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Great Britain: Culture across History





Great Britain: Culture across History





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Britain in ancient times. England in the


CHAPTER 1. The British Isles before the Norman

Conquest. ...
CHAPTER 2. The Norman Conquest of Britain. ..........
CHAPTER 3. England in the late Middle Ages. ...
ASSIGNMENTS. ..........
The English Renaissance ..
CHAPTER 4. The Tudor age. ..........
CHAPTER 5. The development of drama and the theatre
in Elizabethan England.....
CHAPTER 6. Stuart England. ...
ASSIGNMENTS. ..........
Britain in the New Age. Modern Britain .
CHAPTER 7. Britain in the 18th century ..........
CHAPTER 8. From Napoleonic wars to Victorian Britain.

CHAPTER 9. Britain in the 20th century. ..

ASSIGNMENTS. ..........
Key to Tests


Britain: Culture Across History II
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Britain in ancient times.
England in the Middle Ages.
The British Isles before the Norman Conquest

The Iberians

About 3 thousand years before our era the land we

now call Britain was not separated from the
continent by the English Channel and the North
Sea. The Thames was a tributary of the Rhine. The snow did not melt
on the mountains of Wales, Cumberland and Yorkshire even in
summer. It lay there for centuries and formed rivers of ice called
glaciers, that slowly flowed into the valleys below, some reaching as
far as the Thames. At the end of the ice age the climate became
warmer and the ice caps melted, flooding the lower-lying land that
now lies under the North Sea and the English Channel. Many parts of
Europe, including the present-day British Isles, were inhabited by the
people who came to be known as the Iberians. Some of their
descendants are still found in the North of Spain, populating the
Iberian peninsular. Although little is known about the Iberians of the
Stone Age, it is understood that they were a small, dark, long-headed
race that settled especially on the chalk downs radiating from
Salisbury Plain. All that is known about them comes from
archaeological findings the remains of their dwellings, their
1. The Earliest

skeletons as well as some stone tools and weapons. The Iberians knew
the art of grinding and polishing stone.
On the downs and along the oldest historic roads, the Icknield
Way and the Pilgrims Way, lie long barrows, the great earthenworks
which were burial places and prove the existence of marked class
divisions. Other relics of the past are the stone circles of Stonehenge
and Avebury on Salisbury Plain. Avebury is the grandest site while
Stonehenge is the best known. The name of the place comes from the
Saxon word Stanhengist, or hanging stones. Stonehenge is fifteen
hundred years older than the Egyptian pyramids. It is made of stone
gates standing in groups of twos. Each vertical stone weighs fifty tons
or more. The flat stones joining the gates weigh 7 tons. Nobody
knows why that huge double circle was build, or how primitive people
managed to move such heavy stones. Some researchers think that it
was built by the ancient Druids who performed their rites in
Stonehenge. Others believe that it was built by the sun-worshippers
who came to this distant land from the Mediterranean when the
Channel was a dry valley on the Continent. Stonehenge might also
have been an enormous calendar. Its changing shadows probably
indicated the cycle of the seasons and told the people when it was
time to sow their crops.
People and crops have vanished, but the stones stand fast and
stubbornly keep their secrets from us.

The Celts

The period from the 6th to the 3rd century BC saw the migration
of the people called the Celts. They spread across Europe from the
East to the West and occupied the territory of the present-day France,
Belgium, Denmark, Holland and Great Britain. (See Map 1.)
The Celtic tribes that crossed the Channel and landed on the British
Isles were the Britons, the Scots, the Picts and the Gauls. The
Britons populated the South, the Picts moved to the North, the Scots
went to Ireland and the rest settled in between. Later, the Scots
returned to the main island and in such numbers that the northern part
of it got the name of Scotland. The history of the Picts and their

struggle with the Scots was beautifully described by R.L. Stevenson in

the ballad Heather Ale.
Map 1
(From S.D. Zaitseva. Early Britain. Moscow, 1975.)

In reality, the Picts were not exterminated but assimilated with

the Scots. As for the Iberians, some of them were slain in battle, others
were driven westwards into the mountains of Wales, the rest
assimilated with the Celts. The last wave of the Celts were the Belgic
tribes which arrived about 100 BC and occupied the south-east of the
main island.
The Celts are known from the Travelling Notes by Pytheus, a
traveller from Massilia (now Marseilles). He visited the British Isles
in the 4th century BC. Later, Herodotus wrote that even in the 5 th

century BC Phoenicians came to the British Isles for tin, which was
used for making bronze. The British Isles were then called the Tin
Another person whom we owe reminiscences about early Britain
is Guy Julius Caesar. In 55 BC his troops first landed in Britain.
According to Caesars Commentaries on the Gallic War, the Celts,
against whom he fought, were tall and blue-eyed people. Men had
long moustaches (but no beards) and wore shirts, knee-long trousers
and striped or checked cloaks which they fastened with a pin. (Later,
their Scottish descendants developed it into tartan.) Both men and
women were obsessed with the idea of cleanliness and neatness. As is
known from reminiscences of the Romans, neither man nor woman,
however poor, was seen either ragged or dirty.
Economically and socially the Celts were a tribal society made
up of clans and tribes. The Celtic tribes were ruled by chiefs. The
military leaders of the largest tribes were sometimes called kings. In
wartime the Celts wore skins and painted their faces blue to make
themselves look more fierce. They were armed with swords and spears
and used war chariots in fighting. Women seem to have had extensive
rights and independence and shared responsibility in defending their
tribesmen. It is known that when the Romans invaded Britain, two of
the largest tribes were ruled by women.
The Celts were pagans and their priests, the Druids, who were
important members of the ruling class, preserved the tribal laws,
religious teachings, history, medicine and other knowledge necessary
in Celtic society. They worshipped in sacred places (on hills, by
rivers, in groves of trees) and their rites sometimes included human
The Celts lived in villages and practised a primitive agriculture:
they used light ploughs and grew their crops in small square fields.
They knew the use of copper, tin, and iron, kept large herds of cattle
and sheep which formed their chief wealth.
The Celts traded both inside and beyond Britain. On the
Continent, the Celtic tribes of Britain carried on trade with Celtic
Gaul. Trade was also an important political and social factor in


relationship between tribes. Most trade was conducted by sea or river.

It is no accident that the capitals of England and Scotland appeared
on the river banks, in place of the old trade routes. The settlement on
the Thames, which existed before London, was a major trade outpost
eastwards to Europe.
The descendants of the ancient Celts live on the British Isles up
to this day. They are the Welsh, the Scottish and the Irish. The Welsh
language, which belongs to the Celtic group, is the oldest living
language in Europe. In the Highlands of Scotland, as well as in the
western parts of Ireland, there is still a strong influence of the Celtic
language. Some words of the Celtic origin still exist in Modern
English. Scholars believe that about a dozen common nouns are of the
Celtic origin; among these are cradle, bannock, cart, down, loch
(dial.), coomb (dial.), mattock. Most others are geographical names.
These are the names of Celtic settlements which later grew into towns:
London, Leeds and Kent which got its name after the name of a
Celtic tribe. There are several rivers in England which still bear Celtic
names: Avon and Evan, Thames, Severn, Mersey, Derwent, Ouse,
Exe, Esk, Usk. The Celtic word loch is still used in Scotland to denote
a lake: Loch Ness, Loch Lomond.

Celtic borrowings in English

Modern English


Avon, Evan
Ouse, Exe, Esk, Usk
the Downs
Batcombe, Duncombe
Ben-Nevis, Ben-More




hill; bare, open
deep valley

For almost four centuries Britons were

ruled by the Romans, who called their country
2. Roman Britain
Britanni or Britannia. It was the most westerly
and northerly province of the Roman empire.
The Romans, led by Julius Caesar, came to the British Isles in BC 55
and a year later returned to the Continent as the Celtic opposition was
strong. In BC 54 he returned with 25,000 men. The Romans crossed
the Thames and stormed the Celtic capital of Cassivellaunus. Caesar
then departed, taking hostages and securing a promise to pay tribute.
In the ninety years between the first two raids and the invasion
of the Romans in AD 43, a thorough economic development in SouthEast Britain went on. Traders and colonists settled in large numbers
and the growth of towns was so considerable that in AD 50, only
seven years after the invasion of Claudius, Verulamium (now St.
Albans) was granted the full status of a Roman town (municipium)
with self-government and the rights of Roman citizenship for its
It would be wrong to assume that the Celts eagerly surrendered
to the invaders. The hilly districts in the West were very difficult to
subdue, and the Romans had to set up many camps in that part of the
country and station their legions all over Britain to defend the
The Celts fought fiercely against the Romans who never
managed to become masters of the whole island. In AD 61-62 Queen
Boadicea (Boadica) led her tribesmen against the Romans. Upon her
husbands death, she managed to raise an army which raided the
occupied territories slaying the Romans and their supporters, burning
down and ruining the Roman towns and nearly bringing an end to the
Roman rule of Britain as such. It was only when she was captured by
the Roman soldiers and took poison that peace was restored in the
The Romans were also unable to conquer the Scottish Highlands, or
Caledonia as they called it, thus the province of Britain covered only
the southern part of the island. From time to time the Picts from the
North managed to raid the Roman part of the island, burn their


villages, and drive off their cattle and sheep. During the reign of the
Emperor Hadrian a high wall was built in the North to defend the
province from the raids of the Picts and the Scots. (See Map 2.) The
wall, known as Hadrians Wall, stretches from the eastern to the
western coast of the island. With its forts, built a mile apart one from
another, the wall served as a stronghold in the North. At the same
time, when the Northern Britons were not at war with the Romans, the
wall turned into an improvised market place for either party.
In AD 139 42 the Emperor Antoninus Pius abandoned
Hadrians Wall and constructed a new frontier defence system between
the Forth and the Clyde the Antonine Wall but its use was shortlived and Hadrians Wall was again the main northern frontier by AD
One of the greatest achievements of the Roman Empire was its
system of roads, in Britain no less than elsewhere. When the legions
arrived in Britain in the first century AD, their first task was to build a
system of roads. Stone bridges were built across rivers. Roman roads
were made of of stones, lime and gravel. They were vital not only for
the speedy movement of troops and supplies from one strategic center
to another, but also allowed the movement of agricultural products
from farm to market.
Map 2
(From S.D. Zaitseva. Early Britain. Moscow, 1975.)


Within a generation the British landscape changed considerably.

London became the chief administrative centre. From it, roads spread
out to all parts of the province. Some of the roads exist up to this day,
for example Watling Street which stretched from Dover to London,
then to Chester and into the mountains of Wales. Unlike the Celts,
who lived in villages, the Romans were city-dwellers. The Roman
army built legionary fortresses, forts, camps, and roads, and assisted
with the construction of buildings in towns. The Romans built most


towns to a standardized pattern of straight, parallel main streets that

crossed at right angles. The forum (market place) formed the centre of
each town. Shops and such public buildings as the basilica, baths,
law-courts, and temple surrounded the forum. The paved streets had
drainage systems, and fresh water was piped to many buildings.
Houses were built of wood or narrow bricks and had tiled roofs.
The chief towns were Colchester, Gloucester, York, Lincoln,
Dover, Bath and London (or Londinium). It is common knowledge
that London was founded by the Romans in place of an earlier
Roman towns fell into one of three main types: coloniae,
municipia and civitates. The coloniae of Roman Britain were
Colchester, Lincoln, Gloucester, York, and possibly London, and their
inhabitants were Roman citizens. The only certain municipia was
Verulamium (St. Albans), a self-governing community with certain
legal privileges. The civitates, towns of non-citizens, included most of
Britains administrative centres.
The Romans also brought their style of architecture to the
countryside in the form of villas. Some very large early villas are
known in Kent and in Sussex.
Both public buildings and private dwellings were decorated in
imitation of the Roman style. Sculpture and wall painting were both
novelties in Roman Britain. Statues or busts in bronze or marble were
imported from Mediterranean workshops, but British sculptures soon
learned their trade and produced attractive works of their own. Mosaic
floors, found in towns and villas, were at first laid by imported
craftsmen. But there is evidence that by the middle of the 2 nd century
a local firm was at work at Colchester and Verulamium, and in the 4 th
century a number of local mosaic workshops can be recognized by
their styles.
When Christianity gained popularity in the Empire, it also
spread to the provinces and was established in Britain in the 300s.
The first English martyr was St. Alban who died about 287.
In 306, Constantine the Great, the son of Constantine Chlora
and Elene (Helen), the daughter of a British chief, became the Roman


Emperor. He stopped the persecution of Christians and became a

Christian himself. All Christian churches were centralised in
Constantinople which was made the capital of the Empire. This
religion came to be known as the Catholic Church. (catholic means
universal.) Greek and Latin became the languages of the Church all
over Europe including Britain.
Literary evidence suggests that Britons adopted Latinized names
and that the elite spoke and wrote Latin. The largest number of Latin
words was introduced as a result of the spread of Christianity: abbot,
altar, angel, creed, hymn, idol, organ, nun, pope, temple and many
others. The traces of Latin are still found in modern English:
Latin borrowings in English

Modern English
street, Stratford
Lincoln, Colchester
Norwich, Woolwich
Chepstow; Chapman





strata via
(pondo) pondus
millia passum

a paved road
a wall of fortifications
port, haven
a small tradesman
(measure of) weight
1000 steps

Despite the growth of towns and all the other essentials of

civilization that came with the Roman conquest, the standards of
living changed little. Britain was an agricultural province, dependent


on small farms. Peasants still built round Celtic huts and worked in
the fields in the same way. Despite the 400 years of Roman influence,
Britain was still largely a Celtic society.
The conquest of Britain by the Roman Empire lasted up to the
beginning of the 5th century. In 410 the Roman legions were called
back to Rome, and those that stayed behind were to become the
Romanized Celts (Britons) who faced the invasion of the barbarians
the Germanic tribes of Angles and Saxons.

The Invasion

Germanic tribes had raided the British

shores long before the withdrawal of the
Roman legions. But the 5th century became
the age of increased Germanic expansion and
by the end of the century several West Germanic tribes had settled in
Britain. The first invaders, in fact, came at the request of a British
king who needed their assistance in a local war. The newcomers soon
overran their hosts, and other Germanic tribes followed them in
families and clans. At first they only came to plunder: drive off the
cattle, seize the stores of corn and be off again to sea before the Celts
could attack them. But as time went by they would come in larger
numbers, and begin to conquer the country.
First came the Jutes, and then the Angles and the Saxons. (See
Map 3.) The latter came from the territory lying between the Rhine
and the Elbe rivers which was later called Saxony. The Jutes and the
Angles came from the Jutland Peninsular. The beginning of the
conquest was in 449 when the Jutes landed in Kent. Eventually,
Britain held out longer than the other provinces of the Roman Empire.
Map 3
3. The Anglo-Saxon

(From David MacDowell. An Illustrated History of Britain, Longman.)


It was only at the beginning of the 7 th century that the invaders

managed to conquer the greater part of the land. The Angles settled
down to the north of the Thames, the Saxons to the south of the
Thames, the Jutes spread in the extreme south-east the Kent
Peninsular and the Isle of White.
The pagan tribes did not spare their enemies. The Celtic
historian Gildas described the Anglo-Saxon invasion as the ruin of
Britain. The invaders lived in villages and soon destroyed or
neglected the Roman roads, villas, baths and towns. London, which
had been the main trading centre, saw its decline. The invaders killed
or enslaved Britons, most of the British Christians were put to death,


and others took refuge in the distant parts of the country where they
lived as hermits or in groups of brethren.
After a century and a half of resistance, the Celts were driven off to
Wales and Cornwall, as well as to the northern part of Scotland, where
they later founded independent states and spoke their native language.
The Anglo-Saxons called the northern part of the country weallas
(Wales) meaning the land of foreigners and the Celts were called
welsh which meant foreign. The Celts of Ireland also remained
independent. Some of the Celtic tribes crossed the Channel and
settled down on the French coast giving it the name of Brittany.
Political and economic development
The period covering the 5th 11th centuries saw transition from
the tribal and slave-owning system to feudalism.
By the beginning of the 7th century, 7 kingdoms had been
formed on the conquered territory which later came to be known as
England. These were Kent, Sussex, Wessex, Essex (the lands of the
South, West and East Saxons), Northumbria (the land that lay to the
north of the river Humber, hence the name North-Humbrian), Mercia
and East Anglia. (See Map 3.) The kingdoms were constantly at war
for the supreme power in the country. At the beginning of the 7 th
century Northumbria, Mercia and Wessex dominated the other four
In the 8th century Mercia developed important diplomatic and
commercial ties with the Continent. King Offa of Mercia became
powerful enough to claim kingship of English. He managed to make
a huge dyke along the border with Wales to protect his kingdom from
the Celtic raids. Parts of this earth wall still exists and is known as
Offas Dyke. After Offas death, though, Mercia lost its supremacy.
Social changes in the Anglo-Saxon society took a long time to
come. It is recognised that the Anglo-Saxons were far less civilized
than the Romans, yet they had their own institutions. Anglo-Saxon
kings were elected by the members of the Witan, the Council of
Chieftains, and in their decisions were advised by the councillors, the
great men of the kingdom. In return for the support of his subjects


who paid taxes and gave him free labour and military service, the king
granted them land and protection.
Originally, all Saxon men had been warriors. From the very
beginning English society had military aristocracy, or thanes. The rest
of the population were peasants who cultivated the land. The division
of labour led to a class division: thanes got more land and privileges
from the king, and became lords, while peasants took an inferior
social position and finally turned into serfs.
The basic economic unit was the feudal manor which grew its
own food and carried on some small industries to cover its needs. The
lord of the manor administered justice and collected taxes. It was also
his duty to protect the farm and its produce. The word lord meant
loaf ward, or bread keeper and the word lady meant loaf kneader,
or bread maker.
In agriculture, the Anglo-Saxons introduced the heavy plough
which made it possible to cultivate heavier soils. All the farmland of
the village was divided into two fields. When one field was used for
planting crops, the other was given a rest for a year so as not to
exhaust the land. After harvest time, both would be used as pasture
land. That is known as the two-field system. The Saxon methods of
farming remained largely the same for many centuries to come, until
the 18th century.

Christianity in England

By the end of the 6th century England had become Christian due
to the energy of the Christian missionaries from Ireland and the efforts
of Pope Gregory who decided to spread his influence over England.
The Roman mission headed by the monk Augustine (St. Augustines
mission) landed in Kent in 597 and built the first church in the
capital town of Canterbury. Augustine became the first Archbishop of
Canterbury in 601. Ever since that time, Canterbury has been the
religious centre of major importance in Britain.
Later, Christianity spread over to Northumbria where there were
still some traces of the influence of the first Celtic Christians. Soon
the Roman Church prevailed over the Celtic Church. The Church


established monasteries, or minsters (Yorkminster, Westminster),

which became centres of learning and education. It was there that men
could be educated and trained both for theological and civil studies.
The unified organisation of the Church was an important factor in the
centralisation of the country.
With the arrival of St. Augustine and his forty monks, England
resumed direct contact with the life and thought of the Continent,
especially its Mediterranean part. Benedict Biscop, founder of Jarrow
monastery (Northumbria), on several occasions brought manuscripts
from Rome, and his pupil, the Venerable Bede (?673-735), had
access to all the sources of knowledge brought from continental
Europe. Bede was a prominent religious and public figure of the
period, who contributed to the development of English history and
law. He is considered to be the first English historian. He is the author
of Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum (Ecclesiastical History of
the English People) dated 731, which was the only book on AngloSaxon history of the time. It is the source of almost all information on
the history of England before 731.
The Church enhanced the status of kings. At the time when the
eldest son of a king did not automatically inherit the throne, it was the
Witan that chose the next king. Evidently, it was important for the
king to obtain the support of the Church and arrange for his chosen
successor to be crowned at a Christian ceremony led by a bishop. If a
bishop supported the king, royal power was hard to be questioned. In
their turn, kings rendered support to the Church. The first baptised
Anglo-Saxon king, Aethelberht I, recognized the right to church
shelter in his Code of Laws in 600.
In a way, the Church contributed to the economic development
of the country. Villages and towns that appeared around monasteries
increased local trade. The monks and bishops who were invited to
England, came from the biggest monasteries of the Frankish lands
(France and Germany) which lay on Europes main trade routes. They
used Latin, which spread in England as the official language of the
church and official documents, and that encouraged closer contact
with Continental countries. England exported cheese, hunting dogs,


wool and metal goods. It imported pepper, jewelry, wine, and wheelmade pottery.
The second wave of Christianity brought into the language such
loan-words as arithmetic, mathematics, theatre, geography, school,
paper, candle.

Anglo-Saxon culture

The development of Anglo-Saxon culture is inseparable from the

development of Christianity in England.
During the time of Pope Gregory there appeared a new form of
plainsong which came from Europe and was called Gregorian chant.
Gregorian chant remained the musical symbol from the 6 th to the 9th
In architecture, there developed a new style in church building.
One of the most completely preserved Saxon churches in England is
St. Laurence in Bradford-on-Avon, built probably between the 7 th and
the 10th centuries. With its thick walls, narrow rounded arches and
small windows it represents typical Anglo-Saxon church architecture.
The monasteries of Northumbria possessed rich collections of
manuscript books which were brightly illuminated, bound in gold and
ornamented with precious stones. One of the best known manuscripts
of the period is St. Lukes Gospel made at the Northumbrian island of
Lindisfarne in about 698.
The first Anglo-Saxon writers and poets imitated Latin books
about the early Christians. Although it was customary to write in
Latin, in the 7th century there appeared a poet who composed in
English. Caedmon, a shepherd from Whitby, a famous abbey in
Yorkshire, composed in English for mere want of learning. One of the
few recorded pieces of Caedmons poetry is a nine-line hymn, an
English fragment in Bedes History. It may be considered as the first
piece of Christian literature to appear in Anglo-Saxon England. The
hymn is especially notable because, according to the Venerable Bede,
it was divinely inspired. Much of Old English poetry was intended to
be chanted or sung by scops, or bards. One night, at a feast, when
each of the guests was asked to sing a song, Caedmon quietly stole


out and lay down in the cow-shed, ashamed that he had no gift of
singing. In his sleep he heard a voice telling him to stand up and sing
the Song of Creation. Caedmon obeyed the mysterious voice and sang
the verses he had never heard before. When he woke up, he returned
to the guests and sang the song to them. That made him so famous
that Caedmon was invited to the abbey where he spent the rest of his
life composing religious poetry. Almost all this poetry was composed
without rhyme, in a characteristic line of four stressed syllables
alternating with a number of unstressed ones.
Old English poetry was mainly restricted to three subjects:
religious, heroic and lyrical. The greatest heroic poem of the AngloSaxon period was Beowulf, an epic poem written down in the 10 th but
dating back to the 7th or 8th century. It is valuable both from the
linguistic and the artistic point of view. Beowulf is the oldest poem
in Germanic literature. Although Beowulf is essentially a warriors
story, it serves as a source of information about the customs and ways
of the ancient Jutes, their society and their feasts and amusements.
The poem consists of several songs arranged in three chapters
and numbers over 3,000 lines. It is based on the legends of Germanic
tribes and describes the adventures and battles of legendary heroes
who had lived long before the Anglo-Saxons came to Britain. The
scene is set among the Jutes and the Danes. The poem describes the
struggle of a Scandinavian hero, Beowulf, who destroyed the monster
Grendel, Grendels evil mother and a fire-breathing dragon. The
extraordinary artistry with which fragments of other Scandinavian
sagas are incorporated in the poem and with which the plot is made
symmetrical has only recently been fully recognised.

Formation of the English language

As a result of the conquest, the Anglo-Saxons made up the

majority of the population. Their religion and languages became
predominant. The Jutes, the Saxons and the Angles were much alike
in speech and customs. When the Angles and the Saxons migrated to
the British Isles, their language was torn away from the continental
Germanic dialects and started its own way of development. At first,
the Germanic invaders spoke various dialects but gradually the


dialect of the Angles of Mercia prevailed. They also intermixed with

the surviving Celts and gradually merged into one people the AngloSaxons as they were called by the Romans and the Celts. Already in
the 8th century they preferred to call themselves Angelcyn
Anglish/English people, and called the occupied territories
Angelcynnes land land of the Anglish/English people, which later
transformed into England. The language they now spoke was called
The 5th century marks the beginning of the history of the English
language. The history of the English language can be divided into
four periods:
Old English period (OE) from the mid-5 th to the late 11th century
Middle English period (ME) from the late 11th to the late-15th
New English period (NE) from the late 15 th century up to the 21 st
century, including Modern English period from the 19 th century
and up to now.
Germanic tribes used runic writing a specifically Germanic
alphabet with runes carved in stone, bone or wood with vertical or
slanted lines. The number of runes in different Old Germanic
languages varied: from 16 or 24 runes on the Continent to 28 or 33
runes in Britain. Runes were never used in everyday writing. The
word rune itself originally meant secret, mystery that is why the
main function of runes was to make short inscriptions on objects,
which was thought to give them some magic power. The number of
objects with runic inscriptions in Old English is about forty: amulets,
coins, weapons, rings, tombstones, fragments of crosses. The two best
preserved records of Old English runic writing are the text on the
Ruthwell Cross in the village of Ruthwell in Scotland, and Franks
Casket a whalebone box found in France, which was given as a gift
to the British Museum by a British archeologist A.W. Franks.


