The Celts came to the British Isles from Europe about 2,700 years ago. They lived in tribes and became known as Britons. They lived in round houses grouped in small villages, but then they built towns that became trading centres.
Julius Caesar invaded Britain in 55 BC. But Emperor Claudius conquered it and made Britain part of the Roman Empire a hundred years later. The. Romans built important towns such as London, Bath and York. They also built long straight roads. Latin, the Roman language, is the basis of many English words today.
c. 400 AD
The Anglo-Saxons came from Germany across the see and began to settle in Britain. They were farmers and lived in small villages along the banks of the rivers. One of their kings was King Alfred (871-899).
Between 789 and 899 the Vikings came in wooden ships from Scandinavia. They attacked the north and east coasts of Britain, settling in many areas. They made Jorvick (York) their capital. Their greatest Saxon adversary was King Alfred.
In 1066, William, Duke of Normandy, defeated the Saxons at the battle of Hastings and was crowned King William I. The English did not want a Norman king and there were many revolts. King William gave land to French barons to build their castles. In 1086 the King sent officials to ask questions and write information in a book called the Domesday Book. It was the first census!
11th – 15th century
During the Middle Ages a series of ten different kings and their barons ruled England. They were rich and powerful, while most people who lived in the country were very poor. Towns like Bristol and Norwich grew up as trading centres. Many monasteries were built. The universities of Oxford and Cambridge were started. The Plague killed about one third of e population (1347-50).
1485 – 1603 The Tudors
From 1485 until 1603 the kings and queens of England came from the Tudor family. Henry VIII had six wives, and created the Cjurch of England because he wanted to divorce his first wife. One of his daughters, Elizabeth I was a great queen. Her reign was a time of progress and discovery. Raleigh brought tobacco and new foods, such as turkey and potatoes, from the Americas and Shakespeare wrote plays for the theatre. When the Spanish sent an Armada to attack Britain, Sir Francis Drake beat them.
1603 – 1714 The Stuarts
From 1613 to 1714 the Stuarts of Scotland ruled Britain. They brought great changes and in 1707 England, Wales and Scotland became one country called Great Britain. James I was king when Guy Fawkes tried to blow up the Houses of Parliament in 1605. His son Charles I was king in 1642 when a Civil War began between the king’s supporters (the Cavaliers) and Parliament (the Roundheads, led by Oliver Cromwell). Charles was beheaded in 1649, and England then became a republic for eleven years. In 1666 there was a terrible fire in London which destroyed 80 per cent of its buildings.
The Georgians – 1714 to 1837
In the Georgian period the four king who ruled Britain were all called George. British prime ministers became more powerful while the king became less important. Britain was at war for about one third of the period. Most of the wars were against France. At Trafalgar, Lord Nelson sank most of Napoleon’s ships and Napoleon’s soldiers were beaten by Wellington at Waterloo.
Life changed with the start of the Industrial Revolution. Before, most work was done by hand. But during this period, the invention of new machines transformed Britain into the leading industrialized country in the world.
Victorian Times – 1837 to 1901
In 1837 the eighteen-year-old Queen Victoria came to the throne. During her 64-year reign she built up an enormous empire that included Australia, India Canada and many African nations. It was a time of emigration from Britain and many Scots and Irish people went to America.
Britain became very rich, but not all the British lived a happy life. Hours of work were long and workers had very poor living and working conditions – many young children and women had to work in coal mines and factories.
Many schools were built. In 1870 Parliament insisted that every child must go to school from the age of five to thirteen, and that parents must pay a little of the cost. Classes of 60-80 children had one teacher and the lessons were usually religion, reading, writing and arithmetic.
In our century Britain has seen many events. First there was World War I. Then came the Great Depression in the 1930s. This was a bad time, when there was high unemployment. Many families were poor, and there was rationing, even of bread and potatoes. World War II began in 1939 and went on until 1945. Britain fought as a member of the Allied Forces.
Since 1945 there have been a lot of changes including the introduction of important social reforms, a decline in industry, the loss of the colonies, and Britain’s transformation into a multi-racial society, as people came from countries such as India Pakistan, the West Indies, etc.
Many immigrants are now British citizens with second and third generation families, often with their own religions and cultures.
Britain is also a trading partner of European nations. In 1971 it became a member of the EEC. The Channel Tunnel has been built to help trade with other members of the EC, now known as the EU (from 1973 to 2016 Brexit).
Source: Excursion, an old Italian book.