.
England was then the wealthiest and more industrialised country in the world. These was shown to the rest of the world during “The Great Exhibition” (1851, Victorian times), which took place at “The Crystal Palace” in London. It was a symbol of English industrial power: even the Crystal Palace was an industrial revolution, since it was the first pre-fabricated building.
But this had a terrible dark side behind: millions of inhabitants of the wealthiest country were the poorest people in the world. These people worked in terrible conditions, because work and production was based on the effort and suffering of many people who worked for low rages, all days of the week (except Sundays) and with a terrible schedule.
The pressure of working masses obliged the government to make a new law in 1842 to introduce new measures in working conditions: “The Great Reform”. This law not only provoked changes, but it also showed the miserable working conditions and life (e.g. children from 5 years old were working for 60-70 hours a week in mines, there were no hygienic conditions...). Some of the changes of “The Great Reform” were:
No children under nine could work in mines.
No children under ten could work in textile factories.
Hour of working was limited to 55 hours a wee.
This law opened the way to many Reforming Groups which were trying to improve working conditions. The most important of them was “Chartism”; this group produced a document called “The Charter of Rights” which was not accepted by the government. Some of the petitions were:
Universal male suffrage (at those times, only men who could prove they had a regular income could vote, so workers were excluded).
Representation in Parliament (to be an MP men had to prove they had a high income, so only high classes could be members).
Right of association (workers needed to associate to get improvements in their conditions, but it was forbidden; the “bobbies” as a special police force created at those times to control worker reunions, specially in industrial towns).
Redistribution of seats in Parliament (each city had a given number of seats, but the fast growth of population in industrial areas provoked that cities as Manchester had less seats than another ones less populated; the solution to this unfair situation was then to give more seats to the more densely populated areas).
The social pressure was then very strong, and it could have been a social revolution if it hadn't appear the railway.
The railway not only made distances smaller and travels faster, but it also caused the creation of employment that alleviated the social pressure because millions of people could then get a job (even when the railway was exported). So, it can be said that the railway saved England form a social revolution.
But the workers' situation wasn't the same in all places belonging to the English crown, especially in Ireland. Between 1845 and 1850 Ireland lost three million people: 1.5 or 2 million emigrated, and 1 or 1.5 million died for starvation. These were called in Ireland “The Famine Years”, because the basic diet for most Irish in those days were potatoes (because they didn't have money for anything more). And the worst thing came when in 1845 the potato crop is destroyed by a killer fungus, so there was nothing to eat. There is important to take into account that Ireland was in fact a great producer of milk, butter, cereals, etc., but they were not given to the Irish people because the production was given to commerce (following the policy of “laissez faire”). As a result, millions of people died from starvation and those who had an opportunity emigrated.
This policy was the biggest English mistake in Ireland, and it is still remembered as a great attack to Irish people. This situation explains the presence of Ireland in USA and Canada (New York is called in Ireland “the next parish”).
This terrible event caused the born of secret societies which were given money from abroad to prepare the independence of Ireland, most of them were catholic, like the I.R.B. or Irish Republic Brotherool (later on the IRA).
But apart from violent groups as the IRB, there were also some political groups in the second half of the XIXth century that searched for a peaceful answer to the Irish problem. The idea was to get the “Home Rule”, which was a kind of self-government, but it was denied during all XIXth by England. This situation explains the origin of “Sinn Fein” (Ourselves Alone), a political group that defended the “Home Rule”.
The question of “Home Rule” has to do with the “Famine Years”, because after that terrible situation, Irish people considered that, since they didn't get any advantage from being part of England, it was better to be independent.
The question of Ireland shows the two faces of England during the XIXth century: although England was the most powerful nation in the world, the problem of Ireland was still there.
The world during the second half of the XIXth century was in a very complex situation, full with conflicts due to a colonial reason. The situation of England as the most powerful country made the international relations very difficult, and the English colonial empire suffer lots of conflicts:
“The Opium War”, the Far East (1840's), which confronted England with China. England had at those times some commercial stations in China, but wanted to improve the trade, using opium as currency (China had at those days a great demand of it although it was not legal, and England could grow it in other parts of the empire). When Chinese authorities tried to stop the illegal trade of opium, the confrontation with England started.
At the end, both nations got to an arrangement: England wouldn't use opium as currency, but it got more commercial stations.
“The Crimean War”, Africa (1854), which confronted England with Russia. This war had its origin in the problem of the declining state of the Turkish Empire, because then a number of nations wanted to gain some territorial gains with its collapse. Russia was the most important of them (it was known as “The Bear”), but if Russia got strategic territories, the situation for some English colonies would be very dangerous. When Russia got Afghanistan (in the Peninsula of Crimea), India (the “Jew of the Crown” for England) was then in a very serious danger of being attacked by Russia. The confrontation started then: England, with the support of France and Turkey, fought against Russia.
The Crimean War was a failure for England and it had a terrible cost. It proved that English army need to change its tactics and techniques, which hadn't changed from times of Waterloo.
It was also the first war in which the figure of the war correspondent appeared, and that allowed the English public to be more concerned about the suffering of their troops. This increasing concern was the reason why Florence Nightingale, “Flo”, created the first group of military nurses, which later on would became the Red Cross.
“The Indian Mutiny”, 1857. India was the principle English possession, where English rule was extended all over the country, even beyond places like Khabul and Jallalabad (Afghanistan). The territory was massive, so England couldn't control it using only its own troops, and it was obliged to form a native force; the result was of 40 thousand English troops and 500 thousand native troops.
England had already started to “westernise” India, which included, for example, the imposition of English as the official language, the massive construction of railways and the suppression of native traditions and customs that the English considered savages. This imposition provoked a gap between the English and the Indian societies, which exploded in 1857 with a rebellion of native troops, “The Mutiny”.
England suppressed the mutiny but the cost was high, and distances between both populations growth. England started a new policy of imposition of power, because India was a possession that the government wanted to keep at all costs.
Conflict of Afghanistan, 1880's. England was very aware of the Russian expansion, which had got very near to the Indian frontier. England then extended the British rule to the North of India, Afghanistan, to stand the line of defend far away from India. Another reason was that Afghanistan produced lots of opium, of which England could make use to commerce with China.
But it was a very difficult area to maintain, and in the “Kabul disaster” (1883) the city was taken by the native population, so England had to retreat its frontieres.
Africa was the “great cake” of those years, waiting to be divided among the colonial powers, although there was already some European presence. Basically, the whole continent was unknown, and the religious or reporters' expeditions (e.g. Livinstone) began to discover its richness in natural resources like rubber, gold, diamonds, agriculture...
The division of Africa was made peacefully in the assemblies of the “Partition of Africa”, and the results were:
Congo was given at personal title to the king of Belgium (a little important colonial power), so private companies could operate freely.
German, who wanted to be a colonial power, got some territories.
The partition didn't take into account the native population, which was a tribal society. This artificial partition created great problems between tribes that still have effects in our days.
England occupied a good position both in the North and in the South, forming a belt of territories. They were very strategic areas: South Africa (capital Cape Town) and Egypt (the Suez Canal, whose control allowed a shorter voyage to India).
By the partition of Africa (1878-1914), Great Britain added 12,173,000 Km2 to their possessions. So, it was the greatest imperial power at the time, with most of their possessions placed in Africa. The basic characteristics of British presence in Africa were:
The presence is much more extended in the east than in the west, with the establishment of commercial companies (East Africa Company, directed by Gen Mackenzie).
A division between north and south can be made, although the supreme interest of Great Britain was to create a belt of territories to unite north and south. That division was due to the presence of Germany, which had increased its colonial power by the end of the XIXth century.
Germany, in order to establish a connection with the Turkish Empire, created the Germane-Turkish railway (from Berlin to Baghdad). But this was a threat to the British empire.
The massive presence of Great Britain in the south of Africa encouraged the creation of the South Africa Company, commanded by Cecil Rhodes.
The only territories in the south that didn't belong to Great Britain were two islands (Transvaal and Orange Free State), that belonged to Holland. The inhabitants of those lands were called “Boers”, and their society was basically agricultural.
The problem arose at the end of the XIXth century, because of the discover of diamonds and of gold mines at those Dutch territories. De Veer (Dutch) argued that Holland should firmly maintain the monopoly of diamonds, but Great Britain was very much interested in annexing those territories.
This situation provoked the “Boer War”, won by Great Britain. Consequences:
It was a serious war that caused sufferings and loses.
Germany proved to be an active imperial power.
Great Britain annexed the territories, although British and Boer societies agreed to co-rule the land. But this leaded to another problem, the exclusion of the black society: the Apartheid system. Great Britain is then the responsible for the building of concentration camps in South Africa
The colonial question was the main factor which provoked a destructive event in history: THE I WORLD WAR, 1914-1919.
The colonial question had to do with the development of Germany as a colonial power during the end of the XIXth century. Germany, in order to expand and have an empire, started a process of re-armament. The German objective was to conquer lands in the Turkish Empire, so the country took action in the Balkans and Near East, which were crucial territories.
But Germany became a threat for England when they occupied some places in the Low Countries, too near the British Isles. England decided then to jump into war against Germany.
The I World War had been announced through all the conflicts of the XIXth century, and people like Engels had tried to avoid it with their texts (XVIIIth century).
In fact, the war was something that a number of nations were looking forward. For example, the text of Engels shows those were times of general happiness, that has to do with the national pride of England and Germany. The war was then a way of showing which country had the supremacy. It was an example of the Neo-Darwinism or survival of the fittest, applied to the human society.
In the I World War, it is important the influence of industrialisation. All industries were put in service to war, making new weapons like tanks or gas. Their effects were devastating to all nations, and practically a generation disappeared in this war.
There was also a general state of bankruptcy in Europe, due to the relations established between the countries in conflict.
The Treaty of Versailles put an end to the war. It was agreed by the winners of the war that the debt should be paid by Germany, the looser. Terrible conditions were then imposed to Germany, that suffered the worst inflation in the history of the world. In the long run, it is a fact that explains the II World War.
In the Treaty of Versailles Germany lost the Alsace and Lorraine, its colonies, and territories in Poland, including some productive areas. Germany lost 6500 km2 of its possessions.
Concerning the army, Germany could not maintain an army superior to 100000 men, with no artillery, no tanks and no submarines, just light infantry.
In this treaty, a the principle of “war guilt” was imposed, so Germany had to pay to the winners as a compensation for the war (100000 million marks in gold). This money was not paid regularly, so in a few years the Valley of the Ruhr, which was the most industrial area of Germany, was taken.
As a consequence of the Treaty of Versailles, the German inflation increased in the 20s, so German population suffered miserable conditions. There was a feeling of hurt pride that made the Nazism appear. The “Mein Kampf” and Hitler's figure emerged with the support of millions of German people. These were ideas of racial superiority, need of expansion, national pride and unity... a message that the country wanted to hear. Nazism gave hopes to the Germans, so the development of this group by the late 30s was tremendous and it couldn't be stopped.
The prize that England had to pay for the war was high: many colonies assisted England during the war and they wanted recognition. It's the case of Ireland, where the Home Rule Bill had to be studied again. England then gave a partial independence, making a partition of the Irish island in two halves: Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. The partition in fact was problematic from the very beginning. The ones who wanted the unity were basically the Protestant population of Northern Ireland (“unionists”), which were a majority in that area. They wanted to stay united to England because they were a minority in the whole Ireland.
The majority of this area was due to the plantations made in the XVIIIth century, the Munster and Ulster. The Munster was a territory that never had got progress, so they wanted a union with England. On the contrary, the majority of the Irish people wanted the “Home Rule Bill”. England gave independence to the whole country, but then the Unionists fought against it and finally, Ireland got a partial independence.
But in the south of Ireland, a civil war started between Unionists and Independents. One Independent was Michael Collins, who created the IRA. It was a terrible war for Ireland, which suffered many miseries.
The idea of setting London as the operational centre of a “Club of Nations” (being the Queen or King its top figure) took form at those years. The ancient English Empire turned into the “Commonwealth”. Its principles were equality between nations and helping each other to maintain the empire. That was the prize that England had to pay for their mistakes in Ireland, Australia, etc. The financial and economical effects were good, because still nowadays New Zealand depends on the United Kingdom, and the Queen of England is also, in theory, Queen of Australia.
THE II WORLD WAR (1940-1945)
The conflict was more international than the I World War. The Allies (England, France, Russia and USA) were confronted with the Axis (Germany, Italy and Japan).
The cost of the war (“toll”) was great: millions of civilian lives were lost, and this war showed its most horrible aspect in tragedies like Hiroshima, the bombing of London, Nagasaki...
The consequence of the II World War as a world disrupted. Economically, it was even worst. Roosevelt, Stalin and Churchill became the leaders after the war. It was also the end of the “imperial dream”, because it was evident then that it was an enormous paradox. England was not an empire ever after.
By 1945 the world was divided between USA and the communist Russia: these were the years of the “cold war” between the two contenders.
The predominant religion through British History is Christianity, which was first brought by the Romans. The Roman emperor Constantine was the first one to give Christianity as the official religion of his empire, and it was one of the great legacies of the Romans. By the time they left, in the IVth century, part of the British Isles had been christianised.
But before the IV th century, there were several religious beliefs to take into account.
THE EARLY TIMES (BEFORE IVth)
The earliest occupations were as a rule of small groups of hunters and gatherers moving from place to place and leaving few traces. Probably, they venerated the sun and the moon. Also, as Robert Graves argues, they probably venerated a “mother goddess”, because many archaeological rests in Europe represent a female figure with a prominent womb, which can be seen as a cult of fertility. In the case of Ireland, this female figure is still present in its name, Erin, which derives from Erinia, their mother goddess.
The first archaeological traces appear when the hunters and gatherers settle down. Then, the “cult of the death” appears, bringing the first burial monuments with it. In the case of Britain, the first burial monuments are what we call the “Round Chambers”, which were cameras surrounded by walls of stones and covered with earth. There are two kinds of chambers: simple round chamber (spread in Mae's House) and round chamber with a corridor or passage (spread in Newgrange).