Later, Christian missionaries introduced the Latin alphabet to

which several runic letters were added to mark the sounds [Y] and
[T]. These were the letters and T as well as the letter G which in
certain positions was pronounced as [g] or [j]: GeonG [jeong]
young, Grene [grene] green. The OE verbs sittan, beran, teran,
findan, sinGan are quite recognisable. The first English words
written down with Latin letters were personal names and place names
which were inserted into Latin texts.
The Germanic tribes were pagans who worshipped the Sun, the
Moon and a whole number of gods. Their principal gods were those of
later Norse mythology Tiw, Woden, and Thor. They are remembered
in the day-names Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday as well as a number
of place-names (Tuesley, Wednesbury, Thursley) which were
presumably cult centres. Even when converted to Christianity, the
Saxons named one of the main church festivals, Easter, after their old
dawn-goddess Eostre.
The origin of day names
Day names



His / her status

Roman /
Greek gods

and stars

the Moon



Thor / Thur
Frigg /

The god of war Mars / Ares

The god of
Mercury /

The God of
Jupiter /

Wodens wife /

the goddess of

the Saturn

the Sun

The Anglo-Saxon word-stock consisted mainly of words of the

Germanic origin. Most of them have correlations in the IndoEuropean languages:
Words belonging to the Indo-European Family of languages


tres, tria



Old English

tu, twa
ri, rie





The invaders were engaged in farming and cattle-breeding. The

names of Anglo-Saxon villages usually had the root ham meaning
home, house or protected place: Nottingham, Birmingham. The
Saxon ton stood for hedge or a place surrounded with a hedge, as
in Brighton, Preston, Southampton. The Saxon for fortress, town was
burG or burh which we now see in Canterbury, Salisbury, Edinburgh;
feld meant open country, field and it is seen in the names of
Sheffield, Chesterfield, Mansfield.


Danish raids
From the end of the 8th and then during
4. The Danish
Invasion of Britain
the 9th and the 10th centuries Western Europe
faced a new wave of barbarian attacks. (See
Map 5.) The barbarians came from the North
Norway and Denmark and were called Northmen. In different
countries they were also known as the Vikings, the Normans and the
Danes. The word Viking, or pirate was used by their victims and
referred equally to the invaders from Norway and Denmark. As
Britain was mostly raided from Denmark, in British history the
invaders came to be known as the Danes.
Map 5
(From David MacDowell. An Illustrated History of Britain, Longman.)


The expansion of the Scandinavians is a European phenomenon,

of which the raids on England and Ireland made only one part.
Although they mostly lived in tribes, they were not totally barbarians.
They were involved in trade and had regular ties with the nations
living to the west and south. Many adventurers must have heard
stories about the fertile lands and the rich monasteries overseas which
were easy to plunder. The Northmen were well-armed skilful warriors
and sailors and could easily cross the sea in search of fortune. But
although they were prepared to fight, they usually aimed not at
fighting but at getting loot. At the time, Ireland was the chief gold
producing country of Western Europe. Moreover, it had not been
invaded either by the Romans or the Anglo-Saxons. Now it was one of
the first countries to be raided by the Norwegians.
In 793 the Danes carried out their first raids on Britain. In the
three successive years they devastated three of Englands most holy

places Lindisfarne, Jarrow and Iona with the treasures their

monasteries possessed. The earliest raids were for plunder only. Cattle
was driven off, houses were burnt, monasteries plundered and people
slain. Then the invaders would return home for the winter. But a big
raid on Kent in 835 opened three decades in which attacks came
almost yearly, and which ended with the arrival of an invading army.
Thus began the fourth conquest of Britain.
The struggle of England against the Danish attacks lasted over
300 years. During that period of time over half of England was
occupied by the invaders and then regained by the English again. The
Danish raids were successful because the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms had
neither a regular army nor a fleet of ships in the North Sea to resist the
invaders. Besides, there were few roads and fortresses as the AngloSaxons had destroyed them. Thus, even if a settlement resisted the
Danes for some time, it took their messenger several weeks to reach
the nearest king and bring help. Soon the Danes conquered
Northumbria, East Anglia and Mercia. London was raided in 842 and
851, and in 872 it fell to the invaders. Only Wessex was left to face
the enemy. Historically, it was Wessex that became the centre of
resistance to the Danes.
King Alfred the Great
In 878 King Alfred, known in history as Alfred the Great (871899), managed to win a decisive victory over the Danes and by the
peace treaty England was divided into two parts: Wessex, ruled by
Alfred, and the north-eastern part of England which was called
Danelaw (Danelagh), under the rule of the Danish kings. (See Map
Map 6
(From S.D. Zaitseva, Early Britain, Moscow, 1975.)


The old Roman road from London to Wales called Watling Street
served as the boundary between Danelaw and Wessex; in the North it
did not even reach Hadrians Wall. The invaders founded new villages
and towns in the north of England, which were inhabited by a mixed
population of the English and the Danes.
In the Danelaw, the Danes established a society of their own
governed by the Danish law. Even when the Danelaw was
christianized and brought under English rule, there remained certain
peculiarities: land measurement, law and social differentiation.
In 886 King Alfred the Great began to win back Danishoccupied territory by capturing the former Mercian town of London.


Four years later he introduced a permanent militia and army. Alfred

the Great was
the first English king to establish a regular army: all noblemen and
free peasants were trained to fight. The only way of combating raids
from the sea was to build ships. Alfred is said to have founded the
English navy. He built ships, which were bigger than the Vikings,
carrying 60 oars or more. The places that could be easily attacked by
the enemy were fortified. By the late 880s Wessex was covered with a
network of roads and burghs, or public strongholds which could be
described as planned fortified towns. The neighbouring landowners
were responsible for maintainig the fortifications. In return, they were
able to use the defences for their own purposes. The 33 fortified towns
soon began to play an important part in the local rural economy.
King Alfred devoted the last ten years of his life to reviving
literacy and learning in the country. He carried out his programme of
education through court intellectuals and priests who were all obliged
to know Latin. Alfreds own contribution to this programme was one
of his greatest achievements. He was the only English king before
Henry VIII who wrote and translated books. King Alfred drew up a
code of Anglo-Saxon laws and translated into English Bedes
Ecclesiastical History as well as the Bible. To him the English owe
the famous Anglo-Saxon Chronicle which may be called the first
prose in English literature. King Alfred died in Winchester, the capital
of Wessex, in 901. He is the only king in English history called the
End of the Danish rule
At the end of the 10 th century the Danish invasions were
resumed. The English tried to buy off the Vikings, and as a result, the
Danes imposed on them a heavy tax called the Danegeld in 991. In
that year alone, 10,000 pounds of silver were paid.
A new form of local government was introduced at about the
same time. The country was divided into shires with one of the kings
local bailiffs (reeves) in each shire appointed shire-reeve or sheriff.
The sheriff was responsible for collecting royal revenues, in the shire
court he announced the kings will to the local noblemen and took an

active part in everyday business. Sheriffs belonged to the growing

community of local nobility.
At the beginning of the 11 th century the whole of England was
conquered by the Danes. The Danish king Cnut, or Canute, became
king of England, Denmark and Norway (1016-1035). Canute
preserved many of the old Saxon laws collected by Alfred. He became
a Christian and a protector of monasteries. Although Canute made
England his residence, he often had to leave England for Denmark.
Canute had to make English government function during his absence
that is why he divided the kingdom into 4 earldoms: Wessex, Mercia,
Northumbria and East Anglia. The king appointed an earl to rule an
earldom. Gradually, the earls became very powerful. They were both
Danes and Anglo-Saxon noblemen. Supported by the Anglo-Saxon
feudal lords, Canute reigned in England until he died.
Culture and language of the period
The influence of the Danes on the development of English
culture and the language should not be underestimated. During the
Danish invasion of England, the language underwent considerable
changes. The Danes were of the same Germanic origin as the AngloSaxons themselves and came from the same part of the Continent. As
the roots were the same in English and Danish and the languages
assimilated, case endings were dropped and new grammar forms
developed to show relations of words. The dropping of endings meant
that the stress was changed, the sound and rhythm of the language
became different. Many English words are of the Scandinavian origin:


to call
to take



The Scandinavian borrowings in English are such adjectives as

happy, low, loose, ill, ugly, weak; the nouns sister, sky, window, leg,
wing, harbour. The names of Danish settlements often ended in by
or toft/thorp(e) which meant village, settlement. Thus we have
Derby, Grimsby, Whitby, Lowestoft, etc.
Old English was a synthetic language. It expressed relations
between words and expressed other grammatical meanings with the
help of suffixes, prefixes and interchanges in the root. The noun had
the categories of number, gender (masculine, feminine, neutral),
declension (ending in different letters), and case (Nominative,
Genitive, Dative, Accusative). Strong and weak verbs were
conjugated in the Present and the Past. A future action was expressed
by means of a Present tense. During the Danish invasion prepositions
and pronouns were used more often than before.
The Danish dynasty ruled England up to
1042 when the English throne went to Edward
the Confessor the eldest son of the Saxon king
Aethelred and Emma of Normandy. He restored
the Saxon rule but boosted Norman influence in England.
During the Danish rule Edward lived in Norman exile. When he
returned to England as king, he brought a large number of Norman
monks and noblemen to whom he began to give the richest lands and
high government positions. Edward did not only speak French himself
but insisted on it being spoken at his court. During his reign there was
a constant struggle between the Norman influence at court and the
power of Saxon earls. Edward was unable to control the nobility,
especially Earl Godwin, whose daughter was his wife. Edward himself
was more interested in the Church than in state affairs and led a
monastic life building churches. By the time he died, there was a
church practically in every English village. King Edward also founded
Westminster Abbey.
Upon the death of Edward the Confessor, the Saxon Witan was
to decide who would get the English throne. One of the claimants was
5. Edward the


Harold, the son of Earl Godwin. The other was William, the Duke of


Bath, the famous resort, was founded by the Romans.
The first English non-runic texts written in Latin letters
were glosses, or translations of Latin religious texts
written between the lines in Gospels.
The Danes introduced in England the use of chairs,
benches and beds.
The game of chess was brought to England by the
The first English uniform currency based on silver
pennies was introduced in 973.


England in the early Middle Ages

1. Beginning of
the Norman

Origin of the Normans

In the 9th century, while the Danes were

plundering England, another branch of
Northmen, also related to the Danes, were
raiding the northern coast of France. They came to be called
Normans, a variation of the word Northmen. The Danes settled
down in the conquered part of England called the Danelaw. Likewise,
the Normans settled down on the land conquered from the French
king a territory which is still called Normandy.
As time went by, the Danes mixed with the Anglo-Saxons, who
were themselves of Germanic origin, and retained their Germanic
language, customs and traditions. As for the Normans, they were now
quite different from their Teutonic forefathers. They lived among the
French who were a different people and spoke a different language
belonging to the Romance group. The Normans assimilated with the
French population of the conquered territories, adopted their culture
and a certain dialect of the French language. The establishment of the
feudal system in France had been completed by the 11 th century, and
the Norman barons had come into possession of large tracts of land
and a great number of serfs.
The Normans lived under the rule of the Duke of Normandy. In
the 11th century, the Dukes of Normandy officially acknowledged the
King of France as their overlord, but, like other dukes and counts of
France, they had made themselves practically independent. They were
as strong as the king himself, whose domain was smaller than the

Duchy of Normandy. They coined their own money, made their own
laws, held their own courts and built their own castles. As a welltrained cavalry, the Norman knights were the best in Europe. They
were formidable fighters and would wage wars so as to seize new
lands and serfs.
Claimants to the English throne

The question who should follow Edward the Confessor as king

was one of the most important in English history.
In the last ten years of his rule, King Edward heavily relied on
his brother-in-law, Harold Godwin. Being childless, the English
monarch is believed to have named Harold as his successor. At the
same time, it was known that Edward had promised the English
crown to his grand-nephew William, the Duke of Normandy, in return
for his support. Edwards death started the struggle for the English
throne. The third claimant for the English throne was King Harold
Hardrada of Norway.
When the Witan, or council of wise men, chose Harold Godwin
as King of England, William of Normandy began preparations for the
war. He sent messengers far and wide to invite the knights of Europe
to his army. William called upon all Christians in Europe to help him
gain the rights to the English throne. He also gained the support of the
Pope promising to strengthen the influence of Rome in England.
Although no pay was offered, the army was raised quickly because
William promised land.
Harold Godwin reigned for less than a year. In the summer of
1066 the Norwegians headed by Harold Hardrada invaded
Northumbria and occupied York. Harold Godwin marched northwards
and met Hardrada at Stamford Bridge where the Norwegians were
defeated in a fierce battle on September 25. Three days later Duke
Williams fleet, which had been delayed by bad weather, landed at
Pevencey. On hearing the news, King Harold had to rush south 250
miles in nine days.
Battle of Hastings


The English and Norman armies met on October 14, 1066, in

the neighbourhood of Hastings. The Normans outnumbered the
Anglo-Saxon forces and were superior in quality. The Normans used a
skilful combination of heavy-armoured cavalry and archers. First, the
archers would break up the ranks of the enemy, then followed a
charging cavalry which decided the victory.
Map 7

The Anglo-Saxons had a small cavalry which was mainly

Harolds bodyguard. The English footmen usually fought in a mass
standing close together, so as to form a wall of shields to protect
themselves. The hastily gathered peasants were armed with pitchforks,
axes or thick oak poles and could not hold out long against the wellarmed and armoured Normans. Even the skilled Saxon archers did not
pose danger to the Normans who wore armour, as there was little
chance that many of them could be killed by Saxon arrows.


The battle lasted the whole day. Despite their tiredness after a
long march, the English had the initial advantage, since they were
fighting for their independence. But in the end the Normans
discipline prevailed. Harold died fighting, cut down by a sword (not,
as often said, struck by an arrow). Gradually the Saxon rows thinned
and finally the Normans succeeded in breaking the line of defence.
The battle was over. William ordered Harold to be buried with all the
royal honours and then marched to London.
Harolds death ended Englands 600 years of rule by AngloSaxon kings. The Witan proclaimed William king of England and on
Christmas Day 1066 the Duke of Normandy was crowned as William
I in the new church of Westminster Abbey. In history he is more often
referred to as William the Conqueror. He ruled England for 21 years,
from 1066 to 1087.
2. The

Lands and vassals

As a result of the Norman invasion, England

did not only receive a new royal family but also a
new ruling class, a new culture and a new
language. The victory at Hastings was only the
beginning of the Conquest. Despite the surrender of London and
Winchester it took William and his barons over 5 years to subdue the
whole of England. There were risings against Norman rule in every
year from 1067 to 1070. William ruthlessly put down local revolts. His
knights raided villages and towns, burning and slaying everything and
everybody. After several risings in the North, the lands of Northumbria
were raised to the ground. Every house or cottage between Durham
and York was burnt down, people were massacred, crops were
destroyed and cattle were driven off. It took Northumbria almost a
century to recover.
William organised his English kingdom in accordance with the
feudal system which was based on ownership of land. The Conqueror
declared that all the lands of England belonged to him by right of
conquest. One-seventh of the country was made the royal domain
which consisted of 1420 estates. The monasteries were granted 1700


estates. The Anglo-Saxon landowners and clergy were turned out of

their houses, estates and churches. More than 4,000 Saxon lords were
replaced by a group of less than 200 Norman barons. By 1086 there
were only two surviving English lords of any importance.
While all land was owned by the king, part of it was held by the
kings vassals, in return for services and goods. Those were the
knights who had taken part in the Conquest, and the Anglo-Saxon
lords who supported the Conqueror. The greater nobles gave part of
their lands to lesser nobles and other freemen. Some freemen paid
for the land by doing military service, while others paid rent. The
noble kept serfs to work on his own land. They were not free to
leave the estate, and were often little better than slaves.
The two basic feudal principles implied that every man had a
lord, and every lord had land. On getting his estate, each Norman
nobleman became the kings vassal as he swore an oath of allegiance
which said: I become your man from this day forward, and to you
shall I be true and faithful, and shall hold faith for the land I hold from
you. William made both the great barons and their vassals swear
allegiance to him directly. In 1086, at a gathering of knights in
Salisbury, William made them all take a special oath to be true to him
against his enemies. Thus, the European rule my vassals vassal is not
my vassal was broken in England. In other words, if a baron rebelled
against the king, his immediate vassals were obliged to fight for the

The Domesday Book


By 1086 the Conqueror wanted to know exactly who owned

which piece of land, and how much it was worth. The Anglo-Saxon
Chronicle says: In 1086 William the
Conqueror sent his men all over
England, into every shire to find out
what property every inhabitant of
England possessed in land, or in cattle,
and how much money this was worth.
He needed this information to know how
much was produced and how much he could ask in tax. That was the
first registration and complete economic survey in England. Each
manor was described according to value and resources. Every man
who owned or rented land was questioned and threatened to be
punished on doomsday if he did not answer the questions of the
kings men as to how much land there was; who owned it; how much
it was worth; how many families, ploughs and sheep there were, etc.
As a result of the registration, the majority of the population were
registered as unfree peasants, or serfs. They made 79 per cent of the
total population of England.
Domesday was one of the greatest administrative achievements
of the Middle Ages. It assisted the royal exploitation of crown lands
and feudal rights, and provided the new nobility with a formal record
and confirmation of their lands thus putting a final seal on the
Norman occupation.
The original copy of the Domesday Book, in several volumes,
still exists, and provides an extraordinary amount of
information about England at that period of time.

To further strengthen his power, William built

78 castles throughout the country. Ironically, the
Normans used the labour of the conquered AngloSaxons to erect the fortresses which would be used
to suppress the native population. The main purpose
of the castle was to house the Norman cavalry which


would find shelter inside in time of danger and from which they could
start on their raids.
A Norman castle was often built on a hill or rock. First, the
peasants would dig out a moat and make a drawbridge, and then use
the removed soil to make the hill higher. Then they would build a
wooden tower on top of the hill and surround it with a wooden wall,
wide enough for archers to walk along. The outer wall was
strengthened with towers built on each corner. Later the wooden
structures were replaced by stone keeps. The castle usually dominated
the nearest town, village or countryside.
Most of the castles were royal property. A baron could build a
castle only if he was granted the kings special permission. The first
Norman stone castles were the Tower of London, the castle of Durham
and Newcastle on the river Tyne. Some castles, such as Windsor
Castle, are still used as residences.
3. England in
the Middle

Royal power

William I began the rule of a dynasty of

Norman kings (1066-1154) and entailed the
replacement of the Anglo-Saxon nobility with
Normans, Bretons and Flemings, many of whom
retained lands in northern France. Instead of the Saxon Witan,
William established the Curia Regis (1066) which existed until the
end of the 13th century. It had the functions of government and kings
court in the early medieval times. Although William let the English
keep their own courts and laws, the judges were Norman.
Another change introduced by William was the abolition of the
earldoms of Northumbria, Mercia and Wessex, which had been
established by King Canute. Now the country was divided into
counties which were ruled by sheriffs appointed by the king.
Between 1066 and 1144 England and Normandy were united
under one king-duke. The result was the formation of a single crossChannel political community. Since Normandy was a principality
ruled by a duke who recognised the king of France as his overlord, this
also meant that from now on English politics became part of French


politics. The two countries shared not only a ruling dynasty, but also a
single Anglo-Norman aristocracy. It lasted until 1204.
After his death in 1087, William I was succeeded by his sons
and nephew (William II, Henry I, Stephen) and finally by his
granddaughters husband Henry II of the House of Anjou also known
as the Plantagenet. Royal power was strengthened and the AngloNorman kings acquired new territories both on the British Isles and on
the Continent.
As duke of Normandy, duke of Aquitaine (by his marriage to
Eleanor of Aquitaine), and count of Anjou Henry II had inherited
lordship over the respective and neighbouring territories. In England,
he managed to strengthen royal power and win back the northern
English territories which had been occupied by Scotland. Henry II
was king of an empire stretching from the Scottish border to the
Pyrenees, probably the most powerful ruler in Europe, who was richer
than the emperor of the king of France. (He was the lord of Paris,
Blois, Normandy, Flanders, Brittany, Burgundy, Champagne, Anjou,
Aquitaine, Gascony and Toulouse on the Continent and of England
and part of Ireland across the Channel.) The source of his wealth was
in England, his wifes homeland, but the heart of the empire lay in
Anjou, the land of his fathers. Out the thirty-five years of his reign,
Henry II spent twenty-one on the Continent. In England, he
confiscated or ruined the castles built without royal authority and
curbed the power of the nobles. He introduced trial by jury and
established Anglo-Saxon common law as the law of England.
Church and State

During the reign of Henry II (1154-1189) there happened an

event which had a powerful effect on the history of English Church
and social life in the country.
In order to strengthen monarchy, Henry II made his friend
Thomas Becket first Chancellor and then Archbishop of Canterbury.
Becket, a merchants son, was known to be a sinner and an ardent
supporter of the king. But when Becket became Archbishop of
Canterbury he got completely reformed. Within a few years he became


one of the most respected priests in England. The greatest problem

was that now he was trying to prove to Henry that royal power was
inferior to Gods power and Papal power, and that was quite the
opposite to what Henry had expected him to do. The former friends
turned into bitter enemies, and finally Becket had to flee to France. He
visited Rome where he got the Popes blessing and several years later
returned to England to continue strengthening the position of the
Church. He landed in an unexpected place and avoided Henrys men,
who had been sent to kill him. Shortly afterwards, in 1171, Thomas
Becket was killed in Canterbury Cathedral by the four barons sent by
the king. The murder in the Cathedral shook the country. Henry had to
admit that it was a political murder, an assassination. But Henry II
had achieved his aim and royal power was strengthened. In two years
time Beckets tomb became a centre of pilgrimage, and in 1173
Thomas Becket was canonised.
One of the masterpieces of English literature, The Canterbury
Tales written by Geoffrey Chaucer in the 14 th century, is based on the
stories told by a group of pilgrims travelling to the tomb of Thomas
Becket in Canterbury Cathedral. Two outstanding figures in world
literature of the 20 th century, Jean Anouilh of France and T.S. Eliot of
Britain, a Nobel Prize winner, wrote respectively Thomas Becket
and Murder in the Cathedral. The central idea of each piece is the
antagonism between friendship and duty, friendship and treachery for
the sake of the state.
Henry IIs son Richard known as Richard the Lion Heart was one
of Englands most popular kings, although he spent only six months of
his reign in England. He was brave, cruel and generous, and inspired
loyalty. With other Christian leaders Richard I headed the Third
Crusade against Muslim rule in the Holy Land and secured Christian
access to the holy places. Richard was a superb military leader and a
fine troubadour-style lyric poet, but his wars on the Continent cost
England a lot of money and weakened the crown which, during his
absence, was usurped by his wicked brother John.


Magna Carta and the beginning of Parliament

After Richards death, when John became lawful king of

England, he lost Normandy and other territories in the wars against
the king of France. His vassals came over to England to receive lands
and titles. John began to give the lands and castles of the first Norman
barons, who had come with the Conqueror, to the newcomers. Hatred
for King John united the old barons, bishops and the Anglo-Saxons in
their almost open struggle against the king. In the civil war which
broke out, the barons worked out a programme which King John was
finally forced to sign and seal. Magna Carta, or the Great Charter,
was signed on June 10, 1215. The document was a detailed statement
of how the kings government ought to work and what kind of
relations there ought to be in a feudal state between the monarch and
his vassals. Instead of paying their lords in services, some vassals paid
them in money. Vassals were beginning to turn into tenants.
Feudalism, the use of land in return for service, was weakening. But it
took three hundred years more to get rid of feudalism.
Magna Carta was the first document to lay the basis for the
British Constitution.
When the throne went to Henry III, he tried to centre all power
in his hands. Several times he demanded money from the Great
Council but the barons refused to grant money. The first attempt to
curb the power of the king and his foreign advisers was made by
Simon de Montfort, the leader of the lesser barons and the new
merchant class and poorer clergy. In 1258 they took over the
government and elected a council of nobles which de Montfort called
parliament (from the French word parler - to speak). The nobles
were supported by the towns, which wished to be free of Henrys
heavy taxes. In 1264 a civil war began and the incompetent king was
defeated. In 1265 de Montfort became the virtual ruler of the country
and called two knights from every shire, two burgesses from every
borough to his parliament The first Parliament was quite a
revolutionary body. It represented the interests of barons, the clergy
and the new class of merchants.


