They came to conquer and stayed to build. First, it was the Romans in A.D. 43 who drove the original Celtic inhabitants of Britain into the north (Scotland) and west (Wales) of the island. Then, in A.D.449, after the last Roman troops had been summoned home to defend Rome against the barbarian invaders, a group of Germanic tribes, the Angles, the Saxons, and the Jutes, crossed the North Sea and occupied the island the Romans had called Albion. In a short time, “Angle-land” became England.
The next incursion, in A.D.597, was more peaceful, led by the Roman cleric St. Augustine. He and his followers converted to Christianity the pagans who were there. The Bible of these Christians was written in Latin and they brought Latin learning with them.
In the eighth century, the Danes (Vikings) arrived. At first they raided and looted the towns and monasteries of the northeast, but eventually, they settled that area. In 871, when they tried to overrun the rest of the island, they were stopped by Alfred the Great, who is now considered the first King of England. The Danes, too, converted, assimilated, and gave us words like sky, skill, and skate.
The last successful invasion of England occurred in 1066 when the Duke of Normandy in France claimed and won the throne. Known as William the Conqueror, he brought his court and its language to the country he seized. For some time, England was a bilingual country of conquerors and conquered. In his novel Ivanhoe, which is set in the Middle Ages, the nineteenth-century writer Sir Walter Scott captures this duality: animals are swine, oxen, and calves on the hoof, but pork, beef, and veal in the kitchen of the noble Lord. Even today, we make a last will and testament, repeating the same meaning in Anglo-Saxon and Norman French, respectively.
The last Anglo-Saxon king, Harold II, fought William of Normandy and died along with many Anglo-Saxon commoners-made-soldiers at The Battle of Hastings, a battle that is remembered and reenacted still today.
Michael Wood’s Story of England: “Romans to Normans”
Throughout this series about the historical perspective of British literature, we will be journeying through time and space to visit the history of England as it was discovered in the town of Kibworth. Kibworth is a place that just so happens to hold archeological proof of life all the way back to the Romans as well as through every other major shift in civilization. To help us grasp the effects of history on common people, we will be watching this series throughout this course. Episodes will appear in this historical perspective lesson as they pertain to the section of history we are in. I hope you find the information enlightening and inspiring as I have.
The island of England has been invaded and conquered by Romans, Anglo-Saxons, Vikings, and French Normans. They have survived and adapted through each change, but this last invasion threatens everything they know about their way of life.
Now the Normans brought more than their language to the island. They also brought a form of government, social order, and land tenure we call feudalism. This is a vision of the natural and human world as a triangle or pyramid. At the peak is the king and below, in carefully graded steps, are nobles and freemen, down to the serfs who till the land.
Yet all social systems are more fluid than they appear from the outside, and the feudal era in England was a tempestuous time. In 1215, a group of nobles forced King John to sign the Magna Carta. This Great Charter, which limited the powers of the king, marks the beginning of parliamentary government in England. Other kings faced more violent opposition from the nobles and two of them, Edward II in 1327 and Richard II in 1399, were deposed and assassinated. The Black Death, a grim name for the plague, ravaged England in the 14th century and may have killed one-third of the population. Drained by an intermittent series of wars with France, which dragged out for more than one hundred years, England was then torn by a brutal civil war from 1455 to 1485.
At the end of England’s bloody civil war, Henry VII came to the throne and all of the forces that had shaped the island kingdom for a thousand years came together in a newly unified state. England was poised to participate in an incredible period of discovery and expansion.
They had come, the conquerors, warriors, and priests, the knights and serfs, the outlaws and the righteous, the men, the women, the children, and had settled an island that a glacier had sliced off the European continent. On that relatively small stretch of land, they created a country, a language, and literature that was to become one of the wonders of the world.
Source: Pearson Education, Inc. Prentice Hall Literature: The British Tradition. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson, 2012. Pages 4-5
Michael Wood’s Story of England: “The Great Famine and the Black Death”
The island of England has been invaded and conquered by Romans, Anglo-Saxons, Vikings, and French Normans. They have survived and adapted through each change, and they have developed into a country with a shared rule with its kings.
A devastating plague known as the Black Death has ravaged the country and taken approximately one-third of the population. Subsequent survivors faced further hardships as England went to war with France and with itself.
Now on Michael Wood’s Story of England: “Peasants’ Revolt to Tudors”
Those that survived the Black Death are anxious for change. They won’t sit still in the 14th century until they have it.
Additional Source: Pearson Education, Inc. Prentice Hall Literature: The British Tradition. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson, 2012. Pages 4-5