These structures have to do with early beliefs. In the case of the round chambers with a corridor, more complex than the simple ones, the chamber is illuminated by the sun once a year during a moment, in the solstice of winter. The conclusion is that this early people had some astronomical knowledge. When talking about these first inhabitants, we are talking about Iberians, which must have had some knowledge of navigation to reach the British Isles. Then, when they settled down, this astronomical knowledge remained in their cult.
These monuments made of stone are typical of megalithic times, similar to the dolmens in the Iberian Peninsula.
Stonehenge and the Stone Circles.
We know few things about these monuments. In a way, they are connected with the “Round Chambers”, but their purpose was not burial. The case of Stonehenge is still very mysterious, because in fact it is formed by two circles.
This mysterious form has caused several definitions of Stonehenge through history.
A visual monument of Dracontia (XVIIIth century), because it should represent the shape of a snake. This theory has been rejected because there are no evidences.
It had to do with the Circle of King Arthur and the legend about Merlin petrifying giants who had come from Ireland (Medieval times). But we have stone circles also in Ireland, generally facing the Atlantic, and very close to the coast (maybe because they were made by early navigators).
A place of sacrifice for the Celtic Druids. It is true that Celts made use of Stonehenge, but it had been built in 3000 BC, long before they arrived to the British Isles.
Now it is considered a calendar, which can be seen by observing the situation of the stones: they seem to be aligned to represent the solstices so they could celebrate their ceremonies. And this takes us to the cult of Sun and Moon. But that doesn't explain their circular shape, or why the stones were brought from miles away. This may have to do with some primitive dances which certain places of Europe still possess, a kind of dance of the giants. This idea of circle is very ancient in human history: a movement in a circular shape has a rotation to the right (positive, dance of fertility) and to the left (associated with the worst, like war or death dances). The ritualistic dances might then have something to do with Stonehenge as a place of ceremony.
The Celtic religion.
Most of Celtic tribes venerated the figures of the “heads” with three faces, which represented love, life and death.
Most rituals of the Celtics were agrarian and time cults.
Due to their veneration to the Sun and Moon, the Celtic calendar was divided in thirteen “months” of 28 days each, according to the thirteen lunar phases. The last month, which made the number 13 in their calendar, was the month of the death, which is the origin of the negative idea associated to this number. Each lunar phase can be divided into two “fortnights” (13 or 15 days). The thirteen months of the Celtic calendar are divided then into four parts:
1 November or Shamhain (cult to the deaths)
1 May or Beltane (day of purification; it represented the day in the life)
1 February or Lugnassad
1 August or Oimelc
In the agrarian cults, the Celtic goddess of fertility was Brigid, associated with the tribe of the Brigantes in Great Britain. The image of Brigid soon developed into a representation of the “three faces”.
Historians have got to the conclusion that there was a totemic tree for each month (Robert Graves, “The white goddess”). There were a series of tree which were thought to have magic-religious properties:
The oak (dpús in Greek, where the name of druids derived), whose fruits, the acorns, gave the power of seen the future.
The apple trees were the trees of wisdom and knowledge.
The yew tree (“tejo”) was the tree of death.
The Epic was soon used for the Celts to transmit orally the achievements of their divinities (like the cycle of Cuchulain). In the epic cycles of their divinities there is always a maritime travel to the underworld (“el más allá”) from which the divinity comes back. Later on, Christianity will adapt the story of Cuchulain to convert it in the story of St. Brendan, who was told to have come back from a travel to hell. This idea of going to the underworld or world of divinities with the idea of bringing something to the mortals is also present in myths of other cultures (like Prometeo in the Greek mythology, who brought the fire from the gods).
But in this mortal world, the person in charge of preserve all this rituals was the druid or great priest.
The role of Druids was basic in Celtic culture. The word “druid” probably derives from the Greek “dpús” (oak), which may have to do with the magic properties of acorn. Some of the characteristics of druids were:
The little we know about them comes from Roman writers, whose connotations were usually bad (they considered Celts as savages). We then know that animals' sacrifices was carried out, with the idea of seeing the future. This divination was also present in the Roman culture, where the organs of animals were examined.
We also know this because in some regions like Ireland, which was a very backward region till the XVth century, many of the Celtic customs were maintained till very late in history. In medieval times, the figure of the “fili” or bards occupied an important place in society; maybe they were the inheritors of the druids.
Recorders of history (memory of the clan).
We know that bards in medieval times were important members of the clan, which probably happened also with druids in Celtic times.
Druids were also political advisers, which might explain why people like Julius Caesar hated them so much. Since druids represented the roots of the Celts, Romans wanted to destroy them to destroy then the society.
The medieval bards were also the founders of schools, but they were usually handled by Christian monks. This may explain the 4th role of the druids.
Teachers of other druids.
In the case of bards, they were extracted from aristocratic families. Probably the same happened with druids, who were brought from druidic families. Druids were responsible for the oral transmission of the history of the clan to the next generation. These Celtic stories were later on written down in medieval times by monks. One of this medieval books is “Leabhar Grabhála” or “Book of Invasions”, which narrates the foundation of Ireland. The story maintains that there had been four invasions, but only the one coming from the Iberian Peninsula (commanded by king Hiberus) was successful. From this time onwards, Ireland began to develop. In fact, the “Book of Invasions” fit perfectly the real history of Ireland, in which the final Celtic invasion pushed the Iberians to the west.
There were also “druidic schools”, like in the island of Mona (Anglesa), which seems to have been a centre of knowledge; other examples are Tara and another one in France.
Julius Caesar wrote that druids acted in “public justice”. Going to the medieval time, there were important people in society called the “Brehons”, who developed a system of justice called “The Brehon Laws” which existed till the end of the XVIth century. The Brehons differentiated three kinds of categories in law: murder, private property and inheritance.
The Brehon Law is connected with the druids, of which they had taken their inheritance. Brehons followed the rule of compensation in their laws.
Historians have also come to the conclusion that druids must have played the role of international referees or “arbiters” between different tribes or even nations. Druids were very respected figures through all the Celtic world, so they could move freely (for example, they had the power of stopping a battle).
Official poets or bards for the king and court.
Medieval bards could even be very aggressive in their poems or songs without being punished; this role might be related with druids.
As a rule, druids were men, but it is thought that there were also druidesses (like Morgana in Arthur's legend), although we can't be sure.
Druids made use of herbs, of which they had a profound knowledge.
THE ROMAN WORLD
When the Romans finally settle down in Great Britain (43 AD), Britain jumped into the western civilisation. Romans are not only responsible for creating a system of roads or for bringing Britain closer to the continent, but also for the impose of Christianity in Britain.
But Christianity wasn't brought by the Romans till the end of their occupation of Britain. We can make then a division in time:
Constantine (IVth century AD)
Constantine was the first Roman emperor who made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire in the IVth century AD (Edict of Nicea), a measure that also affected Great Britain.
But the imposition of Christianity in England didn't meant a quickly and final elimination of other religions, but a time of coexistence between the great variety of cults in Britain together with Christianity:
Celtic cults (a background which never disappeared in Roman times)
Cult of Mythras (this cult had come from the East and it was even followed by many Roman soldiers; Christianity in fact inherited many aspects of Mithraism).
The fall of Rome (476 AD) was an event with tremendous consequences for religion. The main reason for the fall of the Roman Empire was the invasions, which needs to be explained.
The Roman frontiers (specially the Rhine and the Danube) were broken and the whole Roman Empire in the West was over run by a number of “barbarian” tribes coming from many places outside the empire (like Goths, Visigoths, Ostrogoths, Franks, Germans, Vandals, Slavs, Huns, Jutes, Saxons and Angles). The occupation of Roman territories was made gradually. The movement of these tribes was due to a chain effect of one group pushing another, till the final push went against Rome.
The Huns (from the Far East) made the first push of this chain. They were expert in mobile war combined with the use of terror. They created an enormous fear in many people outside the Roman frontiers, who felt then unprotected.
These unprotected groups saw then Rome as a place that granted security, since Roman civilisation was considered superior and admirable. The groups of “barbarians” wanted then to take part in the Roman Empire, but that was a time in which the Roman “status quo” was falling. The push against Rome was the final attack that made the Roman Empire fall.
After the fall of Rome, there were two great cultural islands in Europe where the Roman culture survived, but which remained isolated for many years:
Central Europe, Italy, France (bigger part)
Wales, Ireland, Scotland
The Church was the only Roman institution that survived in this period of general confusion. A sort of integrity was maintained in the Christian church, which kept on using the Roman policy methods for its own objectives and organisation.
The Church as the survival institution of the Romans remained only in the areas 1 and 2, because:
Central Europe, Italy and France were limited:
To the North with Vikings
To the East with Slavs
To the South with Islam
To the West with Angles, Saxons and Jutes
Wales, Ireland and Scotland were separated from 1 by Anglo-Saxons. These groups had yet pushed the native population of Britain to the West.
The existence of these two isolated areas takes us to understand the reason why there were two different churches in the British Isles:
The Celtic Church, which was the institution that survived in Wales, Ireland and Scotland
The Roman Church, which was the institution conserved in Central Europe, Italy and France. They considered the Pope as a kind of emperor.
See texts 7 and 8 of “Sourcebook on British Civilisation”
The coming of the Roman Church to Scotland was made in 563-5 AD and to England in 597 AD.
These texts, written by the monk and historian Venerable Bede, tell about the first coming of Roman Church to England, although it had happened first in Scotland. The reason for this manipulation might be a desire of establishing a rank of importance, so the event to take in mind was the coming of Christianity to England (because Bede was English and also a Roman Christian monk).
In the final clash between the Celtic and the Roman churches, the Roman church was chosen in the Synod of Whitby. The Synod of Whitby took place at Northumbria, and it was carried out by the orders of its king Oswy, who wanted to decide a religion. He finally decided to accept the Roman branch, and since Northumbria was the most important kingdom of that time, it influenced the rest of England.
But which steps lead to the Synod of Whitby?
The Romans had left England around 407 AD to defend the south of their empire, leaving the British population without any defend from invasions of Jutes, Saxons or Angles. In 500 Ad, in a manuscript about the “battle of Mons Badanious”, it is told about a king called Arthur that won this struggle against the invaders, which is the origin of the legend.
The new waves of invaders pushed the native population to the west. Between 430 and 460 a monk called St Patrick (now the patron of Ireland) christianised Ireland. He might be from Wales or Cornwall, but was pushed into Ireland due to the new waves of invaders.
The Celtic church was monastic and exported missionaries to other areas. An example of this travelling church is the legend of monk St Brendan, who was supposed to have travelled into the Atlantic, coming across land in the middle of the ocean. What we know for certain is that someone called St Columba, was the monk responsible for taking Christianity from Ireland to Scotland. Columba was the founder of the first Christian monastery in Scotland, Iona (563-565).
In 597 AD the Roman Church sent a new mission to England. The Roman Church was the only institution of the Roman Empire that had survived after the collapse. The mission sent to England was commanded by monk Augustine, who arrived at Kent. The king of Kent accepted the establishment of the Roman Church, offering them Canterbury as a gift (it would become the religious capital of England). Later on the Roman Church set in Canterbury began to expand, which inevitably took to a collide with the Celtic church.
It's important to mark the differences between these two branches. The Celtic church had developed for years making a process of amalgamation with the pagan or druidic world. Celtic monks took elements from the native believes to explain the Bible, like the Adan's apple (apple was the tree of knowledge for Celts), St Brigida (Bridgid was a Celtic goddess). Easter was celebrated differently from the Roman Church. Celtic monks shaved their heads like druids did, whereas Roman monks made themselves the tonsure.
The clash between the Celtic and Roman churches took place in Northumbria. The king Oswy decided then to choose the Roman branch (Synod of Whitby), leaving the Celtic church in the north-west of Britain separated from the Roman church in the south-east. But why this Anglo-Saxon replaced his own religion without any violence?
The reason why Oswy chose the Roman church was the prestige of the Roman culture and civilisation, because Anglo-Saxons didn't possess that knowledge of organisation that Romans had (libraries, education, taxation...) that Anglo-Saxons needed so much to organise their reigns. The Roman monks were then considered useful by the kings, so the imposition of Christianity was made from top of society to bottom.
The Roman monks were well received at Kent because the king's wife was Christian. They presented themselves as good utensils to organise the political life in Britain. But missionaries not only offered knowledge, but also life after death if Christianity was accepted and the punishment of hell if their religion was not accepted.
The Celtic church continued existing for centuries, although the Roman Church had won. When Ireland was invaded by England (XIIth c, Henry II) one of the reasons for invasion was religion. This campaign took then the characteristics of a “crusade”, supported by the Roman Church of England, which was interested in eliminating the Celtic church. This invasion meant the elimination of the Celtic church appart from the destruction of the Celtic life and culture.
The importance that the Celtic Church had can be seen in the splendour of their architecture and manuscripts like the “Book of Kells”.
The Celtic monasteries were in fact simple communities with no commodities. Celts were also very skilful in the illumination of manuscripts that contained Christian and pagan elements, representing the perfect blend of the Celtic church in those times. The same blend of ornamentation is present in coffers, chalices, stone crosses...
The western culture was conserved thanks to the Celtic monks and their manuscripts. The lost of the past knowledge in the rest of Europe is the reason why this period is called “The Dark Age”.
From the Synod of Whitby onwards, both king ad church worked together for centuries. This strong link was demonstrated in the territory of the Franks, an event with tremendous effects for the whole Europe.
Franks was one of the tribes moving to the west when Rome collapsed. One of their early kings, Clovis (Vth century), divided the territory of the Franks among his children. This was the beginning of the dynasty of the Merovinghan kings. But later on, they became very weak, because the nobles that supported their feudal system were becoming much more stronger that the king himself.
One of this strong nobles was the major-domo Charles Martel, who had a son called Pepin “the Short”. Pepin wanted to make a “coup d'état” (753-4) to become king, so he then presented a petition to the Pope: the Pope would bless the “coup d'état” and in exchange, Pepin would defeat the Lombards, taking their lands and giving them to the Pope. That's the origin of the Papal Domain, and the first evidence of church and state working together.