During the reign of Henry IIIs son, Edward I, it was granted by

the king that no new taxes would be raised without the consent of
Parliament. At the end of the 13 th and the beginning of the 14 th
centuries, Parliament was divided into the Lords (the barons) and the
Commons (the knights and the burgesses). The alliance between the
merchants and the squires paved the way to the growth of
parliamentary power. Edward I conquered Wales and made it a
principality of England (1284), passed exclusively to the heir to the
English throne (Prince of Wales; 1301).
4. Language of
the Norman

The Norman period in the English language,

which lasted from the 11th to the 15th century, is
known as Middle English. The Conquest was
not only a historical event, it was also the
greatest single event in the history of the English

One of the most significant consequences of the Norman
domination was the use of the French language in many spheres of
English political, social and cultural life. But though the court and the
barons spoke Norman-French and the clergy spoke and wrote Latin,
the invasion of these two Romance languages could not subdue the
popular tongue spoken by peasants and townsfolk all over England.
The two main languages, French and English, intertwined and by the
end of the 14th century made one language, which was used both in
speech and in writing. English was bound to survive and win in this
linguistic battle as it was the living language of the people in their
native land, and part of their culture. At the same time, NormanFrench was torn away from its roots and had to surrender, although it
greatly influenced English.
Three hundred years after the Norman Conquest, in 1258,
Henry III issued a Proclamation to the counsellors elected to sit in
Parliament from all parts of England. It was written in three official
languages: French, Latin and English. This was the first official
document to be written in English. In 1349 it was ruled that schooling
should be conducted in English and Latin. In 1362 Edward III gave


his consent to an act of Parliament proclaiming that English should be

used in the law courts because French had become much unknown in
the realm. In the same year Parliament, for the first time, was opened
with a speech in English.
But the three hundred years of French domination in many
spheres of life affected the English language more than any other
single foreign influence before or after. The impact of French upon the
vocabulary can hardly be exaggerated: the numerous borrowings
reflect the spheres of Norman influence on English life.
The phonetic structure of the language was, naturally, affected. It
is, however, controversial whether it was only the French language
that affected the grammatical structure of English. The need to bring
together the language of the new lords of the land and the language of
those who cultivated the land brought about considerable changes in
the grammar of the Old English language. Endings began to give way
to auxiliary verbs. Thus Middle English is known as the period of
levelled endings, a transitional period from synthetic forms (with
various endings) to analytical forms (the use of auxiliary verbs).
In its turn, the French language brought in a number of new
suffixes and prefixes:
-ance, -ence: ignorance, experience
-ment: government, agreement
-age: village, marriage
-able: available, admirable
dis-: disbelieve, disappear, distaste.
The suffixes gave an abstract meaning to the words and were
also used to form new words from the English roots: unbearable,
readable, etc.
It was during the Middle English period that the indefinite
article a/an, stemming from the Old English numeral an (one), came
into use. Spelling changed altogether. Instead of the Germanic runes
and T the Normans introduced the digraph th. The Old English u was
changed into ou or ow as in hus>house, mus>mouse, cu>cow. It
should be noted that at the time ou/ow was pronounced as [u:] and
the diphthongs [ou]/[au] appeared later.


The Norman period enriched the English language with

synonyms. Linguistic practice shows that words denoting the same
object or the same idea cannot coexist in the same language, that is
why there practically can be no full synonyms in a language. With the
inflow of French words into the language, English retained the AngloSaxon words denoting things or concepts that the language had had
before, and borrowed the French words which gave a new idea or a
new shade of meaning. Thus the words to eat, land, house come
from Old English, but to devour, territory, building come from
French. The words describing feudal relations or related to the law
courts and governing were borrowed from French: to command, to
obey, baron, council, to accuse, court, crime, arms, guard, battle,
victory, etc.
Even if both Anglo-Saxon and French words remained in the
language, they were at least slightly different in meaning. This was
illustrated by Walter Scott in Ivanhoe: a domestic animal in the charge
of a Saxon serf was called by its Anglo-Saxon name, but when it was
sent to the table of a Norman baron it changed it name into French.
Thus the English language still has such pairs of words as ox beef,
calf veal, sheep mutton, swine pork.
Some synonymous words are used in different styles. The
English words usually give a homelier idea, while the French ones are
mostly used in formal speech: to give up to abandon, to give in
to surrender, to come in to enter, to begin to commence, to
go on to continue.
As a result, the stock of synonyms in English is larger than in
any other European language, and the English word-stock is the
largest in Europe.
The 11th-12th centuries was a period of
significant changes in English culture due to the
Norman Conquest and the influence of Norman
culture on the English court and the nobility. It was
a transitional period from Old English and Anglo-Saxon literature of
the conquered on the one hand, and the Norman French and
5. The
of culture


continental French literature and the conquerors, on the other hand, to

a new language and a new people, with their specific culture.
The 13th century in Britain witnessed an intellectual development
which established Britains reputation as equal to the continental
centres of learning. Central to this was the founding of the two great
universities at Cambridge and Oxford.
First universities

Originally, the first universities in Europe appeared in Italy and

France. A fully developed university comprised four faculties: three
superior faculties Theology, Canon law, Medicine and one inferior
(primary) faculty of Art where music, grammar, geometry and logic
were taught. University graduates were awarded with 3 degrees:
Bachelor of Science, Master of Arts and Doctor. Towards the end of
the 13th century there appeared colleges where other subjects were
taught. It became a custom with students to go about from one great
university to another, learning what they could from the most famous
professors of the time.
Already at the end of the 11 th century Oxford was a centre of
learning. In the middle of the 12 th century, after controversial debates
at Paris University, a group of professors were expelled. They went
over to England and in 1168 founded schools in Oxford which formed
the first university. Students and scholars were attracted to to Oxford
where they tried to recreate the style of learning they had experienced
in Europe. However, the plague, which devastated whole towns, led to
a temporary dispersion of the schools. In 1214 the university received
a charter from the Pope, and by the end of the 13 th century four
colleges had been founded: University, Balliol, Merton and St.
Edmund Hall. There were already 1500 students and the university
was famous all over Europe.
Another university was founded in Cambridge. It is generally
considered to date from 1209, when a group of students who had been
driven out of Oxford by serious rioting came to Cambridge to
continue their studies. Following a Papal Bull of 1318, Cambridge


was declared a studium generale or place of general education,

which meant that degree holders could teach in any Christian country.
Unless a university student was a member of a religious house, it
was necessary for him to provide for his own board and lodgings, and
usually he would reside with a family in town. This caused certain
problems: the young students, who were usually 14 or 15 years old,
were often ill-disciplined and needed supervision and financial aid as
the landlords often charged them more than other tenants. That led to
the opening of colleges, with their hostels and the first student grants
which were paid by benefactors and charity funds.
The nobles generally had no use for university education in the
Middle Ages. It was the sons of the lower middle-class families who
hoped to better their stations in life by getting an education. Most of
the English writers and poets of the time had university education.
Literature of the 11th-13th centuries

The Norman barons were followed to England by the

churchmen, scribes, minstrels, merchants and artisans. Each rank of
society had its own literature. Monks wrote historical chronicles in
Latin. Scholars in universities wrote about their experiments - also in
Latin. Even religious satires were written in Latin. The aristocracy
wrote their poetry in Norman-French. But the peasants and
townspeople made up their songs and ballads in Anglo-Saxon.
The literature of the 11-12 th centuries was represented by the
romance, the ballad, the fable and the fabliau. The fable and the
fabliau were typical literary forms of the townsfolk. Animal characters
in fables mocked out human evils and conveyed a moral. Fabliaux
were short funny stories about cunning crooks and unfaithful wives
written as metrical tales.
The influence of continental literature was marked by the
increasing popularity of French chivalric romances a form already
popular in France and Germany, which revolved around the love of a
knight for a lady, with definite religious undertones. In southern
France the lyric poets of the Middle Ages called troubadours wrote


dancing-songs called ballads (stemming from the same root as

The most famous poet in the reign of Henry II was the Norman
poet Wace. An educated person who had studied theology at Paris
University, he was a clergyman, a secretary, a teacher, a writer and a
poet. His chief works were two rhyming chronicles written in form of
romance: Brut, or the Acts of the Britts and Rollo, or the Acts of the
Of great importance was the introduction into English of the
Arthurian legend, first in 1140 by Geoffrey of Monmouth in his
Historia Regum Britanniae (History of the Britons) and then by Wace
who translated History of the Britons into French. Geoffrey of
Monmouth had been brought up in Wales and lived close to the myth
of King Arthur, the legendary Celtic chief.
Later, in the 13th -15th centuries there appeared a series of legends
about King Arthur and the knights of the Round Table. The bestknown legends are Arthur and Merlin, Lancelot of the Lake,
Percival of Wales, Sir Tristram and others. In the 15 th century
Thomas Malory collected Arthurian stories and arranged them in
twenty books.
Soon another powerful myth gained popularity, that of Robin
Hood and his merry men, the outlaws who would not accept Norman
rule but lived free in Sherwood Forest.
Norman kings, who were fond of hunting, turned vast territories
into Kings Forest. (The word forest comes from the Latin word
fores which means out of doors.) It was not a wood, though some
parts of Kings Forest were wooded. Kings Forest was carefully
guarded: peasants could neither make their living by hunting nor cut
trees or shrubs nor pick firewood. Sheep and cattle that had the right
to feed in the forest were branded with a special mark and their
owners paid taxes. Unbranded animals, if caught, were made royal
property. No goats were allowed in the forest as deer hated their smell
and would not feed in the place where goats had walked. A man who
killed a deer in the forest was either blinded, or had his fingers or arm
cut off, or even put to death.


No wonder rebellious peasants, serfs and people who were

driven to despair by hunger and need hunted in the forest, thus
becoming outlaws.
Ballads describe Robin Hood, the famous legendary outlaw of
the period as a strong, brave and skilful archer. Robin Hood was
presumably a Saxon nobleman who had been ruined by the Normans.
Together with his merry men (Little John a gigantic manly fellow,
brother Tuck a stray friar and the others) they fought against
Norman nobles and clergy and would appear wherever the poor were
in need of help. Ballads about Robin Hood were composed and sung
throughout the 12th and the 13th centuries. Robin is supposed to have
lived in the reign of King Henry II and his son Richard the Lion Heart.
All through the ballads goes the idea of Robin waiting for Richard the
Lion Heart to return. Then he would lay his bow at the kings feet and
subdue to the lawful king, whose wicked brother John had taken his
place while Richard went crusading.
Art and architecture in Norman England

Art and architecture in the 12 th century were especially

influenced by continental developments. In addition, crusaders
returning from the Holy Lands brought back Byzantine influences.
One of the four most unusual churches, the Round Church in
Cambridge, is the oldest of the four surviving Norman churches built
in 1130. The style was introduced by the returning crusaders in
remembrance of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.
The production of illuminated manuscripts increased as new
religious orders and monasteries were founded. The use of elaborate
initials of these manuscripts was accompanied by a variety of
depictions of events, monsters and people which became increasingly
sophisticated as the century progressed, until this Romanesque
illumination became Gothic. In architecture, the 12 th and 13th
centuries also experienced this transition, with the development of the
early Gothic style. It was in this style that the original Westminster
Abbey was constructed from 1245.



King Harold Godwins elder daughter Gytha married
Prince Waldemar of Novgorod, later King Waldemar of
Kiev, and became Queen.
William the Conqueror, the illegitimate son of the
Norman duke Robert the Devil, was also known as
William the Bastard.
The Bayeux Tapestry (1067-1077), an embroided wallhanging in coloured wool on linen, narrating the events
leading up to the invasion of England by William the
Conqueror and the Battle of Hastings in 1066, is
believed to have been made by Williams wife Matilda
and her ladies in waiting.
In 1940, when Britain was desperately fighting against
fascist Germany, there circulated a rumour that King
Arthur, who would never die, had come again to drive
out the expected invader.


England in the late Middle Ages

1. General
characteristic of centuries is known as the period of war, plague
and disorder. The country waged long and costly
the period
wars with France and the Low Countries on the
Continent as well as with Scotland and Wales
within the British Isles. The period also saw the longest civil war in
English history, the Wars of the Roses. Like nowhere else in Western
Europe, the English regularly murdered their kings and the children of
their kings. Famine, disease and plague dramatically reduced the
population of the country by the beginning of the 15 th century.
Spiritual uncertainty led to the spread of heresy which swept the
country. The oppression of peasants led to numerous revolts.
At the same time, the Continental wars gave Englishmen a sharper
sense of national identity and the civil wars finally resulted in the
establishment of an absolute monarchy. The peasants revolts led to
the abolition of serfdom. Some heretical priests turned into famous
The growing economic development of England turned it into one
of the strongest European powers.

English society was headed by the king and based
upon ownership of land. The richest landowner was
the king who was followed by the landed nobility:
dukes, earls and knights who were no longer heavily armed horsemen
but had turned into gentlemen farmers or landed gentry.
2. Society



dukes earls knights monasteries bishops
merchants lawyers
By the order of king Edward I all those with an income of 20 a year
were made knights, even some of the yeomen farmers and formers
esquires became part of the landed gentry. The word esquire was
commonly used in written addresses. Vast lands belonged to the clergy
monasteries and bishops.
Freemen from towns could make a fortune through trade. A serf
could become a freeman if he worked for seven years in a town craft
guild. Merchants, lawyers and artisans were forming a new middle
class. It was knights from the country and merchants from towns that
formed the House of Commons in Parliament. The alliance between
the landed gentry and merchants made Parliament more powerful.
Judicial power was exercised by the kings courts as well as
justices of the peace who were first appointed by King Edward III to
deal with smaller crimes and offences. The JPs were usually less
important lords of representatives of the landed gentry. Through the
system of JPs, the landed gentry took the place of the nobility as the
local authority. The JPs remained the only form of local government
in rural areas until 1888. They still exist within the British judicial
By the end of the 13 th century, Englands population reached its
peak of about four million. As there was not enough cultivated land to
ensure all peasant families with an adequate livelihood, low living
standards and poor harvests led to poverty, disease and famine.


The Black Death

Longer lasting and more profound were the consequences of a
terrible disease called the pestilence. It was bubonic plague
commonly known as the Black Death. The first attack occurred in
southern England in 1348 and by the end of 1349 it had spread north
to central Scotland. Two more outbreaks of plague fell on 1361 and
The disease was brought over to England from France in ratinfected ships. There was no escape from it: those affected died within
24 hours. By 1350, the Black Death reduced Englands population by
about a third. About 1,000 villages were destroyed or depopulated.
With the reduction of labour available to cultivate the land, land
owners were forced to offer wages instead of the old feudal traditions
to keep their tenants. The remaining craftsmen and traders charged
higher rates. All that brought the possibility of social change in the
former strictly stratified society.
In 1351 Parliament passed a law called The Labourers Statute
which obliged any man or woman from 16 to 60 to work on the land
if they had no income of their own. Those who disobeyed were
executed. The law was the first attempt to control wages and prices by
freezing wages and the prices of manufactured goods and by
restricting the movement of labour. The peasants who survived the
Black Death were forced by drastic measures to till the land of their
lords for the same pay that had existed before the epidemic.
In 1377, 1378 and 1360 Parliament voted for the Poll Tax: it was
a fixed four-penny tax paid for every member of the population (poll
meant head). Both The Labourers Statute and the Poll Tax were
significant factors leading to the 1381 Peasants Revolt.
Peasants Revolt
In 1381 the impoverished peasants and townsmen revolted.
Sixty thousand people led by Wat Tyler and Jack Straw marched
from Essex and Kent to London. They besieged the Tower of London
where King Richard II and his court had found refuge. Central power


was paralyzed. The rebels destroyed the Royal Courts, several prisons,
killed the kings men, beheaded the archbishop of Canterbury and
nailed his head to the gates of the Tower. On June 14 the rebels met
the king at Mile End, in the suburbs of London. Wat Tyler handed
Richard their demands which later became known as the Mile End
Programme. Richard, who was only 14 years of age at the time, met
all their demands. He abolished the Labourers Statute and serfdom.
Part of the rebels left the place, bearing the kings charters which
granted them freedom. But the more radical part remained and
continued the talks on the following day, in Smithfield. It was there,
in Smithfield, that the leader of the revolt, Wat Tyler, was
treacherously killed. The rebels were dispersed and punished. Over
100 of them were hanged. But as a result, serfdom was practically
done away with by the end of the 14 th century. It paved the way to a
new social system.
Already between the 12th and the 14th centuries,
new economic relations began to take shape within
the feudal system. The peasants were superseded by
the copy-holders, and ultimately, by the rent-paying
tenants. The crafts became separated from
agriculture, and new social groups came into being: the poor
townsmen (artisans and apprentices), the town middle class and the
rich merchants, owners of workshops and money-lenders. The
peasants who wished to get free from their masters migrated to towns.
The village craftsmen travelled about the country looking for a greater
market for their produce. They settled in the old towns and founded
new ones near big monasteries, on the rivers and at cross-roads.
3 Economic
of England

Agriculture and industry

In the late Middle Ages, Englands wealth was its land. Farming
and cattle breeding were the main rural occupations. Corn and dairy
goods were the main articles of agricultural produce.
Englands most important industry, textiles, was also based on
the land, producing the finest wool in Europe. By 1300 the total


number of sheep in England is thought to have been between 15 to 18

As the demand for wool and cloth rose, Britain began to export
woollen cloth produced by the first big enterprises the
manufactures. Landowners evicted peasants and enclosed their lands
with ditches and fences, turning them into vast pastures. Later,
Thomas More wrote about the sheep on pastures: They become so
great devourers and so wylde that they eat up and swallow down the
very men themselves. (The phrase is often quoted in Russian as
.) In English history this policy is known as the
policy of enclosures.
Other industries were less significant in creating wealth and
employing labour, although tin-mining in Cornwall was
internationally famous.
The new nobility, who traded in wool, merged with the rich
burgesses to form a new class, the bourgeoisie, while the evicted
landless farmers, poor artisans and monastic servants turned into farm
laborers and wage workers or remained unemployed and joined the
ranks of paupers, vagrants and highway robbers.
Wool trade
Trade extended beyond the local boundaries. The burgesses (the
future bourgeoisie) became rich through trading with Flanders, the
present-day Belgium. The English shipped wool to Flanders where it
was sold as raw material. Flanders had the busiest towns and ports in
Europe and Flemish weavers produced the finest cloth. Flemish
weavers were often invited to England to teach the English their trade.
However, it was raw wool rather than finished cloth that remained the
main article of export. All through the period Flanders remained
Englands commercial rival.
As the European demand for wool stood high, and since no
other country could match the high quality of English wool, English
merchants could charge a price twice as high as in the home market.
In his turn, the king taxed the export of wool as a means of increasing
his own income. Wool trade was Englands most profitable business.


A wool sack has remained in the House of Lords ever since that time
as a symbol of Englands source of wealth.
European contacts
London merchants derived great incomes from trade with
European countries, as London was one of the most important trading
centres in Europe. It had commercial ties with the Mediterranean
countries as well as the countries of Northern Europe. (See Map 8.)
With the beginning of crusades the demand for oriental goods
increased. Every year Venetian ships loaded with spices and silks
sailed through the Straight of Gibraltar and up to the English Channel
on their way to Flanders. But before they reached Flanders, they
always called at ports on the southern coast of England. English
merchants bought luxurious oriental goods and sold them again at a
high profit. Particularly profitable was the trade in spices, which often
cost their weight in gold.
As England traded with the Baltic and Scandinavian countries,
an important sea route ran across the North Sea and the Baltic Sea.
Hull, Boston, Dover, Newcastle, Ipswich had long been important
trade centres.
The merchants of the Hanseatic League as well as traders from
the Baltic states and Flanders settled in London, Hull and other
English ports. Closer contacts with the Continent meant more goods
available for exchange. In the 14 th century, the list of imports was
considerably increased. From France England imported wines, salt
and building stone for castles and churches; a greater quantity and
Map 8
(From S.D. Zaitseva. Early Britain. Moscow, 1975.)


of cloths and spices was brought from the East. In its turn, England
exported wool, tin, cattle and lead. At first, the bulk of the export
trade was in the hands of the Venetian and Flemish merchants, but
with the growth of trade at the beginning of the 14th century, more
than half the trade fell into the hands of English merchants.
During the 14th century English merchants began to establish
trading stations called factories in different places in Europe. Often
they replaced the old town guilds as powerful trading institutions. In
1363 a group of 26 English merchants who called themselves the
Merchant Staplers, were granted the royal authority to export wool to


the Continent through the French port of Calais. In return, they

promised to lend money to English monarchs. The word staple
became an international term used by merchants to denote that certain
goods could be sold only in particular places. Calais became the
staple for English wool and defeated rival English factories in other
foreign cities. The staple was a convenient arrangement for the
established merchants, as it prevented competition and was a safe
source of income for the Crown, which could tax exports more easily.
4. Growth of

Free towns

The changes in the economic and social

conditions were accompanied by the intermixture
of people coming from different regions, the growth of towns with a
mixed population, and the strengthening of social ties between the
various regions.
The growth of trade promoted the growth of towns. (See Map 9)
London, the residence of the Norman kings, became the most
populous town of England. Two centuries before, kings had realised
that towns could become effective centres of royal authority and
balance the power of the local nobility. As a result, many towns got
charters of freedom which freed them from feudal duties to the local
lord. These charters, however, had to be paid for, but they were worth
the money. Towns could then raise their own taxes on coming goods.
They could also have their own courts, controlled by the town
merchants, on condition that they paid an annual tax to the king.
People who lived inside the town walls were practically free from
feudal rule. It was the beginning of a middle class and a capitalist
Map 9
(From S.D. Zaitseva, Early Britain, Moscow, 1975.)



