Sunteți pe pagina 1din 65

Universitatea Dunrea de Jos din Galai

Departamentul pentru nvmnt la Distan


i cu Frecven Redus

Istorie i civilizaie englez


Gabriela Iuliana Colipc-Ciobanu

Facultatea de Litere
Specializarea:
Limba i literatura romn Limba i literatura englez
Anul I, Semestrul 1
,,Dunrea de Jos University of Galai
Faculty of Letters

BRITISH HISTORY AND


CIVILIZATION

Course tutor:
Associate Professor
Gabriela Iuliana Colipc-Ciobanu, PhD

Galai
2010
Table of Contents

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Learning Unit no. 1.................................................................................................................5


GREAT BRITAIN. GEOGRAPHICAL BACKGROUND. BRITISH INSULARITY. ..................5
Learning Unit no. 2.................................................................................................................7
INVASIONS AND PATTERNS OF SETTLEMENT IN THE BRITISH ISLES.........................7
2.1. Ancient Britain...........................................................................................................7
2.1.1. The Stone/Neolithic Age: the Megalithic Men..................................................7
2.1.2. The Bronze Age: the Beaker People.................................................................8
2.1.3. The Iron Age: the Celts......................................................................................8
2.1.4. The Romans......................................................................................................10
2.2. The Middle-Ages......................................................................................................11
2.2.1. The Anglo-Saxons............................................................................................11
2.2.2. The Vikings........................................................................................................14
2.2.3. The Normans.....................................................................................................14
2.3. Battles of Britain....................................................................................................16
2.3.1. The Defeat of the Spanish Armada (1588).....................................................16
2.3.2. Fighting the German Luftwaffe (1940)............................................................17
2.4. Practical Applications (1).......................................................................................17
Learning Unit no. 3...............................................................................................................21
BRITISH MONARCHY: FROM THE ANGLO-SAXON KINGS TO THE TWENTY-
FIRST CENTURY HOUSE OF WINDSOR..........................................................................21
3.1. The Anglo-Saxon Kings..........................................................................................21
3.2. The Norman Kings..................................................................................................22
3.3. The Angevins...........................................................................................................22
3.4. The Plantagenets.....................................................................................................23
3.5. The Lancastrians.....................................................................................................25
3.6. The Yorkists.............................................................................................................26
3.7. The Tudors...............................................................................................................26
3. 8. The Stuarts..............................................................................................................28
3.9. The Hanoverians.....................................................................................................30
3.10. The House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha......................................................................34
3.11. The House of Windsor..........................................................................................34
3.12. Practical Applications (2).....................................................................................35
Learning Unit no. 4...............................................................................................................41
MAIN DEVELOPMENTS IN BRITAINS POLITICAL LIFE..................................................41
4.1. The Anglo-Saxon Witan (627-1066).......................................................................41
4.2. The Norman Curia Regis (1066-1215)...................................................................41
4.3. The English Parliament..........................................................................................42
4.3.1. The First English Parliament...........................................................................42
4.3.2. The Tudors and the Parliament.......................................................................42
4.3.3. The Stuarts and the Parliament......................................................................44
4.4. Political Life in Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-century Britain..............................46
4.4.1. The Whig Oligarchy..........................................................................................46
4.4.2. The Right to Freedom of Speech....................................................................47
4.4.3. Tory Policies and the Castlereagh Administration.......................................47
4.4.4. The Reform Period...........................................................................................48
4.4.5. The Chartist Movement....................................................................................49
4.4.6. Politics in the Victorian Age............................................................................49
4.4.7. The Rise of a Third Party.................................................................................50
4.5. Political Life in Twentieth and Twenty-First Century Britain..............................51

British History and Civilisation 3


Table of Contents
4.5.1. Reforms in Edwardian Britain.........................................................................51
4.5.2. The Interwar Depression..................................................................................51
4.5.3. Post World War II Britain. The Welfare State.................................................52
4.5.4. Britain, Europe and the USA...........................................................................52
4.5.5. The Troubles in Ireland....................................................................................53
4.5.6. Margaret Thatchers Conservative Administration.......................................54
4.5.7. Tony Blairs Labour Administration................................................................55
4.6. Practical Applications (3).......................................................................................56
SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY..............................................................................................61

4 British History and Civilisation


Great Britain. Geographical Background. British Insularity
Learning Unit no. 1
GREAT BRITAIN. GEOGRAPHICAL BACKGROUND.
BRITISH INSULARITY

The first thing that strikes when one looks at the map of the United
Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (for this is the full
political title of the country) is that it is in fact an archipelago in the Atlantic
Ocean situated off the coast of north-west Europe.
Surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean to the west, the North Sea to the
East, the English Channel to the South, the largest island i.e., Great
Britain is divided into the historical provinces of England, Scotland and
Wales:
England stretches from the English Channel (that separates the
island from the European continent) to the Scottish Border
represented by the Cheviot Hills (the scene of many battles
between the Scots and the English) and it is subdivided into the
South, the Midlands and the North.
o The South (from the English Channel to the River Severn in the
west and the Bay of Wash in the east) is distinguished by its
green pastures, natural beauty, green-shouldered hills,
churches, cathedrals, schools and universities.
o The Midlands (from the SevernWash line to the Mersey
estuary in the west and the Humber estuary in the east) display
a mixture of large industrial areas (the so-called Black Country
in the West Midlands, developing since the eighteenth-century
Industrial Revolution) and farming land (the counties of
Shropshire and Worcestershire).
o The North (from the Mersey-Humber line to the Cheviot Hills) is
characterised by the same contrast between green pastures
and beautiful hilly countryside, and large industrial towns and
coal mining areas.
Scotland, a once independent kingdom, which lost its political
independence and was united to England in 1707, covers the
northern, mainly mountainous part of the island (the Grampian
Mountains), and it is subdivided into the Highlands and the
Lowlands. Along its rocky, highly-indented shores 1, there are three
large archipelagos, i.e., the Inner and Outer Hebrides, the Orkney
Islands, and the Shetland Islands. The Highlands and the Islands
are thinly populated; people lead a hard and lonely life and many
of them still speak Erse, a Scottish form of Gaelic, a Celtic dialect.
Wales, a rebellious region in the past, united to England under the
first Tudors (Henry VII and Henry VIII), stretches in the eastern
part of the island, in a largely mountainous area (the Cambrian
Mountains). One fifth of its inhabitants speak both English and
Welsh, which is also a Celtic dialect.
As for Northern Ireland (also called Ulster), a province of Celtic
origin torn by religious (the Catholic Irish versus the Protestant English)
and political unrest, it lies across the Irish Sea, in the north-east of Ireland.

1
The small estuaries of the Scottish coastline, where most of the Scottish rivers (the Forth, the Clyde, etc.)
flow into the ocean are called firths.

British History and Civilisation 5


Great Britain. Geographical Background. British Insularity
Several other islands should be included to complete the picture of
the British archipelago, i.e., the Isle of Man and Anglesey in the Irish Sea,
the Isle of Wight in the south, Jersey and Guernsey, also called the
Channel Islands, off the European coast, and the Scilly Islands in the
south-west of Cornwall (the largest peninsula of Great Britain). The Isle of
Man and the Channel Islands are not part of the United Kingdom, but self-
governing Crown Dependencies that possess their own administrative
structures.
Britains peculiar geographical position has influenced its climate, its
people and history in more than one direction:
Benefited by the warm Atlantic Current (Gulf Stream), the climate
is more temperate than would otherwise be the case, with mild
winters and warm summers. However, the weather of the British
Isles is one long series of exceptions to its own traditional rules,
with spring days in winter and winter days in spring, autumn days
in summer and exquisite, summer days at the end of autumn.
The insular position may also account for the peoples character:
restrained, reserved, with a conservative mentality marked by a
preference for traditional habits and structures (e.g. talking about
the weather; carrying an umbrella and a jacket on a warm day
because it might rain or turn cold; the five oclock tea; etc.); (other
features of the British people: unemotional, private, independent
individuals, with a respect for the eccentric and personal initiative,
and a certain tendency to aggressiveness and stubbornness; dry
sense of humour based on understatement, self-criticism, use of
language subtleties).
As for the countrys history, the sea has turned the English into a
sea-faring nation, able to roam the oceans of the world and to
build up a great maritime empire. The sea provided potential
security from foreign invasions from the continent, but also
imminent danger from enemies from the north (and not only).

6 British History and Civilisation


Invasions and Patterns of Settlement in the British Isles
Learning Unit no. 2
INVASIONS AND PATTERNS OF SETTLEMENT
IN THE BRITISH ISLES

2.1. Ancient Britain


Britain was not always an island. It became one after the end of the
last ice age, when the temperature rose and ice melted flooding the lower-
lying land that is now under the North Sea and the English Channel.
Archaeologists revealed evidence of human life (a few stone tools) in
Britain dating as far back as 250,000 BC. However, with the renewed
advancement of ice, Britain became hardly inhabitable until probably
another milder period around 50,000 BC. The people from that period
apparently looked similar to the modern British, but were probably smaller
and had a life span of only about 30 years.
Around 10,000 BC, towards the end of the Ice Age, people in Britain
formed small groups of hunters, gatherers and fishers (but only few had
settled homes).
Britain finally became an island about 5,000 BC. That turned out to
be a disaster for the wanderer-hunter culture as the cold-loving deer and
other animals on which they largely lived died out.

2.1.1. The Stone/Neolithic Age: the Megalithic Men


About 3,000 BC, a first wave of settlers probably came from the
Iberian Peninsula (hence, their being referred to as the Iberians) or even
from the North African coast. They were small, dark, long-headed people
(probably the ancestors of the dark-haired inhabitants of Wales and
Cornwall), and they kept animals, grew corn and knew how to make
pottery.
These invaders settled in the western parts of Britain and Ireland,
from Cornwall all the way to the far north.
Among the remains that reveal the huge organisation of labour in
prehistoric Britain, due mention must be made, particularly, of the
henges. They were centres of religious, political and economic power
made of great circles of earth banks and ditches inside which there were
wooden buildings and stone circles. Stonehenge in the Salisbury Plain is
by far the most famous and best preserved of them. Built in separate
stages over more than 2,000 years, it was made of monumental circles of
massive vertical stones topped with immense horizontal slabs called
megaliths (hence, the name of these prehistoric people of Megalithic
Men). At a second stage of the construction process, about 2,400 BC,
huge bluestones were brought to the site from South Wales. Its purpose is
still a mystery, but its authority in Britain was recognised. The movement of
the bluestones was perceived as an extremely important event hence,
these unwritten memories were recorded in 1136 in Geoffrey of
Monmouths History of Britain. Other (earth or stone) henges were built in
many parts of Britain as far north as the Orkney Islands and as far south
as Cornwall.

2.1.2. The Bronze Age: the Beaker People

British History and Civilisation 7


Invasions and Patterns of Settlement in the British Isles
After 2,400 BC, new groups of people came from Europe (France
and the Low Countries) and settled in south-east Britain. It is not known
whether they invaded by armed force or they were invited by Neolithic
Britons because of their military or metal-working skills. Their influence
was soon felt, as they became the leaders of British society.
They were round-headed, strongly built, taller than Neolithic Britons.
They spoke an Indo-European language and were skilled in working metal
(bronze) and in making pottery. They also brought a new cereal from
Europe, i.e. barley, and introduced the first individual graves to replace the
former communal burial mounds (barrows). Their graves were furnished
with pottery beakers (hence, their being referred to as the Beaker
people).
Stonehenge remained the most important centre until 1,300 BC
(improved by the Beaker people with a new circle of 30 stone columns,
connected by stone lintels or cross-pieces). After 1,300 BC, the henge
civilisation was overtaken by a new form of society in southern England,
that of a settled farming class. Family villages and fortified enclosures
appeared across the landscape, in lower-lying areas as well as on the
chalk hills, and the old central control of Stonehenge and the other henges
was lost. Power shifted to the Thames valley and southern Britain. Hill-
forts replaced henges as centres of local power. One possible reason for
the shift of power is that people in the Thames area had more advanced
metalwork skills, hence the better-designed bronze swords discovered in
the area. Many of these swords have been found in river beds, almost
certainly thrown in for religious reasons. This custom may be the origin of
the story of the legendary King Arthurs sword, given to him from out of the
water and thrown back into the water when he died.

2.1.3. The Iron Age: the Celts


From the sixth century BC over the next seven hundred years, the
Celts swept into the British isles, coming from central Europe or further
east, in three successive waves, kindred indeed but mutually hostile and
each with a dialect of its own:
The Goidelic/ Gaelic Celts settled in Ireland whence they spread
to Scotland and the Isle of Man. Their linguistic heritage is
represented by: Gaelic (the national language in Ireland), Erse (in
the Highlands and the Islands of Scotland) and the now
extinguished Manx (only in the Isle of Man).
Two centuries later, the Brythonic Celts/ Britons settled in
England and Wales. Their linguistic heritage is represented by:
Welsh (in Wales) and Cornish (spoken in Cornwall up to the end
of the eighteenth century, to be revived nowadays).
About 100 BC, the Belgic tribes settled in the south-east of
Britain.
It seems that the Celts were tall, fair or red-haired men of an
impressive cleanliness and neatness. They used to wear shirts and
breeches, and stripped or checked cloaks fastened by a pin (possibly the
origin for the Scottish tartan and dress). They knew how to work with iron,
hence they could make better weapons and introduce more advanced
ploughing methods to farm heavier soils. They built hill-forts which
remained economic centres for local groups long after the Romans came
to Britain (e.g. the tradition of organising annual fairs see the annual fair

8 British History and Civilisation


Invasions and Patterns of Settlement in the British Isles
on the site of a Dorset hill-fort in Th. Hardys Far from the Madding
Crowd). They traded across tribal borders and trade was probably
important for political and social contact between the tribes inside (hence
the present-day capitals of England and Scotland stand on or near two
Celtic trade centres) and beyond Britain (in Gaul).
Their religion was polytheistic; they believed in the sun, the moon
and the stars. They were ruled over by a warrior class, of which the priests
the Druids seem to have been particularly important members. The
Druids could not read or write, but they memorised all the religious
teachings, the tribal laws, history, medicine, and other knowledge
necessary in the Celtic society. Religious rituals (which sometimes
included human sacrifice) were not performed in temples but in sacred
(oak) groves, on certain hills, by rivers or by river sources. (The oak was
considered the Gods favourite; hence the custom of hanging up branches
of mistletoe, which was believed to work wonders, on Christmas Eve.)
Women, especially from the upper strata, had more independence
and they were respected for their courage and strength in battle. (Roman
writers leave an impression of a measure of equality between the sexes
among the richer Celts.) Actually, when the Romans invaded Britain two of
the largest tribes were ruled by women who fought from their chariots. The
most powerful Celt to stand up to the Romans was a woman, Boadicea
(61 AD).
With regard to the Celtic cultural heritage, at least three major
aspects should be emphasised:
The very name Britain comes from Pretani, the name which the
Greeks called the Celtic inhabitants of Britain, mispronounced by
the Romans into Britannia.
There are numerous Celtic survivings in English including: names
of rivers and places (e.g. Avon, Thames; York, Kent, London), the
first syllables in Winchester, Manchester, Gloucester, Exeter, etc.,
and words like brat, cradle, down, mattock, etc.
The Celtic legends and sagas imbued with a sense of mystery, a
dramatic conception of mans existence as grip with fate, sung by
bards at the accompaniment of the harp, have been an important
source of inspiration for many writers. Two cycles of legends have
come down to us:
The Cycle of Ulster (the oldest literary attempts of the
Irish epic recording the deeds of king Conchobar and the
brave hero Cuchulainn);
The Cycle of Munster (focused on the heroic figures of
Finn and his son Ossian, a gifted bard).
In the late eighteenth century, the interest in the old Celtic literary
tradition was revived by the Pre-Romantic movement. James
Macphersons alleged translations from the legendary Irish bard Ossian
brought about the emergence of a new literary fashion in almost the whole
Europe, known as Ossianism.
All in all, Celtic literature has remained a vigorous mainstream and
source of inspiration for many a writer in Britain and Europe, chief among
whom W. B. Yeats, James Joyce and Samuel Beckett.
With the rise of nationalistic feelings in present-day Britain,
Britishness originally, a general term denoting national identity for the
inhabitants of England, Scotland and Wales has come to evoke the

British History and Civilisation 9


Invasions and Patterns of Settlement in the British Isles
Celtic origin of Scotland and Wales as opposed to Englishness, evocative
of Englands Anglo-Saxon roots and her ruling position.