The confirmation of this co-operation arrived when Pepin's son, Charlemagne, inherited the throne of the Franks. When the Pope was been threaten again by the Lombards, Charlemagne fought against them and defeat them as his father had done in the past. In exchange, the Pope gave him the title of “Holy Roman Emperor” (800AD). The church got then an army to be defended. Charlemagne became a sort of semi-sacred figure, so he won political stability. And the right of inheritance became a sacred thing, blessed by the Church. But the problems in the stability of western Europe soon arrived.
The Carolingian territories were surrounded by enemies:
Mediterranean and most of the Iberian Peninsula: Islam
East: Slavs and Magyars
Charlemagne was for the first time able to organise his government, because he was rounded by scholastic people belonging to the Roman Church that supported him.
Thanks to Charlemagne, the church got scholastic schools, abbeys and a revival of culture (although Charlemagne never learned to read or write, he was very concerned about the importance of culture).
Thanks to the support of the church, he was able to centralise his power, setting a new patron that would soon develop into the feudal system. He was the central figure of the empire, with the lands divided among the nobles (dukes and earls). The pyramid of society was characterised by a total absence of a middle class:
Nobility Religious figures
S e r v e s
The church is responsible for this state of society because:
They had converted the king in a semi-sacred figure
They helped him with the government and laws
They helped him in maintaining the central government and the nobility.
Charlemagne created a series of “emissaries” or “missi dominici”, who were usually religious figures who visited areas of the empire to then report it to the king.
In a minor scale, the same happened in England, although it didn't belong to the Carolingian empire. Anglo-Saxon kings gradually adopted Christianity and a new way of government supported by the church.
In fact, when the second generation of Roman monks (commanded by Theodore of Tarsus) arrived to Canterbury, the city had yet converted in the religious and cultural centre of England.
See text 8
The first remarkable thing of this text is that it is a written promulgation of laws, something that was very unusual before the arrival of the Roman monks.
Examining these laws, we can see a blend between the Church and the Angle-Saxon culture:
The church could suffer no taxation at all, and they would pray for the king without compulsion. By this, the church is establishing itself as an element superior than the king and as a free institution. It shows the enormous power that the church had got in only one generation.
The punishments for crimes against church and king are equal.
The 3rd law proves that the church excluded anyone who didn't follow them. Church wanted to impose moral principles on the whole community, dictating social rules. Altough these ideas were new to the Anglo-Saxon population, they had to follow them by force, because the church had the support of the king and the nobility. With the growing prosperity of the church, it soon became wealth and powerful.
The growing power of the church soon provoked problems in the union with the state. These problems had to do with the notion of power in early medieval times. All feudal monarchs tended towards absolute power and centralism (like Charlemagne did), but they needed subjects to increase their power. Then, the kings derived their power from two sources: God (king were anointed by God, they were sacred figures) and their subjects (taxation to get material power).
Due to this aspiration of power the feudalism was born. To obtain money, the king divided his country among nobles who must respond before him. Nobility could govern their lands but they had to give the king some of the benefits.
But what role did church occupied in this system? Church was becoming wealth and they were owners of vast amounts of lands. The Church wanted to be a free institution, which was not subject of the king because it only responded before God. This early friction would soon grow due to the increasing power of the Church, which was becoming dangerous for the king's government. This is called “The Fight of Investitures”.
IV. THE VIKING PERIOD. The Normans
The first Viking raids had a tremendous effect on the Anglo-Saxon government and society.
Some of the earliest Viking attacks went against monasteries (like Iona, Lindisfrane, and Jarrow), so religion suffered a great impact.
Vikings imposed their own faith, but they became Christian the moment they settled down in the place. One of the reasons for this is that Vikings had had contact with Christianity long before they arrived to England. Another reason is that the labour of Christian Anglo-Saxon figures was very important.
The Viking attacks had then a great impact on religion, but in fact, the Anglo-Saxon Church was then in a golden period, full of great cultural activities like “The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle”. There were hundreds of little churches all over the country, so the Christian Church was strongly connected to the people. For example, the “St Peter's Pence” was a costum by which everyone paid a pence to the Church on St Peter's Day, and part of this money was send to Rome. It was a very respected custom not only by the common people, but also by the Anglo-Saxon kings, who were the ones that had imposed it. The strong connection between Church and people was also due to the usage of the same language, the Anglo-Saxon English, instead of the different language (French and Latin) that Normans would impose with their arrival.
The Norman invasion provoked then great changes in the Anglo-Saxon Church.
First, the Norman invasion had been blessed by the Pope: even when William I fought in the Battle of Hastings (in which he won Harold Haardrabe and got the throne), he wore a banner of the Pope. The Battle of Hastings was then a kind of crusade, but why?
The reason has to do with the Pope of those times, Gregory VII. He made one of the first reformations of the Church, called “The Gregorian Reform”, which consolidated the Church as we know it nowadays. Before this reformation, many religious Christian figures were married and had children that inherited their charges and this was a problem for the Church. Gregory VII imposed then the “Cannon Law”, which forbid religious figures to marry. Probably, Gregory VII saw in William I the possibility of spreading the Reform through England, as he did after the Battle of Hastings.
The Norman invasion provoked also a tremendous change at the head of the Church. In the course of 15 years, all the Anglo-Saxon religious figures were replaced by Norman figures or people under Norman control. William I used William Lanfrank to impose the “Gregorian Reform”, which changed the Church in England. Some of the changes were, for example, the introduction of the Cannon Law and that the religious crimes (or crimes which had to do with the Church) would be judged only by the Church.
William Lanfrank is also responsible for the imposition of the French Style or French Culture. This explains why the monks of the order of Cluny (the Cluniacs), who had a French origin, became so relevant in England, establishing big Cluniac monasteries in the place. The French Style affects also the architecture: instead of the little churches of Anglo-Saxon times, new big cathedrals and temples were built.
But the cathedrals are not only a symbol of the increasing power and wealth of the Church, but also a sign of a number of drawbacks. The big stone cathedrals contrasted enormously with the normal houses: there was then a gap between Church and peasants. The Norman Church was miles away from the common people, instead of the strong connection that the Anglo-Saxon Church had had before. The Norman Church had become an aristocratic institution, which only spoke French and Latin. This difference in language made that English was relegated in all cultural and religious aspects; English became the language of the poorest and it grew freely, a fact that may explain the “anarchy” of the English Grammar.
The final break between Church and government arrived at times of William II, due to the role of Anselm of Bec. Anselm was a prominent religious figure and an intellectual, who had come from the continent and had became archbishop of Canterbury. He was absolutely resolved to maintain the Gregorian Reform introduced by Lanfrank and to keep the Church as an independent institution. But Church was an important part of the feudal system because it had vast amounts of land. The religious figures (bishops and abbots) were then two things at the same time: religious figures and feudal lords. And as feudal lords, they were vassals of the king.
Everyone accepted the double condition of the religious figures, which still had a strong union with the king. When a bishop died, the king was responsible for appointing a new bishop and gave him his attributes (a staff and a ring). This ceremony, called the “Investiture”, made the Church looked as if it were beyond the king, and the time of crisis arrived because the king wanted to keep his right of Investiture so he could maintain his power over the Church (and because his was supposed to emanate from God).
The struggle between the State (civil law) and the Church (religious law) started, commanded by William II and Anselm of Bec respectively.
There was a bitter strife between Anselm and William II, but finally Anselm had to quit England and return to Rome, where he was supported by the Pope.
In the meantime, when the Archbishop of Canterbury died, the king decided not to appoint a new Archbishop. So, William II received all the revenues from Canterbury during four years, a manipulation that the Church would resent. As an answer, the Church decided to excommunicate William II, which implied that his subjects could do with him whatever they felt like.
The first solution for this crisis between Church and State arrived with Henry I. He reached a kind of compromise about investitures, by which the king would maintain the right of appointing bishops but the attributes would be given by the Church. There was also a hidden compromise, by which the king wouldn't keep the sees of the Church. This gave the Church a kind of independence in the eyes of the people.
The second big question that had to be faced was the question of law. The political power development culminated in times of Henry II. He developed a machinery of state, by which the question of taxes was resolved and the law was applied to everyone in the land.
One of Henry II's ambitions was having a full control of the kingdom, which included taxation, law and defence. Henry II applied then the “Common Law” to the whole land. It is called so because it is based on tradition, so the state recorded the cases and when a similar case happened, they related to past cases (the cases made jurisprudence). But since the Church had its own law (the Cannon Law), the problems soon came when considering who must judge a religious figure if he commits a crime. The State and the Church quarrelled, causing the assassination of the religious Thomas Beckett, probably instigated by the king himself.
The problem was solved by a compromise: certain cases (heresy, questions against morality) would be exclusively examined by the Church using the Cannon Law, whereas the criminal cases would be judged by the State with the Common Law. Cannon Law was in many cases softer than Common Law, although the execution of the punishment (the public ceremony) was delivered by the king, who was the final administrator of justice. In a way, the king announced with this compromise that the State would be finally on top of religion.
Question of Church and culture in medieval times
From the age of Henry II onwards (that is, from the XII century) till 1348 (the Black Death) we can assist to the golden years of the Church as an institution. This period is important in many aspects, because many of the rituals and dogmas of the Church as we know them nowadays were established then as an answer to the needs of that time, like the idea of purgatory, the cult of relics and the pilgrimages.
The idea of purgatory appeared as an answer to the problem of money. Usury (which implies interests) was very usual in those times, but the Church forbade it because money was a dead thing, and then it couldn't birth more money. Commerce needed usury to develop itself: at the beginning, usury was only practised by Jews, but soon the emergent commercial class began to practise it. Since the commercial class was a benefit to society and to the Church (they gave money to build cathedrals), the Church created the Purgatory to avoid sending those people to Hell.
The establishment of the cult of relics and pilgrimage (whose centres were Rome, Compostela and Jerusalem) implied a movement of people. This movement generated a cultural connection among nations, although the fraud soon appeared with false relics all over the place (because pilgrimage had become a business).
The Church was also the institution for the poor and the sick. It is responsible for the creation of a net of hospitals all over Europe, usually under the control of religious orders (the Franciscans, the Dominicans and the Augustinians).
These religious orders, especially the Franciscans, became and example for society due to their labour with the poor.
These orders, especially the Dominicans, are also central in the development of education. The XII century was the time of the emerge of universities, usually related with some religious orders. The precedence of universities seems to be the Scholastic of Bologna, and it was followed by the University of Salermo, and later on Montpellier, Salamanca, Paris, Oxford...
Why the Church created universities in that precise moment?
The XII century was a time of expansion because the danger of invasions (Muslims, Vikings, Magyars...) was over. In this security trade could develop without any risk, so there was a great movement of money and people. It is the origin of the middle class, the burghers, who were usually commercial people. These people gradually began to need training (maths, writing, reading, arithmetic...) for their commerce, but only the Church, who was the possessor of knowledge, was able to teach them. That is the reason why Universities appear, after an evolution in which University was the final step:
“Petty” Schools were places besides a church in which children were taught some basic prayers and maybe some letters.
Chantry or Song Schools: together with prayers, a number of religious songs were taught, which implied a basic Latin.
Grammar Schools: Latin (reading and writing) was a fundamental subject in them, which was a tool needed in University.
Universities: the subjects were divided into trivivm or qvadrivivm.
University was a urban institution usually connected with a cathedral. It is structured following the structure of guilds:
It has its own place in town (the difference between “town and gown”), which provided it with independence.
It is structured following the steps of any other guild: apprentices school (a period of 7 years), then a final evaluation to become a Master or Magister (M.A), and finally they could reach the grade of excelence or Doctors (PD, Philosopher Doctor). Academically speaking, these are still the levels of University.
In medieval times there were very few universities responsible for teaching on the whole continent. Those few were then Universities of Nations, with colleges formed by groups of students of the same origin or country.
As Universities developed, they became specialised: Bologna in law, Salamanca in Philology, Montpellier and Paris in medicine... But soon (XVI and XVII centuries) they became independent form religions power, especially medical universities because religion was a barrier for their studies.
The connection between Church and University lasts even to our days. The creation of universities played a crucial role in the later cultural panorama: the literacy increased at the end of the Middle Ages, which explains the cultural explosion of the Renaissance. Renaissance was the time of discovers and scientific attitude, and all the great centres of culture of those years coincide with the universities of medieval ages.
Universities were the great academic support of the middle class, whose trade allowed the expansion of Europe.
Universities played also an important role in the question of nationalism, which arose at the end of the Middle Ages, thanks to the support of the national languages in universities. But all universities in Europe taught Latin, so students could move easily around Europe. Gradually, the national languages began to be used in universities, coexisting for a long time with Latin.
The crisis of the ecclesiastic power: the Black Death (1348)
The Black Death (1348) affected society and changed the Church radically. The Black Death was a disease came from the East that affected practically whole Europe: within a year, Europe lost 20 or 25 million of inhabitants, with towns and cities completely disappeared. At that time, it was an event that no one could understand, so people began to look for explanations. The most natural explanation (due to the strong religious influence) was that the Black Death was a punishment for sin sent by God.
Fanatism, desperate religious fever and violence against other races (the Jews as enemies of Christ) was one of the reactions.
Another reaction as the “Carpe Diem” reaction: if we are all going to die, let's enjoy the day.
There was also a theoretical reaction that needs to be explained in detail. The Black Death had more visible effects in places where there were big groups of people: towns, cities and also religious congregations. The transmission was then easy in religious orders, which also attended the sick people. The toll of deaths in religious orders was very heavy; if the Black Death was a punishment of God, he was also punishing the Church because it had become a sinful institution. An important grade of criticism appeared then in the church, also due to the vast economical resources that Church had whereas the rest of the population was in absolute misery.
The Black Death changed the mentality of people in the way they saw the Church: it was no longer a holy and innocent institution.