In towns, the central role was played by guilds. These were
brotherhoods of merchants or artisans. The word guild came from
the Saxon word gildan which meant to pay, as members of guilds
had to pay towards the cost of the brotherhood. The right to form a
guild was sometimes included in a towns charter of freedom. It was
from the members of the guild that the towns leaders were usually
chosen. The guilds defended the rights of their members and saw to
the high standards of the trade.
During the 14th century, as larger towns continued to grow, there
appeared craft guilds: all members of each of the guilds belonged to
the same trade or craft. The earliest craft guilds were those of weavers
in London and Oxford. Each guild tried to protect its own trade
interests. Members of the guilds had the right to produce, buy or sell
their particular goods without paying special town taxes. But they also
had to make sure their goods were of a certain quality, and had to
keep to agreed prices so as not to undermine the trade of other
members of the guild.
In London the development of craft guilds went further than
elsewhere. The rich upper part of the craft community, the so-called
livery companies, developed into large financial institutions. Today
they pay an important role in the government of the City of London,
and the yearly choice of the Lord Mayor of London.
Causes of the war
The 14th and 15th centuries were also marked by
the Hundred Years War which lasted from 1337
to 1453. The causes of the war were both political
and economic. Politically, King Edward III of England claimed the
French throne and wanted to get back the English possessions in
France which had already been lost. It was a good enough reason for
starting a war. But there were far more important reasons. The king of
France, who ceased Gascony and Burgundy, and the French feudal
lords who wanted to better themselves by seizing the free towns of
5. The Hundred
Years War


Flanders, deprived England of its traditional wool market. England

could not afford the destruction of overseas trade. The threat to their
trade with Flanders persuaded the English merchants that war against
France was inevitable. In 1337 Edward III declared war on France.
The beginning of the campaign was rather successful for England
because of its military supremacy. Due to the newly invented cannons
the English defeated the French army in several battles, the most
important of which were the battles at Crecy in 1346 and at Poitiers in
1356. By 1360, the English had regained their lands on the Continent.
But then the tide of war turned and the territories gained at the
beginning of the war were lost in the next fifteen years. At the
beginning of the 15th century, Henry V, who is remembered as the most
heroic of English kings, undertook successful military campaigns in
France. In 1415 he won the battle of Agincourt, in which the French
outnumbered the English by more than three to one. In accordance
with the Treaty of Troyes (1420), Henry V of England was recognized
as heir to the French king. Moreover, Henry married the French kings
daughter Katherine of Valois. But Henry V never took the French
throne as he died a few months before the French monarch. His ninemonth-old son inherited the crowns of England and France.
Joan of Arc
After Henry Vs death in 1422, Joan of Arc rallied the French and
had Charles II of France crowned as the lawful King of France. The
English were gradually expelled from France, until only Calais
remained in their possession.
Joan of Arc, or the Maid of Orleans, is the French national
heroine. She claimed to hear voices urging her to help the dauphin,
Charles II, to regain the French crown from the English. Joan
convinced Charles of her mission, and led a large army to raise the
siege of Orleans in 1429. Charles was crowned in Reims the same
year. In 1430 Joan was captured by the Burgundians who sold her to
the English. Joan was tried for heresy and sorcery by an ecclesiastical
court at Rouen. She was condemned and burned at stake. King
Charles II of France, who could have saved her, turned a blind eye on


the trial and the execution. He was evidently frightened that he had
been assisted by a witch. Joans condemnation was annulled in 1456
and she was canonized in the 20 th century, in 1920. The feast is
celebrated on May 30.
After the end of the Hundred Years War, the
6. Wars of the
feudal lords and their hired armies came home from
France, and life in England became more turbulent
than ever. The baronial families at the kings court,
the House of York and the House of Lancaster started a series of wars
fighting for possession of the throne. In the 19 th century the novelist
Walter Scott named them the Wars of the Roses (1455-1485) after
their emblems the white rose, which was the emblem of the House
of York, and the red rose, which symbolized the House of Lancaster.
During the wars, more than sixty aristocratic families controlling
England divided into the Yorkists and the Lancastrians. Many of them
were related by marriage. Most noblemen still kept their private
armies after returning from the war in France and subdued the local
population into obeying them. Thus the struggle for the throne turned
into a civil war.
King Henry VI, who was the founder of Eaton college (1440)
and Kings College at Cambridge, was a scholarly man but suffered
from insanity. Thus true power was in the hands of rival ministers of
the Houses of York and Lancaster, notably Richard, Duke of York, and
Edmund Beaufort, the Second Duke of Somerset, both descendants of
Edward III.
The war began when Richard, Duke of York, claimed the
protectorship of the crown after the mental breakdown of King Henry
in 1454. In 1455 Richard defeated the Kings army at St. Albans, the
first battle in the Wars of the Roses, and in 1460 claimed the throne to
himself. As for Henry VI, he was murdered in the Tower in 1471.
After Richards death in battle, the throne went to his son
Edward IV. When Edward IV died, his two young sons were put in the
Tower by their uncle Richard who took the crown as Richard III. The
two princes were never heard of again. Richard III was unpopular


both with the Yorkists and the Lancastrians that is why when in 1485
Henry Tudor, a challenger with a very distant claim to royal blood
landed in England with Breton soldiers to claim the throne, he was
joined by many Lancastrians and Yorkists. Henry Tudor defeated
Richard III at Bosworth and was crowned king in the battlefield.
The Wars of the Roses lasted thirty years and ended with the
establishment of a stronger royal power under Henry VII, founder of
the Tudor dynasty. In 1486 Henry VII married the daughter of Edward
IV of the York house, thus uniting the rival houses. The wars
demonstrated the danger of allowing powerful nobles to build up
private armies. As a reminder of the war, today the floral symbol of
England is the red Tudor rose.
Church and religion
7. Pre-renaissance
A popular discontent with the Catholic
in England
church went side by side with the Lollard
movement which opposed the traditional
doctrine of the English clergy. The word lollard was probably
derived from lollaer, a mumbler of prayers. It was a nickname given
to the poorer priests who travelled from place to place propagating the
ideas of John Wycliff, the only university intellectual in the history of
medieval heresy and a forerunner of the English Reformation. Wycliff
gained reputation and support among noblemen, courtiers and
scholars for his criticism of the Churchs wealth and the unworthiness
of too many of its clergy. His increasingly radical ideas led to his
condemnation and withdrawal from Oxford. Wycliff was the first
priest to deny the basic principle of the Roman Catholic Church the
miraculous change of things from one substance into another,
particularly the conversion of bread and wine into the body and blood
of Christ. After Wycliffs death, the Pope ordered his works to be
destroyed, his body to be dug out and burnt, and the ashes to be
thrown into the river.
Rebirth of English literature


One of the most famous Lollard priests was William Langland

(1334-1400) who is remembered for his poem The Visions of William
Concerning Piers the Ploughman (now known as Piers Plowman), a
dream allegory popular in the Middle Ages. The poem deals with the
vision of a peasant, Piers Ploughman, who describes the hard life of
the common people. He explains that it is the peasant who works to
keep the lord and the monks in comfort. The author stresses the idea
that every person is obliged to work be it a peasant, a lord or a
priest. Every now and then the author suddenly darts from allegory to
real history. The main characters of the poem are human qualities,
such as Virtue, Truth and Greed. The written text of the poem is dated
1362. Before and during the revolt of 1381 the text of the poem was
used in proclamations which easily spread among the peasants and
Another follower of Wycliff was John Ball, one of the leaders of
the peasants revolt. He is best remembered for his proclamations in
which he used quotations from Piers Ploughman and Wycliffs
works. He often ended his speeches with Wycliffs famous words
which then turned into a saying:
When Adam delved and Eve span
who was then the Gentleman?
Geoffrey Chaucer
The greatest writer of the 14 th century was Geoffrey Chaucer
(1340-1400). Whereas his predecessor, Langland, expressed the
thoughts of the peasants and Wycliff the protest against the church,
Chaucer was the writer of the new class, the bourgeoisie. He was not,
however, the preacher of bourgeois ideology but just a writer of the
world: he wrote about the things he saw, and described the people he
met. Chaucer was the first to break away from medieval forms and
paved the way to realism in literature.
Geoffrey Chaucer was supposedly born in 1340 in London,
shortly after the Hundred Years War broke out. John Chaucer, his
father, was a London vintner (a wine merchant). Very little is known
about Chaucers early years. We do know, however, that his parents


always lived in rented houses and gave their son some education. He
is said to have gone to St. Pauls school. Although some researchers
claim that he must have been educated at Oxford or Cambridge, no
data can prove that. Most probably he had no university education.
His father, who had some connections with the court, hoped for
a courtiers career for his son. At the age of 16 or 17 Geoffrey was
page to a lady at the court of Edward III. From an old account book
we learn that Geoffrey Chaucer received several articles of clothing
of his ladys gift and that now and then he was paid small sums of
money for necessaries. Those facts indicate that he was a favourite
with the royal family.
During the Hundred Years War, when he was about 20, Chaucer
was in France serving as an esquire (an arms-bearer) to a knight. He
was then taken prisoner by the French. When his friends raised money
to ransom him, even Edward III contributed 16 pounds towards his
On his return to England, Chaucer passed into attendance on
John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, the fourth son of the king. It was
there that he met a young lady named Phillipa who became his wife in
1366. At about the same time Chaucer started writing his first poems.
It is peculiar that he never wrote a single line of poetry to his young
wife: probably, the marriage was not a romantic one.
At different periods of his life Chaucer was a student, a courtier,
a soldier, a diplomat, a customs official and a Member of Parliament
for Kent. He mixed freely with all sorts of people and in his works
gave a true and vivid picture of contemporary England.
Chaucers earliest poems were written in imitation of French
romances. He translated from French the famous allegorical poem of
the 13th century, The Romance of the Rose. These years are usually
described as the first, or the French period of Chaucers writings.
The second period is known as Italian. In the early 1370s
Chaucer travelled much and lived a busy life. He made three trips to
Italy where he acquainted himself with Italian literature. Italy made a
deep impression on him. Italian literature opened to Chaucer a new
world of art and taught him to appreciate the value of national


literature. It was then that he wrote The Parliament of Birds, an

allegorical poem satirizing Parliament, Troilus and Cressid, the first
psychological novel in English, and The Legend of Good Women, a
dream poem which describes nine famous women of twenty. The
poem forms a bridge between the Italian period and the next, English
When Chaucer came back to England, he received the post of
the Controller of the Customs for wool and hides in the port of
London. He held this position for ten years and apparently had little
time to write. Much of his work remained unfinished. But Chaucers
fame as a poet was spreading although his writings were copied by
hand and were very expensive. The court admired his graceful way of
writing and his ability of being satirical without being unkind.
In the late 1370s Chaucer was appointed Knight for the shire of
Kent, that is became a Member of Parliament representing Kent.
Chaucer often had to travel from London to Kent and back and could
observe the pilgrimage to the tomb of Thomas Becket in Canterbury
Cathedral. Travelling was dangerous at the time, and several times
Chaucer was robbed of all the money that was in his possession. Later
he described his experiences in The Canterbury Tales, the greatest
work that brought him world fame.
However, his duties grew very tedious to the poet and several
times he petitioned the king for permission to give up his post.
Finally, the king granted him a pension. But when his patron John of
Gaunt went to Spain, Chaucer lost his pension and became so poor
that he even had to borrow money for food. When the new king,
Henry IV, came to the throne in 1399, the poet addressed him with the
poem The Complaints of Chaucer to His Empty Purse. As a result, his
old pension was given back to him and a new one granted. Chaucer
died in 1400 and was buried in Westminster Abbey in London.
Chaucers greatest work, The Canterbury Tales, is a series of
stories told by a number of pilgrims on their way to Canterbury. In the
Prologue Chaucer makes a rapid portrait of 30 men and women from
all walks of life. Nearly all of them are described with such


particularity that suggests the idea that Chaucer was drawing his
portraits from individuals in real life.
In The Canterbury Tales Chaucer sums up all types of stories
that existed at the time: the Knight tells a romance, the Nun a story
of a saint, the Miller a fabliau, the Priest tells a fable and so on. The
Canterbury Tales is as popular in England as Decameron is on the
Chaucer did not only overshadow all his contemporary writers.
He is rightly considered to be the greatest English writer before the
age of Shakespeare.
In many modern manuals on the history of the English language
and English literature, Chaucer is described as the founder of the
English literary language. He wrote in a dialect which in the main
coincided with that used in documents produced in London shortly
before his time and for a long time after. Although he did not actually
create the literary language, as a poet of outstanding talent, he made
better use of it than his contemporaries. He set up a pattern of literary
language to be followed in the 14 th and 15th centuries. Chaucers
literary language based on the mixed dialect of London is known as
classical Middle English. Chaucers poems were copied so many
times that over 60 manuscripts of The Canterbury Tales have
survived up to this day. His books were among the first to be printed
in England, a hundred years after their composition. A hundred years
later, William Caxton, the first English printer, called him The
wonderful father of our language.
William Caxton
The 15th century saw an event of outstanding cultural
significance in Europe. In 1438 Johannes Gutenberg printed in
Germany the first European book known as The Gutenberg Bible. The
idea of printing quickly spread all over Europe. The first English
printer was William Caxton.
Caxton was a farmers son born in Kent in 1422. At the age of
16 he went to London where he became an apprentice to a company
of London merchants who traded in silk and woollen cloth. When his

master left for Flanders, William followed him and spent over three
decades of his life in Bruges. The boy quickly learned several
European languages: French, Italian and German. He read a lot for
pleasure and translated books from French into English. When his
master died, he left most of his money to Caxton, who had become his
partner by the time.
During a visit to Cologne, William saw a printing press and
learned the method of printing. In 1473 he bought a printing press of
his own and in 1476 printed the first English book. It was Caxtons
own translation of the ancient story of Troy. A few years
later Caxton moved to London and set his printing press
at Westminster. Later, he bought another printing press
which was set up at Oxford. During the next 15 years
Caxton printed 65 books, both in the original and in
translation. One of the first books to be printed was
Chaucers Canterbury Tales. In 1484 William Caxton printed Thomas
Malorys Morte DAthur, the fullest record of the adventures of the
knights of the Round Table.
Caxton made a great contribution to standardizing the English
language. The concept of the norm had not existed before, it only
appeared and was accepted as printed books spread all over England.
The development of the printing technique promoted the spread of
literacy and the literary norm.
The development of literacy and the English language
Late medieval literacy was not confined to the noble, clerical or
government classes. Some artisans, merchants, tailors, mariners could
also read and write. Already in the 1470s, the rules and regulations of
some craft guilds insisted on a recognized standard of literacy for
their apprentices. The fact that wealthy laymen owned small libraries
of poems, prophecies, chronicles and even recipes reflects their
reading habits. Books were carefully listed in their wills.
The spread of literacy and the increased use of the English
language were twin developments of the late fourteenth and fifteenth
centuries. They reflected the feelings of patriotism and nationhood.


The causes of this quiet linguistic revolution were complex, but

among them was patriotism generated by the long French war, the
popularity of Lollardy, the lead given by the Crown and the nobility
and the greater participation of the English speaking men in the
affairs of Parliament. A further factor was the emergence in the 14 th
century of London as the settled capital of the kingdom, with York as
another important administrative centre and Bristol as the second
commercial centre. The regional dialect that was spoken in each of the
three centres inevitably had to become comprehensible to the others.
The dialect of London prevailed although it was greatly influenced by
the Midlands dialect.
Music, theatre and art
The 15th century witnessed a new wave of Robin Hood ballads.
It was also the time of minstrels as English poetry was meant to be
chanted and sung. The nobles were taught to play musical
instruments, sing and dance. Even at a barbers, an English lord or a
knight might see a lute and take a few cords. Sometimes barbers
invited musicians to attract more clients. Folk songs took the form of
carols, or polyphonic songs. Polyphony greatly influenced the
prominent English composer of the 15 th century John Dunstable. The
popularity and importance of music was so great that in the 16 th
century Oxford and Cambridge universities introduced the degrees of
Doctor and Bachelor of Music.
Huge audiences were attracted by plays and performances of
different kinds: mysteries and miracles, or plays about the miraculous
things performed by saints. Another type of play was moralite where
the characters were abstract ideas, such as Friendship, Death, Power,
Kindness, Virtue, etc. These plays were performed in market squares
and during town fairs. The performances were arranged and paid for
by merchants and artisans. Already in the 15 th century actors were
In the 14th and 15th centuries the English art of portrait painting
made a leap forward. The portraits acquired individual characters and
features. The most famous work of art of the period is the portrait of


Richard II painted in the 1390s. It shows a young man in royal attire

whose face is not yet spoiled by power and passion. The portrait of
Margaret Beaufort belonging to the second half of the 15 th century,
depicts a grieving young woman concentrated on her prayer.
The 14th and 15th centuries are known as the period of PreRenaissance in England.


When Richard I was taken prisoner, over half the price of
his ransom was paid in wool.
Any book printed before 1501 is called an incunabula.
The first English book was printed in Bruges, Flanders.
Caxton was the first to introduce the use of the
apostrophe as a norm.

1. Review the material of Section 1 and do the following test.
Check yourself by the key at the end of the book.
Test 1

1. The Anglo-Saxon tribes were

a. the Angles; b. the Scots; c. the Britons; d. the Jutes.
2. The Romans lived in
b. villages; b. towns
3. The Tower of London was built by
a. the Normans; b. the Celts; c. the Romans.
4. The English chester (as in Manchester) comes from the ___ word castra.


b. Latin; b. Saxon; c. Norman.

5. The days of the week take their names from the names of ___ gods.
a. Germanic; b. Celtic; c. Roman.
6. Christianity was brought to England ___ 1066.
b. before; b. after.
7. The Venerable Bede wrote
a. the first Anglo-Saxon history; b. the first code of laws; c.
the Bible in English.
8. Beowulf is a poem about the adventures of a ___ hero.
a. Scandinavian; b. Anglo-Saxon; c. Celtic.
9. William the Conqueror won the battle at
b. Waterloo; b. Hastings; c. Trafalgar.
10. The first registration of the population was held under
a. the Romans; b. the Danes; c. the Normans.
11. The first English printer was _____ .
a. Johannes Gutenberg; b. William Caxton; c. Geoffrey
12. The process of evicting peasants and turning farmlands into
pastures is known as the policy of _____ .
a. the open field; b. manufactures; c. enclosures
2. Get ready to speak on the following topics:
1. The first settlers on the British Isles. Stonehenge. The Celts on the
British Isles; traces of Celtic culture in present-day Britain.
2. The Roman conquest of Britain. The impact of the conquest on the
development of culture on the British Isles; traces of Roman
culture in present-day Britain.
3. The Anglo-Saxon conquest of Britain. The origin of the English
language. The impact of Christianity on the Anglo-Saxon culture.
Anglo-Saxon literature (Caedmon, the Venerable Bede, Beowulf).
4. The Scandinavian invasion of Britain, its impact on the political
and cultural life of the country (Danelaw, King Canute). The role of
King Alfred the Great in the history of Britain.
5. Distinctive features of the language in the Old English period.
Celtic, Latin and Scandinavian borrowings in the English
language. The history of English place-names.


6. The Norman conquest of Britain, its impact on the political and

cultural life of the country. The Domesday Book. The first
universities. Magna Carta and the beginning of Parliament. Thomas
Becket. English literature of the 11 th-13th centuries (Robin Hood,
King Arthur). Changes in the language.
7. The economic development of England in the 14 th-15th centuries.
The Peasants Revolt of 1381; the abolition of slavery. The Hundred
Years War. The Wars of the Roses. Geoffrey Chaucer, The
Canterbury Tales. Changes in the language in the Middle English
period. William Caxton.
III. Topics for presentations:
The invasions of early Britain and their impact on the political,
economic and cultural development of the country.
The Norman Conquest and its impact on various spheres of life
in England.
Englands economic growth in the 14 th-15th centuries.


The English Renaissance
The Tudor age

The 16th century, also known as the Tudor

age, was a highly remarkable period in English
history. The Tudors restored peace and order after
a long period of feudal wars, formalized
Protestantism, and presided over increased trade, exploration and
naval strength that set England on the path to world power. he Tudor
epoch was a time of resolute changes in the English state system. The
first Tudor king Henry VII established absolute monarchy; his son
Henry VIII broke away from Rome bringing in Reformation; and his
granddaughter Elizabeth I brought glory to the country defeating
Spain and promoting the spread of Renaissance in England. During
the reign of the Tudor dynasty England turned gradually into a modern
national state centralized, sovereign, based on uniform system of the
general law with the Church subordinated to the state.
It was the time of great geographical discoveries and the
beginning of colonization of America.
1. General
characteristic of
the period

2. The Great

The old trade routs between Europe and Asia

were not only long but implied transshipment of
goods: all goods were passed on from merchant to


merchant along the rout, each taking a substantial profit. The sea
voyages were purely coastal as the ships were primitive basin-shaped
vessels. The high cost of transportation of goods made it unprofitable
to carry bulky merchandise. The imported goods were mainly objects
of luxury. And yet, trade with the East, which was in the hands of
small groups of merchants or towns, like the Hanseatic towns,
flourished. Each route was a jealously guarded monopoly and the socalled owners guarded them even by armed force.
For Europe, the 15 th century was the time when nation states
were growing up in place of the old Duchies. The new states had
strong centralized governments which had no share in the old routs
and were anxious to develop new routs of their own and destroy the
monopoly of Venice, Genoa and the Hanseatic League.
The 15th century witnessed great changes in the technique of
ship-building and navigation. Spain and Portugal developed the
caravel for coastal trade in the Atlantic. The compass, known since
the 12th century, was perfected. In 1492 Columbus reached the West
Indies. Six years later, Vasco da Gama made a voyage to the Cape of
Good Hope. When he returned to Lisbon from India with a cargo
which repaid sixtyfold the cost of his voyage, the effect was
shattering. Overseas voyages followed in a quick succession. These
events were the climax of a long series of changes transforming the
relations between Europe and the East and the beginning of European
contacts with the American continent.
The American continent proved to be rich in gold and silver
beyond any dreams. As it was impossible to keep the precious metals
within Spain and Portugal, they spread over Europe stimulating the
commerce of Spains rivals: France, Holland and England. England
was not strong enough to challenge Spain or Portugal in the Spanish
Main and was forced to look for ways of her own. Then England
turned her attention to the North-East, and in 1553 a group of London
merchants sent an expedition round the north of Norway. Some of the
men perished in the ice, but the others reached the city of Archangel
and established regular trade relations with Muscovy. The Muscovy


Company was founded in 1649; it got a charter allowing it to

monopolise trade between England and Russia.
Henry VII, the founder of the Tudor dynasty,
felt that he had to restore the English Crown to its
former position. The Wars of the Roses had
undermined agriculture, trade and industry.
Moreover, they had undermined confidence in monarchy as an
institution: the king was seen as unable, or unwilling, to protect the
rights of all his subjects. The royal government was manipulated by
individuals who fell in and out of favour. The king had to restore his
right not only to reign, but also to rule.
Henry VII firmly believed that wars damaged the development
of trade. Remembering the lessons of the civil war he
forbade any nobleman to keep armed men. At the
same time, the king built a regular army that obeyed
nobody but himself. Henry strengthened Englands
prestige and wealth by six commercial treaties that
restored Englands position in the European market.
Realising that Englands future depended on
international trade, Henry freely spent money on
building ships for a merchant fleet.
Henry VII made peace with France. In order to avoid military
conflicts with Spain and Scotland he married his elder sons Arthur,
and after his death, Henry, to the Spanish princess Catherine of
Aragon, and his daughter Margaret to King James IV of Scotland. It
was also during his reign that England started its famous policy of
divide and rule, preventing any country of Europe from becoming
overwhelmingly strong.
Although Henry refused to help Columbus who approached him
in search of financial support, the king backed the voyages of James
Cabot, a Venetian sailor in the English pay, who in 1497 discovered
Newfoundland and sailed along part of the North American coast.
That stirred Englands interest in North America.
3. Absolute


Henry VII was known for the efficiency of his financial and
administrative policies. He introduced new methods of government
concentrating all power in his hands. The ministers were personally
selected by the king for their ability, shrewdness and loyalty. The king
was preoccupied with utmost economy. In a relatively short period of
time he managed to establish a system of checks, the record of which
never left his hands. He personally looked through all the record
books and signed every page. When Henry VII died in 1509, he left
about 2 million pounds, a vast sum equal to at least 15 years ordinary
revenue at the time.
Henry VII is known as the founder of an absolute monarchy.
Henry VIIIs reign
One of the major events of the 16 century was
the Reformation a grandiose revolution in
consciousness of people, revision of substantive
provisions of Christian dogmas and of divine service. The reformation
split Europe, having opposed to each other blocks of the Protestant
and Catholic countries, and England was steadily involved in the
conflict with powerful Catholic powers.
King Henry VIII waged costly wars on the
Continent and in Scotland. He centralized
administrative authority, made use of
Parliaments powers and incorporated Wales
into England. Henry also built a modern Royal
Navy and got the nickname Father of the
English Navy. Upon his death, he left a modern
fleet of 53 warships. He patronized the arts and
astronomy and was well-read in theology. At the same time, he was
pleasure-seeking and wasteful with money. He spent so much on
maintaining a magnificent court and wars, that his fathers money was
soon gone. Gold and silver from America added to the economic
inflation. In order to raise more money, Henry ordered to reduce the
amount of silver used in coins. Although this step resulted in
immediate profit, it led to a dramatic rise in prices. Within twenty-five
years, the English coinage was reduced to a seventh of its value.

