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British History: An Introduction. Part 1 – Early Years. Why is History Important?. History can give meaning and context to culture: The origins of traditions, languages, art, geography etc are all related to history. E.g. Why is Mandarin the official language of Taiwan?

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British history an introduction

British History: An Introduction

Part 1 – Early Years

Why is history important
Why is History Important?

  • History can give meaning and context to culture:

    The origins of traditions, languages, art, geography etc are all related to history.

    E.g. Why is Mandarin the official language of Taiwan?

    Why can many older people in Taiwan speak Japanese?

Overview of early british history
Overview of Early British History

  • Stone Age – The Neolithic

  • Bronze Age

  • Iron Age

  • The Romans

  • The Invasions – Anglo Saxon, Jutes, Vikings

Neolithic 8000 2500 bc
Neolithic ~8000 – 2500 BC

  • At the end of the last Ice Age (~8300 BC) people crossed into ‘Britain’ and settling mostly in the East and South of England.

  • Until around 6500BC, when the English Channel was formed, 'Britain' did not exist but was part of the Eurasian landmass.

  • The initial settlers were hunter-gatherers. This meant that they had a nomadic lifestyle, and spent most of their time engaged in obtaining enough food for survival.

The first britons
The First Britons

  • The first 'Britons' were an ethnically mixed group (from many places)

  • But they were all part of the Caucasoid population of Europe.

  • The varied environment of Britain encouraged a great diversity of cultures

Bronze age 2500 700 bc
Bronze Age ~2500 – 700 BC

  • During this time the hunter-gatherers started to farm animals and grow crops

  • As farming improved, more food was grown to feed more people

  • The population of Britain ~1400 BC was ~one million

The iron age 700 bc 45 ad
The Iron Age ~700 BC – 45 AD

  • At this time, iron came into general use, replacing bronze as the basic material for implements and weapons.

  • Britain was still not a nation but a collection of indigenous tribes and more recent Celtic invaders and settlers

  • The many regional cultures of the British Iron Age grew out of the preceding local Bronze Age

Iron age celts
Iron Age Celts

  • The Iron Age Celts' clothes were often brightly colored. The Celts used berries and plants to dye the wool different colors.

  • Some of them painted patterns all over their bodies with blue woad made of a special plant.

  • The Celts' clothes showed their status and importance within the tribe. Men would wear a tunic with a belt, a cloak and trousers. Women wore dresses fastened with brooches

  • Celtic tribes were led by hereditary Kings and warlords

  • The Kings were supported by a warriors who enslaved most of the peasants.

  • Warfare was common between tribes

  • Confrontations tended to be brief.

The romans
The Romans

  • Britain is a land of agricultural and mineral wealth

  • In 43AD, the Roman Emperor Claudius invaded Britain with approximately 50,000 men.

  • They quickly occupied the South East and then moved inland.

  • Within 25 years much of England and Wales had been absorbed into the province of Britannia.

Britain and the romans
Britain and the Romans

  • At this time the population of Britain was about 3 million

  • Romans did not really ‘colonize’ Britain. There was no mass migration from Rome

  • Native people adopted Greco-Roman civilization

  • Britons became Roman citizens, culturally and legally.

  • By AD 300, almost everyone in 'Britannia' was Roman, even though of native descent and still speaking 'Celtic' dialects.

  • Scotland was untouched by Roman government. The kingdom of the Picts appeared during the third century AD.

The romans the celts
The Romans & The Celts

  • Some Celts, especially those in the South East, were pro-Roman due to trade with the Roman Empire and because ofinter-tribal rivalry

Roman departure from britain
Roman departure from Britain

  • Because Rome was being invaded, the Roman soldiers were moved from Britain to defend Rome

  • The Romans had left Britain by 410.

  • The inhabitants were forced to look to their own defences and government

After the romans
After the Romans

  • The end of Roman power saw the return of ancient cultural trends of the Iron Age.

  • By the sixth century, most of Britannia was taken over by 'Germanic' kingdoms.

  • The Romano-British were slaughtered or driven west by invading Anglo-Saxons

  • In the western-most parts, small kingdoms formed under pressure from the Saxons, into the Welsh and Cornish regions.

Changes after the romans
Changes after the Romans

  • A Germanic people replaced the Celtic British, or at least became a significant part of the population of lowland Britain.

  • Germanic dialects replaced Latin or Celtic

  • Loose knit and feuding hereditary kingships replaced the more centrally governed Roman provinces.