In the British Isles, a theoretical movement called Lollardy appeared, leaded by John Wycliffe. The Lollardy was an intellectual movement that believed in a personal interpretation of the Holy Scriptures. That meant making the Scriptures available to everyone, translating them to their own languages (the first translation to English was made by Wycliffe in 1396). The Lollards became heresies because the Church would then lose its absolute control as interpreters of the Bible. Kings and Church tried to eradicate Lollardy, but it survived in secret. In fact, this criticism was spread all over Europe and it lasted for a long time.
Lollardy and other critics were the origin of the religious revolution that would take place later on: the Reformation.
V. THE REFORMATION
The official date of the Reformation is 1590, when the Christian friar Martin Luther nailed his 95 thesis on the cathedral of Wittenberg. But this religious revolution was an explosion due to the unrest generated form the Black Death onwards. In fact, Martin Luther's questions coincided with what Wycliffe (the leader of the Lollards) had been asking for: personal interpretation of the Scriptures and personal faith, which implied the translation of the Bible into the different national languages (M. Luther himself made the first translation into German, a language of which he is considered the father).
Another fact that provoked the Reformation was the question of geography and economy. By the time the Reformation took place, America had been discovered and the world had been divided by the Pope into two halves: Spain and Portugal were then masters of the world, separated by the line of demarcation (Treaty of Tordesillas, 1494). By this treaty, the Pope had excluded the rest of the nations of the colonial race. Although the benefits at the beginning of the colonial race were few, they soon became huge. The rest of the nations criticised this system of division, which also implied the idea of religion underlying the colonialism (the colonialism as a way of christianising savage lands). Finally, the reaction of the excluded nations was to break relationships with the Church, so the Pope would no longer have an authority.
One consequence of the Reformation was the tremendous religious division in Europe between the Protestant North and the Catholic South. In the South, the Counter-Reformation was created to fight against the Reformation. Europe became a battlefield in the XVI and XVII centuries.
In England there was a double reaction: at the beginning, Henry VIII took the path of Catholicism, but soon he changed his mind towards Protestantism.
Initially, Henry VIII maintained England Catholic due to several reasons: Henry VIII had been given the title of “Fidei Defensor” by the Pope and supporting Catholicism was also politically convenient. England had strong links with Spain from times of Henry VII, who had married his eldest child Arthur with Catherine of Aragon to seal the link. When Arthur died, Catherine married Henry VIII. But why was this union with Spain so convenient for Spain?
Spain was beginning to have benefits with its colonial race, so Henry VIII thought that the great possibility of trade was opened to him. But he soon got disappointed because America became a monopoly of Spain.
Tradition, by which Henry VIII was himself a Catholic and wasn't psychologically ready to abandon his believes. A break with Rome would be seen as a sin.
The Henry VIII of the beginning of the reign was a political figure who had no financial problems, so there was no economic reason to act against Catholicism.
From the 1530's onwards, things changed dramatically and Henry VIII became officially a Protestant. There were a number of reasons for this transition:
The financial situation was not as solid as it had been before, because the king himself was extravagant and made expensive military campaigns. By the XIII century he was, in fact, bankrupted. As a solution, he became protestant, which converted him in the Supreme Head of the English Church. This situation of power implied that he was a political and religious figure at a time, all the patrimony of the Catholic Church was his and all the monasteries were dissolved and converted in private properties.
The population's strong feeling of anticlericalism supported the decision of the king. The people at large were not against the Catholic Church, but against its corruption, the excessive number of clerical figures to maintain with taxes and the absence of freedom for religious interpretation. People resented the fact that religion was not a personal interpretation: they couldn't even understand the word of God at mass because it was said in Latin. This anticlerical feeling and the will of knowing typical from the Renaissance supported the change of Henry VIII, when new translations and interpretations came to light, allowing a personal interpretation.
The intellectual elite, located especially in Cambridge but also in Oxford, supported the new religion because it made things easier for them.
The question of divorce. Henry VIII had first married Catherine of Aragon, who had give him a female child (Mary, later on known as Bloody Mary). But the king wanted a male child about all, so he thought in a new marriage. Divorce was something usual in those days, but Catherine of Aragon was the aunt of the emperor Charles V. Henry's divorce was then a great issue, because Charles V had a tremendous influence about Rome and he wanted Mary to become the catholic queen of England. The only possibility for Henry VIII was then to break with Rome and give the divorce himself.
The New World had been divided between Spain and Portugal in the “Treaty of Tordesillas” by the Pope, excluding the rest of the nations out of the colonial race. By Henry's breaking with Rome, the Pope's decisions had no longer effect on England so they could participate in the New World. Henry VIII didn't start the colonial race although he had it in mind: that's why he ordered the rebuilding of the Navy, which would be important in later events like the Armada. It was Elizabeth I, his daughter, who started the British colonial race.
The Reformation was made gradually through the promulgation of several laws. In 1531 Henry VIII made the Promulgation of the Oath of Supremacy, which obliged the subjects to admit the king as the Supreme Head of the Anglican Church. In 1534 the Rejection of Papal Authority was declared.
Consequences of the Reformation
In fact there was not a great degree of opposition and even the majority of the population accepted the change with optimism. But there were two areas where there was a strong opposition: the North of England and Ireland.
In the North of England, the rebellion was suppressed with cruelty in the called “Pilgrimage of Grace”.
The situation in Ireland was indeed very complex and it can be considered as the origin of the “Irish Question”. For centuries, Ireland had remained isolated as an unknown and mysterious land for England, which considered Ireland a marginal land. When the Reformation arrived, the majority of Irish clans rejected the new faith because they were Catholic and considered it a heresy. In that situation, the clans looked for support in Spain; that was a connection that lasted for years. Henry VIII, who was Lord of Ireland, adopted then an important policy: Surrender and Regrant. By this new policy, the king took himself the title of king of Ireland, so Ireland was officially obliged to follow his decisions on religion. Anyone who didn't follow it would be considered a traitor (like Thomas More). Basing on the old feudal system, which meant that all the Irish lands where now of Henry VIII and the old Gaelic titles for the possession of the land did not count at all. After that, Henry VIII forced all the chieftains of the clans to surrender their own titles and then gave them that titles back but with an English name: that was the way to convert the Irish chieftains into English nobility (e.g. O'Neill converted into Earl of Tyrone). In other words, this was a method to convert the Irish clans into subjects of Henry VIII, a situation that obliged them to accept the new religion. The majority of the clans accepted the new conditions to avoid problems although secretly remained Catholic, but some other clans became Anglican. This was the first division in Ireland bases on religion questions, which would lead to the Irish conflict.
Lots of the population continued being Catholic in secret although they externally admitted Anglicanism. There was a social break between Catholics and Anglicans of important consequences in the future.
Many people knew that when Henry VIII died, there was a possibility of coming back to Catholicism thanks to his daughter Mary, who could be the new queen. Others wanted to avoid this succession so there could be no possibility of a return to Catholicism. The question of religion is now mixed with politics. The panorama of possibilities considering Henry's children was:
So the crucial question was the succession of Henry VIII. Before dying, Henry VIII promulgated a law and nominated Edward as his successor because he was a man and represented the survival of Anglicanism. In principle, his sisters Mary and Elizabeth were excluded from the throne, although later they were accepted again.
When Henry VIII died, his son Edward became king. That was an age or splendour for Anglicanism, but a miserable time for Catholics.
After Edward's death, Mary became queen of England. She fully Catholic, so those were the years of the burnt of Anglicans and the introduction of the Inquisition.
The people on the margins: the Puritans
Some people maintained that Henry VIII had not gone as far as possible in the Reformation because Anglicanism resembled Catholicism too much. Those were the Puritans, who wanted a purer faith. Puritans were a minority during the reign of Henry VIII, but their number soon grew. The spread of Puritanism all over the British Isles would explain the quarrel against the Presbyterian Scotland, the civil war of the XVIII century and the success of Oliver Cromwell in deposing the king.
When England situated itself in the Protestant Europe, it stood in opposition to the great Catholic powers, leaded by Spain. This is the origin of the tension between England and Spain in the second half of the XVI century. Both nations fought the questions of faiths and colonialism. The final clash between the two blocks was the Battle of the Armada in 1558.
The colonial race was now opened to England, because they no longer accepted the authority of the Pope. The English colonial race didn't take place till the reign of Elizabeth I, although Henry VIII planted the basis for it.
VI. THE XVII CENTURY:
THE STUARTS AND THE PROTECTORATE
The reign of Elizabeth was dominated by a “masterly inactivity”: the queen put aside all the problems of England although she was able of ruling England.
James I inherited all the previous problems, including the question of religion. The Reformation of Henry VIII had created a social split that had became sharper in times of Elizabeth I. As a result, there were three different faiths coexisting in the British Isles:
Anglicanism (official; majority)
Catholicism (persecuted; minority)
Puritanism (persecuted; minority)
James I had to face the confrontation between Anglicanism and the “dissenters” (group of Catholics and Puritans). He tried to unify religion in England by signing a peace with Spain in 1604 and trying to solve the problem of dissenters. But his method was a failure, and the situation became even worse. The situation in England was an echo of the religious wars between Catholicism and Protestantism in the rest of Europe.
James I affronted the religious question from different angles:
He was officially a true Anglican, so his Catholic familiar background disappeared. In 1605 the Catholics tried to assassinate him in the “Gunpowder Plot”, but they failed.
In 1611 the first translation of the Bible into English appeared (it is called “James' Bible”). In the literary aspect, it was a very important work because it made of English the standard language. Officially, James' Bible was a defence of Anglicanism.
He lived during the beginning of the “colonial age” in which the first American colonies were settled down. As a solution, James I thought in sending dissenters to the New World. That's the reason why there were different faiths in the American colonies (e.g. Maryland was Catholic whereas Virginia/Plymouth Plantation was Puritan). America became then a land of exiles for beggars, prostitutes, criminals and also religious dissenters.
But James I also had to face the problems of Presbyterianism in Scotland and Catholicism in Ireland.
In Ireland colonialism was thought as a solution. It was made through two successive plantations: Ulster in the North and Munster in the South. By this method, Catholics were deprived of their lands, which were given to protestant people. That's the reason why nowadays there is a majority of Protestants in Northern Ireland. But this solution converted the Irish Catholics into marginal people (the born of the “Irish problem”) and a strong division between Catholics and Protestants appeared.
In Scotland, the solution only arrived with Charles I, who officially imposed Anglicanism over the Presbyterian Scotland by a military campaign of devastating effects.
From Charles I onwards, there was a gradual political inclination towards Spain and France, which were both Catholic countries. Charles I was interested in establishing links with France and Spain because he shared the same political attitude; in other words, he had never been comfortable in the English Parliamentary system and he preferred the absolutist regime.
The population considered the gradual establishment of alliances (by marriages) with France and Spain an inclination towards Catholicism. That inclination, together with many other mistakes, created the opposition of Parliament. The situations exploded in a Civil War between Charles I and the Parliament. The strongest voice in Parliament corresponded more and more to Puritans, and finally the political conflict turned to be a conflict between Anglicans and Puritans. The result in the Second Civil War was that Puritans won, the monarchy disappeared and a Republic ruled by Oliver Cromwell was created. That meant that in the central years of the XVII century, Puritanism became the official religion.
In the literary aspect, Puritanism brought the closure of theatres that made the magnificent age for drama of Shakespeare and Marlowe disappear.
The imposition of Puritanism as the official religion had also tremendous consequences in Ireland. The majority of people in Ireland was Catholic, so they suffered their worst period of history under the rule of Oliver Cromwell. Cromwell not only organised military campaigns of devastating effects on the Irish population, but he also imposed the Penal Laws against Catholics. Those laws made of the Catholic Ireland a marginal society that practically had no rights (they couldn't have education or private property). In the end, the great consequence of the imposition of Puritanism was the hatred against the English: for the first time, violent secret societies appeared in the countryside (which in the XX century would convert in paramilitary groups as the IRA).
VI. THE RESTORATION AND THE GLORIOUS REVOLUTION
The Protectorate of Oliver Cromwell lasted till 1660, when the Stuart Dynasty came back: it was the Restoration (Charles II and later James II).
The Stuarts inherited many religious problems: Puritanism was not supported for the majority of the population, and Catholicism remained marginal. In addition, the Stuarts were inclined towards Catholicism (James II was openly a Catholic), an attitude that divided the nation into an Anglican country and a Catholic King. Religion turned to be then a political problem.
The solution came in 1668 with the “Glorious Revolution”: James II was expelled from the Government and William of Orange, thanks to his promise of defending Anglicanism, became the new king. In England, William of Orange fully imposed Anglicanism and he was the great religion unifier of the UK. From that point onwards, Anglicanism was the faith of the majority and it was directly associated to power: the religion question was no longer the central issue.
William of Orange brought again times of suffering for the Irish population. The Irish Catholics had supported James II because he was also Catholic, so William of Orange suppressed them violently, especially in the Battle of the Boyne, in which the Irish army was devastated. Until the XIX century, Anglicanism was the official religion in Ireland and the Catholics remained in a marginal position.
To a certain extent, William of Orange was a tolerant king in religious terms. He promulgated the “Toleration Act” (1689) to impose an order in the religious variety of the UK. Form the Civil War onwards, many little religious groups had appeared (the Bapters, the Quakers). Most of them were persecuted, treated as criminals and transported to the New World. When William of Orange arrived, those groups were tolerated provided that they accepted the “Principle of Uniformity”: England had only one religion, Anglicanism, which was the only one that the state would take into account. The “Toleration Act” gave stability to England and put an end to the religious quarrels. But that law completely excluded Catholicism, which remained still as the greatest enemy: Catholics could then be persecuted and transported to America.
Catholics played an important role in Ireland and Scotland. In both areas there was a great support for the Jacobite Cause (James II). After the arrival of William of Orange, James II continued being the king in exile, where he had a son (“Bonnie Prince Charles”) who continued with the Jacobite Cause. Since Catholicism was then an enemy for the new king, it was completely excluded from the Toleration Act.