4. Reformation


Church and state

Although Henry VIIIs father had become powerful by taking over
his nobles lands, the lands owned by monasteries and abbeys
remained untouched. The Church was a huge and powerful
landowner. Since it was controlled from Rome, it was an international
organization with Spain and France struggling for control over
Papacy. For one thing, the Catholic Church could work against the
kings authority, for another, taxes paid to the Church reduced the
kings income. At the same time, the Church was losing its respect
and popularity with the population as the clergy often failed to
perform church services but lived in wealth, comfort and sin.
But the European ideas of Reformation proclaimed by Martin
Luther in Germany and John Calvin in Geneva were not very popular
in England, although the English humanists demanded reform of the
Church from within. In 1521 the king got the title Defender of the
Faith from the Pope for his best-selling book criticizing Luthers
teaching. But a break with Rome became a political necessity five
years later.
Break with Rome
In 1526, Henry VIII decided to obtain a divorce from his wife,
Catherine of Aragon, or, strictly speaking, a papal declaration that his
marriage was invalid since Catherine had previously been married to
his brother. One of the real reasons for the divorce was the fact that
Catherine could not provide a male heir to secure the future of the
Tudor dynasty. Their only surviving child was Princess Mary. Another
reason was that Henry was planning an alliance with France against
Spain and Catherine was a Spanish princess. There would have been
no problem for Henry with the Pope if Rome had not just been taken
by Cathrines nephew, King Charles V of Spain. For political and
family reasons the king of Spain objected to the divorce. Pope
Clement did not want to anger either Charles V or Henry VIII. When
he finally forbade the divorce, Henry broke away from Rome by the
Act of Supremacy (1534) which declared that the king of England


was supreme head of the Church of England. Through several Acts of

Parliament, England became politically a Protestant country, even
theough the popular religion was still Catholic. Henry VIII established
the Protestant Reformation in England by creating the Church of
England with the monarch as the supreme head.
When the Church was brought under the control of the State, the
king took the English Reformation further. He ordered to have a
careful survey of all Church property, the first properly organised tax
survey since the time of the Domesday Book. Henry VIII closed down
823 monasteries and confiscated their property. As Church lands and
property were sold to the rising classes of merchants and landowners,
Henrys policy made him popular with them. Monastery buildings
were either neglected or destroyed and the stone was used as building
material. The suppression of monasteries was the greatest act of
official destruction in British history.
Henry VIIIs family life
As for Henry VIIIs family life, he married Anne Boleyne who
bore him a daughter, the future Queen Elizabeth I. Anne was
suspected of adultery and beheaded in 1536 and Henry married Jane
Seymour who died in 1537 leaving him a son. Then came Henrys
marriage to Anne of Cleves which was latter annulled. Henrys fifth
wife, Catherine Howard, was executed for adultery in 1542. His last
marriage was to Catherine Parr who survived him and died in 1548, a
year after his death. Henry VIII died of leg ulcer which made his last
years a misery.
Henry VIIIs son Edward, who came to the
5. Counterthrone at the age of 9, reigned only 6 years and
died of tuberculosis. There was an unsuccessful
attempt to shift the royal succession of the Tudor
to the Dudley family. Although Edwards cousin Lady Jane Grey was
proclaimed Queen, she was never crowned as Henry VIIIs elder
daughter took control of the kingdom and had Lady Jane Grey
executed in the Tower of London. The crown went to Mary Tudor


also known as Bloody Mary. The only surviving child of Henry VIII
and Catherine of Aragon, Mary was a Catholic. She reestablished
Roman Catholicism as the nations only creed and burned 283
Protestant martyrs. After marrying King Philip of Spain she joined
Spain in a war against France and lost the remaining English
possession on the Continent, Calais (1558). Upon her death, the
throne went to her half sister Elizabeth, the daughter of Henry VIII
and Anne Boleyne.
Renaissance in Europe
Together with the ideas of the Reformation
came the ideas of the Renaissance. Emerging
from feudal despotism, the Renaissance in Europe
developed all that was original in medieval ideas by the light of
antique arts and literature. The literature and the fine arts of the
Renaissance were notable for their glorification of man and the
discovery of his virtues. The names of Dante, Petrarch, Bocaccio,
Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo in Italy; Rabelais in France;
Erasmus in the Netherlands; Copernicus in Poland; Thomas More,
Francis Bacon and Shakespeare in England make the treasure throve
of world cultural heritage.
The great geographical discoveries evoked a lively interest in
nature, history and life in other countries. There was hardly any man
of importance at the time who had not travelled extensively, who did
not speak four or five languages, who did not shine in a number of
fields. Albrecht Durer was a painter, an engraver, a sculptor and an
architect. Leonardo da Vinci was a painter, a mathematician and an
engineer. Machiavelli was a statesman, a historian, a poet and the first
notable military author of his time.
The wave of progress reached the shores of England only in the
16 century. Foreign scholars and artists appeared in England during
the reign of Henry VIII. In painting and music, the first period of the
Renaissance was that of imitation. Painting was represented by the
German artist Holbein, and music by Italians and the French. With
6. Renaissance


literature the situation was different. Much of the new learning was
popularized by native English poets and dramatists. The freedom of
thought of English humanists revealed itself in anti-feudal and even
anti-bourgeois ideas, showing the life of their own people as it really
Thomas More
The most prominent figure of the time was Thomas More (14781535), the first English humanist of the
Renaissance. The son of a prominent judge, he
was educated at Oxford and could write a most
beautiful Latin and Greek. On his return to
London in 1494, More continued to study law at
Lincolns Inn and in 1501 became barrister. While
he was at Lincolns Inn, More decided to dedicate
himself to monastic service. It was only his sense
of duty and responsibility that made him serve the country in the field
of politics.
In 1499 More made friends with Erasmus of Rotterdam who
spent a number of years in England teaching at Oxford and
Cambridge and greatly influenced the ideas of English scholars and
philosophers. Their acquaintance turned into a lasting friendship and
correspondence. When Erasmus wrote his famous work Praise of
Folly in 1509, he dedicated it to Thomas More.
During the reign of Henry VII, he became Member of Parliament
(1504 or 1505) and later was made Speaker of the House of
Commons (1523). As Speaker he helped the establish the
parliamentary priviledge of free speach. One of his first acts as an MP
was to urge a decrease in a proposed appropriation for Henry VII.
Although the Tudor monarchy was absolute, and Parliament had little
power to resist the king, there was one privilege which Parliament
enjoyed: to grant money to the monarch. When Henry VII wanted
Parliament to grant him 800,000 pounds, the Members of Parliament
sat silent until Thomas More spoke up and urged that the request
should be refused. After a long discussion, a sum less than half the


amount originally requested, was granted and that sum was to be

spread over a period of 4 years. In revenge, the king imprisoned
Mores father who was released only after the kings death in 1509.
During the next decade, More attracted the attention of Henry
VIII. He accompanied the king on his visit to Flanders, was made a
member of the Privy Council and finally was knighted in 1521.
Thomas More was an earnest Catholic and helped Henry VIII in
writing his Defence of the Seven Sacraments criticising Luther. In
1529 Thomas More was made Lord Chancellor, the presiding officer
in the House of Lords and the highest judge.
But when Henry VIII broke with Rome Thomas More refused to
swear allegiance to him as the head of the Church of England. Neither
could he recognize the legitimacy of Henrys marriage to Anne
Boleyne. Soon More fell a victim to the kings anger. He was accused
of treason, thrown into the Tower, and finally beheaded in 1535. His
last words were: The Kings good servant, but Gods first. He was
canonized in 1935.
Thomas More wrote both in Latin and in English. His English
writings include discussions and political subjects, biographies and
poetry. The work by which he is remembered today is Utopia which
was written in Latin in 1516. By now it has been translated into all
European languages. Utopia, which in Greek means nowhere, is the
name of a non-existing island. The author gives a profound and
truthful picture of the peoples sufferings, points out the social evils
existing in England and presents his idea of what the future society
should be like. The word utopia has become a byword to denote an
unattainable ideal, usually in social and political matters. Thomas
Mores Utopia was the first book to proclaim the ideas of
communism. It was highly esteemed by all the humanists of Europe in
Mores time and grew popular again in the 19 th century.

Elizabeth Is reign


The most significant period of the Renaissance falls on the reign

of Queen Elizabeth (1558-1603). The daughter of Henry VIII and
Anne Boleyne, she was born out of wedlock and later legitimized by
an act of Parliament. Upon her mothers execution, she fell out of
favour and was allowed to appear at court only when Henry married
Catherine Parr. During the reign of her half sister Mary I,
Elizabeth was imprisoned in the Tower.
When she came to the throne in 1558, she faced the
problems of religious strife, unstable finance, a war with
France and tense relations with Scotland. She ended the war
with France and re-established the Church of England. She
imprisoned her rival Mary, Queen of Scots and in 1587
had her executed for treason.
Elizabeth was a strong and cautious ruler who set her
enemies against one another in order to strengthen the position of
England. During her reign, England established itself as a major
European power in politics, commerce and the arts. Her reign is
considered by many as the Golden Age of English history, producing
not only a gallery of authors of genius, some of whom have never
been surpassed, but also prosperity for the entire nation. Merchants
formed the East India Company in 1600. Francis Drake, Walter
Raleigh and other daring English adventurers explored the West
Indies and the coasts of North and South America. The English
explored and colonized distant lands, and wealth from the colonies
poured into England.
For different reasons Elizabeth never got married and came to be
known in history as the Virgin Queen. Long before her death, she had
transformed herself into a powerful image of female authority, regal
magnificence and national pride. She portrayed the image of herself
as the humble wife to her superior husband, England, and as a servant
of the people. Through controlling access to herself, Elizabeth had
built her success on her ability to divide and conquer.

The Elizabethan Age was a time of great
achievement in England. Englands success


in commerce brought prosperity to the nation and gave a chance to

many people of talent to develop their abilities. Explorers, men of
letters, philosophers, poets and famous dramatists appeared in rapid
succession. The great men of the so-called Elizabethan age
distinguished themselves in many fields and displayed a thirst for
knowledge. They were often called the Elizabethans. Among the
favourites of the Queen was the celebrated traveler Sir Walter
Raleigh, who wrote poetry and history. Sir Walter organized
expeditions to colonize North America. It was he who introduced
tobacco and potatoes to England. He also founded a colony on the
American coast which he called Virginia in honour of Elizabeth, the
Virgin Queen. In 1595 he led an unsuccessful expedition to the
Orinoco River (the present-day Venezuela) in search of gold. Later,
during the reign of James I, he fell out of favour and spent 12 years
in the Tower. There he wrote his famous History of the World. After
the failure of his second expedition to the Orinoco in 1617, he was
executed. Now the capital of North Carolina, USA, bears his name.
The Queen also favoured Sir Francis Drake (1540-96), Admiral
of Her Majestys Navy. He was the most renowned seaman of the
Elizabethan Age a pirate, a navigator, one of the greatest English sea
captains in history. Drake made several slave-trading
expeditions to West Africa and the Spanish Main. In
1577-1580 he circumnavigated the globe on board
the Golden Hind.
Searching for the passage around the north of
America he was the first European to sight the west
coast of present-day Canada. Then he sailed across
the Pacific to the Philippines, and headed across
the Indian Ocean for the Cape of Good Hope. In 1580 returned into
Plymouth Harbour with treasure and spices aboard.
Walter Raleigh and Francis Drake were the typical new men
of the Tudor making. The Queen and the government adapted
themselves to the new existing circumstances. Where the interests of
the nation were concerned, they relied on able men of all classes.


The queen received treasures from her subjects even if they had been
obtained through piracy.
Defeat of the Invincible Armada
For years Elizabeth played a diplomatic game with the rival
interests of France and Spain. During the Elizabethan age, preying on
Spanish ships became almost a national pastime. By 1580 it was clear
that England couldnt avoid a direct military confrontation with
Spain. The Spanish king Philip II began to assemble an enormous
fleet to conquer Protestant England. Spain had the strongest fleet of
ships called the Invincible Armada, which had never been defeated. In
July 1588 the Invincible Armada reached Englands waters.
Fornunately for England, Spanish ships were not built for sea-battles,
while the English vessels were capable of maneuvering and fighting
under sail: for Drake, the ship was a fighting unit. In 1588 the queens
30 ships lead by Francis Drake defeated the enemy fleet, and a terrible
storm destroyed what was left of it.
The defeat of the Armada was announced in the first
newspaper printed in England specially for the occasion. The idea was
then forgotten and revived about 50 years later. The great victory
inspired a burst of patriotism that was reflected in the poetry and
especially the drama of the period.
The development of culture and science
During Elizabeth's reign, England experienced the true cultural
reawakening of thought and art. Elizabeth's court was a magnet, which
attracted the most talented individuals of the era. Music, poetry,
literature and drama flourished under Elizabeth's reign, largely due to
the Queen's love of the arts. The Queen's tastes set the standards for
the aristocracy and the rest of society; they fostered an atmosphere in
which many of England's greatest writers found encouragement and
financial support. A newly rich merchant class as well as the nobility
wanted entertainment and fine arts and were willing to pay for them.
Writers, painters, and musicians flocked to London, making it a


European cultural centre. Elizabeths court became a center for poets,

musicians, and scholars.
Elizabethan architecture changed the medieval
styles of earlier times, bringing out the beauty of the
Renaissance. More houses than churches began to be
built. The most significant architectural features of the period were
classical symmetry and ornateness. This was the Elizabethan visual
expression of order and harmony. If you were to walk into a
Renaissance house and glance up at the ceiling, you would see an
example of this ornateness. Elizabethans typically made the ceilings
and fireplaces extremely ornate. Instead of having art on the walls,
they made the walls their own art form. Tall houses and towers were
accented by elaborate gardens and stables. The most famous architect
of the period, Inigo Jones, was famous for building Banqueting House
of Whitehall in London.
The Elizabethans created an elaborate system of
activities and events to keep themselves entertained.
Queen Elizabeth was fond of hunting parties, dancing
and music. Musical literacy was expected in the upper class of society.
Many Elizabethans made their own music. The laborers would sing
while they worked, and the townspeople would sing or play music
after meals. The lute, virginal, viola, recorder, bagpipe and the fiddle
were favored instruments of that time. A popular form of
entertainment in the countryside was the ringing of church bells. In the
major towns, official musicians gave free public concerts. The wealthy
people hired musicians to play during dinner.
Music of this period became increasingly expressive and refined,
and a knowledge and appreciation of music set apart the truly genteel
members of the high social classes. In addition, court musicians
gradually moved into their own music houses and guilds. Several
different instruments became popular during the Elizabethan era,
including the lute (a forerunner of the guitar, the viol (predecessor to
the violin), viola da gamba (an early type of the cello) and the virginal
(an English modification of the clavichord). The new form of secular
music was the madrigal which originally came from Italy. The first


English musician to compose madrigals was William Byrd. He

founded one of the strongest and most famous musical schools,
especially in virginal playing.
The Elizabethan era was a period of great advances
in world exploration, medicine, and the study of the
universe. The period brought great advances in medical
science, particularly in the study of human anatomy and and surgical
operations. Inventions of the period include the graphite pencil, the
modern calendar, wind-powered sawmill, and the thermoscope
(primitive thermometer).
In natural philosophy, Sir Francis Bacon (1561-1626),
completed the break from the medieval scholastic
method, laid down for the first time the
classification of the natural sciences, and prepared
the way for modern experimental science. Francis
Bacon was a statesman, a philosopher and an
essayist. He made a distinguished parliamentary
career under Elizabeth I. As a scholar, he wrote
mostly in Latin as he believed English would not
last. He is also known for his Essays a collection of brief witty
observations on various subjects: reading, education, death, revenge,
gardens, etc. The essays are admirably clear and simple and some
statements are as memorable as poetry: God Almighty first planted a
garden, Revenge is a kind of wild justice, Men fear death as
children fear to go in the dark. According to some critics (or
fanatics?), it was F. Bacon who wrote Shakespears plays among other
From the beginning to the end of each year, Elizabethans found
ways to keep themselves entertained. They were a creative group of
people who pursued leisure activities with great passion. A major part
of the Elizabethan lifestyle was connected with feasts and festivals.
Every season of the year had special days that drew the people
together to celebrate. One of the greater festivals of the year was held


at Easter time. The Mayday celebration consisted of the decorating of

the maypole and dancing around it. In the summer, bonfires were
burned and dances were held to celebrate Midsummer's Eve on June
24. The winter holidays began with Christmas, ran through New Year's
Eve and ended on the Twelfth Night, January 5. These holidays
included gifts, bonfires, music and jollity.
Dancing was a popular activity and varied according to social
class. The upper class favored courtly dances while ordinary people
were more likely to do traditional country dances.
Sports played a major role in the leisure time of the Elizabethan
Age. Some of the indoor games included dice, chess, checkers and a
variety of card games. Some of the outdoor sports and games included
golf, horse racing, swimming, fishing, hunting, fencing, duelling and
cricket. At that time a man was supposed to be skilled at tennis,
bowling, archery and hunting. While the upper class enjoyed tennis,
common people preferred football. All levels of society enjoyed the
sport of hunting. Horses, dogs and hawks were kept and trained for
hunting deer, rabbits and other wildlife.
Elizabethan literature
By the middle of the 16 th century, education was spreading
among the sons of common citizens. The development of literary
competence of the language and advances in education were
followed by new printing techniques. Accelerated output of printed
books made lyric poetry and prose publicly available.
The Tudors badly needed educated diplomats, statesmen and
officials. The new learning implied a systematic schooling in Latin
and Greek authors.
English poetry and prose burst into sudden glory in the late
1570s. The greatest literature created during the Elizabethan Period
falls into two categories: poetry and drama. Influenced by the Italian
sonnets, which had been introduced into the English language by Sir
Thomas Wyatt (1503-1542) during the reign of Henry VIII, English
poets began to construct their own variations on the intricate, highly
structured poetic form. Influenced by Italian sonnets, English writers


of the period began introducing complicated poetic structures in both

verse and prose. Writing was a social fashion of this time, a pastime
enjoyed by the nobles as well as by men of lower stations.
The other great literary achievement of the Elizabethan Period
was the drama, a form which was rooted in centuries of popular folk
entertainment and which had been adapted into the religious plays of
the Middle Ages.
Elizabethan drama was greatly influenced by Roman authors
whose works were translated from Latin into English. Lawyers at the
Inns of Court translated the works of Seneca and in their spare time
tried to imitate the Roman philosopher. University students translated
Roman plays into English and tried to write plays of their own
imitating the Roman patterns. The nobility took pleasure in translating
Latin poetry: the Earl of Surrey translated Virgil using blank verse.
Comedy was developed in the Royal Court itself, in the
entertainments given by the Children of St. Pauls and other choir
schools before the Queen. These children, only boys, actred plays
written by the first polite comic dramatist of the period, John Lyly
(1554?-1606). Elizabeth I was a patrom of drama and encouraged its
development by frequently attending performances, whether in the
Inns of Court, University, or at the royal levels.
The most famous pre-Shakesperian writers of drama were
George Peele, Robert Greene (comedies), Thomas Kyd and
Christopher Marlowe (tragedies). They belonged to the group
known as the University Wits.
The University Wits were, as the name suggests, graduates of
Oxford and Cambridge, men with learning and talent but no money.
Unlike the church clerks of the Middle Ages, they could not make a
career in the Church as monasteries had been dissolved by Henry VIII.
(The monastery had always been taken for granted as a safe place for
a penniless scholar who did not wish to become a priest.) All that
suggested itself was novel writing and writing plays for the stage.
Ancient literature taught the playwrights to seek new forms and
to bring in new progressive ideas. The new drama represented
characters and problems topical of the time. Most plays were written


in verse. The second period of the Renaissance in England was

characterized by the splendour of its poetry. Highly emotional lyrical
poetry became widespread. Blank verse and the Italian sonnet were
introduced. A new, English form of verse appeared the nine-line
stanza. The country was often called a nest of singing-birds.
The three great poetic geniuses of Elizabethan times were
Christopher Marlowe, Edmund Spenser, and William Shakespeare.
All were typical Renaissance men, trained in the classics, fond of
fine living, full of restless energy and ideas. Today the fourth name
can be added, John Donne.
Edmund Spenser
The most prominent poet of the preShakespearean time was Edmund Spenser. He
was born in London in 1552 to the family of a
free journeyman for a merchants company.
When Edmund came of age, he went to
Cambridge University as a sizar, a student who
paid less for his education than others and had
to wait on the wealthier students at mealtimes.
While at college, he acted in the tragedies of the
ancient masters and this inspired him to learn and to write poetry.
Spenser began his literary work at the age of 17. Once, a fellowstudent introduced him to the famous Sir Philip Sydney, who
encouraged him to write. Sydney himself was the author of an
allegorical romance in prose called Arcadia which had become very
popular as light reading at court. At the age of 23, Spenser took
Masters degree and shortly after graduating from Cambridge fell in
love with a fair widows daughter. Although his love was not
returned, it inspired him to write his first poem The Shepherds
Calendar. The publication of the poem made Spenser the first poet of
the day. His poetry was so musical and colourful that he was called
the poet-painter. Spenser was brought to the notice of the Queen
where he was given royal favour and appointed secretary to the new
Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland.


It was in Ireland that Spenser wrote The Faerie Queene, an epic

poem describing a 12-day feast honouring the Queen of Fairyland. It
was a public poem addressed to Elizabeth I. The poem is a
combination of the medieval allegory and the Italian romantic epic, of
Christian belief and mythology of King Arthur. Spenser imitated
antique verse which was supposed to remind the reader of the
Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer, whom Spenser greatly
When Spenser presented his simple song, as he called it, to the
Queen, the success of the poem was tremendous. The Queen rewarded
him with a pension of 50 pounds, but his position remained
unchanged. Poetry was regarded as a noble pastime, but not a
profession. Edmund Spenser had to go back to Ireland. Spenser died
in 1599. He will always be remembered and
appreciated for the beauty of his verse.
Christopher Marlowe
One of the first dramatists of the time was
Christopher Marlowe (1564 1593). He
lived a short life and died at the age of 29.
Marlowe was born to the family of a
shoemaker and was able to go to Canterbury
Grammar School when he was 14. Upon
graduating a few years later, he won a scholarship which enabled him
to go to Cambridge University. There he got acquainted with Sir
Philip Sydney, the leader of the University Wits. Like most of the
University Wits, Marlowe had a wild reputation he was believed to
be an atheist, to keep mistresses and to be acquainted with thieves.
Yet, this reputation may have been a clever and deliberate disguise: it
is possible that he was a secret agent for the Queens Government.
Marlowe died a young man. He was stabbed to death in a tavern
brawl under strange circumstances, and his death still remains a
mystery. Christopher Marlowe was a great poet and dramatist who
might have become as great as Shakespeare had he not been killed so


Marlowe started his career as an actor at The Curtain, but after

he had broken a leg during a performance, he had to give up acting
and took to writing plays. He was the first in England to approach
history from a political point of view. Marlowes reputation as a
dramatist rests on four plays: Doctor Faustus, Tamburlaine, The Jew
of Malta and Edward II.
Marlowe sums up the New Age: the old restrictions of the
Church no longer exist, limitations on knowlegde have been
destroyed, the world is opening up. Marlowes plays convey the spirit
of human freedom, enterprise and limitless human power. He was
fascinated by power: Tamburlaine is the embodiment of tyrannical
power; the Jew of Malta stands for the power of money; Edward II
suffers from loss of power and Faustus represents the power which
supreme knowledge can give.
The University Wits, including Marlowe, paved the way to
Shakespeare, the greatest of all humanists who marks the highest
point of English Renaissance drama.
John Donne
The Elizabethan Age produced a poet whose
works were fully appreciated only in the 20 th
century, who seems to be the product of the
Atomic Age. John Donne (1573-1631) started as
Jack Donne, a soldier, lover, drinker, writer of
passionate amorous verses. He ended as Doctor
John Donne, bishop, Dean of St. Pauls, great preacher and one of the
most respected men in the country. And yet these two extremes
coexisted in him all his life. As a passionate lover, he was always
analytic and thoughtful, tryoing to explain his passion almost
scientifically. As a priest, he addressed God with the fierceness of a
lover. Donne invented many new verse forms of his own.
In his poetry, which reflects his character, extremes meet. When
his passion is most physical, he expresses it most intellectually. He is
always startling and always curiously modern. It is from his poem For


Whom the Bell Tolls that E. Hemingway borrowed the title for his
King Henry VIII introduced family names in Wales. The
Welsh used to have their own family names with those of
their father and grandfather. From 1535 the Welsh were
forced to use the British name model in law courts and on
official papers.
King Edward VI (born 1537 died 1553), the only
surviving son on Henry VIII was the protagonist of the
Prince in the novel The Prince and the Pauper by M.
Twain. He reigned only 6 years, 160 days.
Foreign visitors noted that women had greater freedom in
England than anywhere else in Europe. Although they had
to obey their husbands, theu were not kept hidden in their
homes. When a guest even a stranger appeared in the
house, he was received with a kiss by all, when he left,
again he was sent with a kiss.


