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16 Britain and the British

Early history of britain in short

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Before 12000 ВС1 Britain was attached to the rest of Europe. Historians say that the English Channel that separates Britain from Europe nowadays appeared at the end of the Ice Age. Somewhere after 3000 ВС the first inhabitants from Continental Europe came to the western shores of the island oyer dry land. ,•"

Among archaeological remains found in Britain mainly in England and Wales one can see human and animal bones as well as some pieces of pottery hidden inside burial mounds2. They date from the Stone Age.

The best known prehistoric monument left by the inhabitants of the Stone Age is Stonehenge on Salisbury Plain with the circles of huge stones inside. Scientists think that the early inhabitants of Britain were sun-worshippers3 who thought of the sun as a god and in honour of that god they built Stonehenge.

At the end of the Bronze Age people started to use iron instead of bronze for making tools and weapons. The Iron Age began in Britain about 500 ВС. ,


After 800 ВС a new important page in the history of Great Britain began. It was connected with the Celts4 who arrived from Central Europe and began to establish their culture in Britain. The society of Celts included warriors5 and noblemen6, farmers, the most highly skilled craftsmen7 and druids who were the most learned people (priests, doctors, musicians). Some of them pretended to be enchanters8, others taught young men who were their pupils. The society of Celts was organ­ized in tribes each headed by a king or a chief. One Celtic tribe known as

the Britons is thought to have given the name "Britain" to the country.


in 55 ВС and 54 ВС some of the local Celtic tribes were defeated by the Roman army but continued to resist to it. The Romans were under the leadC'falup of Julius Caesar9 who was the best ancient Roman leader as well as the great general and a politician. Caesar was the first who wrote about the Britons of that dark period of the history.

The Romans invaded Britain many times and again in AD10 43. But they could not make it part of the Roman Empire until about a hundred years later when only Southern Britain became Britannia, a province of the Roman Empire.

> The Romans ruled for about 400 years. They founded more than ц ■ twenty large towns and built shops, town halls, meeting places, baths i; and theatres there. Some buildings had central heating. The Romans ; also built good roads which together with walls stretch across the countryside even nowadays. They brought the skills of reading and • writing to Britain. They set up their capital in London. About AD 410 the Roman Empire collapsed and the Romans left Britain.

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Three powerful Germanic tribes, the Saxons, Angles and Jutes, attacked the country. These wild tribes burst into the land and took most of it for their own. The Britons were driven from their homes and were made to build little villages in the forests to live in. Britons were angry and hated their invaders. •. •

The Anglo-Saxons gave the larger part of Britain its new name - England, "the land of the Angles". They divided the territory of the country into new administrative areas, which remained almost the same for a thousand years. They introduced the new technology that was the basis of English agriculture until the eighteenth century.

The Anglo-Saxon period gave the beginning of a class system, made up of King, lords, soldiers and workers on the land. Christianity brought to the people of Britain by the Celtic Church in the 6th cen­tury, increased the power of the English state. Some monasteries were established. They became the places of learning and education. Increased literacy helped to develop trade and England became a well- known state in Europe.


During the 8th-9th centuries England fought against new invaders, called Vikings11 (Scandinavian people - Danes and Norwegians). They invaded some areas of eastern, northern and western coasts of England and Ireland. They also captured some of Scottish islands. Vikings were cruel and violent. They robbed and burnt houses, killed defenceless villagers. Most men, women and children were burnt in the flames of fire. They also burnt churches and monasteries.

But Vikings were known as skilled builders of ships, most of them were good sailors. They travelled by sea to Iceland, Greenland and North America.

When Alfred became the King of Wessex in 871 nearly all the north and east territories of England were under Vikings' occupation. Alfred (849 -899) proved to be a great ruler and an able warrior. He gathered together the men from different parts of the country. With

their help. Alfred repaired the walls of many towns on the coast and at the mouths of rivers. They built the fleet of ships and fortifications. Alfred organized resistence to the Vikings and in 878 could win the great victory over the Danes (so the Vikings are called in,English his­tory). Alfred founded schools and did much to educate his people. His own translations from Latin are part of the earliest English literature.

King Alfred was loved by the English people. He is the only monarch in English history who >as given the title "Alfred the Great" and also called Truth-Teller and the Wise.

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In 1066 England was invaded by the Normans who were led by William, the Duke of Normandy. They defeated the English king Harold II at the Battle of Hastings. The' Norman Conquest12 of England began. William, known as William the Conqueror13, became the English king (1066-1087). He gave land and power in England to other Normans who built many castles to control the English people.

The Normans used many of the existing Anglo-Saxon methods of government of the state and church. They could add some aspects of their own and made the government more effective. The language of government was first Latin, and then Norman French.

  1. What people did the society of Celts include? How was that society organized? - •••:■' -•' .••■ " *

  2. ' What did the Roman invaders bring to Britain? What did they leave in Britain after them? \ •-> >!* ; .'• *

  3. What Germanic tribes invaded Britain in the 4th century? What did they introduce into Britain? ;s -

  4. How are the Vikings characterised? What did they do for Britain? : • i-■■'• '':'

  5. What is it said about Alfred the Great? What did he do for the Britons? ; "•."• • '•'•' .'.' ,■•' :

  6. What can you say about William and the Battle of Hastings?

. — TALKING POINTS —. . ...

  • What remains of ancient Britain can be found even nowadays? What is it said about the historical monuments of Britain in the text? Do you know anything about the early history of Belarus? What can you say about it? *

  • What pros and cons can you give speaking about the Celts' invasion of Britain? . ' : -i-. : :

  • Was there anything positive in the Anglo-Saxons' invasion of Britain? Why did Britons hate Anglo-Saxons?

  • Why did the English love Alfred? Why was he given the title "Alfred the Great"? . . .. ; : '

  • What did the Norman invaders contribute to the culture of England? Why are there many words of French origin in the English language?

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