2.1.4. The Romans


The Roman invasion seems to have been motivated by two particular
reasons: 1. the Celts of Britain supported the Celts in Gaul against the
Romans (sending them food and allowing them to hide in Britain). 2.
Under the Celts, Britain became an important food producer because of
the mild climate and the advanced ploughing technology. The Romans
needed British food for their own army fighting the Gauls.
A first step towards the conquest of Britain was made in 55-54 BC by
Julius Caesar who raided Britain to stop the support the British Celts
offered to the Celts in Gaul.
In 43 AD, Britain was conquered by Emperor Claudiuss legions.
Actually, the Romanised area stretched across the southern part of Britain,
from the River Humber to the River Severn. The Romans intended to
conquer the whole island; they met with fierce resistance from some of the
Celtic tribes, but the Celtic leaders soon surrendered to the Emperor. The
only revolt that seriously threatened the Roman rule was Boadiceas (60-
61 AD): she swept through southern Britain, destroying Colchester,
London and Verulamium, so that the Roman rule had a hard time
recovering after the rebellion was put down. Anyway, the Celts were no
match in military power and strategy to the Romans as, on the one hand,
the Romans were better trained and, on the other hand, the Celtic tribes
fought among themselves.
The Romans also extended their control in Wales (the towns of York,
Chester, etc.), but did not develop their culture there. Therefore, the area
of Roman occupation was divided into two sharply contrasting regions: the
Latinised south and east, and the barbarian north and west.
They could not conquer Caledonia (i.e. Scotland). They built a
strong wall along the northern border (Hadrians Wall) to keep out the
raiders (Scots and Picts) from the north. (Later on, Hadrians Wall marked
the border between England and Scotland.)
In 409 AD, Rome withdrew its last legions from Britain, as Rome itself
was under fierce siege by the Germanic tribes. (Rome itself was sacked
by the Goths in 410.) The Romanised Celts were left to fight alone against
the Scots, the Irish and the Anglo-Saxon raiders from Germany. When
Britain called to Rome for help against the raiders from Saxon Germany in
mid-fifth century, no answer came.
The almost four hundred years of Roman rule in Britain had its
cultural benefits, among which due mention should be made of:
prosperous towns which were the basis of Roman administration
and civilisation (e.g. Colchester a seat of the imperial Cult,
meant to focus the loyalty of the province, where a temple of the
deified Claudius was erected; London the business centre of the
province, a supply port and the centre of the system of Roman
roads);
stone-paved highways which continued to be used long after the
Romans left and which became the main roads of modern Britain;
glass windows, central heating, running water; Roman baths;
large farms (villas) outside the towns, belonging to the richer
Britons who had become more Roman than Celt in their manners

10 British History and Civilisation


Invasions and Patterns of Settlement in the British Isles
(as opposed to huts and villages in which most of the Celtic
population continued to live);
the introduction of figurative styles particularly in sculpture, wall-
painting and mosaic, but also in the minor arts and crafts
(jewellery, pottery, furniture, household goods);
the introduction of reading and writing (Latin alphabet): Latin
speaking town-dwellers and rich landowners/ vs./ the illiterate
Celtic peasantry. However, with the coming of the Anglo-Saxons,
Latin completely disappeared both in its spoken and written forms.
Consequently, it is difficult to say how many Latin words
penetrated the English vocabulary through Celtic. Examples of
authentic borrowings from Latin to Celtic are: caester, chester
(castrum in Chester, Doncaster, Gloucester, etc.); coln (colonia
in Lincoln, Colchester); port (portus in Porchester, Davenport,
Portsmouth); wick/wich (vicus in Wickham); pool (padulis in
Liverpool); street (strata), wall (vallum), wine (vinum);
the introduction of Christianity in 313 under Emperor Constantine
the Great (his mother, Helen, was a Celtic princess from Britain).
Saint Patrick first brought Christianity to Ireland (he became the
islands patron saint).

2.2. The Middle-Ages


2.2.1. The Anglo-Saxons
At first, the Germanic tribes only raided Britain, but, after 430 AD,
they began to settle. One legend actually claims that they were initially
hired by the Romanised Celts to help them fight back the attacks of the
Scots and the Picts (e.g. 449 Hengest and Horsa), but then they turned
against their employers and decided to stay despite their hosts resistance.
A much more reliable source is Bedes Ecclesiastical History of the
English People, written three centuries later, which was proven correct by
archaeological evidence.
As Bedes Ecclesiastical History and archaeological evidence
indicate, the Germanic invaders coming from northern Germany and
southern Denmark belonged to three powerful tribes:
The Angles, who settled in the east and in the north Midlands;
The Jutes, who settled in Kent and along the south coast;
The Saxons, who settled from the Thames Estuary westwards,
between the Angles and the Jutes.
The Anglo-Saxon migrations lasted from about 441 when they
secured a permanent stronghold at the mouth of the Thames to about 600
when they virtually controlled the present-day England (land of the
Angles).
The British Celts were killed, famished, enslaved and pushed into the
corners of the island in Wales (the land of the foreigners), Cornwall and
southern Scotland. Others sailed to Ireland or to Brittany on the French
coast. (The Celtic resistance to the invaders was immortalised in legends
dominated by the figure of King Arthur as a hero of many victories against
the Anglo-Saxons.)
The Anglo-Saxons belonged to a Nordic culture which involved the
worship of war gods like Woden (sky god and war god), Thor (god of
thunder), Frigga/Frija (the goddess of love and fruitfulness), Tiw (the god
of darkness and wrestling). (Some of these gods names gave the names

British History and Civilisation 11


Invasions and Patterns of Settlement in the British Isles
of some of the week days, namely, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and
Tuesday.)
Their warrior culture praised virtues like courage, strength,
intelligence, and, above all, loyalty to the leader. Cowardice, desertion and
lack of honour were publicly condemned.
Anglo-Saxon religion taught people not to be afraid of death and to
aspire to the ideal of heroic sacrifice on the battlefield. Thus, the souls of
the dead warriors would be taken by the Valkyries to the Scandinavian
paradise, Valhalla.
Coldness and pessimism were defining features of the Anglo-Saxon
religion according to which Wyrd (Fate) was stronger than the gods
themselves and which preached that the world of both men and gods
should come to a terrible end (Ragnarok the Twilight of the Gods) in the
brave, but hopeless fight against the forces of chaos, before it could be
reborn fertile and idyllic.
The Anglo-Saxon myths and legends were collected in the Edda and
handed down from generation to generation. The body of epic poetry
celebrated heroes like Sigurd and Beowulf, whereas the elegies spoke of
the ups and downs of life, foregrounding, in lyrical terms, the values and
beliefs of the Anglo-Saxon society.
The Anglo-Saxons also shared with the Scandinavians the art of
decorating weapons, jewellery, and objects of daily use with patterns of
great beauty and richness, as well as customs of war and agriculture. (e.g.
the Sutton Hoo archaeological site,1936)
By the sixth century, the Anglo-Saxon had already formed seven
kingdoms (the Heptarchy), i.e.,
Angles: Mercia, Northumbria, East-Anglia;
Saxons: Essex, Wessex, Sussex;
Jutes: Kent.
In the eighth century, however, as a result of the conflicts between
the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, Mercia, Northumbria and Wessex grew larger
and more powerful. And, by the ninth century, only the Anglo-Saxon
kingdom of Wessex had managed to survive the Viking invasion.
The pivotal unit of government in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms was the
shire (county), one of the worlds oldest still functioning government units.
In each shire, one shire reeve/ sheriff was appointed as the kings local
administrator, in charge of raising taxes and recruiting soldiers.
Unlike the Romans, the Anglo-Saxons were not city dwellers. They
settled in the countryside. The community was organised around the lords
manor where the villagers paid taxes, justice was administered and men
joined the army (the fyrd). It was the beginning of the manorial system
which reached its full development under the Normans.
The Anglo-Saxon technology changed the shape of English
agriculture. They cleared dense forests and drained wet lands. Their
heavier ploughs allowed them to better plough heavier soils in long
straights lines across the field. Their system of land ownership and
organisation put the land of the community to better use. They divided the
land into two-three large fields, which were further sub-divided into long
thin strips (hides) owned by each family and cultivated in the same ways
as the ones of the neighbours. One field was used for spring crops, a
second one for autumn crops, and a third one was left to rest for a year
and used, together with the other fields after crop harvesting, as common

12 British History and Civilisation


Invasions and Patterns of Settlement in the British Isles
land for animals to feed on. Thus, the Anglo-Saxons set the basis of
English agriculture until the eighteenth century.
After their settlement, the Anglo-Saxons also developed a
hierarchical system based on gradations of rank. The highest in rank was
the king (cyning): he was the ring-giver in time peace (arm-rings or
neck-rings = gold pieces/ jewellery given as a reward to the warriors for
their courage and values), and the shield and protector in times of war.
The king was elected and assisted during his rule by the Witan, a council
made of senior warriors and churchmen. Without the Witans support, the
kings authority was in danger. Next in rank were the noblemen eorlas
(earls) or thanes: they enjoyed material privileges in exchange for their
loyalty and military support to the king. Lower in rank were the ceorlas
(free men entitled to their share of the common land). The lowest in the
social scale were the laet (serfs) (landless men who cultivated the soil for
their lord), and the slaves. The slaves were war prisoners or people sold
by their families in time of famine to save them from starvation or convicts
in a law-suit. Slaves were working machines that could be bought or sold,
even killed by their masters.
The Anglo-Saxons had their own system of punishing manslaughter
by paying a sum of money (wergilt = war money) to the relatives of the
murdered man. (The slaves were an exception in this respect; the master
paid no wergilt.)
All in all, the Anglo-Saxon system represented a transition from
the tribal to the feudal organisation.
In the early days of the Anglo-Saxon rule in Britain, only the Celts in
Wales, Scotland and Ireland were Christian. However, in 597 AD, Pope
Gregory the Great sent a monk, Augustine, to re-establish Christianity in
England. He came as a missionary in Canterbury, at king Ethelbert of
Kents court, and he became the first Archbishop of Canterbury in 601. He
continued to convert especially ruling families in Kent, East Anglia, Essex,
Sussex and Wessex. In Northumbria, Christianity was introduced by Irish
monks 40 years later.
The ordinary people in Britain were converted by Celtic Church
bishops from Wales, Ireland and Scotland, who travelled from village to
village to spread Christianity. That brought the Celtic Christian Church
(ordinary people) in competition with the Roman Christian Church
(interested in authority).
The contest between Roman and Celtic Christianity was settled in
663 AD, when the Synod of Whitby decided in favour of the Roman Church.
The Celtic Church retreated as Rome extended its authority over all
Christians, even in the Celtic parts of the island.
Christianity brought about the return of learning, reading and writing
in Latin, enriching the Anglo-Saxon language with Latin vocabulary. The
monasteries became seats of learning and teaching of Latin, Greek,
music, astronomy, medicine, miniature art and history (e.g. the Venerable
Bede, Ecclesiastic History of the English People).
Christianity also brought about a change in the system of values,
preaching charity, humility, self-discipline, the distinction between body
and soul to the disparagement of the former, fear of and great hope about
the next life, submission to the authority (of the priest, of the Church, of the
lord, etc.). Thus, Christianity contributed to the process of feudalisation in
Anglo-Saxon Britain.

British History and Civilisation 13


Invasions and Patterns of Settlement in the British Isles
2.2.2. The Vikings
The Vikings (pirates or people of the sea inlets) came from
Norway and Denmark. At the end of the eighth century, they first raided
along the east, north and west coasts of Britain and Ireland (London was
raided in 842). During the ninth and the tenth centuries, the Vikings
plundered various other parts of the world going as far as Piraeus and
Constantinople.
The Scandinavian prose Sagas recorded with extraordinary realism
their life of war and plunder. They were so feared that God spare us from
the wrath of the Northmen became a regular prayer in England.
In 870, from among the seven Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, only Wessex
(incorporating Wessex, little of Kent and half of Mercia) survived the Viking
attacks. So, England was divided into Wessex and the Danelaw (the east
and north of England). It was Alfred the Great (871-900) that defeated the
Danes in 878 and forced their leader Guthrum to sign the treaty of
Wedmore, whereby the Vikings underwent baptism and agreed to retire
into the Danelaw.
The pinnacle of the Viking rule in England was represented by King
Canute/ Knut/ Cnut. He was the Viking king of England (elected in 1016),
Denmark (1018), Norway (1028) and parts of Sweden. He was on the way
to found a Northern Empire with Scandinavia for one pillar and England for
the other, reinforcing the cultural bonds between these cultural spaces.
When he died in 1035, his incapable Danish successors dissipated the
confederation and England returned to Anglo-Saxon monarchs.
The last Viking invasion took place during the rule of the last Anglo-
Saxon king, Harold Godwinson. In 1066, Harold had to march north into
Yorkshire to fight the Vikings led by Harald Hardrada, King of Norway. The
Vikings were defeated at Stanford Bridge.

2.2.3. The Normans


In 1066, after the death of Edward the Confessor (1042-66), Harold
Godwinson was chosen by the Witan as the new king. He succeeded to
the throne under the suspicion of having usurped the rights of Edwards
heir, William, Duke of Normandy. William claimed the English throne on
account of the fact that King Edward had promised the throne to him
before his death, on the one hand, and that Harold, who visited William in
1064/1065, promised he would not take the throne for himself, on the
other.
So, in order to regain what he considered rightfully his, William
of Normandy landed with his troops at Pevensey in October 13, 1066. The
decisive battle took place at Hastings. Better armed, better organised and
mounted on horses, the Normans defeated the Anglo-Saxons. Harold died
on the battlefield. (The story of the Norman triumph is recorded on the
famous Tapestry of Bayeux.)
William marched to London and he was crowned King of England in
Edwards church of Westminster Abbey on Christmas Day, 1066. His
coming to the throne was soon followed by the harrying of the North, i.e.,
a series of atrocious punitive campaigns meant to put down the resistance
of the Saxon earls in the North of England.
The new rule introduced in England the Norman feudal system,
with its specific social hierarchy:

14 British History and Civilisation


Invasions and Patterns of Settlement in the British Isles
The King divided the land to the nobles. William gave half to the
Norman nobles, a quarter to the Church and kept a fifth for
himself. The nobles were given pieces of land in different parts of
the country so that no noble could easily or quickly gather his
fighting men to rebel.
The nobles received from the king the feu, i.e., land held in return
for duty or service to the lord. Thus, they became the kings
vassals and owed him obedience, help in time of war and part of
the produce of their land. The greater nobles gave parts of their
lands to lesser nobles, knights, and other freemen (yeomen).
The vassals showed their obedience to the king, their lord, through
the so-called homage ritual: the vassal kneeled before the lord, his
hands placed between those of his lord. (Nowadays this ritual is part of the
coronation ceremony of British kings and queens.)
The freemen (yeomen): Some paid for the land by doing military
service, while others paid rent.
The peasants bound to the land (serfs) were not free to leave the
estate and were often little better than slaves.
The feudal social system was essentially based on two principles:
Every man has a lord, and every lord has land. The best documentary
evidence of the way in which feudalism functions in William Is England is
the Doomsday Book (1088), i.e., a general survey of all the lands of the
kingdom, their value, owners, quality of the soil, cattle or poultry. It was an
inventory of both all the possessions of the country and the social
distribution of the population, thus providing relevant information on the
fate of the defeated after Williams coming to the English throne: English
lords were deprived of their lands in favour of the French barons. All high
offices both in the church and state were exclusively filled by French-
speaking foreigners. The English found themselves excluded from all
roads leading to honour or preferment. In 1088, only 5,000 thanes were
recorded to survive as the local gentry.
However, the military invasion was followed by a more peaceful one
of Normandys industrial and trading classes that encouraged the
development of culture in Norman England (bringing about what some
historians call the 13th century Renaissance).
Twenty-seven of Englands greatest cathedrals were built in this
period (e.g. Norwich, Gloucester, Oxford, Peterborough, Winchester, St.
Albans, Durham, etc.) and new architectural styles were introduced,
namely the English Romanesque or Norman style (characterised by bold
massive construction, semicircular arches, flat buttresses, ponderous
cylindrical pillars, geometrical patterns) and the Gothic style (characterised
by pointed arches, clustered columns, pointed ribbed vaults, flying
buttresses, tall and pointed towers and spires, stained glass).
Due mention should also be made of the development of crafts in
wood, stone, glass, tapestry and painting (miniatures).
The two great universities of Oxford and Cambridge were founded in
1249 and 1284, respectively, becoming important seats of learning
(examples of brilliant minds of the time: John Duns Scotus, William of
Occam, Roger Bacon).
The art of chronicle writing continued to develop with The Anglo-
Norman Chronicles (written in Latin, but lacking the impartiality of their
Anglo-Saxon predecessors), with Matthew Pariss Chronica Majora
(drawing on English and Continental events from 1255) and Chronica

British History and Civilisation 15


Invasions and Patterns of Settlement in the British Isles
Minora (referring to home events between 1200-1250), and with Walter
Maps Of Courtiers Trifles (remarkable through its violent attacks at the
corruption and abuses of the clergy).
During this era three languages were spoken and written in England:
Latin (the language of the church and scholarship), French (the language
of public life, aristocratic society, law-courts and royal administration,
literature, art and cooking), and English (the language of the people at
large, of the illiterate lower classes). This stage of the English language c.
110 and c. 1500 is known as Middle English.