The development of drama and the theatre
in Elizabethan England

The Elizabethans created an elaborate system of

activities and events to keep themselves entertained.
One of the favourite entertainments was watching
theatrical performances. Since ancient times there
existed two principle stages on which dramatic art developed in
Europe. These were the church and the market place. In the 15 th
century, the plays called moralities, were sometimes acted even in
town halls. Church performances of mysteries and miracles were
directed by priests and acted by the boys of the choir. Since then, it
became a long-time tradition to have only men-actors on the English
At the time of Henry VIII, when Protestants drove actors out of
the church, acting became a profession in itself. As soon as people
heard the sounds of a trumpet announcing the beginning of a play,
they would run in crowds to the inn-court which served as an
improvised stage. Indeed, an inn-court was best suited for the purpose,
with its large open court surrounded by galleries. In the middle of the
yard, actors put up a platform with dressing-rooms at the back. The
so-called clean public sat in the galleries which later came to be
known as boxes, some even sat on the stage. The poorer spectators
stood in front of the stage, in the stalls. To make the audience pay for
the entertainment, the actors took advantage of the most thrilling
moment in the plot and sent a hat round for a collection.
The development of drama in England was closely connected
with the development of the theatre. From the very beginning, the
regular drama was divided into comedy and tragedy. Most companies
of players had their own playwrights who were also actors. As plays
became more complicated, there appeared special playhouses. The
1. The first


first regular playhouse in London appeared on the premises of the

former Blackfriars Monastery where miracles had been performed
even before the Reformation. That playhouse was built in 1576 by the
actor James Burbage who called it The Theatre. The Theatre was an
Elizabethan playhouse located in Shoreditch, just outside the City of
London. The Theatre is considered to have been the first playhouse
built in London for the sole purpose of theatrical productions. The
Theatre's history includes a number
of important acting troupes
including the Lord Chamberlain's
Men which employed Shakespeare
as actor and playwright. After a
dispute with the landlord, the
theatre was dismantled and the
timbers were used in the
construction of the Globe Theatre
on Bankside.
The design of The Theatre
was possibly adapted from the inn-yards that had served as playing
spaces for actors. The building was an almost round wooden building
with three galleries that surrounded an open yard. The Theatre is said
to have cost 700 to construct. It was a considerable sum for the age.
Later, there appeared other playhouses The Rose, The Curtain, The
Swan, The Globe. There was a time when there were 9 playhouses in
London alone. The playhouses did not belong to any definite company
of actors. They traveled from place to place and hired a playhouse for
their performances.
During the reign of Queen Elizabeth, the Poor Laws
provided that paupers, beggars and vagabonds
should be sent to prison as tramps. The profession
of a travelling actor became dangerous. Theatrical companies had to
find patrons among the nobility. With a letter of recommendation from
their patron, they got the right to travel and perform. Thus, some
actors called themselves The Earl of Leicesters Servants, others
2. Actors and


The Lord Chamberlains Men. In 1583 the Queen appointed certain

actors Grooms of the Chamber. And though the word groom
originally meant a man or a boy in charge of horses, now it got a new
meaning that of a provincial actor.
The worst enemies of actors were Puritans. They formed a
religious sect which wanted to purify the Church of England from
some forms which the Church had retained from Roman Catholics.
Petty bourgeoisie needed a cheaper Church and hoped that they
would become wealthy through careful and modest living. These
principles, though highly moral at first sight, resulted in a furious
attack upon the stage. Actors were actually locked out of the city
because Puritans considered acting to be a menace to public morality.
The wealthy merchants also attacked the drama because plays
and playgoers caused them a lot of trouble: the profits on beer went to
the proprietors of the inns, not to the brewers. Also, all sorts of
unwelcome people came to the playhouses. It turned out that beggars,
bullies, pickpockets, drunkards and thieves were as fond of
entertainment as ladies and gentlemen. What is more, during the hot
months of the year, the strolling actors spread plague. That is why
Town Councils and other administrative bodies quite reasonably
wanted to get rid of actors.
Had it not been for the Queen herself and her courtiers, whose
way of life provided more time for entertainment, the Corporation of
London might have succeeded in prohibiting plays and actors
altogether. As it was, the Queen and her court patronized and protected
the more reputable theatrical companies. Even so, the Corporation of
London made things hard enough for them, and to avoid some of their
difficulties, actors tended more and more to set up their stages not in
the City itself, but just outside, where the Lord Mayor had less control.
Towards the end of the 16th century, most of the
playhouses were removed from the city proper. A
typical playhouse of the time was circular, with
three galleries running along the walls. Inside, there
was a wooden stage with a roof over it, which was supported by two
3. London


columns, or pillars. The open yard in front of the stage was cobbled
and provided standing room for those paying a penny. The stage itself
was high, with a skirt of cloth, hanging down to the ground. There
used to be several sets of hangings in different colours for different
plays. Black hangings were used for tragedies; comedies, histories or
pastoral plays used red, white or green hangings. At the back of the
stage there were two doors which led to the tiring house where actors
changed costumes, or attired themselves. Actors usually wore
expensive clothes which they got as gifts or bought at a low price from
their patrons. Today, it is called backstage. The doors were large, so
that the scenic properties could be easily carried through. An old
playhouse inventory lists trees, thrones, tombs, chariots and other
things. Actors usually wore expensive clothes which they got as gifts
or bought at a low price from their patrons.
Every playhouse had a flag, and if a performance was expected,
the flag was hoisted above the theatre. On the previous day, notices
advertising the play would have been put up. Plays were not put on for
a run, as they are nowadays. Two or three consecutive performances of
the same play would be an exception. There were many revivals of the
established favourites, but, needless to say, new plays were always a
great attraction, and for these the fee was usually doubled. At the end
of the 16th century, there was an entrance fee already.
Theatres or playhouses were usually situated on the southern
bank of the Thames. Before and after a play, the Thames boatmen
gathered at landings to pick up customers.
The audience entered a playhouse through the main entrance, as
a rule, though certain privileged people were admitted through the
tiring-house door at the back of the stage. They paid the highest prices
to be allowed to sit in the gallery over the stage, or even sometimes
upon the stage itself. According to one contemporary writer, they were
often a nuisance, not because they took up too much room, but
because by talking and playing cards and showing off their clothes
they drew too much attention to themselves. But the ordinary people
went in through the main gate and paid a penny which enabled them
to go into the yard. It was the cheapest part of the house and the


spectators were contemptuously called groundlings. For another

penny, the audience were allowed into the galleries where they either
stood or, for a third penny, could sit on a stool. One of the galleries
was divided into small compartments that could be used by the
wealthy and aristocrats. The sitting capacity of Shakespeares famous
theatre, The Globe, was about 2500 people. The audience consisted
chiefly of men. Women did sometimes go to public playhouses,
suitably escorted, but generally it was not considered to be respectable
and proper for them to do so.
Before the beginning of a performance, one of the actors would
blow the trumpet three times. At the third sounding, the play would
begin. After the performance there came the Jig, which was a jolly
dance. A German visitor wrote about the Jig: At the end of the play,
two or three actors in mens clothes and two in womens clothes
performed a dance, as is their custom, wonderfully well together. This
customary after-piece was usually a rhyming farce on some topical
theme. After that, the audience would leave. The boatmen ferried
people back to the city
Now let us speak about the greatest of all dramatists
of the English Renaissance William Shakespeare.
Various ages have found various things in
Shakespeare. The 18th century writers of the
Enlightenment saw in him just observation of general nature. The
Romantic age admired his freedom from literary convention. The later
19th century critics admired the delicate and complicated
psychological insight of his characterization. All ages have admired
his command of the language. By modern critics he is presented as the
writer and philosopher who is deeply concerned with the moral basis
of life. The key concepts of his plays are Nature, Order, Truth, Right
and Wrong.
But did this man of genius really exist? Some critics claim that it
was not Shakespeare but another person, or a group of people who
wrote the plays attributed to Shakespeare . If he did exist, they say,
4. William


how did he manage to write 37 plays, 4 poems and 154 sonnets? Why
werent they all published during his life-time?
One of the possible explanations is that at the time no-one even
thought of publishing drama. Each dramatist wrote for his company of
actors, and as long as the company had the text, it had the monopoly
for staging the play. Publishing it, would have only played into the
hands of the rival companies. Yet, 20 plays, several poems and sonnets
were published during Shakespeares lifetime. After his death, his
friends published several other plays in what is known as the First
As for the question How was one man able to write so many
plays? the answer is fairly simple. Like any other dramatist of the
time, Shakespeare mostly did patching and was known as a playpatcher. That is, he took well-known stories and adapted them for the
stage. In 1577 Holished published his Chronicles which served as a
major source for Shakespeares history plays. Two years later, in 1579,
there came a publication of Norths translations from Plutarch that
was yet another source for Shakespeare.
What do we actually know about the man called William
Childhood and youth
He was born in Stratford-on-Avon, Warwickshire, in 1564. John
Shakespeare, the poets father, was engaged in wool industry. He had
some pasture land of his own, and also rented a house and land
belonging to Robert Arden, whose younger daughter Mary later
became his wife. John Shakespeare was elected alderman and by the
time their eldest children were born, he acted as bailiff. Some
documents of the time indicate that John Shakespeare was illiterate
and in documents marked his name with a cross. John and Mary
Shakespeare had 8 children 4 boys and 4 girls. The first two
daughters died in infancy. The third child born to them was a son who
was named William.
William was a boy of free and open nature, much like his
mother, who was a woman of a lively disposition. In his boyhood and


youth, William was an inquisitive child: he knew the name of every

plant in the woods and in the fields. Later, when he started writing
plays, he displayed that knowledge. For example, in Hamlet, when
Ophelia goes mad and walks pretending to pick flowers, she mentions
the wild flowers that used to grow in Stratford and the neighbourhood.
At the age of 7, William was sent to the local Grammar School where
the boys were taught the three Rs: reading, writing and rithmetic.
Besides, they learned elementary Latin and Greek. As his
contemporary, Ben Johnson, later wrote, Shakespeare knew little
Latin and even less Greek. Ben Johnson had every reason to say so as
he himself had gone to the best London school and could freely speak
those two languages. On the other hand, Williams teachers were
university graduates and gave him the basic knowledge of literature,
history and geography which he deepened later.
In Shakespeares time, there was much guesswork in the way
children were taught to read. Reading was sometimes the same as
learning by heart. The first book was called The Horn-Book. The
hornbook was a form of ABC book. It consisted of a piece of
parchment or paper pasted onto a wooden board and protected by a
sheet of horn. The text usually started with a cross in the top left-hand
corner. It was followed by an alphabet, vowels, syllables, and the
Lords prayer. Shakespeare mentions the Hornbook in his play Loves
Labours Lost.
William saw performances produced by travelling actors who
came to Stratford. He was still a boy when he began to set and
produce plays even though he had to work hard in his fathers
business. Probably, it was also the influence of what he had seen when
the Queen visited the nearby castle of Kenilworth. The stately
ceremonies, the shows and plays were given in her honour, must have
been imprinted in his memory. Later he showed both professional
travelling actors and amateurs as characters of his plays. Travelling
actors come to the Castle in Hamlet and perform a tragedy, as required
by Hamlet. In the comedy Midsummer Nights Dream a group of
amateurs are busy preparing a play for the Duke to be performed on
his wedding day.


Upon the wide margin of the Bible belonging to Shakespeare,

one can see some drafts of play-bills. One of the play-bills announces
that a sad play is to take place in Ann Hathaways land. Ann Hathaway
was the daughter of a farmer in the village of Shottery, a short distance
off Stratford. She was 8 years older than William, but they fell in love
with each other and got married in 1582. At that time, Shakespeare
was already writing poems. Poetry was so popular and common that
Ann Hathaway expressed her feelings towards Shakespeare in verse:
And proud thy Anna well may be
For queens themselves might envy me
Who scarce in palaces can find
My Willies form with Willies mind.
The first child born to them was their daughter Susanna (1583).
Two years later Ann bore him twins, a boy and a girl Hamneth and
Judith. (Unfortunately, Hamneth died at the age of 11.) It was then
that the Shakespeares faced hard times. The rich landlord Sir Thomas
Lucy, started a conflict with the Shakespeares over the land they had.
The trouble was that William was an actor, though an amateur and Sir
Thomas Lucy was a Puritan. As a result, the Shakespeares lost their
land and became poor. William worked as an assistant teacher in the
Grammar School, but the pay was low and he had to look for another
job. Shortly after the birth of the twins, Shakespeare left for London.
Starting a career in London
Little is known about the next years of his life.
There is evidence that he worked as a secretary
to a nobleman, bought and sold houses, was a
buccaneer, an actor and a playwright. Once a year
he would return to Stratford and then leave for
London again. His plays King Henry VI and King
Richard III were performed in London. It was
there that Shakespeare met the actor Richard
Burbage, whose father had built the Theatre and
whom he had met in Stratford before. Burbage
became his friend and the leading actor of the company. Shakespeare


was quite a good actor himself, but it often happens even now that the
playwright takes the shortest part for himself, leaving the principle
ones to others. Thus, in Shakespeares company, the first Othello and
the first Romeo was Richard Burbage. As for Shakespeare, we only
know that he played the part of the Ghost of Hamlets father.
Shakespeare soon won the reputation of a play-patcher, then he
began to write plays of his own, based on familiar stories. If, at the
time, you had asked a Londoner where to find master Shakespeare, he
would have shrugged his shoulders. But if you had asked him about
Hamlet, he would have explained that that was a Danish prince who
had gone mad and had been sent to England. The Londoner would
have shown you The Globe where the play was often performed.
Lord Chamberlains Men, the company Shakespeare belonged
to, had to pay almost all the money they earned to the owners of
playhouses. That is why it was decided to build a playhouse especially
for the company and let the actors get a fair share of the profit. The
Globe opened in the autumn of 1599 with Julius Caesar one of the
first plays staged. Most of Shakespeare's greatest plays were written
for the Globe, including Hamlet, Othello and King Lear.
At that time, Shakespeare was already quite famous. Towards the
end of the 16th century, the London stage shook with his plays
comedies and, especially, tragedies. They were performed at the royal
court, in noblemens houses, in universities. Once, Hamlet was
performed on board a ship. Shakespeare was known on the Continent,
even as far as Bohemia (the present-day Czech Republic). Who did he
write for? Mostly, for the audience that would come to The Globe.
Shakespeare could please both the groundlings and the lords. If we
look back at his most tragic plays, Hamlet and King Lear, let alone
comedies The Twelfth Night, for instance, we will see that one of
the characters is a fool, or a jester. The most moving scenes are mixed
with indecent jesters. Once, at the request of a Lady of Honour,
Shakespeare dropped out the graveyard scene from Hamlet. The


audience roared wild, threatening to bury the actors, the lady and the
author, if the grave-diggers were not restored.
One of the most exciting and moving tragedies is Romeo and
Juliet. It has long become a symbol of love and devotion. The name
Romeo has become nearly synonymous with lover. Romeo, in
Romeo and Juliet, does indeed experience a love of such purity and
passion that he kills himself when he believes that the object of his
love, Juliet, has died. Romeos deep capacity for love is merely a part
of his larger capacity for intense feeling of all kinds. Love compels
him to sneak into the garden of his enemys daughter, risking death
simply to catch a glimpse of her. Anger compels him to kill his wifes
cousin to avenge the death of his friend. Despair compels him to
commit suicide upon hearing of Juliets death. Such extreme behavior
dominates Romeos character throughout the play and contributes to
the ultimate tragedy that befalls the lovers.
As for Juliet, she is presented as a young girl, barely 14 years of
age, who is suddenly awakened to love. After Romeo kills Tybalt and
is banished, Juliet does not follow him blindly. She makes a logical
and heartfelt decision that her loyalty and love for Romeo must be her
guiding priorities. Essentially, Juliet cuts herself loose from her
parents and her social position in Veronain order to try to reunite
with Romeo. When she finds Romeo dead, she does not kill herself
out of weakness, but rather out of an intensity of love. Juliets
development from a nave, wide-eyed girl into a loyal and capable
woman is one of Shakespeares early triumphs of characterization. It
also marks one of his most confident and treatments of a female
Shakespeares tragedies, and sometimes comedies, might have
been the result of deep personal experience. It is known that, apart
from his very young days, he was not a very happy man. We can only
trace the history of his mind by his works. The ideals of the
Renaissance, the world-wide problems are always focused in his
characters. As compared with the classical Greek tragedy which
presents model heroes acting according to the law and duty,
Shakespeares characters are made of flesh and blood. They are full of


passions and the problem of choice between virtue and evil. How can
evil be overcome is virtue is too passive? This problem is raised in
Sonnet 66.
Tired with all these, for restful death I cry,
As, to behold Desert a beggar born,
And needy Nothing trimmd in jollity,
And purest Faith unfaithfully forsworn,
And gilded Honour shamefully misplaced,
And maiden Virtue rudely strumpeted,
And right Perfection wrongfully disgraced,
And Strength by limping Sway disabled,
And Art made tongue-tied by Authority,
And Folly doctor-like controlling Skill,
And simple Truth miscalld Simplicity,
And captive Good attending captain ill:
Tired with all these, from these would I be gone,
Save that, to die, I leave my love alone.
At the same time, the effort to avenge the wrong, only creates
new crimes that is shown in Julius Caesar. Shakespeare stresses that
murder is not a way out. And in search of an answer there comes
Hamlet. In the tragedy mans existence itself is questioned. The
famous line from Hamlets soliloquy to be or not to be has long
become a saying.
Whether tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing, end them.
In the same soliloquy, Hamlet says: Thus conscience does make
cowards of us all. In another tragedy, Macbeth is also tortured by the
pangs of conscience. Thus, it is conscience that appears to be the
driving force of the Shakespearean tragedy. A sea of troubles which
Hamlet speaks about brings into collision different people. By the end
of each tragedy, the stage is full of corpses again, unlike in the Greek

tragedy. But Shakespeare shows that the noble heroes do not kill for
the sake of revenge only, they kill for the sake of justice and then they
perish, too.
Shakespeare raised the same problems in his sonnets which he
began to write in the 1590s. All 154 sonnets were published in 1609.
Many of them were written to a friend whose name remained
unknown. Another personage of the sonnets is The Dark Lady. It was
believed that the Dark Lady was Mary Fitton, for a time one of the
ornaments of the Queens court. Now it is thought that the Dark Lady
was Emilia Bassano, the daughter of a royal. It was to her that
Shakespeare wrote:
My mistress eyes are nothing like the sun,
Coral is far more red than her lips red,
If snow be white, well, then her breasts are dun,
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
(Sonnet 130)
Another well-known sonnet that ranks among the best is Sonnet
90 (Then hate me if thou wilt).
The atmosphere of misery and
the musical effect of the Sonnet are achieved through a frequent use of
long vowels (which number 22) and diphthongs (which number 34).
The sonnet was masterfully translated into Russian by Samuel
Old age and death
Shakespeare never considered himself a man of genius. He had
his ups and downs, had to be a pawnbroker, he even had to quarrel
with his fellow actors. The prospect of dying poor frightened him that
is why in 1597 he bought two houses in Stratford and was proud that
he would die an esquire. He enjoyed fame and was flattered when he
was received by King James I. (The king discussed with him his plays,
especially Macbeth in connection with the role of monarchy.) At the
end of his life, Shakespeare suffered a terrible blow: in 1613 The


Globe burnt down. Shakespeare returned to Stratford, where he lived

three more years. The remaining years of his life were anything but
happy. He suffered from asthma. One of his daughters was still
unmarried and had grown bitter. Anne Hathaway, or Mrs.
Shakespeare, had turned into an old grumbler. But in her own way, she
was attached to him. Shakespeare died in 1616, presumably on his
birthday. He was buried in the yard of the same church where he had
been baptized and married. The painted bust on his grave shows him
as he was in the last year of his life a typical town burger, bald and
wrinkled. But everybody, in their minds eye, sees their own
Reading Shakespeare in the original is no easy
matter. Although the language of his time already
belongs to New English period, it is known as the
Early New English. When reading Shakespeare, we
must remember, that pronouns in the 2 nd person singular and plural
had different forms: thou, thee, thine, thy for the singular, and you,
your, yours for the plural. Verbs in the Present forms took the ending
-(e)st in the 2nd person singular: thou speakest, thou hast. Auxiliary
verbs ended in t in the 2nd person singular: thou art, thou shalt, thou
wilt. There were 2 inflexions for the 3 rd person singular, -s and -(e)th:
he speaks and he speaketh; he has and he hath. The use of auxiliary
verbs in questions was not absolutely necessary: Spake you with him?
What say you?
In Shakespeare's day, English grammar and spelling were less
standardised than they are now, and his use of language helped to
shape modern English. Samuel Johnson quoted him more often than
any other author in his Dictionary of the English Language, the first
serious work of its type. Shakespeare enriched the English language to
such a great extent that today it has the biggest vocabulary of all the
European languages. Lines from his works have become idioms: alls
well that ends well, a sea of troubles, all that glistens is not gold,
to be or not to be? and many others.
and the


The language in Shakespeares plays depends on the kind of

play. In his early comedies, the verse is light and the lines are often
rhymed. The jesters use the language of the common people spoken in
the street and in taverns. But the language of the noblemen in the first
plays is rather heavy. In the plays of the second period, Shakespeare
often uses blank verse. The language is full of metaphors. He freely
uses conversion (transition of words from one part of speech into
another): sister to sister, father to father, etc. and forms new words
in accordance with the existing rules: to smile smilet, that is a faint
Shakespeares contribution to literature, and culture in general, is
enormous. Charles Dickens drew 25 of his titles from Shakespeares
works. There are about 20,000 pieces of music linked to Shakespeares
works. Shakespeare has also inspired many painters, including the
Romantics and the Pre-Raphaelites. The psychoanalyst Sigmund
Freud drew on Shakespearean psychology, in particular that of
Hamlet, for his theories of human nature.
Shakespeare created a new epoch in world literature. His work
greatly influenced later poetry and prose. In particular, he expanded
the dramatic potential of characterisation, plot, language, and genre.
Until Romeo and Juliet, romance had not been viewed as a worthy
topic for tragedy. Soliloquies had been used mainly to convey
information about characters or events; but Shakespeare used them to
explore characters minds.
Shakespeare was the greatest dramatist of the Renaissance. The
time called for a giant to give an upsurge to English literature, and
there came Shakespeare. Literary critics now say that the role of
literature in Europe was so high only twice in the 16 th century
England and in the 19th century Russia.



The Globe Theatre (named Shakespeares Globe) was
reconstructed in London in 1997 approximately 230
metres from the site of the original theatre.
The last of Shakespeares grandchildren, Lady Elizabeth
Hall Bernard, died childless in 1670.


