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Travel Guide 2   >   Europe   >   UK   >   History

   
 

British History


Members of the genus Homo have lived in Britain for hundreds of thousands of years, and Homo sapiens for tens of thousands. Although it is possible that that the islands were temporarily depopulated during the glacial periods that occurred during the ice ages.

Stonehenge:
Stonehenge

By the first century BC, Britain had developed a sophisticated culture with farming, iron-working, coinage, and trade (principally of metals, especially tin, mined within the British Isles) with mainland Europe. It is also known that during this period, there was an influx of refugees from Gaul (France and Belgium) known as the Belgae, who had been displaced by the growth of the Roman Empire.

Britain was not unknown to the classical civiliations of the Mediterranean. Greeks and Carthaginians are known to have visited Britain as early as the 4th century BC. However, the first major contacts with the classical world were in 55 BC and 54 BC when Julius Caesar launched two military raids on southern England, as he believed the Britons were helping the resistance to his campaigns in Gaul.

After Julius Caesar's raids, Rome settled into a pattern of trade and diplomacy with the Britons, which was to last almost a hundred years. While some consideration was given to invading Britain, the Romans did not actually do so until 43 AD during the reign of Emperor Claudius. The Romans were eventually able to conquer all of England and Wales, and parts of southern Scotland. The Romans ruled Britain until 410 AD, when the legions were finally withdrawn because of more pressing needs closer to home. During the period of Roman occupation, many buildings were constructed in the country including villas, bath-houses, ampitheaters, and fortifications, including, of course, Hadrian's Wall.

Ruins of Hadrian's Wall:
Ruins of Hadrian's Wall

After the fall of the Roman Empire, various German tribes (the Angles, Saxons and Jutes) arrived in southern Britain. These tribes eventually became the English, and either assimilated the indigenous Celtic peoples of England, or displaced them into into Cornwall, Wales and southwestern Scotland. They in turn faced Viking invasions, and finally the Norman conquest of 1066, which introduced a French ruling nobility who eventually were to become assimilated with the English.

Harold Godwinson killed at Hastings from the Bayeux Tapestry:
Harold Godwinson killed at Hastings from the Bayeux Tapestry

During the Middle Ages, England's rulers conquered Wales, campaigned extensively in Ireland, held huge lands in France, and also tried, but failed, to conquer Scotland. England and Scotland did not finally unite until 1604, when James VI of Scotland (James I of England) declared himself "'King of Great Brittaine, France and Ireland" (the claim to the French throne, while maintained by British monarchs for some time, was not actively enforced since the French had their own ideas about who should be their monarch). Initially this combination was a personal union, by virtue of having the same monarch, and it was not until the 1707 Act of Union that England and Scotland combined their parliaments. In 1801, a second Act of Union made Ireland part of the country, the state now officially became named the "United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland".

Britain was the first country to industrialize, and this, together with its financial dominance, powerful navy, and victory in the Napoleonic Wars, allowed it to become the most powerful country in the world during the 19th and early 20th century. As a result of its position, Britain was able to establish an extensive colonial empire overseas, that eventually was to become the largest empire in history.

British Empire in 1921:
British Empire in 1921

By the late 19th century, new powers had arisen and became powerful rivals to the British Empire: the United States and Germany, both outstripped Britain economically, and in the case of Germany, became involved involved in a naval building race with Britain.

HMS Dreadnought:
HMS Dreadnought

In the last decades of the 19th century and the first years of the 20th century, extensive thought was given to granting "home rule" to Ireland, however a final decison on what policy to adopt had not been made when war broke out. In 1916, while World War I was still raging, Irish nationalists launched a rebellion against British rule in Ireland, seizing control of strategic points in Dublin. Although this rebellion was relatively easily defeated miitarily, it did succeed in bringing about a sea change in Irish political opinion. As a result, in 1922, most of Ireland became a separate country, the Irish Free State - the forerunner of today's Republic of Ireland. The United Kingdom retained control of six northern counties on the island of Ireland, and henceforth became officially known as the "United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland".