2.3. Battles of Britain


The Norman Conquest was the last great invasion of England. That
does not mean that there were no subsequent attempts at invading
England throughout the centuries to come. Two of the most notable such
attempts that ended in failure for Englands enemies will be presented
below.

2.3.1. The Defeat of the Spanish Armada (1588)


In the 1570s-1580s, Anglo-Spanish relations had become particularly
tense. On the one hand, Spain ruled over the Protestant Netherlands that
fought for independence and England supported the Dutch Protestant
rebels. On the other hand, Spanish ships were systematically harassed
by English privateers (pirates unofficially supported by Queen Elizabeth
I; e.g.: Francis Drake, Martin Frobisher, Walter Raleigh). As a result, Spain
refused to allow England to trade freely with the Spanish American
colonies.
In addition, the conflict between the two countries was fuelled by
religious differences: Spain was a Catholic power, whereas England
favoured Protestantism. On that account, the English queen Elizabeth I
was excommunicated by Pope Pius V in 1570 and loyal Catholics were
urged to depose her.
In the early 1580s, Philip II of Spain prospered: he annexed Portugal
(1580) and the Azores (1582-3). So, he afforded to have a great fleet built,
an Armada exceeding in size the combined fleets of England and the
Netherlands. He decided to conquer England before he would be able to
defeat the Dutch in the Netherlands.
On the Protestant side, the assassination in 1584 of the Dutch
leader, William of Orange, created panic among English politicians who
feared that Elizabeth I might fall victim too.
The events of the next year 1585 made the Spanish even more
confident that they would triumph over their English rivals. Phillip II
intended to seize all English ships in Iberian ports. Elizabeth I responded
by sending the Earl of Leicester to Holland with an army, but Leicester was
defeated.
The first sign that the English might turn the tables on the Spanish
was the successful attack on and partial destruction of the Spanish
Armada by Francis Drake in the Cadiz harbour (1587).
In 1588, the re-built Spanish Armada (the largest that had ever gone
to sea, but less faster than the English ships) carrying mainly soldiers (few
ships carried cannons and medium guns) aimed at conquering England
and controlling the English Channel, so that subsequently Spanish troops
could have easier access to the Netherlands. However, the Spanish

16 British History and Civilisation


Invasions and Patterns of Settlement in the British Isles
Armada was defeated by the English weather and by the English guns.
Some Spanish ships were sunk, but most were blown northwards by the
wind, many being wrecked on the rocky coasts of Scotland and Ireland. In
August 1588, Protestant England celebrated with prayers and public
thanksgiving. The war with Spain continued until Elizabeth Is death
(1603), but the British Isles did not become the scene of a foreign
invasion.

2.3.2. Fighting the German Luftwaffe (1940)


In September 1939 Germany invaded Poland, and Britain entered
the war. The next year (May-June 1940), the German army invaded the
Netherlands, attacked and defeated the French. France capitulated within
11 days on June 10, 1940. The British army was driven into the sea and
was saved by thousands of private boats which crossed the English
Channel at Dunkirk.
Over the next months (summer autumn 1940), the German air
forces (Luftwaffe) launched a major bombing and raiding campaign over
Britain. Their targets were coastal shipping convoys, shipping centres,
Royal Air Force (RAF) airfields and infrastructure, aircraft factories and
ground infrastructure. Finally, the Lufwaffe resorted to attacks on strategic
town areas which culminated in the serial bombing of London that killed
thousands of civilians and destroyed most of central London.
In this time of terror, Prime Minister Winston Churchill brilliantly
managed to persuade a nation on its knees that it would win.
The failure of Germany to achieve its objectives of destroying
Britains air defences, or forcing Britain to negotiate an armistice or an
outright surrender is considered both its first major defeat and one of the
crucial turning points in the war. If Germany had gained air superiority,
Adolf Hitler might have launched Operation Sealion, an amphibious and
airborne invasion of Britain.

2.4. Practical Applications (1)


1. Provide brief but comprehensive explanations for the following notions/names:
henge; Beaker people; Erse; Ossianism;
Hadrians wall; St. Patrick; Heptarchy; ceorlas;
wergild; Augustine; Wedmore; Doomsday Book; homage;
Thirteenth-century Renaissance; Ulster; Francis Drake; RAF;
shire; Tapestry of Bayeux; Caledonia.
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
2. Write one paragraph about the contribution to British history of each of the
following personalities:
Boadicea; Alfred the Great; King Canute;
Edward the Confessor; William I.

British History and Civilisation 17


Invasions and Patterns of Settlement in the British Isles
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
3. State whether the following statements are true or false:
The Beaker people inaugurated the Stone Age in Britain.
............................................................................
The henges were centres of religious, political and economic power during the
Stone Age.
............................................................................
The Celts settled in Britain in 100 BC.
............................................................................
The Druids religious rituals were not performed in temples but in sacred (oak)
groves, on certain hills, by rivers or by river sources.
............................................................................
Ossian is a heroic figure of the Cycle of Ulster.
............................................................................
The Romans conquered Britain in 43 AD.
............................................................................
The area of Roman occupation was confined to England and Wales.
............................................................................
Emperor Constantine the Great brought Christianity to Britain.
............................................................................
The Anglo-Saxons belonged to a Nordic culture which involved the worship of war
gods.
............................................................................
In the sixth century, only one Anglo-Saxon kingdom survived the Viking invasion.
...........................................................................
The lowest in the Anglo-Saxon social hierarchy were the slaves.
............................................................................
In 663, the Synod of Whitby decided in favour of the Celtic Christian Church.
............................................................................
In 870, England was divided into Wessex and the Danelaw.
............................................................................
The last Viking invasion took place under King Canute.

18 British History and Civilisation


Invasions and Patterns of Settlement in the British Isles
............................................................................
Harold Godwinson was defeated by William of Normandy in 1066.
............................................................................
The Norman social system represented a transition from the tribal to the feudal
organisation.
...........................................................................
The feudal social system was essentially based on two principles: Every man has a
lord, and Every lord has land.
............................................................................
England refused to allow Spain to trade freely with the American colonies.
............................................................................
The Spanish Armada was defeated in 1588 under Queen Elizabeth I.
............................................................................
In 1940 the German air forces launched a major bombing and raiding campaign
over Britain.
............................................................................

4. Draw up a list of effects of British insularity and write a paragraph to explain which
you consider the most significant, and why.
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
5. Write an essay on one of the topics below:
a) Invasion Patterns in Ancient Britain;
b) Medieval Invasions of Britain;
c) Attempted Invasions of Modern England.
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................

British History and Civilisation 19


Invasions and Patterns of Settlement in the British Isles
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................

20 British History and Civilisation


British Monarchy
Learning Unit no. 3
BRITISH MONARCHY: FROM THE ANGLO-SAXON KINGS
TO THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY HOUSE OF WINDSOR

3.1. The Anglo-Saxon Kings


In the Anglo-Saxon society, the king was elected by the Witan the
Kings Council a formal body including senior warriors and churchmen
who issued laws and charters. It was not at all democratic and the king
could choose to ignore the Witans advice. But he knew that it might be
dangerous to do so. For the Witans authority was based on its right to
choose kings, and to agree to the use of the kings laws. Without its
support, the kings own authority was in danger. The Witan established a
system which remained an important part of the kings method of
government. Even today, the king/ queen has a Privy Council, a group of
advisers on the affairs of state.
From the seventh century on, the power of the recently Christianised
Anglo-Saxon kings increased as they were supported by the Roman
Christian Church. It is worth mentioning here that, in 597, Augustine
started the process of Christianisation of the Anglo-Saxons from king
Ethelbert of Kents court, and that, in its competition with the Celtic
Christian Church that had been spreading Christianity among ordinary
people, the Roman Christian Church (interested in the upper classes)
became a winner because in 663, at the Synod of Whitby, the king of
Northumbria decided in its favour.
Saxon kings helped the Church to grow, but the Church also
increased the power of kings. Bishops gave kings their support, which
made it harder for royal power to be questioned. Kings had Gods
approval. For example, when king Offa of Mercia arranged for his son to
be crowned as his successor, he made sure that this was done at a
Christian ceremony led by a bishop. It was good political propaganda,
because it suggested that kings were chosen not only by people but also
by God.
From among the late Anglo-Saxon kings, by far one of the most
heroic figures was Alfred the Great (871-900). Chosen by the Witan upon
his elder brothers death, he was compared to Charlemagne owing to his
many-sided talents as:
a warrior. He defeated the Danes led by Guthrum and forced them
to sign, in 878, the treaty of Wedmore.
an administrator. After the war, the burghs/boroughs (walled
settlements), initially built for defence, became prosperous market
towns.
a scholar. He taught himself Latin and translated, or ordered to be
translated, books of theology, history and geography. He had
Bedes Ecclesiastical History of the English People translated into
Anglo-Saxon, in fact into the West Saxon dialect. He initiated the
keeping of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles, the first year-by-year
historical records ever composed in English. He encouraged the
foundation of the first public schools in the monasteries.
Unlike Alfred the Great, the last Anglo-Saxon kings could not protect
England from the new waves of invaders and with them the Anglo-Saxon
age in England came to an end.

British History and Civilisation 21


British Monarchy
To be more specific, Edward the Confessor (1042-66) was more of
a Norman than an Englishman; he spent most of his life in Normandy. He
was more interested in the Church than in kingship, as he lived among
Norman monks during the Danish rule in England.
Consequently, under his rule, his secretaries and chaplains at court
were Normans and he raised several Normans to be Bishops while he
made a Norman Primate of England, i.e. Archbishop of Canterbury. The
pattern of the English village, with its manor house and church, dates from
Edwards time. He began the building of Westminster Abbey in London.
After his death, though chosen by the Witan, Harold Godwinson
(1066), the descendent of the most powerful family of Wessex, was
challenged by the one who claimed to be the Confessors real heir, i.e.,
William, Duke of Normandy. Challenged in 1066 by both the Vikings and
the Normans, he managed to defeat the Norwegian king Harald Hardrada
at Stanford Bridge, but he was defeated by the Normans at Hastings. He
died on the battlefield with his eye pierced by an arrow.

3.2. The Norman Kings


Crowned at Westminster Abbey on Christmas Day 1066, William I of
Normandy and England (1066-87) controlled two large areas: Normandy,
which had been given by his father, and England, which he had won in
war. Both were personal possessions. To William, the important difference
between Normandy and England was that, as Duke of Normandy, he had
to recognise the king of France as his lord, whereas in England he was
king with no lord above him.
After William Is death, the management of Normandy and England
became a family business. Henry I (110-1135) succeeded his elder
brother William II as King of England in 1100 and defeated his eldest
brother Robert Curthose to become the Duke of Normandy in 1106. He
spent the rest of his life fighting to keep Normandy from other French
nobles who tried to take it. After his sons death, he hoped that the
noblemen would accept his daughter Matilda, married to Geoffrey
Plantagenet, a great noble in France. His death brought about new
warfare between Matilda and her husband from Anjou, on the one hand,
and Henrys nephew, Stephen of Blois, from Boulogne, on the other hand.
The terrible civil war came to an end when Matilda and Stephen agreed
that Stephen could keep Englands throne but only if Matildas son, Henry,
could succeed him.

3.3. The Angevins


Henry II (1154-89) was the first unquestioned ruler of the English
throne of the last hundred years. The first of the Plantagenets, he ruled
over far more land than the previous kings: owing partly to his marriage
with Eleanor of Aquitaine, he reigned over quite an empire stretching from
the Scottish border to the Pyrenees.
He left England with a legal administrative system and a habit of
obedience to government.
His firm rule opposed him to the Church: his controversy with
Thomas Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury (1162), ended in 1170 with
the latters murder in the Canterbury Cathedral apparently by order of the
former. Thomas Becket was sanctified and his shrine in Canterbury
attracted thousands of pilgrims.

22 British History and Civilisation


British Monarchy
Henrys quarrels with his wife, Eleanor, and his sons, Richard and
John, loyal to their mother and to the French king, caused a severe family
breach. So, in 1189, Henry II died a broken man, disappointed and
defeated by his own sons and by the French king.
Richard I (Coeur de Lion - the Lion-hearted) (1189-99) was one of
Englands most popular kings, a chivalry romance knight errant figure
turned into a full blooded Englishman. (According to the legends, he thrust
his hand down the throat of an attacking lion, tore out his heart and ate it
with salt.)
Actually, he spent very little time in England, since he participated in
the third Crusade for the recovery of the Holy Land from the Muslims.
Captured by the Duke of Austria with whom he had quarrelled in
Jerusalem, we was ransomed after two years by the English, but he was
killed, five years later, in France.
Richard I was followed to the throne by his brother, King John
(Lack-a-land) (1199-1216). The latter misused the machinery of state he
had inherited in order to extort money from his subjects, which he spent in
unsuccessful wars to defend his French possessions against the rising
power of the Capet kings in France. Despite his efforts, in 1204, he lost
Normandy to Philip Augustus of France. (Hence, King Johns nickname
Lack-a-Land)
King John also quarrelled with the Pope over who should be
Archbishop of Canterbury (1209-14), which caused him to become
unpopular with the Church too.
As a consequence of his inefficient government, in 1215, the barons,
joined by angry merchants and supported by the Church and all the other
classes (burghers and yeomen), forced King John to sign a Charter of
liberties Magna Carta at Runnymede (outside London) that marked
the transition from the age of traditional rights to the age of written
legislation.