To solve the problem of the Jacobite Cause in Scotland, William of Orange ordered the “Highland Clearances” which annulled the Catholic clans (like McDonald) or transported the Catholics to the New World (many of them to South Caroline). This was a tragic episode in Scottish history: the symbols of the old clans (the kilt, the tartan) were forbidden, so Scotland lost its national identity.
In Ireland the situation became even worse. James II had landed in Ireland, but he was defeated by William of Orange in the Battle of the Boyne. Irish Catholics began to be considered as traitors and enemies of England, so they were not included in the Toleration Act. The new king re-enacted the laws of Oliver Cromwell: lands were confiscated and their people evicted (usually to the New World).
The New World became the destiny for many dissenters (Catholics and other religious groups). But in less than a century, England lost its American colonies, probably due to the religious question. Those who had settled down in America had been thrown out from the UK, and America became a “melting pot” of religions. That created a situation that explains the lost of the colony:
The lack of cohesion between the American colonies probably due to religious differences.
The distance between the colonies and the metropolis. Apart from other reasons, religious was a crucial factor: the majority of the early settlers were not Anglicans, although their religions were very important in their lives.
There was then no element of cohesion to maintain the American colonies united to England. The arrival of the Hannover Dynasty (George III) produced the final clash that took to the American Declaration of Independence.
From that time onwards, England will live a religious stability (although not Ireland and Scotland). In America, the different religions of the early settlers will explain the future.
COMMON LIFE IN BRITAIN
There are two great revolutions in the British Isles with respect to the common life: the Neolithic (the birth of the modern human being which introduces sedentary life) and the coming of the Romans.
Before the Neolithic, the British Isles were uncomfortable lands with hunters and gatherers moving in the forests. People didn't begin to stay long until the Neolithic.
In the Neolithic, the man introduced the agriculture, which allowed the growing of crops to make an easier life. The cult of the Dead appeared in that precise moment, because people were afraid of the Dead. For the first time, burial places appeared because people could stay in a given place for long periods of time.
But in this period there was also a massive deforestation, because people wanted to gain ground for agricultural purposes. This was very important in the Midlands, which gradually became the most productive agricultural area.
The man transformed the land in order to survive. The picture of Hillfort (South of England) shows the way man had transformed the landscape before the arrival of the Romans. In the Celtic England, people followed a similar method of survival: the rural society and the organisation into clans (hunters, farmers and warriors). The tools were improved through the ages of stone, bronze and iron.
Constructions as the represented in the picture of Hillfort were characteristic of the Neolithic. Within a hill, a circular fort was erected by building to pales. This model would be repeated for centuries until the Romans came. The place was inhabited by 500 people. These forts were erected in the countryside, where people found not only an easier life but also a need of defence: farmers had to defend themselves from other clans, which provoked rivalry or disputes about the resources. These early settlers also had to defend from people coming from across the sea: the Celts.
The Romans conquered England easily because the Celtic society didn't have professional warriors since they couldn't dedicate all their energies to war (they had to cultivate the land). Nevertheless, it's true that Celts had a cult of war that can be observed through their artistic manifestations:
Celtic helmets: in some cases, they had a great degree of ornamentation depending on the rank of the man who wore them.
Swords: reconstructed handles.
The Celtic “castra” where defensive places. The weapons for the war were also decorative objects, so we can conclude that war was a central element in their lives.
The arrival of the Romans, who occupied England for four centuries, brought long periods of peace and stability, unknown in Celtic times.
Celts had also a cult of Nature. For example, statuettes of boars were very common in the Celtic culture. They are almost abstract figures, without naturalism, detail or realism. Celts were interested in the spiritual art, as a way of being in communion with Nature. The representation of Nature in full detail would come with the Romans.
The Romans are responsible for the division into rural and urban worlds, which implied a great degree of civilisation.
Romanisation started from the I century onwards. Romans transformed the land that hadn't changed much in Celtic times. The emperor Claudius started the romanisation of the British Isles, which would develop in steps:
43 AD - 61 AD
This was the time of the military conquest and the clash between the two civilisations. In 47 AD Romans were exploiting the mineral resources, so they could send not only tin and iron, but also silver to Rome. The Roman elite subjected the people in the country by brutal military campaigns. Two different worlds were then visible: the Celtic population (the majority) and the Romans. During this period, England became a “provincia” ruled by a “procurator”, who was in absolute power of the area.
61 AD - 122 AD
In 61 AD, the queen of the Iceni, Boudica, revolted against the Roman army but was defeated. This was the last native rebellion. From this time onwards, a period of peace began to emerge.
122 AD - 367 AD
122 AD was the year of the construction of the Hadrian's Wall. It was a period of expansion, in which Britannia was no longer a province but two: Britannia Inferior and Britannia Superior. Romans could never conquer Scotland and Ireland. The division into two provinces was marked by the amount of military forces that were needed in each one; then there was a peaceful south and west (Britannia Inferior) but a conflictive north and east (Britannia Superior).
During this period, Romans used the army and the city as methods of romanisation:
In the army, the legionary soldiers were never born in Britannia (so there could not be any conflict of feelings), whereas the auxiliary troops were native people trained in Roman civilisation.
This period was dominated by the foundation of two kinds of cities: “municipiae” (centres of administration like London) and “coloniae” (towns inhabited by soldiers and veterans). The “municipiae” were usually in the peaceful south, whereas the “coloniae” were in conflictive areas.
Many Roman towns in the north and east coast of Britannia had walls, ramparts and fortifications, although it was an exception in the Roman world. They were trying to garrison from two attacks: the Picts from the North, and the outside invaders from the continent. That's the origin of the “Count of the Saxon Shore”.
The year 367 AD was the beginning of the end. It was an age dominated by productivity, intense trade (silver, tin, iron, animals, and slaves), commercial expansion and farming. England was known as the “grannary of the North”.
The situation created a division in society into the “honestiores” (the wealthy traders) and the “hummiliores” (the poor people). This social division was new, because now wealth was the term to consider instead of the citizenship.
This was also the time of the appearance of “Roman Villas”. In the entire Roman world, urban growth was in decline, whereas rural areas were growing. The reason was the beginning of political instability that brought a decline in trade, which strongly affected the cities. The “villa” appeared as a self-sufficient centre. But they also brought the appearance of the”coloni” or “bound to the land”, as a pre-feudal system.
When the instability of the Roman Empire grew, England began to be isolated in the map. The worst came with the “Barbarian Conspiracy”, in which many places in England were attacked and town life disappeared. We no longer have a province, but different territories ruled by “contes” who organised the defence. This was the time of the legend of King Arthur, who was probably one of those “contes”. Finally, in 367 AD, when Rome was attacked and the troops were needed in Italy, all the troops in Britannia were taken away, leaving Britannia alone.
THE ANGLO-SAXON AGE
When the Anglo-Saxon arrived to the British Isles, they collided with the previous Roman civilisation. England exchanged the Roman Empire for an Empire of the North, with which England had maintained commercial links from ancient times.
Anglo-Saxons were, first of all, mercenaries, although they also had commercial links with the North of the continent. Their world of warriors could be seen in their culture and way of living, which were based in the war.
But Anglo-Saxon society was also a world of loyalties between the king and his “thengs”, which allowed a good function of the society. At the same time, the connections between the individual and his king were essential for society: individuals were nothing without a family and a lord.
The conquest of England was carried out by moving in family groups, having in mind their king (because we can see it in names of places like “-ington, ingham, -ings” that refer to familiar or loyalty connections).
The Anglo-Saxons were people who didn't belong to an urban civilisation. In general, they were rural people who let cities die and developed skilled agriculture. Yet, many Roman towns continued with a certain degree of commercial activity. Again, this fact can be observed in name of places in “-wic, -wich” like Norwich, Lindon-wic (London)...
Anglo-Saxons took advantages that Romans had left. That's the case of the old Roman fortifications or “castrae” (“-chester”).
The countryside was the home of Anglo-Saxons. The old boundaries of the territory that Romans had disposed disappeared. The first Anglo-Saxon organisation of the territory that we know about is bases on a measure called “hundred”, which covered between 50 and 100 miles2. In the middle of the the territory there was a “tun”, which was a kind of central place of government where the king and his thengs lived. The tun contained the “great hall”, were decisions were taken and the warriors united. This primitive organisation was very similar to what the Normans would do later with castles. Every “hundred” was subdivided into “plots of land” or “hides”.
At the top of Anglo-Saxon society were the king and his warriors. But apart from this ruling class, the peasants or “ceorl” formed a big and important group, because survival depended on them. “Ceorls” were free men, although slavery existed in the Anglo-Saxon world.
Slaves were in many cases the old inhabitants of Britain. They were called ”wealh” and usually were captured in the West, where they had tried to hidden. That's why the word derived into “welshman”.
There were four ranks in Anglo-Saxon society, very similar to the system of medieval times (without middle class):
Their code of justice was bases primarily on the “wergild” or “price of honour”. The punishment depended then on the wergild of the murdered: the highest honour he had the hardest punishment to the murderer.
The Lord and the “thengs” were responsible for the election of the king, which took place in the “Witan”. The Lordship and Kingship were not hereditary, although this would be changed with the arrival of the Church. This system of election was a familiar aspect, so it provoked several tribal quarrels and the division of society.
During the reign of Alfred “the Great”, the Anglo-Saxon king of Wessex, things began to change gradually. He opposed a fierce resistance against the Vikings; for many, he is the first king of England.
To start with, Alfred was a benefactor of the Church and introduced learning into society. He also organised the territory on a national basis: thanks to him, a territory known as “Angle-land” began to take shape. It was the first notion of a national entity. The old world of clans gradually changed into a system of loyalty of the nation towards the king.
Alfred was a great promoter of commercial activity because he was a city builder. And by the building of cities, he found a great weapon to oppose resistance to the attacks of Vikings. He was the first Anglo-Saxon king to build “burhs”, which were basically fortified towns that were built following a given model. A document called the “Burghal Hidage” tells that about at least 30 of these “burhs” were erected in Alfred's times.
The early “burhs” developed into big towns, which were not only a sign of urban attitude, but also a military advantage. The later towns were fortresses (military purposes), ecclesiastic centres (when the church arrived) or commercial cities.
THE VIKINGS (they came from Normandy, Sweden and Denmark).
The Vikings were brutal pirates, but they had a reason for their attacks: starvation and internal wars in the North pushed forced them to search for new lands.
They were also traders who had made commercial links between North and South. Cities like York (Jornic for the Vikings) or Dublin became business centres.
The Vikings were very skilful navigators, which allowed not only conquests but also trade. They had achieved a great technique of shipbuilding that was unknown in the South.
Vikings began to settle down at the end of the 9th century. They occupied England (the Danelaw), Ireland and Normandy (in France).
In the case of England, the settle down provoked the fighting against the Anglo-Saxons, but gradually both communities mixed in a single one.
The Vikings adopted the Anglo-Saxon language. They became Christians and abandoned their Nordic mythology (Thor). They gave a new system of division to the land into “shires”, which proved to be so efficient that it lasted to our days (Yorkshire...). England was a rural society.
At the end of the Anglo-Saxon age, kings were either Anglo-Saxon or Vikings (like king Cnut). England was then a mixture of the two races, unified in a single country.
In the case of Normandy, the Vikings settled down when they were given a piece of land to avoid attacks. Normandy began to prosper, although the development was different to the one in England. Within some years, Normandy became a warrior society dominated by a military elite, maybe because it was a frontier land that needed protection. Soon, the system of feudalism developed in the territory.
When William the Conquer attacked England, leading the Norman invasion, he constructed stone buildings like castles and churches instead of the wooden buildings of the Anglo-Saxons. The Tower of London is one of the first examples of Norman architecture: it was built in London because it meant the control of the country.
Westminster was the first Norman cathedral, but it had been started by the Anglo-Saxons (Edward the Confessor, who had been brought up in Normandy).
But the most powerful tool of control was the castle, which has a sophisticated architecture built near strategic places. They began to be built between the 9th and the 10th centuries. When the Normans conquered a land, they immediately built a wood castle that allowed to have a rapid and effective control. The first element to be built was the tower (or “donjon”) for basic things (soldiers, weapons, food...) and later, expanding walls were built. Finally, the wood was gradually replaced by stone.
LATE MEDIEVAL PERIOD (14TH- 15TH CENTURIES)
The late medieval period was an age dominated by two events of tremendous consequences for all the people: the Black Death and the development of the 100 Years War.
THE BLACK DEATH
The Black Death provoked a strong psychological impact in all the population (it even affected religion) and also a tremendous decrease in the number of population.
Before the Black Death, England and Wales had 4 million people, which was an excessive number to maintain. The years previous to the Black Death (14th C) were then very disastrous for most of the population: they were known as “The Calamities Century”. In the long run, the Black Death was a “blessing in disguise” because it reduced the number of people to 2.5 million within a year.
The world after the Black Death offered more opportunities to people, which in the long run provoked the fall of feudalism. It was the first step in the development of capitalism and the emerge of a working class: servile duties were exchanged with money.
The appearance of a working class and capitalism allowed the development of a pre-industrial society. By the 15th century, there is a well-established middle class, which is economically strong and very active. The moment there is a class with cash, a possibility appears: purchasing or buying property. In the case of England, land became a crucial element: the 15th and 16th centuries are dominated by a “land hunger”. But why?
Some people had money to buy land
Land was seen as a new perspective, which considered it as a highly productive item: the land was not a death thing because it could produce benefits in agriculture and in sheep breeding.
In agriculture, new methods were employed.
In the case of sheep breeding, sheeps gave wool, which was in high demand. By the end of medieval times, England and Spain were the greatest producers of wool. The industry of wool became the most important, and it was in hands of many people (not only of the aristocracy). The industry of wool is responsible for the appearance of a middle class in England. But this needs to be explained in detail.
In the past, the cities were surrounded by open fields that were divided into strips and used by labourers. But with the “land hunger” provoked that this common fields were gradually replaced by enclosed land: it was the origin of the private property and the system of enclosures. The effects of enclosures were double:
Economically, the enclosures were highly productive for those who had bought land.