The 20th century saw a relative decline in Britain's position in the world, as the country was virtually bankrupted by the costs of fighting two World Wars, especially World War II. Although, unlike many other countries, Britain was never occupied by the Nazis, World War II has nevertheless less a deep imprint on the British national psyche: Winston Churchill, Dunkirk, "their finest hour", the Battle of Britain, El Alamein, the Spitfire, and other details of World War II are very much engrained on the national consciousness.

Winston S. Churchill:
Winston S. Churchill

Following the end of World War II, the British Empire was gradually wound-up, because of financial difficulties, pressure from Americans, and increasing nationalism in the colonies. Although there were some conflicts during the retreat from empire, such as the 1956 Suez Crisis, on the whole, disengagement was surprisingly peaceful. Britain retains good relations and cultural links with many of its former colonies, and most (but not all) are members of the Commonwealth of Nations. In the immediate post war period and the Cold War with the USSR that followed, Britain was also an important ally (perhaps the most important ally) of the United States of America, and a leading member in the NATO alliance.

As already noted, during the post-war period Britain faced extensive economic problems. These were not helped by antiquated labour and industrial policies, numerous strikes and high inflation. In the 1980s however, Britain embarked in a new free market direction under the leadership of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher: union power was restricted, inflation was brought under control, free enterprise encouraged, and subsidized state-owned industries either sold off ("privatization") or closed. These changes were not without pain, including for a time, massive unemployment, but eventually they succeeded in reviving the faltering economy. The increased prosperity that was brought about through these changes, the 1981 Royal Wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer, and victory in the 1982 Falklands War, brought a new mood of optimism to the country.

Margaret Thatcher:
Margaret Thatcher

While not as powerful as she once was, Britain is nevertheless still a leading economic, political, cultural and military power, with a permanent seat on the United Nations Security council. Britain remains a close ally of the United States of America and has forces fighting in both Iraq and engaged in Afghanistan.

Below are some books about the history of Britain.


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Books about British History


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British History in 50 Events: From First Immigration to Modern Empire (English History, History Books, British History Textbook) (History in 50 Events Series) (Volume 11)

By James Weber

CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Paperback (96 pages)

British History in 50 Events: From First Immigration to Modern Empire (English History, History Books, British History Textbook) (History in 50 Events Series) (Volume 11)
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Do you want to know how the small British Isles became one of the most important empires in world history?

Read about the 50 most important events in British History, from the first immigration to the post World War 2 Era.

This book will give you a comprehensive overview of the British history. Author James Weber did the research and compiled this huge list of events that changed the course of this nation forever. Some of them include: - Stonehenge is completed (2,000 B.C.) - Romans Invade Britain (43 A.D.) - The Declaration of Arbroath (1320) - The Battle of Hastings (1066) - The Defeat of the Spanish Armada (1588) - The Glorious Revolution (1688) - Act of Union between England and Scotland (1707) - Queen Victoria Ascends to the Throne (1837) - British Broadcasting Corporation is established (1927) - Good Friday Agreement (1998) and many many more The book includes pictures and explanations to every event, making this the perfect resource for students and anyone wanting to broaden their knowledge in histoy.

Download your copy now!

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History of Britain and Ireland

By DK Publishing

DK
Released: 2013-12-23
Paperback (400 pages)

History of Britain and Ireland
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From the Roman conquest of 43 CE to the Norman conquest of 1066, and from the Elizabethan age to the Iraq and Afghan wars of the 21st century, DK's History of Britain and Ireland traces the key events that have shaped Great Britain and Ireland from earliest times to the present day.

A History of Britain: British Wars, 1603-1776 v.2 (Vol 2)

By Simon Schama

BBC Books
Hardcover (544 pages)

A History of Britain: British Wars, 1603-1776 v.2 (Vol 2)
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To understand what Britain has become it is necessary to know what it has been. The second volume in this history takes the story of Britain from the Civil War to the Enlightenment. Each chapter focuses on a major theme.

A History of Britain

By Richard Dargie

Arcturus Publishing Ltd
Paperback (208 pages)

A History of Britain
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Fully illustrated, information-packed exploration of British history from Neolithic times to the present day. Arranged in eight self-contained sections, each dealing with a major historical period, making it extremely accessible. A pleasure to dip into and simple to look up any subject that interests you from stone circles to the Battle of Britain.