3.4. The Plantagenets


The reign of Henry III (1216-72) was marked by the failure of his
campaigns in France (1230 and 1242) and his disputes (caused by his
keeping foreign advisers and by his excessive expenses in supporting the
pope in Sicily) with the barons, led by Simon of Montfort, who summoned
the first Parliament in 1264. (Montfort was eventually defeated in 1265 in
the battle of Evesham and killed by prince Edward.)
Despite the fact that he defeated Simon of Montfort, when he came
to the throne, Edward I (1272-1307) decided to continue the experiment of
summoning the Parliament (then made up only by what later on became
the House of Lords, presided over by the King or by the Kings Lord
Chancellor). Edward used his royal authority to establish the rights of the
Crown at the expense of traditional feudal privileges, to promote the
uniform administration of justice, to raise income to meet the costs of war
and government, and to codify the legal system.
Between 1282-84, Edward I managed to break the opposition of the
Welsh and to bring them under control. (His eldest son, Edward II, was
created Prince of Wales, a custom preserved ever since.) He interfered in
Scotland as an arbitrator among the pretenders of the Scottish crown only
to proclaim himself king of Scotland in 1296. His taking over the Scottish
crown faced a popular resistance movement, led at first by William
Wallace (defeated at Falkirk in 1298 and executed), and then by Robert

British History and Civilisation 23


British Monarchy
Bruce (Edward I was defeated by Bruce and died on his way for a second
campaign to Scotland to fight him.)
Unlike his father, Edward II (1307-27) was a weak king. Innocent
minded, lazy, incapable, he estranged himself from his queen, Isabella of
France, and from his barons, surrounding himself by favourites like
Gaveston (eventually captured and beheaded). His weakness allowed
Robert Bruce to gain ground in Scotland, after the latters victory at
Bannockburn in 1314.
Defeated by his wifes army, Edward II had to abdicate in favour of
his son Edward III (the first time that an anointed king of England had
been dethroned since Ethelred in 1013). He was later murdered at
Berkeley Castle (allegedly by the Queens lover, Mortimer; later on, the
Parliament decided that Mortimer should be sentenced to death by
hanging and the Queen should be deprived of all power and confined for
life). (See also Christopher Marlowes The Troublesome Reign and
Lamentable Death of Edward the Second)
Edward III (1327-77) restored the authority of the king and founded
the Order of the Garter in 1348. He started the long series of wars against
France, known as the Hundred Years War, invading France through
Flanders in 1337 and scoring two great victories at Crcy (1346) and
Poitiers (1356) (which turned Edwards son The Black Prince into a
legendary ideal of chivalry). At the treaty of Brtegny (1360), the whole
southern-western France was assigned to England. The war was equally
motivated by the English monarchys genealogical claims to the Throne of
France and by economic reasons (i.e. maintaining Flanders as an export
market for English wool).
Unfortunately, in the late years of Edward IIIs reign, the ravages
caused by the Black Death (the plague 1348-9, 1361-2, 1369), the
criticism elicited by his attempts at raising higher taxes, as well as the
rather moderate success in France (after the Treaty of Bruges in 1375,
only Calais and a costal strip near Bordeaux were Englands) caused his
popularity to decline.
Richard II (1377-99). Though still a child (14), he handled well the
Peasants Uprising (1381) led by Wat Tyler and Jack Straw. (Wat Tyler was
killed and the uprisings in the rest of the country were crushed over the
next few weeks.)
Highly cultured, Richard II was one of the greatest royal patrons of
the arts (patron of Chaucer).
His authoritarian approach brought him in conflict with several
Parliamentarian leaders, here including his uncle, Gloucester, and his
cousin, Henry of Bolingbroke, who were banished. On the death of Henrys
father John of Gaunt (a younger son of Edward III) in prison, Richard
confiscated the vast properties of his Duchy of Lancaster (which amounted
to a state within a state) and divided them among his supporters. In 1399,
while Richard was on a campaign in Ireland, Henry of Bolingbroke
returned to claim his fathers inheritance. Supported by some
of the leading baronial families, Henry captured and deposed Richard.
Bolingbroke was crowned King as Henry IV. Risings in support of Richard
led to his murder in Pontefract Castle. (See William Shakespeares
Richard II)

3.5. The Lancastrians

24 British History and Civilisation


British Monarchy
Henry IV (1399-1413) spent his reign establishing his royal authority.
The outbreak of the plague in 1400 almost coincided with the rebellion in
Wales led by Owen Glendower/Glyndwr. In 1403, Henrys supporters, the
Percys of Northumberland, turned against him and conspired with
Glendower. The Percys and the Welsh were defeated by Henry at the
Battle of Shrewsbury. (See also William Shakespeares Henry IV, Parts 1
and 2)
As for the war with France, it also continued during Henry IVs reign
with moderate and fluctuating success on the English side.
The type of warrior-king that was the ideal of the time, Henry IVs
son, Henry V (1413-22), scored a great victory against the French at
Agincourt on October 25, 1415. In alliance with unreliable Burgundy, and
assisted by his brothers (the Dukes of Clarence, Bedford and Gloucester),
Henry gained control of Normandy in subsequent campaigns. By the
Treaty of Troyes (1420), he gained recognition as heir to the French
throne, and married Charles VIs daughter Katherine. (See William
Shakespeares Henry V) Unfortunately, his success was short lived and he
died of dysentery at the age of 34, in 1422.
An ill-fated king, Henry Vs son, Henry VI (1422-61, 1470-1),
ascended to the throne of England and France when less than one year
old, upon his fathers and grandfathers deaths within months of each
other. Until he came of age, regency was assumed by his uncles Cardinal
Beaufort and the Duke of Gloucester (who opposed each other) in
England, and by another uncle, the Duke of Bedford, in France.
Though genuinely interested in cultural patronage and education, he
became a weak, ineffectual king, despised by his queen and his lords, an
unsuitable king in a violent society. The consequences of his weakness
were disastrous.
Thus, on the one hand, the French, led in battle by Joan of Arc, and
ruled by King Charles, started fighting back the English army. Furthermore,
after the Duke of Bedfords death (1435), Englands Breton and
Burgundian allies lost confidence in the alliance. Thus, by the end of the
Hundred Years War in 1453, England had lost everything and the only
English possession on the Continent was the port of Calais.
On the other hand, Henry VIs simple-mindedness and periods of
mental illness allowed for instability at home, as the nobles began to ask
questions about who should be ruling the country. Civil war (The War of
the Roses 1455-1485) broke out between Henry VIs supporters the
Lancastrians and those of the Duke of York, Richard Plantagenet (son of
the Earl of March, who had lost the competition for the throne when
Richard II was deposed in 1399). In 1460, the Duke of York claimed the
throne and, after his death in battle, his son Edward took up the struggle
and won the throne in 1461. Henry VI was sent to the Tower, but in 1470,
he was rescued by a new Lancastrian army. Yet he did not rule for long: in
1471, the Yorkists led by Edward defeated the Lancastrians at Tewkesbury
(Henrys son, Edward, Prince of Wales, died in that battle)
and Henry VI was murdered in the Tower. (See William Shakespeares
Henry VI. Parts 1, 2 and 3)

3.6. The Yorkists


After Henry VIs death and Edward IVs regaining the throne (1461-
70, 1471-83), civil strife did not stop. In 1478, Edward IV had to imprison in
the Tower his brother George Plantagenet, Duke of Clarence, who was

British History and Civilisation 25


British Monarchy
executed (allegedly by drowning in a barrel of Malmsey wine). At Edwards
death in 1483, his heir was too young to rule (only 12) and his ambitious
brother Richard of Gloucester took advantage of the situation.
Though previously loyal to his brother Edward IV, Richard, who was
appointed Edward Vs protector, became suspicious of the queens
(Elizabeth Woodville) faction. He received young Edward in London for
coronation, but the ceremony never too place: Edward V and his younger
brother were sent to the Tower never to be seen again (they were
murdered).
An unpopular king, disliked by both Lancastrians and Yorkists,
Richard III (1483-5) was challenged by the half-Welsh Henry Tudor, Earl
of Richmond, who came from France, claiming the throne as a direct
descendant of John of Gaunt, one of Edward IIIs younger sons.
Supported by many discontented lords, both Lancastrians and Yorkists,
Henry Tudor defeated Richard III at Bosworth in 1485 (thus putting an end
to the Wars of the Roses) and was crowned on the battlefield. (See
William Shakespeares Richard III)

3.7. The Tudors


The founder of the Tudor line, Henry VII (1485-1509) united the
Houses of Lancaster and York by his marriage in 1486 with Elizabeth of
York (Edward IVs daughter), restored the centralised power of the state
and managed to keep the nobles under control.
He protected the interests of the rising bourgeoisie and of the new
nobility and created the merchant fleet. Under the circumstances, literacy
extended among the people at large. (In 1476, William Caxton set his
printing press at Westminster.)
Henry VII used dynastic royal marriages to establish his dynasty in
England and help maintain peace.
Henry VIIs second son, Henry VIII (1509-47) succeeded to the
throne after his elder brothers death and married his former sister-in-law
Catherine of Aragon.
He built an effective fleet of royal fighting ships and interfered, more
or less successfully, in European politics (Spain, Germany, France and
Scotland).
The name of Henry VIII is connected with the English Reformation
which marked the breach with the Roman Catholic Church. Henrys
reasons were both political i.e., breaking with Rome and putting an end
to papal interference in English affairs and personal i.e., his wish to
divorce Catherine of Aragon (whose only surviving child was Princess
Mary) in order to marry Anne Boleyn (who, the king hoped, could give him
a son and heir, but who gave birth to another daughter, Elizabeth). The
Pope refused to grant the divorce and excommunicated Henry, who broke
with Rome and married Anne. By the Act of Supremacy (1531), approved
of by the Parliament, Henry VIII became the only supreme head of the
Anglican Church of England, and all those who refused to take the Oath
of Supremacy were charged with treason and executed. Henrys
reformation produced dangerous Protestant-Roman Catholic differences in
the kingdom.
Henry VIII finally got his male heir (Edward) after the execution of
Anne Boleyn in 1536 (allegedly for adultery) and his marriage with Anne
Seymour.

26 British History and Civilisation


British Monarchy
Intellectually precocious, but physically weak, his son - Edward VI
(1547-53) became king at the age of 9 and his short reign was
dominated by nobles (e.g. Edward Seymour, his eldest uncle, and the
Duke of Northumberland) using the Regency to strengthen their own
positions. During his reign, the Church of England became more explicitly
Protestant.
After Edward VIs untimely death, it was Henry VIIIs eldest daughter
- Mary I (1553-8) that came to the throne. Though declared illegitimate
and removed from the succession to the throne by an Act of Parliament
during her fathers lifetime, she nonetheless benefited from public support
as Henry VIIIs daughter against the claimant Jane Grey, named as heir by
the dying Edward VI. A fervent Catholic, she restored papal supremacy in
England and began the conversion of the country back to Catholicism,
even at the expense of turning it into a blood bath. (Bloody Mary) Her
decision of marrying a Catholic prince, Philip of Spain, made her even
more unpopular.
Upon her sisters death, Elizabeth I (1558-1603) finally ascended to
the throne. As she had been declared illegitimate, Elizabeths right to the
throne had to be recognised by the Treaty of Edinburgh on July 6, 1560.
In 1559, Elizabeth I reinforced the Act of Supremacy and re-
established the Anglican Church. She showed political ability in solving
religious problems accepting neither the Roman Catholic Church nor the
Calvinist variant of European Protestantism, but relying mostly on the
Protestant clergy and wisely keeping England away from the religious
wars tearing France apart.
Suspicious of the old aristocracy, the queen relied on new men like
Sir William Cecil and Francis Walsingham and defended her position on
the throne cold-mindedly. Her long reign was marked by spectacular
executions, chief among which those of the Duke of Norfolk (1572),
Babbington (1586) and Mary Stuart of the Scots (1587), as well as of the
Earl of Essex (1601).
Under Elizabeth I, England launched into the contest for commercial
and naval leadership against Spain and France. Though officially denying
it, the queen supported the privateers (e.g. Frobisher, Francis Drake,
Walter Raleigh) who roamed the seas in search of new maritime ways but
also of treasure-laden ships to maraud. Furthermore, new trading
companies were founded encompassing a vast area from Venice, the
Greek islands and the Mohammedan Empire to the Indian seas. Thus, the
way was paved for the great British colonial empire in the centuries to
come.
The queen carefully kept England away from open conflagration. The
only serious attempt at invading England by the Spanish Armada ended
up in defeat of the Spanish on July 26, 1588.

3. 8. The Stuarts
As Queen Elizabeth I died heirless, the throne was passed to her
nephew James, son of Mary Stuart, Queen of the Scots, who thus
inaugurated, by combining the thrones of England and Scotland for the
first time, the first line of kings of the United Kingdom. James I (1603-
25) had been king of Scotland (James VI) for 36 years when he became
King of England.

British History and Civilisation 27


British Monarchy
A theologian and an arts patron, James I supported cultural
development: e.g.: the new translation of the Bible known as the
Authorised King Jamess version of the Bible, and the flourishing of the
theatre.
Nonetheless, his reign was marked by civil unrest. On the one hand,
he mismanaged the Roman Catholic question. That led to the Gunpowder
Plot (November 5, 1605), an attempt of a group of Catholic gentlemen of
the Jesuit Party to blow up the king and the Houses of Parliament. The
leader, Guy Fawkes, was arrested on November 4. (His effigy is still
merrily burnt by the English each November 4.) The failure of the plot
brought about the re-imposition of strict penalties on Roman Catholics.
On the other hand, James I had a tense relation with the Parliament.
Strongly believing, like Elizabeth I, in the divine right of kings, he tried to
rule without the Parliament as much as possible. To cover the huge debt
he inherited from Elizabeth I, he had to ask the Parliament to raise a tax,
which the Parliament agreed with on condition James would discuss his
home and foreign policy with the Parliament. James insisted that he alone
had the divine right to make these decisions. He managed to rule
successfully without the Parliament as long as England was at peace, i.e.
between 1611 and 1621. But when England got involved in the Thirty
Years War in Europe (1618-48), James could not afford the costs of an
army and disagreed with the Parliament who wished to go against the
Catholics. Until his death in 1625, James continued to quarrel with the
Parliament over money and over its desire to play a part in his foreign
policy.
He neglected the navy and deprived England of her naval power for
30 years. Yet, England continued her international trade in wool, cotton
and silk and the ships of the East India Company were sailing as far as
Persia and India.
During James Is reign, the Puritans denounced the extravagances
and dissolute living at the kings court, and attacked the theatre on account
of its being the favourite amusement of an immoral aristocracy. Some
Puritans fled across the Atlantic in 1620 to escape prosecution and
founded the Massachusetts Colony. (The Pilgrim Fathers celebrated by
the American people on Thanksgiving Day) Others chose to remain in
England and became the focal point for resistance against the Stuarts,
known as the Roundheads and the extremists. (See the Puritan
Parliament Members Oliver Cromwell, John Milton, John Hampden and
John Pym)
An art lover, like his father, Charles I (1625-49), who succeeded to
the throne in 1625, spent a lot inviting artists like Van Dyck and Rubens to
work in England and buying a great collection of paintings by Raphael and
Titian, thus increasing the crowns debts. Moreover, he married Henrietta
Maria of France, a fervent Catholic.
He also quarreled with the Parliament especially with the House of
Commons - even more bitterly, mainly over money. He tried to rule without
the Parliament, but, when he needed to have new taxes and loans voted,
he had to re-summon it. The violent debate over Charless financial
devices and the reform of the Church along Puritan lines eventually led to
the kings attempt to arrest the leaders of the Parliament. (The Great
Remonstrance 1641) It became then obvious that people had to choose
sides as the Civil Wars (1642-46; 1648-49) broke out, opposing James I

28 British History and Civilisation


British Monarchy
and the Cavaliers to the House of Commons, Oliver Cromwell and his
Ironsides (the New Model Army).
The winning New Model Army, concluding that permanent
peace was impossible whilst Charles lived, decided that the King, whom
the Scots had surrendered to the Parliament, must be put on trial and
executed. In December 1648, Parliament was purged, leaving a small
rump totally dependent on the Army, and the Rump Parliament established
a High Court of Justice in the first week of January 1649. On January 20,
Charles was charged with high treason. Charles refused to plead, saying
that he did not recognise the legality of the High Court. He was sentenced
to death on January 27. Three days later, on January 30, 1649, Charles
was beheaded on a scaffold outside the Banqueting House in Whitehall,
London. The Commonwealth or Republic (1649-60) was proclaimed, in
fact a military dictatorship in which the main power was exerted by Oliver
Cromwell.
To prevent the anarchy after Cromwells death, the Convention
Parliament elected in 1660 called back Charles II (1660-85) from his exile
in Holland. The Restoration era began. The king issued the Declaration of
Breda (1660), promised pardons, arrears of Army pay, confirmation of land
purchases during the Interregnum and liberty of tender consciences in
religious matters, yet a number of repressive measures were taken (e.g.
the Act of Conformity which required all clergy, college fellows and
schoolmasters to belong to the Anglican Church).
The early years of Charles IIs reign were also marked by the
persecution of the prominent figures of the Commonwealth, the growing
unpopularity of the restoration of extravagant frivolity at the court, and the
growing concern of the Parliament with Charles IIs attraction to the
Catholic Church (The Test Act 1673, which prevented any Catholic from
holding public office) and with monarchy becoming again too powerful.
By far the most disastrous years of Charles IIs reign were 1665-67,
when the unpopularity of the king was increased partly by wrong political
decisions, partly by a series of natural disasters. To be more specific, in
1665, a plague epidemic broke out in London. In 1666, the Great Fire
virtually destroyed the London of the Middle Ages and of Shakespeares
plays. It changed the architectural aspect of London and Christopher Wren
designed the plan for the rebuilding of London by replacing neoclassic
marble and stone for the medieval brick and timber. (E.g. magnificent
buildings in classical Baroque like St. Pauls Cathedral; other buildings by
Wren: the Sheldonian Theatre in Oxford and Pembroke College Chapel in
Cambridge). On the same year, there was the Covenanters uprising (a
Covenant was signed all over Scotland for the defense of the Protestant
religion and against the government of the Church by bishops). Finally, in
1667, the second Dutch war, born of English and Dutch commercial and
colonial rivalry, ended in a humiliating defeat of the English.
Charles IIs Roman Catholic brother, James II (1685-88) had a
troubled reign marked by the rebellion in 1685 led by Charles IIs
illegitimate son and champion of Protestantism, the Duke of Monmouth,
supported by the Earl of Shaftesbury. The defeat of the rebels was
followed by Jamess cruel revenge: he embarked upon a rapid Romanizing
of the country, claimed the royal prerogative to suspend the laws of the
land, and, in general, pursued with ever increasing violence and illegality
the policy to prepare the forcible reconversion of England to Roman
Catholicism. In 1685, the Kings Declaration of Indulgence that put on trial