Those who had no money to buy land, who had been users of the open fields, suddenly saw themselves with nothing in their hands. They found difficult to live in the countryside, and became wandering people moving from place to place.
Characteristics of the 15th and 16th centuries:
Movement form the countryside to the cities. Cities grew and accepted many destitute people from the countryside, but the number of beggars was very high.
Great economic activity in the countryside: despite the number of destitute people, the countryside was richer and more productive than ever before although it only benefited the landowners.
New growth in population that would be always growing till the 16th century (5 million people).
At the end of the 16th century, England was full of contrasts between those who had land (new opportunities, social mobility) and the destitute people in a desperate position. An example of this is London: at those times, there was a wealth strong middle class and many people in misery (living in great slungs).
THE 100 YEARS WAR
As the Black Death, the 100 Years War (1337-1453) had tremendous consequences for England. It was a war of colonialism, fought because England needed markets in Europe. At the beginning it was highly beneficial, but it ended up being disastrous. It affected many generations during more than one century.
When the war finished, England could only retain Calais (in France) of all the territories they had before. Calais became the English door to the continent.
The end of the 100 Years War provoked a tremendous sense of loss. The loss of all the territories that England had possessed in the West of France allowed the birth of the nation. England closed in itself and became isolated from the rest of the world, with even anti-continental or anti-French feelings. But this sense was in a way beneficial:
In the question of language, French was relegated and English became the language of the nation for the first time. The accent that became standard was the Middle Land accent because it was the accent of London and of the emergent classes.
The lesson of the war was well learned. By the 16th century colonialism was not a new thing for England, which developed a new feeling of expansion in search of the great Empire they had lost. The most famous books at those times were those dealing with history, as a way of promoting colonialism (“what we have been, let us being it again”).
The first part of the 16th century was marked by transition and rapid changes that affected the population at large.
The end of the 16th century was a pre-industrial era, full of economic vigour and the start of the colonial career, but many people had to pay a high prize: poverty.
16th and 17th centuries
This was a period marked by expansion and growth. London and Paris were the two biggest cities in Europe. By the year 1650, the growth of population reaches a kind of balance.
Many people suffered the consequences of this tremendous growth: beggars and wanderers in England increased a lot. Justice was cruel and death penalty was applied freely. In times of Queen Elizabeth I, London had 18 prisons, an asylum (Bedlam) and the Tower (for political crimes). The time of growth was only enjoyed by the middle classes, whereas the low classes suffered it.
The expansion was connected with the question of growth, which depended on two factors: the agrarian revolution and exports (England was still rural but the trade was very important).
In the question of the agrarian revolution, the approach to the soil changed with the property of the land. The land was exploited as much as possible, introducing new crops, new techniques (the rotation system) and the use of land for breeding purposes (sheeps). As a result, in 1592, England was not only self-sufficient, but also able to export agrarian products (e.g. Spain to the Baltic Sea).
The product that dominated the exports was wool (and also cloth). England became the first exporter of wool. But this was possible because there were markets. Napoleon said that the Englishmen “were a race of shopkeepers”. The English Empire followed commerce. In time of Elizabeth I there were three merchant companies:
“The Merchant Adventurers” (against the Hanseatic League) were responsible for the opening of markets in Northern Europe.
“The Muscovy Company” kept commercial relations with the Tsar; they moved more towards the North and established relations with Moscow; they traded with fur, grease and wood.
“The Cathay Company” kept relations with the Far East with spices and silk; this company gave way to the East India Co. (early 17th C) that had links with India and China.
England also established relations with Morocco and with the sultan of the Turks. This was an attitude of mercantile expansion: when England tries to found colonies the reason is trade. But this commerce had a negative aspect: the question of competitors (Spain was the most powerful of them). The places in which England traded were not in contact with Spain (Morocco hated Spain deeply), so England established trade in the Protestant countries in which Spain was not allowed.
During this time the question of “passages” was crucial. The idea was to find a passage through navigation towards the markets, but in the middle there was America. There were then two options. The first one was the NorthWest (going through America but finding the Spaniards), which implied finding a passage where Spaniards were unknown. England exploded then Canada and Northern USA, which would take them to the foundation of colonies from Virginia towards the North. The second option was going across the Northeast passage.
The two options failed, but they allowed the foundation of colonies and trade companies. A lot of people were affected, because the whole population was part of a chain. Stories about Drake or Hawkins are in fact mere anecdotes.
The moment colonies were founded, everything changed: colonies were markets, prisons and a solution to vagrancy.
DOMESTIC SITUATION DURING THE 17TH CENTURY
There is a marked difference between the first half f the 17th century and the end: the beginning was full of problems, but not the end.
Before 1650, the number of people had been in constant increase, but then it reaches stability (6 million people). This is important because some of the greatest crises are linked to an excessive growth in the number of people, so that the stability in the 17th C was responsible for the better situation at the end of the century. Reasons for the stability:
Family life changed.
Late marriages were the rule: the average age was 4-5 years more than in Elizaberian times (20-21, so the years of fertility in women were less than before. The late marriages have to do with the difficult for obtaining an economic basis to start familiar life, due to the higher inflation (between 1600 and 1650 the prizes of food multiplied by 8, but wages only by 3). As a result, the number of children in times of Elizabeth I (5 but also high mortality) was reduced to 2,5.
Revolution in contraceptives.
Celibacy increased a great deal in certain areas, maybe due to the development of the navy in which men had to be single (homosexuality was very common at the navy of those times).
In the economic situation there was a great degree of uncertainty that had to do with work. The textile industry in the 17th C supported only 200.000 workers. Agriculture only provided seasonal works. Even in the cities, the number of emigrants was so huge that there was not job for all of them: 10% of all the population in England and Wales lived in London (it was bigger than the next 50 bigger cities in England together). In the cities, this excessive growth caused the appearance of slungs and suburban areas.
Inheritance also changed. Since land was the most valuable thing, only the eldest male member of the family could inherit it without dividing it (to avoid losing its value). The rest of the members usually had to emigrate.
Emigration and immigration.
England had been a country of immigration till the 16th C. In the 17th C, for the first time in history it became a country of emigration. Between 1630 and 1650, more than 250.000 people left the country towards the new colonies. The destinations were mainly the West Indies, Northern America and Europe. The colonial expansion became then a solution. In the case of the emigration to the continent, many men (especially Catholics) became mercenary soldiers for other countries (e.g. for Spain).
From 1650 onwards, lots of things changed:
England was structured around local economies; this implied the existence of tolls to sell within the country. But by the end of the 17th C, there is for the first time a national economy (the term “national” refers to the UK). There was then free economy in the inside without any economic barrier. The reason for this new economic state was the colonialism.
England became a country of “shops” (before there were only “market stores”) that supplied the population with colonial products. There was a great demand for a new type of product from across the sea: that's the born of the “ultramarine shops”, which gave big benefits.
Two statuses: social status (nobility) and economic status (middle class).
The gap between the two groups at the beginning of the 17th C was huge, but by the end there was a reversal: nobility found more difficulties than before (taxes, loss of lands in the civil war, loss of power) whereas the middle class possesses cash but no lands nor titles. By the end of the century the middle class is the most powerful in society. This explains the origin of the arranged marriages of one class with another: nobles offered a tittle and the middle class offered cash.
National Scheme of Poverty.
Despite the good times, many people found difficulties to survive. The government took relieve measures like the creation of public deposits of grain kept by the Crown, which were open when prizes went so high that the poorest people couldn't afford it. This was a symptom that the benefits were only for a few people.
Paintings: Hoggarth (satire and social critical; master of caricature)
THE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION
The industrial revolution has not a concrete year of start; anyway it can be said to born in 1815 (Battle of Waterloo) although the conditions for it can be seen since the 18th century. From 1740 onwards, things began to change in England:
Growth of the population. By 1800/1801 (first census) the population in England and Wales was around 11 million people, which was a spectacular increase (in 50 years the population increased in 50%). But why?
Number of wars (e.g. Napoleonic war) affected very little the population because England fought mainly by sea. By earth, it fought by coalitions with other countries (as in Waterloo) so the majority of soldiers were not English.
Mass immigration: thousands of people came into England to work because the conditions were better than in other places.
General life conditions: many hospitals were built and medical techniques improved (use of antiseptics), so the death rate decreased.
The agrarian revolution provided enough food for the majority of population.
Location of the growth. While some areas increased spectacularly, many rural areas were depopulated. Mining and textile industries were created in the north; London and its peripheral area became highly populated (1 million souls). But authorities couldn't cope with so many immigration and miserable areas developed in disorder: slums began to appear in London and other industrial centres.
Life conditions in the slums were terrible and the sanitary conditions did not exist at all, so tifus and colera were very common.
Families tended to have many children because they were working hands: child employment began to take place (children of only 5 years used to work in mines).
Wages were very low.
This was a time of change, transformations and tremendous social gaps. At the top there were the aristocracy (landowners, occupying places in government) and the emergent middle class. At the bottom, millions of people in industrial areas lived in absolute poverty, with conditions similar to slavery. Even authorities saw the need of helping the poor with public founds, so they decided to supplement wages by a system of finance: the “Sppenhamland System”. But this system had to faces: it was a humanitarian tool, but wages were reduced for a long time. Taxes, meanwhile, were in constant increase: a quarter of wheat in 1750 was 45 shillings, but in 1800 it was 150 shillings. As a result, the wealthy middle classes made even more money because the production was cheap.
England was at this time a place of transformations and contrasts: there was a rural world disappearing and an emergent industrial world. Painters and writers reflect clearly this situation:
Gainsborough and Constable romantic idea; the landscape of the past
Turner painter of the future; first painting of a train; movement; abstraction
The Industrial Revolution is the origin of the industrial world of our days, but it had terrible humanitarian consequences. England would be the greatest empire in the world while millions of its inhabitants were in absolute poverty. By the beginning of the 19th C there were few wealthy people but many others had nothing to eat. In the long run, it would explain why many people escaped to the colonies in search of opportunities.
PERIODS OF THE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION
From 1815 (Battle of Waterloo) till 1851 (Great Exhibition). “Chartism” was the most influential movement concerning the working class; it asked for:
Manhood suffrage (not women)
Secret ballot (secret vote)
Equal electoral districts
Abolition of property qualifications for MPs
Payment of MPs
The Chartism was unsuccessful, but it illustrated the life of the working class. The working class was a voiceless social group because it wasn't allowed to have representation. First, they were excluded from Parliament and suffrage because they lacked property qualifications. Meanwhile, the price of bread had become a crucial issue because it was the basic diet for many, together with tea and potatoes. Secondly, the working class lived in places that were also excluded because the electoral districts hadn't changed since the 16th century. Around 1820 the population was higher in towns and cities than in rural areas, but many of the urban areas could not give MPs. Thirdly, MPs didn't receive money, so workers couldn't afford to get into the politician life.
In general, the first stage of the industrial revolution was very negative for the working class, which was in a desperate situation: economy of survival, wages maintained as low as possible, no sanitary conditions, hunger... although there was no revolution as it had happened in France.
From 1851 till 1914 (First World War): recovering in the situation, due to:
State control against the working class.
Political reforms in the 30's and 40's that caused great controversy but certain improvements in working conditions.
Appearance of railways, which made unemployment disappear (excepting in rural areas).
“Trade Unions”, which gave voice to the workers.
System of public education; it became fully effective in the second half of the 19th century. Thanks to it the majority of newspapers appeared, because there was then a wide public that could read. The newspapers became also a school that was crucial to illustrate workers.
The “Laissez-faire” philosophy (or free market). It derived from Darwinism and the survival of the fittest. Although it was highly debated, in the long run it had good economic effects. By the second half of the 19th century wages went up and many workers had even money for leisure (they did not want more children so birth rate fell). It was the first time that workers enjoyed a holiday, moved to different places on free time and had money for mass entertainment (the first football teams were created in industrial centres; the matches were attended mainly by workers).
But there were still many people excluded from the new state: the rural class. The “laissez-faire” philosophy caused a fall in agriculture because the same products could be imported for lesser money from America. As a consequence, the rural population moved towards the cities (London reached 7m people). The romantic view of the countryside faded away, although artists kept on representing the rural England as an Arcadia.
In painting, there were two reactions:
Ideological painting: glorification of working, prosperity, pamphlet of the State
Evasive art (pre-Raphaelite school): ideal vision, recreation of past or imaginary worlds
The most important machines that were introduced during the industrial revolution were the “Spinning Jean” (textile sector) and the steam power by Watt (navigation, industry, mining...). At first, workers received the new machines with violence because they saw them as the cause of unemployment. Later on, it was seen that they allowed more work because production was bigger.
During these years the first factories appeared. Some were “industrial mills”, where machines worked non-stop and reky system for workers was terrible.
In Ireland, those were the “Famine Years”: although Ireland had plenty of food, only an elite could make use of it while many lived in misery.
Women began to access to work, but it wouldn't become consolidated till the First World War.
The lack of housing provoked the creation of slums with no sanitary conditions. In the second half of the 19th century, the State became responsible for a public housing policy (rented houses) that improved the situation. Education also improved by the creation of primary schools financed by the state.
THE YEARS BEFORE THE I WORLD WAR
Queen Victoria died in 1901: the Victorian Age ended and the Edwardian Age began.
A good number of people in the UK lived with relative “affluence” (secure economical situation), though the “laissez-faire” philosophy had left many outside of it. The State made then reports on the conditions of the lowest classes, which gave catastrophic results: by 1901 the 30% lived in a state of poverty and of them, 10% lived in primary poverty. The East-End in London was one of the most affected areas, although London was the wealthiest city. That forced the State to search for a solution. At the same time, many workers had good conditions: they had light in their houses, they went to mass spectacles (football), to pubs...
The Government introduced a number of measures that took to the born of the “well-faire state” (estado de bienestar).
Delivery of daily food at schools (especially in marginal areas)
Old-age pensions (before, those who could not work anymore didn't have money at all)
Insurance System for workers, basically dedicated to health (it was paid by three parts: the worker, the State and the impresario).