Timelines provide helpful chronological reference and are a handy addition to the text. Conveniently arranged in eight sections, each dealing with a major historical period - chapters include: Prehistoric Britain; Roman Britain; Invaders and Settlers; Medieval Britain; Early Britain; Georgian Britain; Victorian Britain; The Twentieth Century and Beyond.

Covers both well-known historical events such as the Norman invasions and the execution of Charles I, and lesser-known details like the uprisings in Dark Age Wales and the birth of tabloid newspapers in Victorian Britain. More than 150 illustrations and photographs bring the text to life.

The Face of Britain: A History of the Nation Through Its Portraits

By Simon Schama

Oxford University Press
Hardcover (632 pages)

The Face of Britain: A History of the Nation Through Its Portraits
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Author of a number of celebrated works, including the bestselling The Story of the Jews and Citizens: A Chronicle of the French Revolution, Simon Schama's latest book fuses history and art to create a tour de force of narrative sweep and illuminating insight. Using images from works-paintings, photographs, lithographs, etchings, sketches-found in London's National Portrait Gallery, The Face of Britain weaves together an account of their composition, framed by their particular moment of creation, and in the process unveils a collective portrait of nation and its history.

"Portraits," Schama writes, "have always been made with an eye to posterity." Commissioned to paint Winston Churchill in 1954, Graham Sutherland struggled with how to capture the "savior" of Great Britain honestly and humanely. Schama calls the portrait, initially damned, the "most powerful image of a Great Briton ever executed." Annie Leibovitz's photograph of a nude John Lennon kissing Yoko Ono, taken five hours before his murder, bears "a weight of poignancy she could not possibly have anticipated." Hans Holbein's preparatory sketch for a portrait of Henry VIII depicts "an unstoppable engine of dynastic generation." Here are expressions from across the centuries of normalcy and heroism, beauty and disfigurement, aristocracy and deprivation, the familiar and the obscure-the faces of courtesans, warriors, workers, activists, playwrights, the high and mighty as well as pub-crawlers. Linking them is Schama's vibrant exploration of how their connective power emerges from the dynamic between subject and artist, work and viewer, time and place.

Schama's compelling analysis and impassioned evocation of these works create an unforgettable verbal mosaic that at once reveals and transforms the images he places before us. Lavishly illustrated and written with the storytelling brio that is Schama's trademark, The Face of Britain invites us to look at a nation's visual legacies and find its reflection.

The Story of Britain: From the Romans to the Present: A Narrative History

By Rebecca Fraser

Fraser, Rebecca
Paperback (848 pages)

The Story of Britain: From the Romans to the Present: A Narrative History
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“A beautifully written story, a box of delights, a treasure trove: final proof of truth’s superiority over fiction.”―Andrew Roberts

A sparkling anecdotal account with the pace of an epic, about the men and women who created turning points in history. Rebecca Fraser's dramatic portrayal of the scientists, statesmen, explorers, soldiers, traders, and artists who forged Britain's national institutions is the perfect introduction to British history.

Just as much as kings and queens, battles and empire, Britain's great themes have been the liberty of the individual, the rule of law, and the parliamentary democracy invented to protect them. Ever since Caractacus and Boudicca surprised the Romans with the bravery of their resistance, Britain has stood out as the home of freedom. From Thomas More to William Wilberforce, from Gladstone to Churchill, Britain's history is studded with heroic figures who have resisted tyranny in all its guises, whether it be the Stuart kings' belief in divine right, the institution of slavery, or the ambitions of Napoleon and Hitler. 154 illustrations

The Oxford Illustrated History of the British Monarchy (Oxford Illustrated Histories)

By John Cannon

Oxford University Press
Hardcover (744 pages)