British History and Civilisation 29


British Monarchy
several bishops and the birth of a Catholic heir to the throne determined
the Tories and the Whigs to offer the crown to the first couple of joint
monarchs in the English history, i.e., William (1689-1702) and Mary
(1689-94) of Orange. On November 5, 1688, William of Orange, the
husband of James IIs Protestant daughter Mary, landed at Torbay. James
II was deprived of the crown on account of his deserting his kingdom and
the crown was offered to William and Mary. This bloodless Glorious
Revolution decided the balance between Parliamentary and royal power
in favour of the former and, in accordance with the Declaration/ Bill of
Rights, no king ever attempted to govern without Parliament or contrary to
the votes of the House of Commons.
The Act of Settlement (1701) secured the Protestant succession to
the throne, and strengthened the guarantees for ensuring the
parliamentary system of government. According to it, if Mary had no
children, the crown would pass to her sister Anne; if she also died without
children, the crown would go to a granddaughter of James I, who had
married the German elector of Hanover and her children. Even today, if a
son or daughter of a monarch becomes a Catholic, (s)he cannot inherit the
throne.
The crown was passed in 1702 to Marys sister, Queen Anne (1702-
14). Under her rule, the War for the Spanish Succession (1702-13)
ended with the recognition by Louis XIV of France of Protestant
succession in Great Britain and turned John Churchill, Duke of
Marlborough, into a national hero. Further disagreement over the
succession to the throne between the English and the Scottish
Parliaments allowed the exiled Roman Catholic son of James II, James
Edward Stuart, to land in Scotland in 1708, but he was forced to withdraw
to France. (The scene was set for the later uprisings in Scotland led by the
Stuart Pretenders against the Hanoverian kings.)
In 1707, Scotland and England were formally united under the
name of Great Britain and the flags of the two nations (St. Andrews
Cross for Scotland and St. Georges Cross for England) were combined to
form the present Union Jack. (St. Patricks Cross would be added in 1801
after Ireland would be united with Great Britain.)

3.9. The Hanoverians


The great-grandson of James I through the female line, George I
(1714-27), Elector of Hanover came to the throne under the Act of
Settlement. His claim was challenged by James Edward Stuart (the Old
Pretender) who landed in Scotland in 1715, following a rising of Scottish
clans on his behalf; this was unsuccessful and he soon withdrew.
The new king spoke only little English and was unfamiliar with the
customs of the country, he was dependent on his ministers (the Whigs
dominated the Parliament during his reign the Whig oligarchy).
His sons reign George II (1727-60) was marked by warfare
abroad as well as in Scotland.
Despite the kings bravely participating alongside his soldiers in the
battle of Dettingen in Germany and scoring a victory against the French,
the War of the Austrian Succession (1740-48) ended in defeat for the
English, except in North America.
In 1745, Georges reign was threatened by Charles Edward Stuart
(the Young Pretender). After some initial success in Scotland where the
Highland clans rallied to his cause and defeated the Hanoverians near

30 British History and Civilisation


British Monarchy
Edinburgh, the Pretender was defeated in the battle of Culloden (April
1746) and fled to France, thus ending the Stuart attempts to return to the
British throne.
The kings initial unpopularity gradually turned into a general respect
owing to the countrys prosperity. It was under George IIs reign that the
foundations of the Industrial Revolution were laid with new levels of
production in industries such as coal mining and shipbuilding and also in
agriculture. Overseas, trade was boosted by successes such as Clives
victories in India at Arcot (1751) and Plassey (1757), which placed Madras
and Bengal under British control, and Wolfes capture of the French-held
Quebec in 1759 (part of a successful campaign which transferred Canada
with its wealthy trade in fish and fur from the French to the British rule
during the Seven Years War in North America).
Born of Prince Frederick of Wales and Princess Augusta of Saxe-
Gotha, George III (1760-1820) was the first Hanoverian king born in
England and using English and his first language. The early years of his
reign were marked by his conflict with the Prime Minister William Pitt the
Elder and with the House of Commons caused by his attempts at taking a
more active part in governing Britain and his wish to choose his own
ministers from among a small number of aristocrats who controlled the
Parliament. The Kings policy was severely criticised by John Wilkes, an
MP, who demanded liberty of the press, the right of the people to choose
their own representatives, the abolition of abusive imprisonment. When
the king retorted by imprisoning Wilkes, the London citizens rose in protest
rioting in front of St. Jamess Palace and throughout the city.
The foreign policy under George III was marked by:
The Seven Years War (1754-1763): George III considered the war
too expensive and he made peace with France in 1763, without
informing Prussia, which was thus left to fight France alone. The
Treaty of Paris turned out satisfactory for the British who got
control over Canada and Florida (thus controlling all North America
east of Mississippi) as well as Bengal (this brought French power
in India to an end and made way for British hegemony and
eventual control of India).
The War of American Independence (1775-1783): Initially starting
from the serious quarrels over taxation between the British
government and its colonies in America, the conflict, which
opposed Britain to half of the world (the rebelling colonies were
supported by France, Spain and the Netherlands), ended in a
disastrous defeat for the British government, which lost everything
except for Canada. The United States were granted independence
in 1783.
The Napoleonic Wars: The English retorted to the French
Continental System by the Continental Blockade and Admiral
Nelson saved the English honour when he defeated the combined
French and Spanish fleets at Cape Trafalgar (1805). Further
British involvement in the Napoleonic Wars allowed the Duke of
Wellington (the Iron Duke) to emerge as a military leader who
defeated Napoleon first at Leipzig (1813) and then, after
Napoleons return from Elba, at Waterloo (1825).
Towards the end of his life, George III suffered from seizures of
insanity (1811-20). His son Prince George acted as Regent (the
Regency).

British History and Civilisation 31


British Monarchy
The early days of the reign of George IV (1820-30) were marked by
marriage difficulties. He had secretly and illegally married a Roman
Catholic, Mrs. Fitzherbert. In 1795 he officially married Princess Caroline
of Brunswick, but the marriage was a failure and he tried unsuccessfully to
divorce her after his accession in 1820 (Caroline died in 1821).
Because of the crowns debts, George IV was in a weak position in
relation to his Cabinet of ministers. In 1829, he was forced by his
ministers, much against his will and his interpretation of his coronation
oath, to agree to Catholic Emancipation. By reducing religious
discrimination, this emancipation enabled the monarchy to play a more
national role.
As for George IVs younger brother, William IV (1830-37), his reign
was marked by the Reform crisis, which started with the Great Reform
Bill (1832) that abolished the worst abuses of the electoral system and
represented the capitulation of English landed gentry to the middle-
classes.
Queen Victoria (1837-1901) is associated with Britains great age of
industrial expansion, economic progress and, especially, empire. At her
death, it was said, Britain had a worldwide empire on which the sun never
set.
Throughout the early part of her reign, she was very much influenced
by her husband, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg, who took an active
interest in the arts, science, trade and industry; the project for which he is
best remembered was the Great Exhibition of 1851 (the Crystal Palace).
After his death, the queen could not get over her sorrow and refused to
appear in public for a long time, which caused newspapers to criticise her
and to question the value of monarchy. Eventually, her advisers persuaded
her to take a more public interest in the business of the kingdom and she
became extraordinarily popular.
With regard to home policy under Queen Victoria, due mention
should be made of the Little England policy supported by the Liberal
Prime Minister William Gladstone. It implied avoiding foreign
entanglements, supporting the Home Rule for Ireland, and promoting the
Third Reform Bill (1884) which virtually provided manhood suffrage.
In terms of foreign policy, several major aspects are worth expanding
upon. On the one hand, reference should be made to the English
involvement in the Crimean War (1854-56). Britain feared that Russia
would destroy the weak Ottoman Empire, which controlled Turkey and the
Arab countries, and that would change the balance of power in Europe,
putting Britains sea and land routes to India in danger. Unfortunately, the
outmoded and inadequate British army was defeated (see the famous
Charge of the Light Brigade).
An important contribution to alleviating the terrible sufferings of the
British troops was that of Florence Nightingale and her band of nurses
who reformed the medical and sanitary conditions in the army and paved
the way for womens entry into the medical profession a few years later
(Elizabeth Garrett Anderson 1877).
On the other hand, Queen Victoria was a very strong supporter of the
Empire, which brought her closer to some of her Prime Ministers, i.e.,
Benjamin Disraeli and the Marquess of Salisbury. The former, in
particular, promoted a Conservative Big England policy aimed at
enhancing British prestige throughout the world. (1875 the purchase of
the Suez Canal; 1876 Victoria was proclaimed Empress of India.)

32 British History and Civilisation


British Monarchy
Nonetheless, even under Queen Victoria, there were troubles in the
British Empire that foreshadowed the decrease in power of the British
colonisers. Thus, in India, the unwise treatment of Indian soldiers resulted
in revolt in 1857 (The Indian Mutiny). This Sepoy rebellion quickly
became a national movement against foreign rule, led by a number of
Hindu and Muslim princes. Both the British and the Indians behaved with
great violence, and the British cruelly punished the defeated rebels. India
was removed from the political jurisdiction of the East India Company and
was placed under the Crown, but that did not help the relations between
the British and the Indians to recover. The feeling of distrust and distance
between the colonisers and the colonised would grow into the Indian
independence movement of the twentieth century.
In Africa, the interest in slave trade caused the British to use
Christianity as a tool for building a commercial and political empire. That
brought them in conflict with other European settlers, like the Dutch Boers
from South Africa who were defeated only with great difficulty in 1899-
1902. (In 1906, self government was set up in South Africa.)
In Canada, Australia, New Zealand, from the 1840s onwards, as a
result of the rapid increase in population in Britain, many British settlers
were called for the development of colonies. The new comers took over
the land to the detriment of the populations which already lived in the three
countries. In Canada, most of the natives were pushed westwards, and
those not killed became part of the white culture. In Australia, most of the
aboriginal inhabitants were killed, and only few survived in the central
desert areas. In New Zealand, the Maori inhabitants suffered less, but they
still lost most of their land. These white colonies were, in time, allowed to
govern themselves on condition they accepted the British monarch as their
head of state.
As part of her colonial policy, Britain was also engaged in the war
with China (1857-58) and interfered in the American Civil War,
supporting the Southern Confederacy between 1861-65.
By the end of the 19th century, Britain controlled the oceans and
much of the land areas of the world. But even at this great moment of
power, Britain spent more on its empire than it took from it, and this heavy
burden would become impossible to bear in the twentieth century, when
the colonies began to demand their freedom.

3.10. The House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha


Though his time (the Edwardian era) was one of significant political
and socio-economic changes, Edward VII (1901-10) himself contributed
little to the reforms which marked British political and social life. Criticised
for his social life, Edwards main interests lay in foreign affairs, and military
and naval matters. In particular, Edward played an active role in
encouraging military and naval reforms, pressing for the reform of the
Army Medical Service and the modernisation of the Home Fleet. He died
before the constitutional crisis that opposed the Conservatives to the
Liberal administration could be solved by the latters victory in the 1910
elections.
During the First World War (1914-18), the increasing anti-German
feeling led Edward VIIs successor, George V (1910-36), to change the

British History and Civilisation 33


British Monarchy
name of the royal house from Saxe-Coburg-Gotha to Windsor in 1917.
The king tried to play a conciliatory role during both the civil war in Ireland
(which started with the Easter Rising in Dublin in 1916) and the Great
Strike in 1926. The Civil War in Ireland resulted in the setting up of the free
Irish state (later the Republic of Eire), while the six northern counties
(where 67% of the population were Protestant) remained part of the United
Kingdom (as Northern Ireland).

3.11. The House of Windsor


Edward VIII (Jan. Dec. 1936) reigned less than a year during 1936
only to stage the first voluntary abdication in British history. A qualified pilot
and a highly popular public figure owing to his successful tours at home
and overseas, his good war record and genuine care for the unprivileged,
Edward VIII had, unfortunately, a very controversial love life. After a
number of affairs, he fell in love with an American-born divorce, Mrs.
Wallis Simpson and wanted to marry her. Faced with a constitutional
crisis, he chose to abdicate on December 11, 1936. He became Duke of
Windsor and his younger brother, the upright, responsible Duke of York,
became King George VI (1936-52).
George VI gradually gained popularity especially owing to his great
achievements during World War II. He remained for most of the time at
Buckingham Palace (the Palace was bombed nine times during the war).
He and his wife, Queen Elizabeth, visited severely bombed areas in the
East End of London and elsewhere in the country. He developed a close
working relationship with his wartime Prime Minister, Winston Churchill,
as most of Europe fell to Nazi Germany. Having served in the Navy during
the First World War, the King was anxious to visit his troops whenever
possible (France in 1939, North Africa 1943, Normandy, Italy and the Low
Countries in 1944).
When India and Pakistan became independent in 1947, George
ceased to be Emperor of India. Changes in the Commonwealth meant
that its tie was no longer based on common allegiance to the Crown, but
upon recognition of the Sovereign as Head of the Commonwealth. (The
Commonwealth is a free association of independent states, former British
colonies, with the British monarch as its head.)
Queen Elizabeth II (1952 to the present) married in 1947 Prince
Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, the son of Prince Andrew of Greece and a
great-great-grandson of Queen Victoria. They had four children: Prince
Charles, Prince of Wales, Princess Anne (The Princess Royal), Prince
Andrew and Prince Edward. Her grandchildren are: Peter and Zara Phillips
(b. 1977 and 1981), the children of the Princess Royal Anne and of Mark
Phillips of the Queens Dragoon Guards; Prince William of Wales and
Prince Henry of Wales (b. 1982 and 1984), children of Prince Charles of
Wales and Princess Diana (born Lady Spenser); Princess Beatrice of York
and Princess Eugenie of York (b. 1988 and 1990); and The Lady Louise
Windsor and Viscount Severn (b.2003 and 2007), children of The Earl and
Countess of Wessex.
The royal family acquired a more complex kind of publicity during
1992, which Queen Elizabeth II termed as an annus horribilis, that
culminated with the Prime Minister John Majors announcement that the
decision of the Prince and Princess of Wales to separate has been
reached amicably after their mutual loathing had been on display for all
the world to see through the media. Despite Majors reassuring that the

34 British History and Civilisation


British Monarchy
succession to the throne is unaffected, many felt the separation as a
serious challenge to the royal institution unprecedented since the Glorious
Revolution in 1688. The subsequent course of events leading to Princess
Dianas death in a car crash in 1997 followed several years later by the
Prince of Waless marriage with Mrs. Camilla Parker Bowles exposed the
royal house to public criticism.
Cons:
Inherited titles cannot be justified in a democratic age.
The functions of monarchy are meaningless and time-
wasting ceremonials that have been taken over by the
executive in virtually every respect.
Monarchy is very expensive with the Queen as one of the
richest women in the world for her personal fortune calculated
at 6.7 billion in 1990 by Sunday Times, receiving an annual
grant of nearly 6 million to meet the expenses of the nearly
400 strong royal household.
Monarchy no longer holds the country together and no
longer has an effect on peoples behaviour.
Pros:
Monarchy strengthens awareness of national identity and
respect for the authority of government.
The pageantry of monarchy attracts thousands of tourists to
London and, consequently, is crucial to the nations tourist
economy.
All in all, republicanism does not exist as a major political force in
Britain and the British sense of compromise will most likely find the means
to adjust the ancient institution of monarchy so that it may meet the
requirements of a modern democratic country like Great Britain.