Stuart England

The 17th century was a period of constant change in

English history. The political crises which were
caused by the civil wars, the kings execution,
Restoration and the Glorious Revolution affected
the lives of every single person and were reflected in all spheres of the
creative arts.
Foreign policy and trade
Elizabeths death in 1603 resulted in the Union of the Crowns as
James VI of Scotland became James I of England. He was the first
Stuart king of England, the son of the rebellious Mary, Queen of
Like all the Tudors, Elizabeth had appreciated the importance of
trade, and of securing the support of the merchant class. James I, who
came from Scotland with its underdeveloped industry and negligible
foreign trade, quickly threw them into opposition by his cautious and
frankly pro-Spanish policy. After all the years of Englands struggle
for domination over Spain, James had no desire to see the Spanish
monarchy humiliated to the greater glory of English trade.
In 1604 the war with Spain was ended with a peace treaty that
was openly criticized in England, because it did not specifically secure
the right of trade with Spanish colonies. Soon peace with Spain passed
into a policy of actual alliance, which infuriated the merchants and the
Protestants. The navy was neglected. Traders complained of the
attacks of pirates even in the English Channel. By that time, the Dutch
had already driven Portugal from the East Indies, called the Spice
1. The reign of
James I


Islands, and soon Holland began to replace Spain as Englands chief

rival at sea.
The importance of spices can only be understood if we
remember that during the greater part of the winter months, the
population of England had to live on salted meat. Turnips and hay
were little used, so the shortage of fodder made it necessary every
autumn to kill off cattle and sheep and salt their meat. Although salt
was expensive, and imported to England from abroad, the salting was
usually so liberally done, that a good amount of spices was necessary
to make the meat edible.
The Gunpowder Plot
A change in James Is foreign policy led to a complete reversal of
the situation at home. Under Elizabeth and up to the time of the
Gunpowder Plot the Catholics had been in active opposition to the
Crown. In 1605 a group of the kings opponents wanted to blow up
Parliament during the kings speech from the throne. The Gunpowder
Plot of 1605, or the Powder Treason, as it was known at the time, was
a failed attempt by a group of provincial English Catholics to kill King
James I, his family, and most of the Protestant aristocracy by blowing
up the Houses of Parliament during the State Opening on 5 November
1605. The plot was intended to begin a rebellion during which James'
nine-year-old daughter (Princess Elizabeth) could be installed as a
Catholic head of state.
Guy Fawkes assisted in filling the room with gunpowder which
was concealed beneath a wood store under the House of Lords
building in a cellar. The 36 barrels contained 1800 pounds of
gunpowder. If they had been successfully ignited, the explosion could
have destroyed many of the buildings in the Old Palace of
Westminster complex, including the Abbey, and would have blown out
windows in the surrounding area of about a 1 kilometre radius.
Fawkes was left in charge of executing the plot, while the other
conspirators left London to await news. Once the parliament had been
destroyed, the other conspirators planned to start a revolt in the


During the preparation, several of the conspirators were

concerned about fellow Catholics who would be present on the
appointed day, and inevitably killed. One of the conspirators betrayed
the plot by writing an anonymous letter of warning to his brother-inlaw Lord Monteagle. The letter read: I advise you to find some excuse
not to attend this parliament, for they shall receive a terrible blow, and
yet shall not see who hurts them.
The tip-off led to a search of the vaults beneath the House of
Lords, during the night of November 4. At midnight on November 5 a
party of armed men discovered Fawkes not far from about twenty
barrels of gunpowder, posing as Mr. John Johnson. Fawkes was
arrested. Far from denying his intentions during the arrest, Fawkes
stated that it had been his purpose to destroy the King and the
Parliament. He was taken to the Tower of London and there
interrogated under torture. All the Conspirators were executed.
Today the English still mark Guy Fawkes Night with bonfires and
crackers and the following rhyme:
Remember, remember the Fifth of November
Gunpowder Treason and plot.
For I see no reason why Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot.
With the development of friendly relations with Spain and, later,
after the marriage of Charles I to the French Henrietta Maria,
Catholics enjoyed a period of court favour. Both James I and his son
Charles I were the descendants of the rebellious Mary Queen of Scots.
No wonder they were supported by Scotland and by English Catholics.
The Pilgrim Fathers
At the same time, the Puritans, who had developed their religious
views in the relative freedom of Queen Elizabeths reign, were
outlawed by James I. In 1620 a large group of Puritans had to escape
first to Holland, and then to America. They sailed on board the
Mayflower which carried them from Plymouth to their new life in
North America. The Pilgrim Fathers, as they later came to be known,
hardly survived the first winter. It was the aid of the American Indians


that saved them from death: the Indians taught the Pilgrims to grow
maize which later became the main grain crop for hundreds of years.
In 1621 the Pilgrims harvested a good crop and celebrated the first
anniversary of their stay in North America by giving thanks to the
Lord that was the first Thanksgiving Day celebration.
The Puritans, as well as the Protestants, were drawn from the
classes which had been the main supporters of the Tudors. They
opposed the regime of James I which, they believed, was working to
restore Catholicism. In this way, opposition to the Crown became
identified with patriotism, and support of the monarchy with those
who were connected with Englands foreign enemies. By their foreign
policy, the Stuarts lost what had been the main source of the Crowns
strength its alliance with historically the most progressive class in
the country.
In the 17th century, England was still largely an
agricultural country: only the East and the South
were industrially developed. Yet, the bourgeoisie
was powerful enough to put up a struggle against
the monarchy, because it had the support of farmers and the new
nobility the gentry. The enclosure of common lands ever since the
15th century made the English village a cradle of capitalism. Rich
farmers were connected with the wool market, and their interests were
the same as those of the bourgeoisie. Likewise, the English
bourgeoisie was not separated from the nobility. Only the eldest son of
a nobleman inherited his fathers title and land, and could sit in the
House of Lords. All the younger sons were commoners: they could go
into the professions and go to university for the purpose, they could
serve in the army, they could become sailors or traders. Their interests
were the same as those of the bourgeoisie. On the other hand, ever
since the 14th century, the money derived from trade had become an
easy way to Parliament. Successful townsfolk bought county-seats and
rose to the ranks of nobility. They were called the new nobility, or the
2. Strengthening
of Parliament


During the last years of Elizabeths reign, Parliament became

very powerful. All through James reign, the Commons quarreled with
the King who assumed monopolies and raised taxes without the
consent of Parliament. The struggle began anew when in 1625 Charles
I took his fathers place on the throne.
King Charles I revived some feudal laws, which
provoked a strong feeling of opposition. He also
set Parliament against the royal family by
marrying the sister of the French king, who was a
Catholic. The English had not forgotten the Spanish marriage of
Bloody Mary and the Catholic reaction that followed. Charles was
eager to support the French king in his wars, and asked Parliament for
money, explaining that England was in danger. Before granting him
the money, the Commons wanted to know who the enemy was.
Charles got out of the predicament by dismissing Parliament. Then he
decided to send a fleet of ships to plunder Spanish treasure-ships.
Loans, raised by the king himself, were followed by patriotic
arguments. But the expedition was mismanaged and failed. England
owed her defeat mainly to George Villiers, the Duke of Buckingham.
Out of sheer incapacity, Buckingham soon involved the country in a
war with France. After a final defeat at La Rochelle, Charles made
peace with Spain and France as quickly as possible.
Meanwhile, the struggle with Parliament went on. When Charles
summoned the second Parliament to ask for money, the Commons
drew up a long list of grievances, and tried to check the Kings
prerogatives. In a few months, the second Parliament was also
dissolved. Charles I dissolved Parliament several times. Finally, the
Commons put forward a list of demands: no taxation without the
consent of Parliament, no billeting of soldiers on citizens, no
imprisonment without trial, responsibility of ministers, appointed by
the king, to Parliament. Charles had to sign The Petition of Rights
but he was no nearer to getting money from Parliament than before.
The next day, the King, angry at the opposition, sent a message to the
Speaker to dissolve Parliament. This act produced a storm in the
3. Charles I and


House of Commons. Two of the boldest members stood one on either

side of the Speakers chair, holding the Speaker down by force and
preventing him from reading the Kings message. Parliament refused
to be dissolved. The infuriated King came down to Westminster
himself. By the time he arrived, the resolutions had been passed and
the members agreed to go home. Charles arrested the leaders of the
Opposition and decided never to call another Parliament.
For eleven years following 1628, the King ruled without
Parliament. He chose as his advisers Archbishop Land and the Earl of
Strafford. They represented Charles in his relations with Scotland and
Ireland. The harshness of their rule gave rise to a number of
rebellions. In Parliament, the Puritans formed two parties: the
Presbyterians and the Independents. The leader of the Independents
was Oliver Cromwell, the man who later changed the course of events
in English history.
In 1639, Scotland started a war against England. The need to
have an army made the King call Parliament in 1640. The Commons
criticized the King for mismanaging the country. Charles got angry
and dissolved Parliament. In history, this Parliament is known as the
Short Parliament. But the Scotch marched on into the North of
England, and Strafford, who had been recalled to England, advised
Charles to summon Parliament again, so as to get money to raise an
army. This parliament is known as the Long Parliament because it
lasted for 19 years. Parliament passed an Act saying that the Kings
ministers should be responsible to Parliament, and that Parliament
could be dismissed only by its own consent. The Commons brought
Strafford and Land to trial for their cruelties. Both were found guilty
and executed. But the King still believed that he could turn the current
of events in his favour by force. The following episode from the film
Oliver Cromwell gives us an idea of what the situation was like.
Charles I believed that he could turn the current of events in his
favour by force. He took no notice of the masses of artisans and
workmen who crowded round his palace. Even the armed clashes
between the Cavaliers and the Roundheads in the streets of London
did not make him feel that he was loosing the battle for power. When


the commander of the City arsenal disobeyed the King and refused to
give up his post, Charles left London. He went to the North of
England, where he had the support of the old feudal nobility. But the
industrially developed parts of England the East and the South, were
on the side of Parliament.
In the summer of 1642, the King raised his
4. The Civil War
standard at Nottingham. That marked the
beginning of the Civil War between the
Royalists and the Parliamentarians, or the
Roundheads. At the beginning, the war was favourable to the King.
The Roundheads were brave enough but inexperienced in fighting,
while the Cavaliers were all trained warriors. The Royalist leader was
the Kings nephew, Prince Rupert who had come from Germany to
help his uncle. The most famous Parliamentarian general was Oliver
Cromwell, who was a landowner from
Huntingdonshire and a Member of Parliament.
Cromwell soon began the military leader of the
army. Until the Revolution broke out, nobody had
known, even himself, that he had a talent for
military leadership. Cromwell trained a body of
soldiers, a regiment on horse, about whom he
wrote: I would rather have a plain captain that
knows what he fights for that that which you call a
gentleman and is nothing else; a few honest men are better than
Cromwells army of a New Model was well-disciplined. His
soldiers were called Ironsides because they were never beaten.
Cromwell won two great battles against the Royalists at Marston
Moor, in 1644, and at Naseby, in 1645. These two battles made
Parliament supreme in the North and in the Midlands. Finally, the
Kings army was destroyed. Charles wanted to join the Scotsmen, and
begged them to help him win back his kingdom. But they were bribed
by Cromwell and handed Charles over to Parliament.


The High Court was assembled together to try the King and to
put an end to the war. The trial was held in Westminster Hall, and
lasted several days. The King was found guilty and sentenced to
death. The sentence read: the court, being satisfied in conscience
that he, Charles Stuart, is guilty of the crimes of which he has been
accused, doth adjudge him as a tyrant, traitor, murderer, and public
enemy to the good people of the nation, to be put to death by severing
his head from his body. Three days later, on January 30, 1649,
Charles I was beheaded. England was proclaimed a Commonwealth
(a Republic) and Oliver Cromwell got the title of the Lord Protector.
When the Puritans came to power, they introduced a number of
measures, which were to become moral rules for everyday life. Games
and theatrical performances were prohibited. It was thought that they
proceeded from the devil. Statues and pictures were taken out of the
churches. The music that followed services was excluded. Cromwell
himself prohibited the celebration of Christmas. There were two
reasons for all that. To begin with, it was a form of protest against the
Kings church which was very costly, and, secondly, it was a political
platform. It was during the time of the Commonwealth that pews and
pulpits were placed in churches to make it easier for the people to
listen to long sermons.
Ten years later, in 1661, monarchy was restored,
and the throne went to Charles II, the son of
Charles I. Although he shared his fathers belief
in the divine origin of royal power, Charles II
managed his return with skill and wisdom. Unlike his father, he made
peace with parliament. Many MPs were given high positions. The
King punished only those who were directly responsible for his
fathers death.
Charles was knowledgeable and witty, as well as pleasureseeking. He patronized trade, arts and science.
An interesting legend is connected with Charles IIs return to
London. On his return to London, Charles II stayed in the Tower, one
of the royal residences. There, looking out of the window, he saw a
5. Restoration of


flock of ravens on the lawn and ordered them to be shooed away. The
soldiers started shooting them when the royal astrologist rushed into
the kings chamber exclaiming, Your Majesty! Dont you know that
when the last raven leaves the Tower, great misfortunes will befall
England? Charles knew that the greatest misfortune that could befall
England and him, personally, could be a loss of his head and ordered
the ravens to be left in peace. Ever since that time special provisions
have been made for the ravens: they are fed and looked after by the
In the 17th century, different regions of England
became more economically integrated. No place
in the country was more than 75 miles from the
sea, and by the end of the century, few places
were more than 20 miles from a river or a canal. These waterways
became the most important means of transport which made it possible
for different regions to produce and sell various kinds of goods. For
example, Kent, which was called the garden of England, grew more
vegetables and fruit to export to other regions.
Improved trade resulted in new forms of buying and selling.
Besides market places and fairs, which had been the sole way of
selling goods, there appeared the first shops which promoted the
growth of towns. London remained far larger than any other town; its
population grew up to 500,000 people by the middle of the century.
London controlled almost all the sea trade with other countries. Other
large cities, Norwich, Newcastle and Bristol, had only 25,000 each.
The great plague of 1655 killed 68,000 people in half a year which
was almost equal to the population of three large towns of the time.
6. Trade in the
17th century

In the 1670s, the most active sections of the

population were the commercial classes. They
took the lead in Englands home and, especially,
foreign policy. Members of Parliament formed
the first political parties. One party promoted foreign trade and
supported the interests of merchants and the bourgeoisies. They were
7. Political


also supported by the Dissenters a religious sect which had

separated from the official Anglican Church. The other party, which
consisted mostly of landowners, supported the interests of the gentry
and the clergy.
The two parties hated each other so much that they gave their
opponents abusive nicknames. Thus, the merchants were called the
Whigs and the landowners the Tories. The word Whig comes
from the Scottish exclamation Whiggam which was used in driving
horses. And Tory was the name given to Irish highway robbers. Later,
these names came to be used by the parties themselves in their
speeches and in cartoons satirizing the other party.
The Stuart age was also the age of a
revolution in scientific thinking. For the first
time in history England took the lead in scientific discoveries. The
Stuarts encouraged scientific studies. The Royal Society of London
for the Promotion of Natural Knowledge was founded in 1645 and
became an important centre for scientists and thinkers where they
could meet and exchange ideas. Now it is Britains oldest and most
prestigious scientific institution.
Already at the beginning of the century, Francis Bacon argued
that every scientific idea should be tested by experiment. Charles II
gave a firm direction to examine all systems, theories, principles,
elements, histories and experiments of things natural, mathematical
and mechanical. The English scientists of the 17 th century put
Bacons ideas into practice.
In 1628 William Harvey discovered the circulation of blood.
This led to great advances in medicine and in the study of the human
body. The scientists Robert Boyle and Robert Hooke used Harveys
methods when they made discoveries in the chemistry and mechanics
of breathing.
In 1666 the Cambridge Professor of Mathematics, Sir Isaac
Newton, began to study gravity. He published his important discovery
8. Science, Art
and Music


in 1684. And in 1687 he published Principia,

on the mathematical principles of natural
philosophy. It was one of the greatest books
in the history of science. Newtons work
remained the basis of physics until Einsteins
discoveries in the 20th century. Newtons
importance as a founding father of modern
science was recognized in his own time.
Alexander Pope summed it up in the following
Nature and Natures laws lay hid in night:
God said, Let Newton be! and all was light.
Newton was encouraged and financed by his friend, Edmond
Halley, who is mostly remembered for tracking a comet in 1683. The
comet has ever since been known as Halleys Comet. In the 17 th
century there was a great deal of interest in astronomy. Charles II
founded the Royal Observatory at Greenwich which was equipped
with the latest instruments for observing heavenly bodies.
Architecture and art
It was no incident that the greatest English architect of the time,
Sir Christopher Wren, was also Professor of Astronomy at Oxford.
Now he is better known as the designer of St. Pauls Cathedral in
London which was built anew after the Great Fire of London (1666).
The larger part of the City was destroyed, and when it was rebuilt, a
new law made Londoners build new houses of stone and brick. Sir
Christopher Wren was ordered to rebuild the churches destroyed in the
Fire. The jewel of the new city was St. Pauls Cathedral. Almost every
other church in the centre of London was designed by Wren or his
assistants. Wren also designed the Royal Exchange and the Greenwich
Another prominent architect and theatrical designer of the
century was Inigo Jones (1573-1651) whose buildings are notable for
their beauty of proportion. They include the Banqueting Hall of
Whitehall Palace in London and the Queens House at Greenwich.


In the 17th century, English painting was greatly influenced by

Flemish artists, especially Van Dyck. He spent a number of years at
the court of Charles I, who was his patron. Towards the middle of the
century, the name of the Englishman William Dobson became as well
known as the name of his Flemish colleague. Another native-born
English painter was Francis Barlow, who specialized in animal
subjects, or scenes of country sports. One of his famous pictures is
Monkeys and Spaniels Playing (1661). This kind of subject matter
was to become immensely popular in the 18 th and 19th centuries.
In music, Viola da Gamba gave way to the violin, and the
English finally produced a national composer who wrote operas.
Henry Purcell, the father of the English opera, may be compared to
Bach and Handel. Purcell was also a talented keyboard player and
His most famous opera was Dido and Aeneas is based on the
ancient Roman story about a Trojan leader who escaped to Carthage
after Troy was captured by the Greeks. There he met Queen Dido who
fell in love with him. Dido killed herself when Aeneas left her.
We must also mention here John Bull, the English organist and
composer, one of the founders of contrapuntal keyboard music. He is
credited with composing the English national anthem, God Save the
King / Queen. But dont think that it is to him that we owe the
traditional nickname given to Englishmen. John Bull, the symbol of
a typical Englishman, is the name of a farmer from the pamphlet of
John Arbuthnot.
9. Literature

The political struggle, involving broad
masses of Englands population, favoured the
development of political literature and laid
the basis for journalism. People took a lively
interest in all kind of information about the
political events of the time. There appeared


leaflets with information (the so-called relations) as well as

periodical press. As a result of the rapid spread of literacy and the
improvement in printing techniques, the first newspapers appeared in
the 17th century. (In fact, the first newspaper was issued to announce
the defeat of the Spanish Armada.) The newspaper was a new way of
spreading ideas scientific, political, religious and literary. The social
revolution brought about a turn from poetry to prose because it was
easier to write about social and political events in prose rather than in
John Milton (1608-1674)
The greatest of all publicists of the Puritan Revolution was John
Milton. He was born to a prosperous family on December 9, 1608.
Miltons father, who had received a good education, was an admirer of
music and a composer. The poets mother is said to have been a
woman of incomparable virtue and goodness.
Miltons childhood was very different from that of other
children. He was little interested in games and outdoor amusements.
His father took care of his early education. John learned to love music
and books. Milton attended St. Pauls school. He read and studied so
intensely that at the age of 12 he had already developed a habit of
working till midnight. At the age of 16 he went to Cambridge
University where he got a Bachelors and then a Masters degree.
Upon graduation, Milton was asked to remain at the University as an
instructor. But he refused, because for him that meant taking Holy
Orders that is becoming a clergyman. He left Cambridge and retired
to his fathers country-place Horton, in Buckinghamshire. There, he
gave himself up to studies and poetry. Many of Miltons poems were
written in Horton. They form the first period in his creative work.
Milton had always wished to complete his education by
travelling, as was the custom of the time. He longed to visit Italy, and
his mothers death, John got his fathers consent to go on a European
tour. He visited Paris, Genoa and Florence. The latter won his
enthusiastic admiration. The city itself and the language fascinated
him. The men of literature, whom he met in Florence, gave him an


opportunity to satisfy his thirst for knowledge. Rome, where he went

after Florence, made a great impression on him. Milton knew the
Italian language to perfection. He spent whole days in the Vatican
library. In Italy, he visited and talked to the great Galileo, who was no
longer a prisoner of the Inquisition, but was still under the supervision
of the Church. Miltons meeting with the great Martyr of Science is
mentioned in Paradise Lost, and in an article about the freedom of the
press. After visiting Naples, he wanted to continue his travels, but the
news from home hastened his return. Milton considered it wrong to be
travelling abroad for personal enjoyment, while his countrymen were
fighting for freedom. He returned to England in 1639. For some time,
he had to do some teaching. The result of it was a treatise on
At the age of 34, Milton married Mary Powell, the daughter of a
wealthy royalist. The union proved to be unhappy. She was a young
and lively girl, little fitted to be the companion of such a serious man.
They had only been married a month, when the young wife got
Miltons permission to visit her parents, and did not come back. It
turned out that her relatives had agreed to her marriage to a
Republican, when their party seemed to be losing power. They
changed their mind when a temporary success of the Royalists revived
their hopes. Milton did not see his wife for four years. During that
time, he reflected much on marriage and divorce. He also wrote a
treatise on divorce. In it, without mentioning his own drama, Milton
regarded marriage and divorce as a social problem. An unexpected
turn in the political situation of the country brought about a
reconciliation of the couple, and Mary returned.
Milton kept a keen eye on the public affairs of the time. The
years between 1640 and 1660 were the period of his militant
revolutionary journalism. His views on civil and religious liberty
served the interests of the revolutionary party, and Milton became the
most prominent publicist of the Revolution.
When a Republican government was established in 1649, Milton
was appointed Latin Secretary of the Council of State. He translated
diplomatic papers from Latin and into Latin. He also continued


writing pamphlets and treatises. In his excellent pamphlets The

Tenure of Kings and Magistrates, Defence of the People of England
and Image Breaker, he made Europe realize that the Revolution was
not just a great rebellion, as the Royalists insisted, but that it was the
only force that could give the people rights and freedom. The
execution of Charles I was not just the cruel bloodshed, but the only
means by which the people could free themselves from the monarchy.
He explained that the King was not a martyr, but the worst reactionary
in the cause of liberty.
During the years of his work as Latin Secretary and journalist,
Milton wrote only a few sonnets, one of them was To the Lord
General Cromwell.
Milton had had poor eyesight even as a child, and now doctors
warned him that unless he stopped reading and writing entirely, he
would lose eyesight. To this Milton replied that he had already
sacrificed poetry and was now ready to sacrifice his eyesight for the
liberty of his people. He lost his sight in 1652. In the same year, his
wife died in childbirth. Milton was left with three young daughters.
Four years later, he married Catherine Woodcock, the daughter of a
Republican this time, but that happiness did not last long. Catherine
died within a year of their marriage.
The death of Cromwell in 1660 was followed by the restoration
of monarchy, and Milton was discharged from his office. The work of
all his lifetime was destroyed. All his famous pamphlets were burnt by
the hangmen. But Miltons spirit was not crushed. With his family, he
retired to a small house in the suburbs of London where he began to
write poetry again.
The years of Miltons retirement became the third period in his
literary career. During that period, he created the things that made him
one of the greatest poets of England. These were Paradise Lost and
Paradise Regained. Unfortunately, two of his daughters refused to
help him in his work. Only his youngest daughter Deborah was
willing to read Latin books to her blind father. With the help of a few
loyal friends, Milton completed Paradise Lost in 1663.


The characters of the poem are God the Almighty, Satan, three
guardian-angels and the first man and woman, Adam and Eve. This
epic poem written in 12 parts is a revolt against God who
autocratically rules the universe. The revolutionary spirit is shown in
Satan, who revolts against God and is driven out of Heaven. Though
banished from Paradise, Satan is glad to get freedom. Milton gives
Satan human qualities. His Satan is determined to go on with his war
against God. Miltons Adam and Eve are not just Biblical characters,
but Man and Woman who are full of energy, who love each other and
who are ready to face whatever the earth has in store for them, rather
than part.
The revolutionary poets of the 19 th century said that Milton was
the first poet who refused to accept the conventional Bible story, but
turned Adam and Eve into human beings.
When Miltons fame reached the Court of Charles II, the Kings
brother (the future King James II) paid a visit to the blind poet and
asked if he did not regard the loss of his eyesight as a judgment
inflicted by God for what he had written against the late King Charles
I. Milton replied: If your Highness thinks that the calamities which
befall us here are indications of the anger of God, in what manner are
we to account for the fate of the King, your father? The displeasure of
God must have been much greater against him than me, for I have lost
my eyes, but he lost his head.
Miltons third wife was Elizabeth Minshel. She was not very well
educated, but she willingly assisted her blind husband, and he dictated
his last works to her. Milton died on November 8, 1674, and was
buried in London. Many years afterwards, a monument to his memory
was erected in Westminster Abbey.
Miltons works form a bridge between the poetry of the
Renaissance and the poetry of the classicists of a later period. He was
attracted by the poetry of ancient mythology and drama, like the
writers and poets of the Renaissance. At the same time, he was a
champion of the revolutionary cause and thought that only a
Republican government could provide a foundation for freedom.



Charles IIs nickname was the Merry Monarch he was
pleasure-seeking and disloyal to his wife and ministers.
Charless wife had no children but he acknowledged at
least 12 illegitimate children by various mistresses.
Many 17th-cecntury newspapers included advertisements,
once Charles II advertised for the loss of his dog.
Women appeared on the English stage only in the 17 th

I. Review the material of Section 2 and do the following test.
Check yourself by the key at the end of the book.
Test 2
1. The Renaissance in England falls on the _____ century.
a. 14th;
b. 15th;
c. 16th;
d. 17th
2. The Invincible Armada was defeated by ___
a. Francis Drake; b. Charles I;
c. Admiral Nelson
3. The Fairy Queen was written by ___
a. W. Shakespeare; b. Ch. Marlowe;
c. E. Spenser
4. W. Shakespeare was ____
a. an actor; b. a playwright; c. a literary critic
5. The Gunpowder plot was in ___
a. 1515;
b. 1605; c. 1649
6. The Pilgrim Fathers were___
a. Catholics; b. Protestants; c. Puritans
7. The King who dismissed Parliament several times was___


a. Henry VIII;
b. James I;
c. Charles I
8. After the establishment of the Commonwealth, O. Cromwell was
a. King;
b. Lord Protector;
c. Lord Chancellor
9. John Milton wrote ____
a. Paradise Lost; b. The Fairy Queen; c. Much Ado About
10. The Father of the English Opera was ____
a. William Byrd; b. Henry Purcell;
c. John Bull
11. As a result of the Civil War, England became ____
a. a parliamentary monarchy; b. a republic; c. an absolute
12. The Great Fire of London was in _______ .
a. 1666; b. 1605; c. 1649
II. Get ready to speak on the following topics:
1. Reformation in England. Henry VIII. Mary Tudor (Bloody
2. The Elizabethan age. Englands relations with Spain. The
geographical discoveries in 16 th century. The development of
philosophy, literature and the theatre (Thomas More, Edmund
Spenser, Christopher Marlowe, William Shakespeare).
3. The reign of James I: the Gunpowder plot, the Pilgrim Fathers.
4. The Civil War and the Commonwealth, Oliver Cromwell. The
5. The Great Fire of London. The development of literature (John
Milton), arts (William Dobson, Christopher Wren, Henry Purcell)
and science (Francis Bacon, Isaac Newton, Edmund Halley) in the
17th century.
3. Topics for presentations:
The history of the English language.
The Elizabethan age.
Science in the 17 th century England.