The Oxford Illustrated History of the British Monarchy (Oxford Illustrated Histories)
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The rich pageant of Britain's history emerges nowhere more colorfully than in the story of its kings and queens. This spectacular book offers the most authoritative account of the British monarchy ever published for the general reader. With over 400 illustrations--a third of them in color--it traces the crown's full history from Anglo-Saxon times to the present.
The authors present a vivid picture of the lives of individual monarchs as well as of the monarchy as a political and social force. They begin the story in the fifth century with the rise of recognizable kingdoms in Scotland, Wales, and England and conclude with a discussion of the crown's constitutional role, which emerged in Queen Victoria's reign, and how this has affected the symbolic and popular monarchy of today. Along the way, we gain a clear view of how key traditions evolved: the right of succession, coronations and marriages, oaths of loyalty and military service, the granting of lands and titles, and the propagation of a powerful image of royalty.
The book not only explains the monarch's political struggles and styles of governing; it is filled with fascinating details that give the story life. We learn, for instance, that Elizabeth I's famous journeys to various corners of her realm were not simply to show her off to her subjects: "The standard of Tudor sanitation," the authors note, "meant that the royal palaces became unbearable after several weeks of occupation and the court's absence for several months in the summer gave an opportunity to clean up." We discover that Victoria's coronation was "a splendid mixture of majesty and muddle": when it came time for the Archbishop to bestow the ceremonial ring, the already befuddled cleric placed it on the Queen's wrong finger, "causing considerable delay [and] some pain." And we read George VI's touching wedding message to his daughter (the present queen): "Your leaving us has left a great blank in our lives but do remember that your old home is still yours."
Supporting the text and carefully selected pictures are sidebars on each of the monarchs and on key general themes; color maps; an illustrated section on royal residences and tombs; a consolidated list of monarchs; genealogies; annotated lists of further reading; and a full index with personal dates.

The British Monarchy For Dummies

By Philip Wilkinson

For Dummies
Paperback (408 pages)

The British Monarchy For Dummies
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Includes insights into the lives of the current royal family

Britain's heritage told through the colourful lives of its kings and queens

The monarchy is at the heart of British life. If you're going to understand Britain and its history, you need to understand the story of its royal family. This lively guide walks you through the history of the British monarchy from the earliest times to the present day and covers the colourful characters, extraordinary events, power struggles, and politics that have shaped one of the most famous institutions in the world.

Discover

  • The origins of the British monarchy
  • How the monarchy works
  • The relationship between the royal family and the general public
  • How the role of the monarch has changed over time
  • What the monarch and the rest of the royal family do all day

History of Britain, A - Volume III: The Fate of the Empire 1776 - 2000 (History of Britain (Talk Miramax))

By Simon Schama

Brand: Miramax
Released: 2002-12-18
Hardcover (576 pages)

History of Britain, A - Volume III: The Fate of the Empire 1776 - 2000 (History of Britain (Talk Miramax))
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Simon Schama’s dramatic, broad-ranging, and immensely readable epic history of Britain reaches its triumphant conclusion in this third and final volume, which stretches from the American Revolution to the present.

The Fate of Empire tells the eventful and exhilarating story of Britain’s rise and fall as an imperial power, from the political turmoil of the 1770s to the struggle of present day leaders to find a way to make a different national future. The volume also examines the Romantic generation, the role of women in Victorian England, industrialization, and the liberal empire from Ireland to India, which promised material improvement, but delivered coercion and famine. As in the previous volumes, Schama vividly portrays the lives of extraordinary personalities – Queen Victoria, Churchill, Dickens, and “ordinary” individuals including the author of the first British travel guide, and Elizabeth Anderson, the first woman doctor.

Finally, Schama asks an essential question: what kind of Britain can hold together when its island isolation and its imperial dominion have both vanished? An examination of the legacy of the British ideal of freedom is at the heart of this entertaining and well-researched book. With The Fate of Empire, Simon Schama has proven himself, again, as a masterful writer of narrative history.

The Royal Line of Succession: The British Monarchy from Egbert AD 802 to Queen Elizabeth II

By Dulcie M. Ashdown

Brand: Pitkin
Paperback (32 pages)

The Royal Line of Succession: The British Monarchy from Egbert AD 802 to Queen Elizabeth II
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A fully illustrated and informative look at each of the royal houses in Great Britain—from Anglo-Saxon monarchs through to today’s royal family, the House of Windsor. Each highly detailed family tree demonstrates the connections between each King and Queen and their royal ancestors, and an explanation of the order of succession provides a valuable insight into the historic passing of the crown. 



 
 
 

 
 
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