3.12. Practical Applications (2)


1. Provide brief but comprehensive explanations for the following names:
Guthrum; Venerable Bede; Thomas Becket;
Richard the Lion-hearted; John Lack-a-Land; William Wallace;
Isabella of France; Black Death; Wat Tyler; Henry of Bolingbroke;
Agincourt; Anne Boleyn; Francis Walsingham;
Mary Stuart of the Scots; The Pilgrim Fathers; Cavaliers;
New Model Army; The Restoration; Queen Anne;
The Stuart Pretenders; Seven Years War; John Wilkes;
Admiral Nelson;Iron Duke; Albert of Saxe-Coburg;
Florence Nightingale; Sepoy; Winston Churchill;
The Commonwealth; Princess Diana.
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................

British History and Civilisation 35


British Monarchy
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
2. Consider the following dates, identify the events and comment briefly on their
importance in the historical context of the time:
878; 1066; 1204; 1215;
1337-1453; 1455-1485; 1476; 1531;
1588; 1605; 1642-1649; 1649-1660;
1666; 1688; 1775-1783; 1825;
1854-1856; 1917; 1936; 1947.
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
3. State whether the following statements are true or false:
In the Anglo-Saxon society, the king was elected by the Witan.
............................................................................
............................................................................
Christianised Saxon kings helped the Celtic Christian Church to grow, and the
Church also increased the power of the kings.
............................................................................
............................................................................
Alfred the Great was compared to Charlemagne owing to his many-sided talents.
............................................................................
............................................................................
William, Duke of Normandy, claimed to be Edward the Confessors real heir.
............................................................................
............................................................................
Henry II was the first of the Plantagenet kings.
............................................................................
............................................................................
Richard I participated in the third Crusade and died fighting for the recovery of the
Holy Land from the Muslims.
............................................................................
............................................................................
Edward I was defeated by Robert Bruce and died on his way for a second
campaign to Scotland to fight him.

36 British History and Civilisation


British Monarchy
............................................................................
............................................................................
Edward II started the long series of wars against France, known as the Hundred
Years War.
............................................................................
............................................................................
Henry VI was the type of ideal warrior of the early fifteenth century.
............................................................................
............................................................................
Henry VII restored the centralised power of the state and managed to keep the
nobles under control.
............................................................................
............................................................................
By the Act of Supremacy, Henry VIII acknowledged the Pope as the supreme head
of the Church of England.
............................................................................
............................................................................
Under Elizabeth I, England launched into the contest for commercial and naval
leadership against Spain and France.
............................................................................
............................................................................
The first line of kings of the United Kingdom was the Tudor line.
............................................................................
............................................................................
The Commonwealth or Republic proclaimed in 1649 was in fact a military
dictatorship in which the main power was exerted by Oliver Cromwell.
............................................................................
............................................................................
Between 1665 and 1667, Charles IIs unpopularity increased partly because of
wrong political decisions, partly because of a series of natural disasters.
............................................................................
............................................................................
The Act of Settlement (1701) secured the Catholic succession to the throne.
............................................................................
............................................................................
It was under George IIs reign that the foundations of the Industrial Revolution were
laid.
............................................................................
............................................................................
During the Napoleonic wars, the English retorted to the French Continental
Blockade by the Continental System.
............................................................................
............................................................................

British History and Civilisation 37


British Monarchy
By reducing religious discrimination, the Catholic emancipation (1829) enabled the
monarchy to play a more national role.
............................................................................
............................................................................
At Queen Victorias death, Britain had a worldwide empire on which the sun never
set.
............................................................................
............................................................................
The Edwardian era was one of significant political and socio-economic changes.
............................................................................
............................................................................
Edward VIII gained popularity especially owing to his great achievements during
World War II.
............................................................................
............................................................................
According to its supporters, the role of the British monarchy is to strengthen
awareness of national identity and respect for the authority of government.
............................................................................
............................................................................
4. Fill in the blanks with the correct answers:
Alfred the Great defeated .......................................
To William I, the important difference between Normandy and England was
that............................
Henry II left England with ......................
King John misused the machinery of state he had inherited in order to
.......................
Edward II was the first king of England who ......................
The Hundred Years War was equally motivated by
By the end of the Hundred Years War in 1453,
England........................
At Bosworth, Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond, defeated
....................
The name of Henry VIII is connected with.....................
Mary I restored....................
Under Elizabeth I, the way was paved for...................
On January 30, 1649, Charles I Stuart was ...................
James II embarked upon ......................
The Glorious Revolution decided the balance between
....................
In 1707, Scotland and England ....................
At the end of the Seven Years War, by the Treaty of Paris, the British
.......................
Queen Victoria (1837-1901) is associated with ....................
By the end of the 19th century, Britain controlled.....................

38 British History and Civilisation


British Monarchy
Edward VII played an active role in encouraging ......................
Queen Elizabeth II termed 1992 as an annus horribilis because
....................
5. Write one paragraph about the contribution to British history of each of the
following personalities:
Richard II; Richard III; Henry VIII; Mary I; Elizabeth I;
Charles I; Charles II; George III; Queen Victoria; George VI.
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
6. Write an essay about the achievements and/or failures of the British kings and/or
queens of: a) the sixteenth century; b) the seventeenth century; c) the eighteenth
century; d) the nineteenth century; e) the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
......................................................................... ..
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................

British History and Civilisation 39


British Monarchy
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
....................................................................... ....
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
........................................................................

40 British History and Civilisation


Main Developments in Britains Political Life
Learning Unit no. 4
MAIN DEVELOPMENTS IN BRITAINS POLITICAL LIFE

4.1. The Anglo-Saxon Witan (627-1066)


The Witenagemot/ Witan (meeting of wise men) was the first
form of one of Englands main institutions for the next 500 years, i.e.,
the Kings Council. As such, it operated from the seventh century to the
eleventh century. It originated in ancient Germanic assemblies summoned
to witness royal grants of land and it brought together representatives of
the Anglo-Saxon elite, both ecclesiastical (archbishops, bishops, abbots)
and secular (earls and thanes, members of the royal family, ladies not
excepted). Its membership and power varied considerably and were
largely dependent upon the king. Its main functions were:
to advise the king on all matters on which he chose to ask its
opinion (organisation and administration of the kingdom; taxation,
jurisprudence, internal and external security);
to attest his grants of land to laymen and churches (charters);
to issue new law codes;
to choose the king from the extended royal family, or, should the
king become unpopular, to depose him.
The Witenagemot was in many ways different from the future
Parliament, it had substantially different powers and some major
limitations, such as a lack of a fixed procedure, schedule, or meeting
place. It only assembled when summoned by the king, and it was more an
advisory council that could be considered the origin of the Privy Council,
later advising kings and queens on the affairs of state.

4.2. The Norman Curia Regis (1066-1215)


The Curia Regis (kings court/royal council) was a council of
tenants-in-chief (those who held lands directly from the King, known as
manors) and ecclesiastics that advised the king of England on legislative
matters.
The tenants-in-chief often struggled with their spiritual counterparts
and with the King for power. To give but one relevant example, in 1215,
King John was forced to sign the Magna Carta (The Great Charter) at
Runnymede. The Great Charter was an important symbol of political
freedom, marking a clear stage in the collapse of English feudalism.
It promised all freemen protection from the kings abusive officers and the
right to a fair and legal trial:
No freeman shall be seized or imprisoned, or dispossessed, or
outlawed, or in any way brought to ruin; we will not go against any
man nor send against him; save by legal judgement of his peers or
by the law of the land.
Magna Carta marked the transition from the age of traditional
rights, preserved in the nations memory, to the age of written
legislation, of parliaments and statutes that was soon to come.

4.3. The English Parliament

British History and Civilisation 41


Main Developments in Britains Political Life
4.3.1. The First English Parliament
In 1264, Simon of Montfort, who opposed King Henry III as the
spokesman of the burghers, the lower gentry and the free peasants, was
the first to realise that the position of the government could be
strengthened by calling representatives of all the communities and talking
to them. Thus, he summoned the first Parliament (from Lat. Parliamentum
= parley/ discussion/ talking shop), a council of nobles which replaced the
Curia Regis of William I and Henry II. Though Simon of Montfort was
defeated and killed in 1265, the new institution he created endured and it
was summoned by Edward I.
In Edward Is time, Parliament consisted of one assembly presided
over by the king from his throne or by the kings Lord Chancellor from the
woolsack. There were also present ex-oficio the chief officers of the state,
the barons, the high clergy. Humbly in the background, there were the
representative knights and burghers of each shire, unlikely to speak
unless spoken to. This was the high Court of Parliament which has
survived in the modern House of Lords.
The emergence of the House of Commons as a separate chamber
originated in the unofficial meetings of the knights and burghers during
which a speaker was appointed to speak for the Commons in full
Parliament. The House of Commons was officially acknowledged only in
1332 during Edward IIIs reign, the consent of its members being
necessary for making all acts of State, depositions and elections of kings.
In other parts of Europe, similar parliaments kept all the gentry
separate from the commoners. England was special. The division of
Parliament into the House of Lords and the House of Commons is a vital
fact for the further history of England. The forms of English parliamentary
life abolished the distinction of feudalism when in the House of Commons
the smaller gentry was brought in contact with the burghers and humbler
rural free-holders. Thus the intermarriage of classes and the constant
intercommunication of the upper and middling ranks of society were
already more advanced in England than elsewhere. During the 150 years
following Edward Is death the agreement of the Commons became
necessary for the making of all statutes, and all special taxation additional
to regular taxes.
But only those commoners with an income of forty shillings or more a
year could qualify to be members of Parliament. This meant that the poor
had no way of being heard except by rebellion. The poor had no voice of
their own in Parliament until the middle of the nineteenth century.

4.3.2. The Tudors and the Parliament


The Tudors did not like governing through Parliament, but they did
not dissolve it because they needed money and the support of the
merchants and landowners.
Henry VII seldom used the Parliament and only for law making.
Henry VIII used it to raise money for his military campaigns and for
his struggle with Rome. His aims were:

to make sure that the powerful members from the shires and
towns, who had a great deal of control over popular feeling,
supported him,

42 British History and Civilisation


Main Developments in Britains Political Life
to frighten the priests and the bishops into obeying him,
to frighten the Pope into giving in to his demands.
The paradox was that, while using Parliament to strengthen his policy
and to make new laws for the Reformation, Henry VIII actually increased
Parliaments authority.
Parliament further strengthened its position under Edward VI by
ordering the new Prayer Book to be used in all churches and forbidding
the Catholic mass.
Mary I could not persuade Parliament to accept Philip of Spain as the
king of England after her death.
Parliament only met when the monarch ordered it. To be more
specific, during the first 44 years of Tudor rule, Parliament met only 20
times. Then Parliament was summoned a little more often by Henry VIII to
make the laws for the Church Reformation. After Elizabeth Is Reformation
Settlement in 1559, for the next 44 years, the Parliament met only 13
times.
During the sixteenth century, power moved from the House of
Lords to the House of Commons, as the latters representatives became
richer and more influential than the Lords. (Hence, the idea of getting rid of
the House of Lords emerged for the first time.) The size of the House of
Commons nearly doubled, because the Welsh boroughs and counties
were included next to the English ones. (That does not mean they
represented the people; the MPs simply supported royal policy.)
Taking all these into account, the functions of the Parliament under
the Tudors could be summarized as follows:
to agree to the taxes needed;
to make the laws which the Crown suggested;
to advise the Crown, but only when asked to do so.
Therefore, MPs were granted:
freedom of speech;
freedom from fear of arrest;
freedom to meet and speak to the monarch.
To avoid giving Parliament too much power by asking it to vote for
new taxes, the Tudors tried (unwisely) to get money in other ways. For
example, in 1600, Elizabeth I sold monopolies which gave a particular
person/company total control over a trade. The next year (1601),
Parliament complained about the bad effect on free trade of these
monopolies.
Besides, Elizabeth and her chief adviser, Lord Burghley, sold official
positions in the government. Furthermore, as they grew old, both Queen
Elizabeth and Lord Burghley became more careless and slower at making
decisions. They allowed the tax system to become less efficient, and failed
to keep information on how much money people should be paying.
England needed a tax reform, which could only be carried out with the
agreement of the Parliament. Or both Parliament and the JPs in charge of
collecting the taxes avoided the matter of tax. The Queen also avoided
open discussion on money with the Parliament, so the problem had to be
solved by Elizabeths successors.
Parliament naturally began to think that it had a right to discuss
money and law-making. By the end of the sixteenth century, it was
beginning to show new confidence, and in the seventeenth century, when
the gentry and the merchant classes were far more aware of their own

British History and Civilisation 43


Main Developments in Britains Political Life
strength, it was obvious that Parliament would challenge the Crown.
Eventually, this resulted in war.

4.3.3. The Stuarts and the Parliament


James Is belief in the divine right of kings made him try to rule
without Parliament. His refusal to discuss home and foreign policy with
Parliament, further deepened the conflict as Parliament considered that
the king was not above the law, and that the king and his council could not
make new laws. With Jamess involvement in the Thirty Years War in
Europe, the quarrel with Parliament (which had not been summoned for
ten years) was resumed.
Charles I adopted a similar attitude towards the Parliament, which he
summoned only when he needed more money:
1628-9: The Petition of Right: In exchange for the money he
badly needed, Parliament made Charles promise that he would
only raise money by Act of Parliament, and that he would not
imprison anyone without lawful reason. Thus, the king had to
agree that Parliament controlled state money, the national
budget, and the law.
1640: After years of efficient administration, Charles I had to call
what was to be the Short Parliament to get the money he
needed to manage the conflict in Scotland. Parliament made
Charles accept a new law according to which Parliament had to
meet at least once every three years. But the king did not keep his
agreement with Parliament and dissolved it after only three weeks.
November 1640 1660: the Long Parliament Charles
quarreled with Parliament over who should control the army that
had to be sent against the rebels in Ireland. Parliament declared
illegal all the financial devices of Charles. In 1641, the Puritan
leaders of Parliament presented the king with the Great
Remonstrance. The king tried to arrest 5 MPs. He was
unsuccessful, but his action convinced Parliament and its
supporters all over England that they had to react. Civil War
started.
The beginning of the Civil Wars (1642-46) opposed the Royalists
(the Cavaliers), i.e. the House of Lords and only a few of the
Commoners supported by the Anglican clergy and the conservative and
feudalistic North, to the Roundheads/Ironsides, the army of the
Parliament, supported by the navy, by most of the merchants and by the
middle-classes in the south. After the Royalists initial success, the tide
changed when Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658) emerged as a leader of the
Parliamentarian army. His Ironsides became the toughest and most
successful fighting force of the period and its superiority was proven by the
victories at Marston Moor (1644) and Naseby (1645). Parliament won by
the sword the right to survive as the supreme legislative body in
England.
However, the House of Commons refused to grant religious toleration
and to give the soldiers of the New Model army (the first regular force
from which todays British army developed) the arrears of pay. The quarrel
of Parliament and New Model Army encouraged Charles and the Cavaliers
to start a second Civil War (1646-51) with the help of the Presbyterian
Scots.