  • Because this change took place while the Germanic immigrants were pagan and illiterate, the process was not well recorded

Anglo saxons

  • The Angle, Saxon, and Jute tribes who invaded Britain in the 5th and 6th centuries are known as the Anglo-Saxons.

  • They left their homelands in northern Germany, Denmark and northern Holland and rowed across the North Sea in wooden boats.

Anglo saxons1

  • It is unclear why the Anglo-Saxons came to Britain.

  • It may have been because their land often flooded and it was difficult to grow crops, so they were looking for new places to settle down and farm

Anglo saxons2

  • The Anglo-Saxons took control of most of Britain

  • They neverconquered Scotland, Wales or Cornwall

  • They divided the country into kingdoms, each with its own royal family. The stronger kingdoms often took control of the weaker kingdoms

  • By around AD 600 the five main Anglo-Saxon kingdoms were Northumbria, Mercia, Wessex, Kent and Anglia.

What happened to the anglo saxons
What Happened to The Anglo-Saxons?

  • In the 8th and 9th centuries the people of Scandinavia, who were known as the Vikings, began to come to Britain.

  • Anglo-Saxon accounts describe terrible Viking raids in which people weremassacred, churches destroyed, and animals and precious objects stolen.

  • By the end of the 870s, the Vikings occupied most of eastern England. Their territory was called the Danelaw.


  • In the year 793 Viking pirates raiders started to attack parts of Britain.

  • They would kill people and steal their valuables.

  • In 865 a 'Great Army' of Danish Vikings invaded England.

  • In the end the Vikings conquered all of northern, central and eastern England, and seized much of the land for their own farms. This area was called 'The Danelaw'.

  • During the same period, Norwegian Vikings sailed to northern and western Scotland, and seized land for their farms around the coast and islands. They also settled in the Isle of Man, and parts of Wales.


  • The Vikings came from three countries in Scandinavia: Denmark, Norway and Sweden.

  • They were also known as the Norse people. They were mostly farmers, but some worked as craftsmen or traders.

  • Many Vikings were great travellers and sailed all over Europe and the north Atlantic Ocean in their longships.

  • Some went as fierce pirate raiders: they stole treasure and attacked local people.

  • But most Vikings who sailed overseas were simply searching for better land for their farms.

  • The Viking Age began about 1,200 years ago in the 8th Century AD and lasted for 300 years.

Alfred the great
Alfred The Great

  • By 878 the Vikings had conquered all of England except Wessex.

  • Wessex remained Anglo-Saxon as King Alfred of Wessex defeated the Vikings in battle.

  • Gradually, the areas of England under Viking rule were reconquered by Alfred's descendants.

  • But in the early 11th century the whole of England was ruled by the Viking King Knut.

The end of the vikings
The End of the Vikings

  • In Scotland, powerful Viking earls continued to rule the islands and some of the mainland for hundreds of years. They were driven from the mainland in the mid-12th century, but remained in the northern islands for another 300 years.

The end of the anglo saxons
The End of the Anglo-Saxons

  • The Anglo-Saxon period came to an end in 1066.

  • Duke William of Normandy (France) came to England and defeated Harold, the Earl of Wessex, in the Battle of Hastings

  • This was the beginning of the Norman period in English history.

The roman legacy
The Roman Legacy

  • Many types of animals and plants were brought to Britain in Roman times. e.g. chestnut trees and chickens.

  • Miles, feet, and inches. All these are Roman measurements.

  • The Romans introduced Christianity to Britain. Many churches are still built using designs like a Roman Basilica.

  • Reading and writing were also introduced by the Romans. Before the Romans arrived nobody in Britain knew how to read or write. Stories and knowledge could only be passed on by word of mouth. From Roman times onwards people in Britain would always write things down.

  • The Romans also helped the English language. Many words in English and Welsh have been borrowed from the Latin language. Some examples are:-autumn, beautiful, continue, different....

The viking legacy
The Viking Legacy

  • LanguageMany familiar words such as 'husband', 'egg', 'law', 'knife' and 'window' originally came from the Vikings' language.

  • Some days of the week are named after their Viking gods: for example, Thursday is 'Thor's Day'

  • Place namesAny place with a name ending in -by, -thorpe, or -ay was originally settled by the Vikings

Anglo saxon legacy
Anglo-Saxon Legacy

  • ton - farm or village

  • wic - farmstead

  • ford - river crossing

  • ham - settlement

  • den - hill

  • Many places in England are still called by their Anglo-Saxon names

  • Parts of the British legal system can be traced back to Anglo-Saxon times

    Many Anglo-Saxon words are still used today.

  • faether - father

  • sunu - son

  • dohtor - daughter

  • chese - cheese