Growth of “Trade Unions” (from 2m affiliated in 1901 to 4m by 1914). They formed the “Labour Party” (1893), which became one of the greatest parties in England.
But these measures interfered with the “laissez-faire” philosophy and what's more, they needed state founding (money). The Government have to possibilities to obtain money: either indirect taxation (unfair for the poorest) or taxation of the upper classes (confronting with the powerful ones).
The Government finally decided to impose taxation on the upper classes, but in 1909 the House of Lords (who represented the upper classes of old times) imposed a veto on the National Budget (that is, they didn't accept the proposal). This precipitated a national crisis and the convocation of general elections. The new government (leaded by Lloyd George) decided that the veto could only be maintained during two years, taking to the gradual decline of the House of Lords.
By the time the I World War exploded the conditions of the working classes were better than ever before. But the National Debt was a serious problem: together with the internal measures, England had to face the war. By the end of the war the National Debt had increased enormously (from £700m in 1914 to £7800m in 1919); that was the reason why the measures imposed to Germany were so strong.
THE FIRST WORLD WAR (1914-1919)
In spite the millions of dead men (6 million) and the suffering, the conditions in England improved during the war:
There was full employment not only for men but also for women, because the business had to be as usual. This high demand of workers took to the emancipation of women, who could now get to a new range of jobs. Later on, in 1918, women over 30 were given the right to vote, and in 1928 to the women over 21 (as men). The life for women changed fully: Puritan clothes were abandoned, they could smoke and drive in public... Their role in keeping the country alive during the war was basic for the nation.
Trade Unions' pressure. Wages increased a great deal because workers were more needed than ever, so Trade Unions could impose their demands by threatening with a general strike. For the first time in history lots of primary schools were created, the national Health System improved, the State made a Housing Scheme...
These were times of need, but for many the war improved their situation. The problem came at the end of the war: the reconstruction.
At the end of the I World War, England had lost 6 million of men, and the colonies that had helped in the fight (Australia, New Zealand, Canada...) asked for a reward: a change in the Imperial Status.
At home, it was a time of need and difficulties due to the increase of the National Debt, so new changes were made to solve the situation (creating unrest):
The pressure of the Trade Unions became weaker, and coal mining and iron industries, which had worked for the war (e.g. making ammunition) saw their production reduced.
Public money needed to be reduced to save money as much as possible. This situation affected workers because many improvements gained in the past were cut or reduced. The unrest took to the General Strike in 1926.
Industries that had been controlled by the State during the war were privatises to save public money. As a consequence, many workers of railways, mines, coal industries... were made redundant.
Pensions were reduced
Again, there was a marginal sector of society (specially the rural class) going through difficult years. In fact, the distribution of wealth did not improve at all: by 1930, a 10% of the population had in its hands 2/3 of the national wealth.
However there were signs of recovering in the 30's: by 1935, England went through a phase of stability thanks to the appearance of new industries (e.g. car industry), which provided wealth and employment.
But in 1935, Hitler won the general elections in Germany and the next year he occupied the Rhineland, violating the Treaty of Versailles. It was the beginning of the II World War, which was even more brutal than the previous one.
THE IMPERIAL EXPANSION
Although the English imperial expansion started at the end of the 16th century, it can be said that its origins were place in medieval times, when England became an expansive nation. The first step was made by Henry II with the invasion of Ireland.
THE INVASION OF IRELAND
In 1171 Henry II arrived in Ireland; he was the first English king to set foot in the place. But the Norman military campaign had started in 1161, when Richard de Clare (Earl of Pembroke, “Strongbow”, born in Bristol), one of Henry II's Barons, occupied Wexford and Dublin.
The religious question was in part a punishment that the Church had imposed on Henry II for the murder of Thomas Becket. The invasion took then the form of a crusade, that is, a military campaign blessed by the Pope.
There are evidences to think that in 1154 the king had considered the possibility of the invasion of Ireland. He asked the Church for permission, and the Pope Adrian IV blessed the invasion by the promulgation of a Bull. This issue is highly debated because we are not sure if that Bull was a forgery, a fake (it has no date or signature). Yet, what the Bull says it's important: the Church accepted the invasion because it considers that Ireland should follow the authority of Rome (the two churches had broken in the Synod of Whitby). The Bull was then a supreme example of the blending of politics and religion.
Normans were an aristocratic elite in search of land (they imposed the feudal system). De Clare was a feudal lord in Bristol, which was not a very wealthy area, and aspired to the conquest of new lands to obtain benefits. Since England was possession of the king and its lands were divided, new lands needed to be conquered. The invasion of Ireland was then a feudal movement. The system of invasion was similar to the one used in the invasion of England in 1606: the “encastellation” of the land and the imposition of terror. That's the reason why many castles were built in strategic places of Ireland (e.g. Dublin castle). Within a few years, the whole territory had been conquered and divided with the exception of Ulster.
He was an Irish Lord, a garlic chieftain who was in bitter trouble with other chieftains and went to the court of Henry II asking for help. Ireland was then divided into tribes and clans and there is great internal rivalry. In return of the mercenaries, he offered lands. Henry II gave him permission to hire the forces of Declare, who took advantage of the situation. The conquest was easy because they found division and rivalry and they were “the best knights in Christendom”.
The occupation of Ireland was quick. The son of Henry II, King John, became Lord of Ireland and was the second king to visit the place and exercise his Lordship.
But later on, in times of Richard II, things had changed in Ireland. He carried out a military campaign but was defeated. When he came back to England, the crown was taken by the Henry IV (Lancaster House). But why?
When Richard II got to the throne, a great length of time had elapsed since the conquest of Ireland. In that interval, England had become more preoccupied with other questions (Wales, Scotland, France...) and Ireland became a minor issue. As a result, the old Norman families settled down in Ireland had become “more Irish than the Irish”: they did not longer spoke French or English, but Irish. They have mixed with the native people, they had adopted Irish names (e.g. “de Burgo” became “Burke”). The Old English people had rejected their origins and to the English eyes, this was a supreme betrayal to the extent that the crown promulgated the “Statutes of Kilphenny” (14th century). These statutes forbade marrying the Irish or adopting their language and customs. The mixing with Irish was considered a sin by the English Church. The Irish society didn't pay attention to these statutes, but by the 16th century, Elizabeth I converted their disobedience into a reason for a new invasion.
During the reign of Henry II there was stability and England was ready for colonialism. But with the question of succession of Henry II (Richard or John), the work of the times of Henry II was destroyed in the course of two generations. As a consequence, the movement of expansion could not develop in such a situation.
Edward I achieved internal stability, so a second wave of colonialism took place. He was politically intelligent, so he knew that Parliament and Crown should collaborate. Then, the efficient machinery of State allowed the basis for a colonial expansion.
Colonialism took a double course that was not very evident with Edward I, but with Edward III: the question of France and the “UK”.
With Edward III the political energies of England were directed to the conquest of Wales and Scotland. The idea was to unite the three lands in a single country, so that there was a centralised system dominated by England (“one king for the Isles”). England wasted then a great amount of money, but only in the long run things began to work. Wales was annexed in 1536, and Scotland in 1603 (with James I).
The reason for these efforts in constructing a single nation seems to be the national formation. In fact, in times of Edward I, II and III we cannot really say there is a country called England. It is in the Renaissance that the nations were psychologically formed (Spain, France, England...). This process of formation took centuries, but it was discussed in times of “the Edwards”, who wanted to create a nation as powerful as possible. The idea of the UK began to be forged then.
In the question of France, the issue must be explained considering the force of the market. There was no colonial expansion in England without trade, so the Hundred Years War became a way of acquiring land (feudalism). Due to their Norman origin many nobles had French roots, so France was their second country and they interests in it. As a political solution, Henry V decided to maintain the nobility together. The moment the Hundred Years War ended (officially 1453), a civil war started in 1455: it was the War of the Roses.
At those times, the national wealth depended on wool (at the end of the 15th century there were enclosures for sheep breeding). The market could not be local, so markets abroad had to be found. But markets were difficult to find because there was a great degree of competence (Spain), so England had to go as far as Moscow and Asia to find markets for their cloth. Thanks to the Hundred Years War, practically all the Western coast of France was annexed, which secured a formidable market for England.
When England lost all those territories there was a great economic crisis, provoking years of unrest. At least, Calais was maintained as a door through which wool could be exported.
By the beginning of the 16th century England had achieved nothing imperially speaking. It remained a country now, but the idea of an UK conformed by Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England had not been achieved. It was all a failure: Ireland had been left aside so the first conquerors were “more Irish than the Irish”, Scotland had looked for the help of France and only in Wales a degree of annexing could be contemplated (1536).
When Henry VII (Tudor) came to the throne, things began to change. He came from Wales, so for many Welsh people there was a chance in the court. The question of France had ended by the end of the 15th century.
Henry VIII decided to solve the economic crisis by taking the wealth of the Church. During his reign, competitors like Spain and Portugal began to be successful in the colonial race; there was an enormous colonial gap between them and England.
By the 1520's things in England remained the same, whereas in 1522 Spain circumnavigates the world, reaching South America, Central America and modern Texas and California. By the 1560's Spain dominated the whole South America, Central America and the Southern modern USA and it had started and ocean route linking Jamaica with the Philippines (it was “el imperio en el que no se pone el sol”).
The Portuguese traded in the Indian Ocean, and they had commercial stations in India and Southern China.
Tudors wouldn't gain political stability till times of Elizabeth I.
Elizabeth I (crowned in 1559) ruled over less territories than many other monarchs had done before. When she died in 1603 England had not grown still, but an improvement had taken place.
Richard Hakluyt “the younger” was a compiler of narratives of exploration at the end of the 16th century (“Hakluyt's voyages”, 20 volumes in 1965) and a promoter of colonialism.
The Empire came after trade, because English merchants had established traffic with distant areas of the world.
The first remarkable voyages must be attributed to John Hawkins. At the end of the 15th century, England had cod fisheries in Newfoundland (across the Atlantic) so there were some early contacts in America in the early 16th C carried on by John Cabot and Sebastian Cabo, but with no consequences. Hawkins belonged to an important family (his father had started a successful trade with the Canary Islands in the past). John Hawkins is responsible for a number of voyages; the most important ones to the West Indies (Caribbean Sea) in 1562, 1564 and 1568. The cargo was of black slaves, so the ships parted from England towards Africa and then towards Spanish America, where the slaves were sold. The first two voyages were very successful, but the third one was catastrophic because he was defeated by the Spaniards at the port of San Juan de Ulloa. But Hawkin's work was continued by his cousin, Francis Drake.
Francis Drake is responsible for the first English circumnavigation (1577-1580) of the world. It marked the birth of the English colonial travelling, and it gave knowledge of distant parts of the world. It produced a great amount of money: Drake had investors behind them (including Elizabeth I) and after the circumnavigation, 1 pound had given a benefit of 4,700 pounds (the average salary was 6-7 pounds a year). The money came from robberies on Spanish cities and galleons, that could be now attacked from the pacific coast. That's why Spaniards consider Drake a pirate, whereas in England he was made knight by the queen.
During those years England realised how wealthy was Spain and how much wealth America contained (Spain received 60-80 tons of silver and gold a year). England changed its position, and soon Martin Frobisher made voyages of exploration in North America.
Between 1580 and 1640 there were three choices about colonialism: plantations, the trading posts and the English settlements.
Plantations were made in the Caribbean sea, where a small number of English settlers were in charge of areas worked by salves, dedicated to one product (e.g. tobacco).
Trading posts were the first steps in the establishment of commercial colonies. By the 1550's, there were the Muscowy Co and the Turkey Co (Mediterranean) and Venice Co, which in the 1950's became the Levant Co. By 1600 it gave birth to the East-India Co. This one had investors behind and was responsible for all the traffic to the East, even in India and Chinal.
English settlements that ended up being colonies were of two kinds:
Virginia started in 1584 thanks to a voyage of exploration with a great investor behind (Sir Walter Ralegh) that made the first contacts with natives. Due to the question of the Armada, a new voyage with more men to plant was made in 1586.
In 1589, a new voyage discovered that the early settlers had disappeared (“the lost colony”). This tragic event showed to England that the land could produce enormous benefits. In 1606 “The Virginia Co” was created and it established a settlement in Jamestown (it was the first English town in America), where a number of families was planted to grow tobacco (in increasing demand). John Smith was responsible for the development of the colony because he imposed a military regime that was successful for a time. Order was maintained, but soon a civil assembly was made (a system adopted later on by other colonies). From the beginning this assembly was independent from England, only linked to the mother country by the taxation. However, Jamestown suffered a terrible blow in 1682, when the Indian Rising took place and thousands were massacred, showing that the peace between the two communities had broken. The Virginia Co was dissolved and only in 1626 Charles I allowed an official creation of a colony, which continued in expansion.
Religious colonies, where the moving factor was a religious exile provoked by the religious divisions in England in the 16th C (Henry VIII was first Catholic and then Protestant). Later on, England would be divided into Puritans, Protestants and Catholics.
Virginia was settled in origin by Anglicans. Other colonies were dominated by dissenters. The most important example is Plymouth colony, founded by radical Puritans (later known as the “Pilgrim Fathers”) in 1620. It was the first permanent English colony in America with no interruptions in the settlement, although half of the early settlers died in one winter. Puritans had a character of their own that provided them with independence from England. Plymouth is also important because it is the first root of Puritanism in America, which is still a quality in certain areas of American society. Late in the century, the colony was absorbed by Massachusetts (capital at Boston) and the Puritan cell expanded.
America became a land of religious freedom, so Catholics soon decided to settle there. The chances of success in life and keeping Catholicism were great, so they found Maryland (in the South). The settlement was dominated by a faith, but doors were open to all religions provided that Catholicism was accepted (opposite to Plymouth). Within 7 or 10 years, the colony developed.
These colonies survived mainly by exploitation of natural resources (tobacco) and through piracy against Spanish interests in the Caribbean Sea. In Boston, the currency was not English, but Spanish (“Pieces of eight”, reales). The symbol of the dollar $ represents the two Pillars of Hercules on a shilling.