44 British History and Civilisation


Main Developments in Britains Political Life
Parliament obtained Charles I from the Scots to whom he had
surrendered. The Parliamentarian leaders had then to make a difficult
decision: either to restore Charles and allow him to rule, or to remove him
and to create a new political system. Despite the fact that two thirds of the
MPs did not want to put the king on trial, the remaining one third (53) took
control of Parliament with the help of the army, judged the king, found him
guilty of making war against his kingdom and the Parliament and had
him beheaded at Whitehall on January 30, 1649.
The newly founded Commonwealth or Republic (1649-60) turned
out to be far more severe than Charless regime. Cromwell and his friends
got rid of the monarchy, then of the House of Lords (which was dissolved).
The first years of the republican regime were marked by the savage
campaigns of Cromwells New Model Army meant to:
put down the resistance of the Scots (who, shocked by the kings
execution, decided to support his son Charles II) (1651);
punish the Irish for the killing of the Protestants in 1641 and for the
continued Royalist rebellion (1649-52). (These punitive campaigns
remained until nowadays a powerful symbol of English cruelty to
the Irish.)
Disagreements between the army and Parliament, on the one hand,
and within the army (e.g. the rebellion of the egalitarian Levellers), on the
other, led to the dissolution of Parliament and of the Council of State. From
1653. Cromwell began his five and a half years of personal rule as Lord
Protector of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland and Ireland. He
used the army to govern the country, and to maintain law and order in the
kingdom; furthermore, his tyrannical suppression of all forms of celebration
and entertainment (e.g. theatre, games on Sunday) made him even more
unpopular. Thus, after his death in 1658, when his inefficient son Richard
failed to maintain control over the army leaders, the Convention
Parliament called back Charles II in 1660 (The Restoration).
Charles II was careful to maintain, at least at the beginning of his
reign, a peaceful relation with the Parliament by the vote of which he was
restored; hence, the Declaration of Breda, a statement of religious
tolerance and acceptance of parliamentary power. The king persecuted
those who executed his father, but also gave positions of authority or
responsibility to some MPs. Nonetheless, Parliament itself remained
generally weak.
Charless more and more prominent attachment to Catholicism
worried the Parliament (hence, the 1673 Test Act, preventing Catholics
from holding public office). Fear of Charless interest in the Catholic
Church and of the monarchy becoming too powerful resulted in the
emergence of the first political parties in Britain:
The Whigs = proponents of Parliament supremacy and toleration
for the Protestant nonconformists. They wanted to have a regular
army and believed strongly in religious freedom (in spite of their
fear of a Catholic king).
The Tories = natural inheritors of the Royalist position, they
supported the authority of the Crown and of the Anglican Church.
These two parties, the Whigs and the Tories, became the basis
of Britains two-party parliamentary system of government.
In 1679, Parliament passed the Habeas Corpus Act according to
which any arrested person should be presented to a law-court so that the

British History and Civilisation 45


Main Developments in Britains Political Life
arrest may be legally validated. It marked a significant step towards
granting individual freedom.
James IIs policy of re-Romanizing the country brought him in conflict
with Parliament, especially with the Tories and Anglicans who had
supported him against the Whigs. James tried to get rid of the Tory gentry
and to replace them with lower-class JPs, with Catholics and Puritans
(Nonconformists) whom he wanted to bring together. The birth of Jamess
Catholic heir in 1688 finally determined the Tories and Anglicans to join the
Whigs in looking for a Protestant rescue. Thus, during the Glorious
Revolution (1688-89), Parliament offered the Crown to William of Orange
and his wife Mary, Jamess Protestant daughter. Parliament was now
beyond question more powerful than the king and would remain so. Its
power over the monarch was established by the Bill of Rights (1689): the
monarch could not govern, raise taxes or keep an army without
Parliament, or act against any MP for what he said or did in Parliament.

4.4. Political Life in Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century Britain


4.4.1. The Whig Oligarchy
Given the Tory connection with the Stuart Pretender (James IIs son)
and his supporters (the Jacobites), King George I allowed the Whigs to
form his government under the leadership of the first Prime Minister in
British history, Robert Walpole (1721-42). As the king spoke only
German, government power increased and Walpole was determined to
keep the Crown under the firm control of Parliament.
Walpole skillfully developed the idea that government ministers
should work together in a small group called the Cabinet and that any
minister who disagreed deeply with other Cabinet members was expected
to resign. Consequently, all members of the Cabinet were together
responsible for policy decisions.
The power of monarchy was considerably limited by the constitution:
the king could not be a Catholic;
the king could not remove or change laws;
the king was dependent on Parliament for his financial income and
for his army;
the king was supposed to choose his ministers, but in fact the
ministers belonged as much to Parliament as they did to the king.
To pay back everything the government borrowed and to get rid of
the national debt, Walpole increased taxation and put taxes on luxury
goods (tea, coffee, chocolate) brought to Britain from its colonies by
wealthy traders. Walpole raised thus the governments income, but this
had little effect on the national debt, and he became very unpopular.
Walpoles famous principle was Every man has his price. Therefore,
his age was one of growing corruption and unchallenged abuses in all
forms of public life when holders of ecclesiastical, academic, charitable
and public positions had no fear of inquiry or punishment, when
schoolmasters could draw their salaries without keeping school, and
universities could sell degrees without holding examinations or giving
instructions. The satirists who attacked the corruption of Walpoles
government were censored by the Licensing Act issued in 1737. (Henry
Fielding was one of them.)

4.4.2. The Right to Freedom of Speech


46 British History and Civilisation
Main Developments in Britains Political Life
The voting system of the time was undoubtedly deficient. Only house
and land owners with a certain income had the right to vote. Only 55 of the
200 boroughs had more than 500 voters. The others were controlled by a
very small number of rich property owners, sometimes acting together as
a borough corporation. Each county and each borough sent two
representatives to the Parliament. This meant that bargains could be made
between the two most powerful groups of people in each constituency,
allowing the chosen representative of each group to be returned to
Parliament. It was not difficult for rich and powerful people either in the
boroughs or in the counties to make sure that the man they wanted was
elected to Parliament. Politics was a matter only for a small number of the
gentry who had close connections with political aristocracy.
However, there was an MP who saw things differently and who did
not like the government of George III: John Wilkes. He believed that
politics should be open to free discussion by anyone and that free
speech was the basic right of every individual. Wilkes attacked George
III and his government in his newspaper The North Briton. Arrested and
imprisoned in the Tower of London, he fought back in court and won the
case (public policy is not an argument in a court of law). His victory in the
court proved that the freedom of the individual is more important than
the interests of the state and that no one can be arrested without a
proper reason. It also showed that Parliament did not represent ordinary
people, and that their individual freedom was not assured. As a result,
people began to organise political activity outside Parliament to win their
basic rights.

4.4.3. Tory Policies and the Castlereagh Administration


Over the late years of George IIIs mental illness, William Pitt the
Younger, Prime Minister for the Tory party (1783-1801; 1804-6) took
control of the nation and within a decade restored prosperity and national
confidence. However, his programme of peaceful reconstruction was
interrupted by the Napoleonic War. After his death, the government
administration entered a period of decline and inefficiency which reached
its climax with the Castlereagh administration (1812-20) that protected
vested interests and repressed all reform.
To be more specific, in 1815, the Corn Law excluded the import of
grain in order to protect native agriculture but at the expense of costly
bread for workers.
In 1817, the Coercion Acts suspended defense rights in the law
courts and severely penalized seditious assemblies. That caused people
to violently react, but the rebellion ended disastrously with the Peterloo
Massacre: when about sixty thousand people gathered on St. Peter's
Fields, Manchester, in 1819, the soldiers charged the gathering, killing
eleven persons and wounding about four hundred. (See P. B. Shelleys
The Mask of Anarchy)
In 1819, further repressive policies were voted under the name of
the Six Acts. That led to the Cato Street conspiracy (1820), a second
Gunpowder Plot organised by extremists attempting to blow up the entire
cabinet and seize the Bank of England.

4.4.4. The Reform Period

British History and Civilisation 47


Main Developments in Britains Political Life
The reform period inaugurated in 1830 represented the
capitulation of English landed gentry to the middle-class. While the
bourgeois political triumph on the continent meant bloody turmoil and
repeated revolutions, in England it was accomplished bloodlessly, by
retaining old forms and transforming their inward substance due to the
English genius for compromise and the commonsense recognition of
realities.
The Whigs understood better than the Tories the need to reform the
law in order to improve social conditions. Like the Tories, they feared
revolution, but, unlike the Tories, they believed it could only be avoided by
reform. The Tories believed that Parliament should represent property
and the property owners. The radicals believed that Parliament should
represent the people. The Whigs were in the middle, wanting enough
change to avoid revolution but little more.
The Tories hoped that the House of Lords would protect the interests
of the property owners. When the Commons agreed on reform in 1830, it
was turned down by the House of Lords. But the Tories fell from power the
same year, and Lord Grey formed a Whig government. Grey himself had
supported the call for reform as a radical in 1792. In 1832 the Lords
accepted the Reform Bill, but more because they were frightened by the
riots in the streets outside than because they now accepted the idea of
reform. They feared that the collapse of political and civil order might lead
to revolution.
The 1832 Reform Bill seemed almost a political revolution which put
an end to the inadequate medieval system of representation, not without a
dramatic struggle with the House of Lords rejecting it two times. The
system of representation had so far followed the medieval pattern of
population so that some tiny hamlets in the 'rotten borrows' would send
two members to Parliament by preordained selection or even bribery, while
new industrial and commercial centres like Manchester or Birmingham had
no representatives in Parliament. The Reform Bill granted voting rights
to adult male citizens according to some financial qualifications
which favoured the middle-class. However, the bulk of the population
including the propertiless males and all women was voteless. Yet, in
spite of its shortcomings, the 1832 Reform Bill was a political recognition
that Britain had become an urban society.
Other reforms followed:
1833 the abolition of slavery in all colonies and all territories
controlled by Great Britain;
1833 The Factory Act: although distressingly inadequate, it was
an attempt at limiting child labour, one of the horrible effects of the
Industrial Revolution;
1834 The Poor Law introduced the work house system which
soon turned out to be as inadequate as the previous attempts at
providing for the poor;
1836 Further reforms legalized civil marriages and extended the
civil rights of law prisoners.
This tempestuous revolutionary era that closed the eighteenth
century and continued during the first third of the nineteenth century
marked the emergence of the bourgeoisie as the new rulers of
society while the working class began to draw the battle line as a
class-conscious opponent.

48 British History and Civilisation


Main Developments in Britains Political Life
4.4.5. The Chartist Movement
Since 1824 workers had been allowed to join together in unions.
Most of these unions were small and weak. Although one of their aims was
to make sure employers paid reasonable wages, they also tried to prevent
other people from working in their particular trade. As a result, the working
classes still found it difficult to act together. Determined employers could
still quite easily defeat strikers who refused to work until their pay was
improved, and often did so with cruelty and violence. Soldiers were
sometimes used to force people back to work or break up meetings.
In 1838, working together for the first time, unions, workers and
radicals formed the Workingmens Association in London and
submitted a Charter in Parliament calling for universal manhood
suffrage, vote by secret ballot, other changes in electoral procedure
but, above all, for getting a different kind of Member of Parliament
who had first-hand experience of the sufferings of the poor. The
Charter was rejected by Parliament in 1839. As a consequence, serious
riots occurred in Birmingham, Newport and elsewhere. The Chartists were
not united for long. They were divided between those ready to use
violence and those who believed in change by lawful means only. Many
did not like the idea of women also getting the vote, partly because they
believed it would make it harder to obtain voting rights for all men, and this
demand, which had been included in the wording to the first Charter, was
quietly forgotten. But riots and political meetings continued.
The second national convention of the Chartists was again rejected
in 1842 and a great strike was organised in the Midlands. Troops were
quickly poured by the new railroads, the two principal leaders, William
Lovet and Fergus O'Connor were sent to prison and the troubled Midlands
were pacified. The goals of the Chartists were to be achieved along
decades of social reform policy and by 1911 all the six political points of
the Charter had been actually conceded, turning what might have become
a bloody revolution into peaceful evolution.

4.4.6. Politics in the Victorian Age


After 1865, a much stricter two party system developed, demanding
greater loyalty from its membership. The two parties were the Tory/
Conservative Party (they believed in established values and the
preservation of traditions; supported business and commerce; had strong
links with the Church of England and the professions; opposed what they
saw as radical ideas.) and the Liberal (former Whig) Party (a more
progressive force supporting social reform and economic freedom without
government restrictions). They developed greater party organisation and
order.
There was also a change in the kind of men who became political
leaders: as a result of the 1832 Reform, voters chose a different kind of
MP, men from the commercial rather than the landowning class.
These changes were best epitomised in the policies advanced by the
Prime Ministers of the time, namely:
for the Conservatives: Benjamin Disraeli and the Big England
policy (for more details, see section 3.9. The Hanoverians, p. 30);
for the Liberals: William Gladstone and the Little England
policy:

British History and Civilisation 49


Main Developments in Britains Political Life
- The Third Reform Act (1884): It further extended voting
qualifications for men (though it did not establish universal
suffrage) and essentially established the modern one-member
constituency as the normal pattern for Parliamentary
representation.
- The Home Rule Bill for Ireland: Continuous crop failures in
Ireland had caused endemic famine during the 1840s,
increasing widespread suffering and forcing multitudes of the
Irish to migrate to America. Daniel O'Connell emerged as the
first supporter of Irish nationalism and, despite his moderate
views, the radical groups stirred a rebellion in 1848, one year
after his death. His continuator in the 80s was Charles Parnell,
the leader of the demands for a separate legislature for Ireland.
Although Gladstone supported the project, the Home Rule Bills
were repeatedly rejected by Parliament in 1886 and in 1892.
Parnell himself met political disaster in 1890 when involved in a
divorce suit. He died the following year.

4.4.7. The Rise of a Third Party


After 1850 a number of trade unions grew up and, unlike many
European worker struggles, they sought to achieve their goals through
parliamentary democracy.
In 1868-9, the first Trade Union Congresses established a
parliamentary committee with the purpose of achieving worker
representation in Parliament. That brought them in (limited) co-operation
either with radicals and reformist Liberals or even with the Conservative
Party. The 1870s, however, with the drop in wages in many factories,
encouraged more strike action. All in all, the trade unions mixture of
worker struggle and desire to work democratically within Parliament led
eventually to the foundation of the Labour Party.
The Independent Labour Party, frankly socialistic, was founded in
1893 to secure 29 members in Parliament by 1906. Supported by trade-
unions, the majority of the working class and some middle-class voters,
the Labour party would promote during the following decades a radical
programme of social and economic reforms laying the foundations of the
modern corporate and welfare state.
The Fabian Society was founded in 1883 by Sidney and Beatrice
Webb along with George Bernard Shaw. Named for the ancient Roman,
Fabius Cunctator, the delayer, the Society supported the idea that
socialism could be eventually insured by universal suffrage and full
government representation.

4.5. Political Life in Twentieth and Twenty-first Century Britain


4.5.1. Reforms in Edwardian Britain
The mounting trade-unionism in Britain erupted in a rash of strikes
and put the Liberals in power in the 1906 elections. The Liberal
administration introduced a series of reforms towards the development of
the modern social security system:
1907 free school meals to improve the health of Britain's
children;
1909 The Old Pension Law;
50 British History and Civilisation
Main Developments in Britains Political Life
1911 The National Insurance Act (those unable to earn money
through sickness or unemployment would be helped by the state.);
1912 the Minimum Wage Law.
The militant agitation for Women's Suffrage was initiated by Mrs.
Pankhurst in 1905, but it was not until 1918 that women became entitled
to vote from the age of thirty. The first woman to take her seat in the
House of Commons was Lady Astor in 1919. She was joined in 1921 by
Mrs. Wintringham.
The year 1911 also brought about political crisis in Parliament. The
Liberal drive for reform was extremely unpopular with most Conservatives,
who had a majority in the House of Lords. There was a constitutional
disagreement. The Conservatives still favoured a two-house parliamentary
system, but they now recognised that the Lords would have to be
changed. The Liberals wanted one strong house, with the powers of the
Lords so weakened that it could not prevent the will of the Commons from
being carried out. The result of this constitutional debate was the
Parliament Act of 1911. Like much of British political development, it
resulted from a compromise, but one in which the Liberals won most of
what they wanted. The House of Lords lost its right to question
financial legislation passed in the Commons. Its powers in all other
matters were limited. It could no longer prevent legislation but only
delay it, and for not more than two years. The system still operates.

4.5.2. The Interwar Depression


With prices more than doubled at home, with increased taxation and
soaring burden of domestic and foreign debt, a war-weary England was
faced with the assimilation of about eight million demobilized servicemen
and with the fight for world markets now threatened by America and
Japan. The Liberal administration of David Lloyd George and the
effective life of the Liberal Party came to an end in 1922 in an
atmosphere of social unrest at home and of a war devastated world
abroad.
In 1921, a miners strike was defeated and men returned to work
bitterly disappointed with the mine owners terms. In 1925, mine owners
cut miners wages and another miners strike seemed inevitable. Both
sides, the government and the Trades Union Congress (representing the
miners in this case), found themselves unwillingly driven into opposing
positions, which made a general strike in 1926 inevitable.
The general strike ended after nine days, partly because members of
the middle classes worked to keep services like transport, gas and
electricity going. But it also ended because of uncertainty among the trade
union leaders. The miners struggled on alone and then gave up the strike.
Many workers, especially the miners, believed that the police, whose job
was to keep the law, were actually fighting against them. Whether or not
this was true, many people remembered the general strike with great
bitterness. These memories influenced their opinion of employers,
government and the police for half a century.
Mounting unemployment, the gradual drifting away of the overseas
possessions from the mother country, the deterioration of the continental
peace caused two successive Labour Governments led by Ramsay
Macdonald, in 1923 and 1929, the first avowedly socialistic
governments in English history. The Great World Depression from

British History and Civilisation 51


Main Developments in Britains Political Life
1929 on brought about a coalition government between 1931 and
1935.

4.5.3. Post World War II Britain. The Welfare State


Over the years following Word War II, the Labour Government (1945-
51) promoted the British Welfare State policy, consisting in providing
cradle-to-grave protection for the English workers:
1944: free secondary education for all, and more further and
higher education;
1946: the National Health Service, which gave everyone the right
to free medical treatment;
1948: the National Assistance Act provided financial help for the
old, the unemployed and those unable to work through sickness.
Mothers and children also received help.
The Labour government took over control of credit (the Bank of
England), power (coal, iron and steel), and transport (railways and
airlines). But nationalisation was a disappointment as only 20 % of British
industry was actually nationalised, and these nationalised industries
served private industry rather than directed it.
The subsequent Conservative administrations agreed on the need to
keep up the welfare state, in particular, to avoid unemployment. Britain
became in fact a social democracy, in which both main parties agreed on
most of the basic values, and disagreed mainly about method. The main
area of disagreement was the level of nationalisation desirable for the
British economy to operate at its best.

4.5.4. Britain, Europe and the USA


In 1949, Britain joined with other Western European countries to form
the Council of Europe, to achieve greater unity between members.
In 1957, however, Britain refused to join six other European countries
in the creation of a European Common Market. Britain was unwilling to
surrender any sovereignty or control over its own affairs, and said it still felt
responsibility towards its empire. It was only in 1961 that the Macmillan
administration decided in favour of British entrance into the European
Common Market abandoning the neutralist, nationalist traditions of the
Conservatives. But it was too late: when Britain tried to join the European
Community in 1963 and again in 1967, the French President General de
Gaulle refused to allow it. Britain only became a member in 1973, after
de Gaulles retirement. To be more specific, Edward Heath successfully
negotiated Britains entry to the EC in 1973 which was confirmed by a
referendum in 1975.
Although trade with Europe greatly increased, most British continued
to feel that they had not had any economic benefit from Europe. This
feeling was strengthened by the way in which Prime Minister Margaret
Thatcher argued for a better financial deal for Britain in the Communitys
affairs. It is not surprising therefore that Britains European partners
wondered whether Britain was still unable to take part seriously in any
Pan-European system.
The pressures in the 1990s for more integration and unification in the
European Community determined the new Conservative Prime Minister

52 British History and Civilisation


Main Developments in Britains Political Life
John Major to play an active role in having the Maastricht treaty approved
by the EC states.
As for the Anglo-American relations in the post World War II period,
reference should first be made to the Marshal Aid Programme which
Britain benefited from, like most post-war Western Europe, and which led
to economic boom and improved living standards during the 1960s (the
swinging sixties).
Still, if, after the onset of the Cold War in the late 1940s, Britain was a
useful ally to the USA acting as junior world-policeman, during the 1960s
and early 1970s, this special relationship weakened as Britain could no
longer afford to patrol large areas of the world.
Ever since 1945, the United States and the political right in Britain
were more openly hostile to the Soviet Union. The Europeans and the
British political left were, on the whole, just as suspicious of Soviet
intentions, but were more anxious to improve relations. However, even
under Labour governments, Britain remained between the European and
American positions. It was natural, therefore, that under Thatcher, who
was more firmly to the right than any Conservative Prime Minister since
the war, British foreign policy was more closely linked to that of the United
States, particularly with regard to the Soviet Union. Britain sided with the
United States in other foreign policy matters too, which alarmed its
European partners. In 1986, for example, it allowed US aircraft to use
British airfields from which to attack the Libyan capital, Tripoli. One thing
was clear from these events. Britain still had not made up its mind whether
its first political loyalty lay across the Atlantic, or in Europe.

4.5.5. The Troubles in Ireland


Supporters of the home rule for Ireland (the implementation of which
was delayed by the British government when World War I began in 1914)
rebelled in Dublin in 1916, hoping to persuade more Irishmen to join the
republican movement. The Easter Rising was quickly put down, and
most Irish disapproved of it. But the British executed all the leaders, which
was a serious mistake. The public was shocked, not only in Ireland, but
also in London. Irish Americans were also angry, just at the moment when
America had joined Britain in the war against Germany.
In the 1918 elections, the republicans won in almost every area
except Ulster. Instead of joining the British parliament, however, they met
in their own new parliament, the Dail in Dublin, and announced that Ireland
was now a republic. Irishmen joined the republics army, and guerrilla
fighting against the British began. As a result, the British government
decided to make peace. By the Anglo-Irish Treaty in 1921 it agreed to
the independence of southern Ireland. But it also insisted that Ulster,
or Northern Ireland, as it became known, should remain united with
Britain. That led to civil war among the Irish themselves. The pro-Treaty
forces won, and the republicans, who insisted that all Ireland, including
Northern Ireland, should be an independent republic, were defeated. After
the 1932 elections, the republican government began to undo the Treaty
and in 1937 declared southern Ireland a republic (The Republic of
Eire).
Over the second half of the twentieth century, the principal issues at
stake in the Troubles were the constitutional status of Northern Ireland and
the relationship between the mainly-Protestant Unionist and mainly-
Catholic Nationalist communities in Northern Ireland. The Troubles had

British History and Civilisation 53


Main Developments in Britains Political Life
both political and military (or paramilitary) dimensions. Its participants
included politicians and political activists on both sides, paramilitaries (the
Ulster Defence Association UDA on the Protestant side and the Irish
Republican Army IRA on the Catholic side), and the security forces of
the United Kingdom and of the Republic of Ireland.
The uncontrollable spiral of violence led to the suspension of the
Northern Ireland Parliament that governed between 1921 and 1972 and a
transfer of full responsibility for law and order to Westminster. British
soldiers were stationed in Northern Ireland, which gave the impression of
a military occupation to the outside world. Efforts to increase
understanding between the two communities did not meet with much
success. The Anglo-Irish Agreement of 1985 provided the unequivocal
acceptance that the problem in Northern Ireland was a joint one and
guaranteed that the constitutional status of Northern Ireland would not be
altered without the consensus of the population. The Anglo-Irish
Settlement concluded in 1998 with its urgent provisions: disarmament of
the paramilitary units, removal of Protestant control upon the police,
retreat of the British military forces from the province (this has been in
abeyance ever since because of the IRAs reluctance to accept total
disarmament).

4.5.6. Margaret Thatchers Conservative Administration


Britains first woman Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher (1979-
1990) was first elected in 1979 because she promised a new beginning for
Britain. She called on the nation for hard work, patriotism and self-help.
She was not a typical Conservative, but she described herself more like a
nineteenth-century Liberal. She wanted free trade at home and abroad,
individual enterprise and less government economic protection or
interference. She wanted more law and order but was a good deal less
willing to undertake the social reform for which later nineteenth-century
Liberals were noted.
Her firm leadership during the Falklands War captured the
imagination of the nation, and that partly helped her win the elections in
1983. However, her victory was more a consequence of a split opposition
vote between Labour and the Alliance (senior right-wing members of the
Labour party together with the small but surviving Liberal Party). Thatcher
had promised to stop Britains decline, but by 1983 she had not succeeded
in keeping that promise.
She had begun to return nationalised industries to the private sector.
By 1987, telecommunications, gas, British Airways, British Aerospace and
British Shipbuilders had all been put into private ownership.
She could also claim that she had broken the power of the trade
unions. In fact, the trade unions had been damaged more by growing
unemployment than by government legislation.
She could be less confident about increased law and order. In spite
of increasing the size of the police force, there was a falling rate of crime
prevention and detection. In addition, the rough behaviour of the police in
dealing with industrial disputes and city riots had seriously damaged their
reputation.
The most serious accusation against the Thatcher government by the
middle of the 1980s was that it had created a more unequal society, a
society of two nations, one wealthy, and the other poor. According

54 British History and Civilisation


Main Developments in Britains Political Life
to Thatchers critics, the divide cut across the nation in a number of ways.
People saw a divide between:
prosperous suburban areas, and neglected inner city areas of
decay;
the north and south of the country. People were aware of growing
unemployment in the depressed areas, and fewer hopes of
finding a job.
The black community also felt separated from richer Britain. Most
blacks lived in the poor inner city areas, not the richer suburbs,
and unemployment among blacks by 1986 was twice as high as
among the white population.
In spite of these problems, Thatchers Conservative Party was still
more popular than any other single party and won the 1987 election.

4.5.7. Tony Blairs Labour Administration


Blairs Labour administration (1997-2007) embarked upon a 'new
Britain' project to modernize the economy, to readjust the welfare state, to
adopt constitutional reform and to provide the nation with a new identity.
His ambitious plan of moulding old and new Britain into the 'Cool
Britannia' pattern, the model twenty-first century nation, was best
epitomised in his own vision of future Britain as the best place to live, the
best place to bring up children, the best place to lead a fulfilled life, the
best place to grow old.
Despite the Cool Britannia propaganda:
economic stagnation is a grim reality in the old industrial cities;
the outrageous behaviour of the British hooligans has become a
characteristic of Britishness;
the nationalistic aspiration in the historical provinces have
determined the (re)opening of Parliaments in Scotland and Wales
while the troubles in Ireland have continued to worry
Westminster;
immigration of unprecedented scale has forced Britain to adopt
restrictive measures;
Britains foreign policy wavering between loyalty to the USA and her
European partners is threatened by the spectre of globalization
and the dominance of an American English speaking empire.
In June 2007, Tony Blair passed the leadership of the British
government to his fellow Labour Gordon Brown (2007-2010).
In May 2010, after the Conservative party won the general election,
David Cameron was appointed Prime Minister of the UK.

4.6. Practical Applications (3)


1. Provide brief but comprehensive explanations for the following names:
Lord Burghley; Oliver Cromwell; Short Parliament;
Great Remonstrance; Declaration of Breda;Whig/Tory;
Habeas Corpus Act; Robert Walpole; Licensing Act;
Peterloo Massacre; Reform Bill; Poor Law;
Conservative/Liberal;Big England; Little England;
Fabian Society; Mrs. Pankhurst;Easter Rising;

British History and Civilisation 55


Main Developments in Britains Political Life
Anglo-Irish Agreement; Gordon Brown.
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
2. Consider the following dates, identify the events and comment briefly on their
importance in the historical context of the time:
1264; 1332; 1628-1629; 1651; 1653;
1673; 1689; 1815; 1817; 1820;
1833; 1838; 1884; 1893; 1909;
1911; 1912; 1921; 1926; 1946;
1949; 1973; 1979; 1983; 1997.
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
3. State whether the following statements are true or false:
One of the main functions of the Witan was to choose the king.
............................................................................
............................................................................
The tenants-in-chief of the Norman Curia Regis often struggled with the king for
power.
............................................................................
............................................................................
Magna Carta contributed to reinforcing English feudalism.
............................................................................
............................................................................
Edward III summoned the first English Parliament.
............................................................................
............................................................................
The forms of English parliamentary life abolished the distinction of feudalism by
their intermarriage of classes.

56 British History and Civilisation


Main Developments in Britains Political Life
............................................................................
............................................................................
During the sixteenth century, the power of the House of Lords exceeded that of the
House of Commons.
............................................................................
............................................................................
Parliament agreed with Queen Elizabeth I selling monopolies to make money for
the crown.
............................................................................
............................................................................
James I and Charles Is belief in the divine right of kings made them try to rule
without Parliament.
............................................................................
............................................................................
By the victories of Marston Moor and Naseby, Parliament won the right to survive as
the supreme legislative body in England.
............................................................................
............................................................................
Cromwells republican regime maintained both Houses of Parliament.
............................................................................
............................................................................
Fear of Charles IIs interest in the Catholic Church and of the monarchy becoming
too powerful resulted in the emergence of first political parties in Britain.
............................................................................
..........................................................................
Robert Walpole was the first Prime Minister in British history.
............................................................................
............................................................................
John Wilkes attacked Robert Walpole in his newspaper The North Briton.
............................................................................
............................................................................
The Castlereagh administration supported reform.
............................................................................
............................................................................
The Reform period inaugurated in 1830 represented the capitulation of English
landed gentry to the middle class.
............................................................................
............................................................................

British History and Civilisation 57


Main Developments in Britains Political Life
The Charter submitted by the working class to Parliament required equal voting
rights for men and women.
............................................................................
............................................................................
Benjamin Disraeli supported the Home Rule Bill for Ireland.
............................................................................
............................................................................
The Fabian Society emerged as a reaction to the rise of the Independent Labour
Party.
............................................................................
............................................................................
Since 1911, the House of Lords has lost its right to question financial legislation
passed in the Commons.
............................................................................
............................................................................
The atmosphere of social unrest in the 1920s Britain allowed for the coming to
power of the first avowedly socialistic governments in British history.
............................................................................
............................................................................
Following World War II, the Conservative government promoted the British Welfare
State policy and encouraged nationalisation.
............................................................................
............................................................................
In 1957, Britain refused to join six other European countries in the creation of a
European Common Market.
............................................................................
............................................................................
In terms of foreign policy, present-day Britain has not made up its mind whether its
first political loyalty lies across the Atlantic or in Europe.
............................................................................
............................................................................
The paramilitaries in conflict in Northern Ireland are the UDA on the Catholic side
and the IRA on the Protestant side.
............................................................................
............................................................................
Tony Blairs Labour administration aimed at moulding old and new Britain into the
Cool Britannia pattern.
............................................................................
............................................................................

58 British History and Civilisation


Main Developments in Britains Political Life
4. Fill in the blanks with the correct answers:
The Witan originated in ....................
Magna Carta marked ...................
The emergence of the House of Commons as a separate chamber of the English
parliament originated in ......................................
The Tudors did not dissolve the Parliament because ......................
Under the Tudors the function of the Parliament were: .......................
The Civil Wars (1642-1649) opposed .. to
..........................
After Cromwells death, Parliament .....................
According to the Bill of Rights, the monarch could not ...................
Walpoles age was ...................
John Wilkes believed that ....................
The goals of the Chartist movement were achieved along
....................
Daniel OConnell emerged as ......................
Charles Parnell was the leader of ...................
Supported by trade-unions, the working class and some middle-class voters, the
Labour party would promote .....................................
The 1911 National Insurance Act guaranteed ..................
The first British women MPs were ..................
The 1948 National Assistance Act provided .....................
In the post World War II period, Britain received help from the USA through
.................................
The principal issues at stake in the Troubles in Ireland are
....................
The most serious accusation against the Thatcher government was that
...........................
5. Draw up an outline of Britains most remarkable Prime Ministers and briefly detail
their contribution to British political life.
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................

British History and Civilisation 59


Main Developments in Britains Political Life
............................................................................
............................................................................
6. Write an essay on one of the topics below:
a) Political Institutions in Medieval England: from the Witan to the First English
Parliaments;
b) The Dynamics of Royal and Parliamentary Power in the Sixteenth and the
Seventeenth Centuries;
c) Political Parties and the Parliamentary System of Government from the
Seventeenth Century to the Present Day;
d) The Voting System in Britain.
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
............................................................................
.........................................................................

60 British History and Civilisation


Bibliography

SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY

Arnold-Baker, Charles (2001) The Companion to British History, London and


New York: Routledge.
Dascl, Reghina (2000) British Topics, Timisoara: Eurostampa.
Deac, L. and A. Nicolescu (1983) British Life and Civilization, Bucureti: Ed.
Didactic i Pedagogic.
Gavriliu, Eugenia (2001) British History and Civilization. A Student-Friendly
Approach through Guided Practice, Galai: Fundatia Cultural Dunrea de Jos.
Grant, Alexander and Stringer Keith J. (1995) Uniting the Kingdom? The
Making of British History, London and New York: Routledge.
Guy, John and Morrill, John (1992) The Oxford History of Britain. Vol. III. The
Tudors and the Stuarts, Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press.
McDowall, David (1995) An Illustrated History of Britain, Longman.
Mohor-Ivan, Ioana (2002) Glimpses of Britain. A Cultural Studies
Perspective, Brila: Evrika.
Musman, Richard and Adrian-Vallance, DArcy (1989) Britain Today, Essex:
Longman.
Oakland, John (1991) British Civilisation. An Introduction, London and New
York: Routledge.
Plumb, J. H. (1990) England in the Eighteenth-century, London: Penguin
Books.
Room, A. (1991) An A to Z of British Life, Oxford University Press, 1991.

British History and Civilisation 61