When the colonies were on the go, the annexation of new territories was a matter of time and political interests. Clashes were inevitable against the rivals (the Dutch and the French) but sometimes they resulted in appropriation of territories.
In 1664 New Amsterdam was occupied by English settlers, being re-baptised as New York. It was the first territory occupied after a military clash. In time, New York became a jumping board towards other territories. William Penn received permission to expand from New York, and he got to Pennsylvania (Philadelphia).
In the North there were commercial possibilities (animal furs) so a new company was created: the Hudson Bay Co. The Co dealt with beaver (“castor”) fur that lived along the River Hudson, dealing also with Indians. With Georgia (the last colony nº 14) England dominated practically the whole Eastern Coast of modern US.
Plantations were in the West Indies (the Caribbean Sea). Those were little inhabited islands that had been practically neglected by the Spaniards, but that offered possibilities. Groups of few English people imported black slaves to the place, and soon the pattern of black-white population appeared. The percenteships keep no balance: 80% of black population, 20% of English. These colonies depended on one product alone, usually tobacco or sugar, but also on piracy (they had links with Massachusetts).
The first plantations were made in the 1620's: St. Christopher Island (later St. Kitts), Barbados, Atigna and Montserrat.
In 1655 the English captured Jamaica, which converted itself in the capital of the English Caribbean Sea.
The most negatives aspects were:
The slave trade was carried out at the beginning by the Dutch. Later, England rejected the Dutch and began to carry out the business themselves (the Royal Africa Co) so they made a lot of money. They made a serious penetration in Africa, where some of the present tragedies (the tribal warfare) are of their doing. Africans themselves became sellers of slaves, so tribal enmity was created by the English.
These colonies depended only in one product so, if prices fell, the life of the community resented. But their economies are still depended on one product nowadays: it is the disastrous consequence of how imperialism started to operate in those years. Sugar was a highly luxurious product in England in the 17th C (before, honey was used instead of sugar), but England couldn't cultivate it.
Other nations followed a similar course as England. One of them was France, which had its own colonial interests but in many cases they clashed with the English. During the 17th and 18th centuries there were seven serious confrontations with France not so much because of religion, but because of colonial affairs. It was bitter struggle through which England arose triumphantly. France lost practically all the colonies, but the size of the English Empire had expanded enormously.
COLONIALISM: 1690 - 1815 (from William de Orange to Waterloo)
During this period England lost the First British Empire but it gained another. By 1815, England was the most important colonial empire so in the long run this is a period of benefits.
France became the great rival, because the confrontation with the Dutch diminished thanks to William de Orange (he was from Holland) and France was the second colonial empire.
THE LOSS OF THE COLONIES.
The conflict started in 1773 with the Boston Tea Party, and it culminated with the Declaration of Independence in 1776. The confrontation can be considered a civil war due to several reasons.
Firstly, Americans were dissenters of England who fought against the mother country.
Secondly, there were supporters of independence and supporters of the mother country inside America.
It was then an internal fight that wasn't positive for any of the parts, because England had nothing to gain and the war was very expensive. Reasons for the conflict:
The 14 colonies had a population that a reached the number of 2m people, due to the improvements in the system of transportation from England. In many cases, the death penalty in England was exchanged for transportation, so America became the destination for many convicts (30,000 a year). The opposition to the mother country was then very strong.
Expansion is another reason. The Americans needed land to expand and get benefits, so two routes were taken: towards the west (facing the Indians) and towards the north (facing the French). In both cases the expansion was difficult, and England soon realised that it was a very expensive expansion that meant war.
The first clash came in the north. England's dominions extended to the River St. Lawrence, but French occupied the territory known as the “French Arcadia”. The French were expelled and Americans settled down, but when later Canada and Quebec had been captured, England was spending much money in the maintenance of soldiers in the place. At the beginning, Americans paid 100,000 pounds of the total 300,000, so the decision in England was that much of the cost should be paid by Americans. So, new taxes were imposed on products that had no tax before (e.g. tea), which meant an increasing of 100%. The problem arose then: Americans thought they didn't need to maintain the troops; furthermore, they had no representation in the English Parliament to defend their interests. England didn't negotiate and finally imposed the new taxation, which provoked that in 1765 the governors of all American colonies joined in New York to discuss the situation. For the first time, England had to negotiate with a block of colonies, which had come together in spite of their different origins. The concept of America had born.
The limitations imposed by England in trade and industry.
The concept of free trade did not exist for the colonies, which needed to import the supplies they needed from abroad. The English rejected the free trade, so every import or export went through the hands of England (getting benefits from it). As a result, products were far more expensive in America than in England.
America had important natural resources (raw products like cotton), so the colonies saw that an industrial development would be highly beneficial. But England prohibited the industrial production in the colonies, so for example cotton was taken to England where cloth was made, and it was re-sold to the Americans. By this system Americans were absolutely limited and could only buy what England obliged them. Erroneously, England didn't allow the industrialisation because it thought that it would meant more competition and bad economic consequences.
The hostilities broke out and the French co-operated with the “rebels”. The struggle finished in 1751. English politics never realised the potential of America. The war was a failure for the English: keeping the army so far from home was difficult and expensive, so the long duration of the war was an advantage for the Americans.
The English Empire in America was lost, excepting Canada. Many Americans who had fought for England (“the royalists”) emigrated to the North, producing an increase in the number of population. Later on, people in Canada moved towards the west, as Americans were doing (the first to cross the US from coast to coast is said to be Alexander Mackenzie, who used Canada).
Despite the lost of the First English Empire, the balance could be maintained because other territories were gained: India and Australia.
The East-India Co had been working there since the beginning of the 17th C using trading stations. During the 18th C, the situation changed when the Mogul Empire in India collapsed (their internal wars had caused the disintegration). There was then no centralising power in India, where internal fighting was common and there was no political union. The East-India Co became a military company, which occupied vast extensions of territories (the most important of them was Bengal).
By the time the 18th C finished, England possessed three major areas in England (practically the whole South and part of the East) and planned to conquest the whole territory.
The annexation of those new territories produced the expansion to other markets like China. China had been practically closed to foreigners and England was interested in this commerce, so India became a middle station.
There was a massive introduction of opium in India because England wanted to convert it into currency with which to penetrate Chinese markets (so China became dependent on opium) and it was cheaply grown in India. The tragic result was the Opium War.
The end of the Napoleonic Wars liberated energies in many ways. In order to win, England blockaded France, which cost a lot of money, so the end of the war implied the liberation of economic energies. The end of the war caused also the liberation of human resources. Although the war had swallowed lots of men the population was still huge (11m in 1790; 24m in 1830) due to a boom in the birth rate. As a consequence, a lot of people were no longer necessary at home and England was overpopulated. The situation at home was desperate, so the only solution was emigration. Between 1815 and 1914 about 20m people emigrated to colonial areas. It is the case of Australia.
Australia was by 1815 a prison for convicts (in the area called Botany Bay in Sydney). There were two groups of people in the place: the convicts and the officers of the crown. One of the first governors of Sydney was Captain Bligh, who suffered two mutinies in the navy due to his character and brutal methods.
Within a few years the situation changed. In 1820, 5000 new settlers appeared in Australia, starting the full colonisation of the place. By 1850, the division of society was complicated: convicts, officers, free-convicts (prohibited to come back home) and “exclusives” (emigrants of their own will).
The moment Australia became a colony, certain means of survival were needed. Australia became then the first sheep breeder in the world (the sheep were from Spain -pure-merino wool). But Australia still needed to be explored (“Sydney or the bush”), but in 1850 the “bush” had already been explored. The consequence was an ecological disaster.
Australia became a base for exploration of other areas. New Zealand and Tasmania (Van Diemen's land) were explored during the 19th century. New Zealand offered great land for sheep, whereas Tasmania was poor and became a prison. This was made at the expense of the maori population, which was pushed and lost its rights.
English presence in India had been weak. It was a subcontinent with 600 languages. England took advantage of the Mogul's Empire disintegration, but the presence of nations as Holland and France complicated things. Areas as Ceylon or Sri Lana were dominated by Portuguese or Dutch, so England was the minor power in the place.
A crucial process of Westernitation took place in England. The state took charge on things by establishing a State policy which included the use of only one language (English) and the abolition of native practises (e.g. the “suti” or widows who were burnt with their husbands; infanticide of no-wanted girls). English tried to modernise the country because commercially speaking, India was “the jewel of the crown” (spices, tea, cotton, opium, etc.) which leaded to the Chinese markets, and needed to be maintained at all costs.
England realised that France and Russia were very interested in India. The aggression of France come in the first place, when Napoleon attacked towards Egypt (near India). If France established a base in Egypt, trade would be affected, so England decided to took control of Egypt (vital when the Suez Canal was built).
The expansion of the “Russian Bear” was another threat so India grew towards the sides to stop their expansion. That's why Punjad and Khabul (Afghanistan) were occupied.
There were two religions in India: Muslims and Hindu. There was also a geographical division. By adding areas in Afghanistan, there was a mixture of both religions that created a clash. India then separated from Pakistan.
THE AFRICAN PARTITION
Africa was the last colonial “cake” because it could supply raw materials for the industrialised western world. The British penetration took two forms: abolition of slavery and the control of the maritime traffic.
Africa had been a supplier of slaves since Hawkin's travels. By 1815 the size of slave trade carried out by the British was vast and gave them enormous benefits, because their plantations in the West Indies needed slaves to survive. But after 1815 there were new moral views in society (mainly religious groups) that criticised the slave trade.
As a consequence, England abolished the slave trade (but not slavery). The measure provoked unrest in the West Indies, but they were allowed to use slaves. The British government gave them a compensation of money so the plantations could survive. The problem was that other nations like the Dutch or the Americans continued trading with slaves. To avoid this trade, the British created a “slave squandrom” to intercept all ships carrying slaves to their plantations. Thanks to the liberation of many of those slaves Sierra Leona was born (it was not an English colony, but a free land to return slaves).
In respect to the control of maritime traffic, England tried to occupy key points to control the traffic with India. Capetown had been originally Dutch (“the Afrikaans”) but as a result of wars, it became English. The Dutch population was not expelled, so there was a mixed society living together for a time. But soon the differences arose. The Afrikaans exercised the apartheid (authoritarian regime that separated black and white), but at least in principle, English law defended the equality of all men.
The separation grew to the extent that the Afrikaans moved towards the north and created the “Orange Free State”. At the end of the 19th century the problem derived into the Boer War. England encircled the Afrikaans by annexations, so the Dutch didn't have any exit to the sea. But the Dutch found an access to the sea by joining the German colonies to the East (by alliances).
EGYPT had no great colonial interest for England, till they realised that it was a strategic place due to the possibility of building a canal (it allowed a shorter voyage to India). England established then political control on the area, although it was not its colony.
When England got dominions both in the north and the south, they though in creating a belt of territories uniting both areas (the English dream of building a “Transafrican Railway”). But other countries like Germany were also interested in the centre of Africa.
In the case of England the penetration towards the interior was carried out by commercial companies (the East-Africa Co and the South-Africa Co), which wanted to obtain the mineral resources of central Africa. The advance was made quickly along the river Congo, but the fight culminated when the wealthiest area (the basis of river Congo) was put in neutral hands, the king of Belgium (although the companies were allowed to work in the place).
By the end of the 19th century Africa was divided among the colonial powers, but the strongest of them was Great Britain (see Joseph Conrad, “The Heart of Darkness”).
It's called "Celtic Fringe" by some people. The problem of this name is that in the past all British Isles, as the rest of Europe, is Celtic, although it's true that in the Highlands remain more Celtic traditions.
The word "sheriff" comes from this shire-reeve.
That's why the minister of economy is called the "Exchequer".
In 597 the monk Augustine was send to England to re-establish Christianity. He first went to Canterbury because king's wife had come from Europe and was Christian. Christianity was accepted by several families, but not so for the ordinary people. The Celtic bishops coming from Wales, Ireland and Scotland soon reach the courts of kings and had success with ordinary people, but Roman Church extended its authority and was finally the most important. Church got much power in political questions, and was used for kings to suggest the idea that they were chosen by God. New monasteries as Westminster offered education to literate men to have a bigger influence in politics. The Anglo-Saxon kings also preferred the Roman Church for economic reasons, since it increased local and international trade.
The origin of King Arthur's Legend takes place in this context. King Arthur is supposed to be an inhabitant of England that tried to defend the country from Anglo-Saxons. The name of Arthur appears in a chronicle of a war in the year AD 500.
"Witan" can be seen as an antecedent of Parliament, but since it didn't accept any men, it was not a democratic institution.
Subject = Súbdito
It means "libro del día del juicio final"
Edward III > Richard II > Henry IV (division of York and Lancaster houses) > Henry V > Henry VI > Richard III > Henry VII
longbow = arco
Henry's break with Rome was purely political. He had simply wanted to control the Church and to keep its wealth in his own kingdom.
Pilgrimage = peregrinación
Processes = procesiones
La Armada Invencible
There were 2,5 million of people in the XVI th century > 6 million in the XVII th century.
* When Queen Anne, the last of the Stuarts, died (1714), George of Hanover became king. Since the Tories had defended James II's son as candidate to the throne, George I allowed the Whigs to form his government. One of the ministers was Walpole, who is considered Britain's first Prime Minister. He was a good economist, and he had created in the XVIIth century the Bank of England to allow the governement to borrow money in order to pay for the war with France. He also made sure that the power of the king would always be limited by the constitution.
The official explanation for the mutiny was that the introduction of a new rifle, for which bullets were kept in animal flat and had to be bitten to use them, had provoked a refusal in Muslim troops.
It is more exact to say, as some historians defend, that they were not two different wars, by a long war with periods of peace, because the I and II World Wars are very closed linked.
Revenue = renta
Guild = gremio
sin = pecado
The Stuart Dynasty: James ICharles I(The Protectorate)Charles IIJames II (till 1668)
|Enviado por:||El remitente no desea revelar su nombre|