Britain in the New Age.
Modern Britain.
Britain in the 18th century

In Europe the 18th century was a turbulent age marked with

revolutions, a tremendous upheaval in literature, philosophy and
science all over the continent. It was the age when England gained the
dominant place in the Channel and in the seas and became the worlds
main market. It was the age of the Industrial Revolution which
resulted in Englands economic growth. It was also the age of
continental and colonial wars. The wars waged on the continent were
the War of the Spanish Succession (1702-1713), the War of the
Austrian Succession (1740-1748) and the Seven Years War (17561763). The wars for colonial expansion in India and North America
went on without interruption. Englands rivals were Holland, France
and Spain. The 18th century was a period of transition which saw the
transfer of political power in Britain from absolute to parliamentary
But before we turn to the 18 th century we must speak about the
event which laid the basis for Englands further development the
Glorious Revolution. For different reasons (mainly political and
economic), many English historians consider the late 1680s as the
beginning of the 18th century in the history of England.


In 1688, the bourgeoisie managed to bring the

royal power, the armed forces and taxation under
the control of Parliament. The arrangement is
known as the Revolution of 1688, or the Glorious
Revolution. King James II who succeeded to the throne after the
death of his brother, Charles II, introduced pro-Catholic reforms and,
finally, converted to Catholicism himself. All that which provoked
Protestant hostility in the country. James IIs opponents sparked off
the Glorious Revolution by inviting a Protestant William, the Prince
of Orange, to take the English crown. William of Orange arrived with
an invasion force. In fact, William II, as he came to be known, was
one of the legal heirs to the throne: he was the grandson of Charles I,
and his wife Mary was James IIs daughter and Charles Is
granddaughter. King James II had to flee to France in 1689.
Parliament declared that James II had abdicated and William and
Mary accepted the throne. The attempts to restore James II to the
throne failed in 1690.
William III proved to be an able diplomat but a reserved and
unpopular monarch. In 1689, William and Mary accepted the Bill of
Rights curbing royal power and granting the rights of parliament. It
also restricted succession to the throne only to Protestants. The Bill of
Rights laid the basis for constitutional monarchy. William and Mary
ruled jointly until Marys death in 1694. Her husband died after a fall
from his horse in 1702. The most important result of the Glorious
Revolution is the transition from absolute to parliamentary
monarchy. In 1707, during the reign of Queen Anne, Act of the Union
created a single Parliament for England and Scotland.
1. The Glorious

2. Political and
development of
the country

The 18th century was a sound-thinking and

rational age. Life was ruled by common sense. It
was the proper guide to thought and conduct in
commerce and industry. This period saw a
remarkable rise in the fields of philosophy, natural sciences and
political economy. Adam Smith (1723 1790), the Scottish
economist, wrote his Wealth of Nations in 1776. His ideas dominated


the whole of industrial Europe and America until the revival of

opposing theories of state control and protection. Adam Smith was
one of the founders of political economy which evolved, as a science,
in the 18th century. Smiths ideas were further developed by David
During the reign of George I, government power was increased
because the new king spoke only German and relied on the decisions
of his ministers. The most influential minister, who remained the
greatest political leader of Britain for twenty years, was Robert
Walpole. He is considered to have been Britains first Prime Minister.
Moreover, it was R. Walpole who fathered the idea of using banknotes.
As Britain was waging a series of costly wars with France, the
government had to borrow money from different sources. In 1694, a
group of financiers agreed to establish a bank if the government
pledged to borrow from it alone. The new bank, called the Bank of
England, had authority to raise money by printing bank-notes. But
the idea was not entirely new. For hundreds of years, ever since the
12th century, money dealers had been giving people so-called
promissory notes signed by themselves. The cheques that are used
today developed from those promissory notes. Walpole also promoted
a parliamentary act, which obliged companies to bear responsibility to
the public for the money, which they borrowed by the sales of shares.
In politics, Walpole was determined to keep the Crown under a
firm parliamentary control. He realized that with the new German
monarchy that was more possible than ever before. Walpole stressed
the idea that government ministers should work together in a small
group called the Cabinet. He insisted that all Cabinet ministers should
bear collective responsibility for their decisions. If any minister
disagreed with a Cabinet decision, he was expected to resign. The rule
is still observed today. Walpole opposed wars, and increased taxes on
objects of luxury including tea, coffee and chocolate.
R. Walpoles most influential enemy was William Pitt who
stressed the importance of developing trade and strengthening
Britains position overseas even by armed force. His policies lead to a
number of wars with France. In the war of 1756, Pitt declared that the


target was French trade which was to be taken over by Britain. In

Canada, the British army took Quebec, which gave Britain control
over fish, fur and timber trades. The French army was also defeated in
India and a lot of Britons went to India to make their fortunes. Britain
became the most powerful country in the world. British pride was
expressed in a national song written in 1742, Rule, Britannia.
At the beginning of the 18 th century, England was
3. Life in town
becoming the main commercial centre of Europe.
In 1700 England and Wales had a population of
about 5.5 million people. By the end of the century
it reached 8.8. million. Including Ireland and Scotland, the total
population was about 13 million people.
England was still a country of small villages. The big cities of
the future were only beginning to emerge. After London, the second
largest city was Bristol. Its rapid growth and importance was based on
the triangular trade: British-made goods were shipped to West Africa,
West African slaves were transported to the New World, and American
sugar, cotton and tobacco were brought to Britain.
By the middle of the century Liverpool, Manchester,
Birmingham, Sheffield and Leeds were already big cities. But
administratively and politically, they were still treated as villages and
had no representation in Parliament.
All towns, old and new, had no drainage system; dirt was seldom
or never removed from the streets. Towns often suffered from
epidemics. In London, only one child in four grew up to become an
adult. The majority of the poorer population suffered from drinking as
the most popular drink was gin. Quakers started developing the beer
industry and promoting the spread of beer as a less damaging drink.
Soon beer drinking became a national habit.
4. London and

As England was becoming the main commercial

centre of Europe, London was turning into the
centre of wealth and civilization. Ships came up the


Thames which resembled a forest of masts. There was a great deal of

buying, selling and bargaining in the open.
The City, or the Square Mile of Money, became the most
important district of London. The Lord Mayor was never seen in
public except in his rich robe, a hood of black velvet and a golden
chain. He was always escorted by heralds and guards. On great
occasions, he appeared on horseback or in his gilded coach. A
commonly used phrase said, He who is tired of London is tired of
life. But the 18th century London was, naturally, different from what
it became later. The streets were so narrow that wheeled carriages had
difficulty in passing each other. Houses were built of brick or stone, as
well as of wood and plaster. The upper part of the houses was built
much further out than the lower part, so far out that people living on
the upper floors could touch each others hands by stretching out over
the street. Houses were not numbered as the majority of the
population were illiterate. Shops, inns, taverns, theatres and coffeehouses had painted signs illustrating their names. The most typical
names and pictures were The Red Lion, The Swan, The Golden
Lamb, The Blue Bear, The Rose.
Londoners preferred to walk in the middle of the streets so as to
avoid the rubbish thrown out of the windows and open doors. In rainy
weather the gutters that ran along the streets, turned into black
torrents, which roared down to the Thames, carrying to it all the
rubbish from the City. The streets were not lighted at night. Thieves
and pickpockets plied their trade without fear of being punished. It
was difficult to get about even during the day, let alone at night.
Wealthier Londoners preferred using the river. The boatmen
dressed in blue garments waited for
customers at the head of the steps
leading down to the waterside. Another
way of getting about London was in a
sedan-chair. It was put on two long
horizontal poles which were carried by
two men. When ladies went out to pay


visits, the lid of the sedan-chair had to be opened to make room for
the fashionable hair-dresses and hats.
The introduction of coffee, tea and chocolate as common drinks
led to the establishment of coffee-houses. These were a kind of first
clubs. Coffee-houses kept copies of newspapers, they became centres
of political discussion. Every coffee-house had its own favourite
speaker to whom the visitors listened with great admiration. Each
rank and profession, each shade of religious or political opinion had
its own coffee-house. There were earls and clergymen, university
students and translators, printers and index-makers. Men of literature
and the wits met at a coffee-house which was frequently visited by the
poet John Dryden. Here one could also meet Sir Isaac Newton, Dr.
Johnson and other celebrities.
The 18th century gave birth to the Industrial
Revolution: it brought about the mechanization of
industry and the consequent changes in social and
economic organization. The change from domestic
industry to the factory system began in the
textile industry. It was transformed by such
inventions as Kays flying shuttle (1733),
Hargreaves spinning jenny (1764) and
others. Newcomens steam engine (1705)
perfected by Watt (1765) provided a power
supply. Communications were improved by
the locomotives invented by Stephenson. The 18 th century
improvements in agricultural methods freed rural labour for industry
and increased the productivity of the land. That was followed by the
rapid growth of towns, mostly near coal-fields. Miserable working
and housing conditions later inspired the Luddites, or workers who
deliberately smashed machinery in the industrial centres in the early
19th century. The followers of Ned Ludd, an 18 th century riot leader,
believed that the use of machines caused unemployment. They fought
against unemployment in a most primitive way which, to them,
seemed effective.
5. The


At the end of the 18 th century the struggle of the

6. The Colonial
13 American colonies for independence from
British rule turned into the War of American
Independence (1775 1783). The war was caused
by the British attempts to tax the colonies for revenue and to make
them pay for a standing army. The colonies revolted under George
Washington and declared their independence in 177. In 1778 1780
France, Spain and the Netherlands, one by one, declared war on
Britain. Military operations were held on the American continent. In
1781 Britain lost command of the sea, and her army was finally
defeated at Yorktown. In 1783 the war ended with the Treaty of Paris,
in which the independence of the USA was officially recognized.
George Washington became the countrys first president. The war
discredited the government of George III, weakened France
financially, and served as an inspiration for the French Revolution and
for revolutions in the Spanish colonies in America.
It should be noted that the War of Independence was won by the
Americans largely due to the French support. The famous poet and
playwright Bomarchet, who was a secret agent of the French
government, shipped arms and ammunition over the Atlantic Ocean to
the insurgents. In Paris, he met Benjamin Franklin, who was the
American ambassador to France. Franklin is one of the prominent
figures in American history. To begin with, he helped to draft the
Declaration of Independence in 1776. Besides being one of the
founding fathers of the American nation, Franklin gained a worldwide
reputation for his scientific discoveries, which included a new theory
of the nature of electricity, and for his inventions, among which there
was the lightning conductor.

Britains naval supremacy in the 18 th century gave
rise to marine painting. Victories at sea led to a
steady demand for pictures of sea-battles, and
marine painters made a good living from naval commissions. Another
factor that promoted marine painting was a changing attitude towards
7. The
of arts


the sea and the seashore. Many of the novelists, poets and artists
turned to the sea as a source of inspiration.
The 18th century was also the great age of British landscape and
portrait painting. Sir Joshua Reynolds, William Hogarth and
Thomas Gainsborough were the greatest masters of the century.
They debated whether painting should follow poetry.
Sir Joshua Reynolds was more academic in his views and
manner of painting. That English portrait painter dominated English
artistic life in the middle and late 18th century. Through his art and
teaching, he attempted to lead British painting away from the
indigenous anecdotal pictures of the early 18th century toward the
formal rhetoric of the continental Grand Style. With the founding of
the Royal Academy in 1768, Reynolds was elected its first president
and knighted by King George III.
Thomas Gainsborough was known for his portraits of
fashionable society in the late 18th century and for his landscapes of
the English countryside. His art could be described as natural. One
of Gainsboroughs celebrated works is his portrait of Mr. and Mrs.
Andrews featuring a wealthy Suffolk landowner and his wife against
the background of their estate.
William Hogarth was a major English painter, printmaker,
pictorial satirist, social critic and editorial cartoonist. He is best
known for his moral and satirical engravings and paintings and may
well be called a painter and engraver of modern moral subjects.
All three of them unmistakably are recognized as the 18 th
century greatest English artists whose pictures belong to the treasuretrove of European painting.
In music, the leading musician of the century was George
Frederick Handel (1685 1759). He was a musician and composer
of German birth and a naturalized Englishman. He composed with
extreme facility. For example, Messiah was written in 21 days. His
immense output includes over 40 operas (the best known of which is
Rinaldo), about 20 oratorios, organ concertos, vocal and choral
music and a great mass of chamber and instrumental music. Even his


religious and formal music is dominated by the influence of the

theatre. His music expresses the full range of human feelings; it is
profoundly psychological and subtle.
As Handel was patronized by the king, he sometimes fell victim
to the intrigues of courtiers and politicians who wanted him to support
their cause in front of the king. Handel was bitterly criticized by a
group of playwrights and composers who promoted a national way in
English music. Among them was John Gay (1685 1732), a poet
and playwright. His most famous work, a lyrical drama The
Beggars Opera was turned into a music piece by John Pepusch,
another German composer, mostly known for his vocal music. The
new musical comedy, based on the plot suggested by Jonathan Swift,
was a bitter political satire on politicians, witty and joyful. Handel
was mocked at in the second act, when a group of robbers marched to
the music from his opera Rinaldo. The Beggars Opera was a
tremendous success. During the winter season of 1728 it was
performed 62 times.
The problem of vital importance for the 18 th
century philosophers and writers was the study of
man and the origin of his good and evil qualities.
Human nature, they claimed, was virtuous and any
deviation from virtue was due to the influence of a vicious society.
Formulated in this way, the problem acquired social importance. The
survivals of feudalism, on the one hand, and the evils of the new
system of production, on the other hand, were to be seen everywhere.
Progressive writers explained that vice was caused by ignorance and
the way out was to enlighten the people. Thus, the 18 th century
English writers started a public movement of Enlightenment. They
hoped to improve the world by teaching and bringing the light of
knowledge to the population. The enlighteners rejected Church
dogmas and class distinctions.
The movement of the Enlightenment appeared in England, and
then spread to the Continent. Later, France produced eminent writers
who fought for enlightening the people: Voltaire, Rousseau and others
8. The


In every country, supporters of the Enlightenment shared the same

views: a deep hatred for feudalism and its survivals, systematic
education for all, self-government and liberty. They all spoke up for
the ordinary people particularly for peasants whose fate was to be
decided in the 18th century.
Notwithstanding these common features, there was a difference
between the ideas expressed by the English and those expressed by
the French writers of the period: an intellectual calm is felt in English
literature because the English were past their revolution, while in
France the turbulent spirit of the fight for freedom was only
beginning. The French literature of the Enlightenment prepared the
French for the Great Revolution which broke out at the end of the 18 th
Literature of the Enlightenment
In England, the period saw the transition from the poetic age of
Shakespeare to the prosaic age of essayists. The style of prose became
clear, graceful and polished. Writers accepted such literary forms as
were intelligible to all. Satire gained popularity. The period also saw
the rise of the political pamphlet. Most of the authors of the time
wrote political pamphlets, but the best came from the pens of Daniel
Defoe and Jonathan Swift. Among the best known essayists were
Steele and Addison. Periodical newspapers had been published since
the Civil War, and in 1702 the first daily newspaper was established.
Much of the drama was written in prose, and the leading form
of literature was the novel. The hero of the novel was no longer a
prince, but a representative of the middle class. That had never
happened before ordinary people had usually been represented only
as comical characters.
Towards the middle of the century there appeared a new literary
trend sentimentalism. Richardson, Goldsmith, Fielding those
names evoked a lively response in the hearts of readers both in Europe
and across the Atlantic. The first writer of the sentimental school in
Europe was Samuel Richardson. His novels Pamela, Clarissa and
History of Sir Charles Grandison were the works that showed the


inner world of the characters. Richardson appealed to the hearts of the

readers and made them sympathize with his unfortunate heroes. The
novels were a tremendous success in the 18 th and 19th centuries all
over Europe.
We can say that the English writers of the Enlightenment formed
two groups. Those who hoped to better the world merely by teaching
were Joseph Addison (who wrote essays), Richard Steele (who
wrote essays, comedies), Daniel Defoe (the author of Robinson
Crusoe), Alexander Pope (the author of The Rape of the Lock),
Samuel Richardson (the author of Pamela). The other group
included the writers who openly protested against the vicious social
order. Those were Jonathan Swift (the author of Gullivers Travels),
Henry Fielding (who wrote The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling),
Oliver Goldsmith (the author of The Vicar of Wakefield), Richard
Sheridan (the author of The School for Scandal), Tobias Smollett
(the author of Peregrine Pickle), Robert Burns (who wrote Poems,
Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect).
The poetry of the 18th century was didactic and satirical. It was
the poetry of the town and its fashionable life as well as the poetry of
worldly wisdom. The leading poet of the century was Alexander
Pope one of the first English classicists. He had little contact with
the average reader because in order to read and enjoy Pope one had to
be familiar with the works of Horace, Virgil and the Greek poet
Theocritus. In 1715 Pope published his translations of the Iliad and
the Oddysey by Homer, which made him famous. Pope had a delicate
sense of style, which he polished to the last degree of gleaming finish.
His poems, such as The Rape of the Lock, are notable for their elegant
Pope organized a society of literary men who called themselves
the Martin Scriblerus Club. Martin Scriblerus was an imaginary
personage: anyone who wished to publish a satire in a magazine was
allowed to use the name of Martin Scriblerus as a pseudonym. Pope
hoped that when put together those stories would make an interesting
book. But they remained isolated compositions. Yet, it was Martin


Scriblerus that inspired Swift to write the famous novel Gullivers

Robert Burns (1759-1796)
Robert Burns, who is rightly considered to be
the national pride o f Scotland, began writing
poetry at the age of 15. But it was only 10 years
later that his first volume of poems was published
Poems: Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect. The book
won him immediate success. The source of Burns
poetry is Scottish folklore. Burns was deeply aware
of the dignity and equality of men. He wrote epigrams on idle
noblemen and at the same time composed tender lyrical verses.
Oh my luves like a red, red rose, John Barleycorn, The Tree
of Liberty, Auld Lang Syne these famous poems and songs have
been popular for two centuries. The Burns festival is held every year
with people coming from all over the world.
Most of Burns' poems were written in Scots. They document and
celebrate traditional Scottish culture. Burns wrote in a variety of
forms: letters to friends, ballads, and songs. He is well known for the
over three hundred songs which celebrate love, friendship, work, and
drink with often hilarious and tender sympathy. Even today, he is
often referred to as the National Bard of Scotland.
Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)
Doctor Johnson is little known outside Britain. But in his time
was a popular English poet, essayist,
biographer, lexicographer and a critic of English
In the words of a modern scholar, he was a
great literary personality. He compiled and
published the Dictionary of the English Language
(1755). Despite common assumptions that Dr.
Johnson wrote the first dictionary of the English
language, there had been nearly twenty "English"
dictionaries in the preceding 150 years. Johnson's dictionary was to


rise above all these because of his meticulous research; his depth and
breadth of definitions and his careful use of description.
Samuel Johnson was the son of a poor bookseller. He attended
Lichfield Grammar School and a few weeks after he turned nineteen,
he became a student of Oxford University. After thirteen months,
however, poverty forced him to leave Oxford without taking a degree
and he returned to Lichfield. Just before the publication of his
Dictionary, Oxford University awarded Johnson the degree of Master
of Arts. In 1775, Oxford University awarded him an honorary
The two outstanding figures in the 18th century literature of
England were Daniel Defoe and Jonathan Swift.
Jonathan Swift (1667-1745)
Swift was an Irish-born Englishman who spent a large part of his
life in Ireland. He got a Bachelors degree in
1686 and for a long time had to work as a
private secretary and accountant to Sir
William Temple, a statesman and a courtier,
who resided at Moor Park, not far from
London. And although Sir William liked the
young man, the ambitious Swift considered
that he was treated just a little better than a
servant. In 1692 he went to Oxford to take
his Masters degree. After that he became a
vicar at a little parish church in Ireland.
Later, he returned to Sir William Temple and continued working for
him and writing pamphlets and satires in his spare time. Swift was one
of the most critical and sarcastic journalists of the time. One of his
best-known pamphlets was The Tale of the Tub.
Swift was wonderfully popular in England and especially in
Ireland. The Lord Governor of Ireland once said that all he managed to
do in Ireland was done with the kind permission of Mr. Swift. But his
life could hardly be called happy. By the end of his life he became
even more embittered and satirical than before. Swift's misfortunes
and the death of his wife undermined his health. In 1740 his memory


and reason were gone. He became completely deaf. He wouldn't touch

food if there was anyone present in the room. He died in Dublin in
What brought Swift real fame was his book Gulliver's Travels. In
that book Swift satirized the evils of the existing society. It was
altogether a novelty in English literature.
At first Swift intended to publish the book as the story of Martin
Scriblerus. But later he heard of a farmer called Gulliver, who was a
real giant, so strong and tall that he could carry a horse across a fence.
That impressed Swift tremendously, and that is how his favourite
character got his name.
The first two travels to the land of Lilliputs and to the land of
Brobdingnag (the giants) are well-known as children's entertaining
reading. In the description of the third voyage to the floating island
of Laputa, and the fourth the land of the intelligent horses, Swift
abandons delicate fancy and unmasks the selfish and brutal nature of
humanity. He shows the stupidity of the so-called academicians and
the true nature of human civilization. In the land of the intelligent
horses, humans, called Yahoos, are shown as filthy degenerated
creatures, unable to speak clearly or do any decent work. The book is
written with wonderful energy and polemical skill. It has been
translated into many languages and is read and enjoyed by thousands
of readers.
Daniel Defoe (1661-1731)
D. Defoe was born in London to the family
of a butcher who was a Dissenter, that is, a nonconformist. Their family name was Foe. Daniel
was about 40 years of age when he first changed
his signature of D. Foe into De Foe and then
Defoe. Daniel got the best education his father
could afford. The boy was to become a minister
in the Nonconformist Church; therefore, at the
age of 14, he was placed in an academy for a full


course of five years. But when his training was completed, he refused
to devote himself to the Church. In his opinion, it was neither
honourable and pleasant, nor profitable. He decided to start business
as a merchant. But though he was energetic and practical, a
businessman to his fingertips, Defoe never succeeded in business. He
went bankrupt several times. What he used to say was, Thirty times I
was rich and poor. The only branch of business in which he proved
to be successful was journalism and literature.
When Defoe was 23, he started writing pamphlets. Usually he
was very outspoken and wrote what he thought. Thats why his
pamphlets sometimes got him into trouble. In 1685 he took part in the
revolt led by the Duke of Monmouth, the illegitimate son of Charles
II, against James II. Monmouth hoped to get the Crown with the help
of the Protestants. The rebellion was put down, and Defoe had a
narrow escape.
When the Protestant king, William III, came to power in 1688,
Defoe wrote pamphlets praising his policy. It was the beginning of his
literary career. Defoe anticipated the greatest public improvement of
modern times; higher education for women, the protection of seamen,
the construction of highways and the opening of savings-banks. He
urged the establishment of a special academy to study literature and
Owing to the fact that William III was the king of the Whig party,
he was attacked by the Tories, who called him Dutch William. Some
Tories demanded in pamphlets that the English race should be kept
pure. Opposing this foolish idea, Defoe wrote the pamphlet The TrueBorn Englishman in which he proved that a true-born Englishman did
not exist, since the English nation consisted of Danes, Picts, Scots,
Angles, Saxons, Normans and other peoples. He said A true-born
Englishman is a contradiction in speech, an irony, in fact, a fiction.
The king personally thanked Defoe for the pamphlet.
During the reign of Queen Anne, persecution of the Dissenters
began again. In 1702 Defoe wrote a pamphlet in defence of the
Dissenters (The shortest Way With the Dissenters) in which he
attacked the Tories and the established Church. But the irony was so


subtle that the enemy did not recognize it at first. They considered it to
be next best to the Bible. When they realized the real character of the
pamphlet, Defoe was sentenced to seven years imprisonment. To
disgrace him even more, the Tories subjected him to standing in the
pillory in a public square. Before he went to prison, he wrote his
Hymn to the Pillory, in which he demanded a fair trial. Though the
Hymn was not published, Defoes friends made it popular. It was sung
on street corners on the day of the public execution. Many of the
poorer Londoners, who knew Defoe well, gathered round the pillory,
forming a live fence and preventing the crowd from tormenting him.
Women threw flowers to him. When the time came to set him free,
people cheered him and carried him from the square on their
shoulders. That was the climax of his political career - and the end of
After his release he worked as an editor of a journal, which
supported the ruling party - his former enemies. After the death of
Queen Anne, the Whigs came to power, and Defoe continued serving
the new ruling party. All this time he was regularly receiving money
from the government. But the English government never paid money
for nothing - only for some services. Later, it turned out that Defoe
had been in her Majestys Secret Service.
In 1719 he tried his hand in fiction and wrote the famous novel
about the adventures of Robinson Crusoe. The idea of writing about a
man who had to live on a desert island was taken from a story
published in Steele's magazine The Englishmen. It was about a
sailor Alexander Selkirk, who had spent four years and four months
on a desert island. Defoes Robinson Crusoe spent 26 years alone on
his island. The novel is praise to human labour and the triumph of
man over nature. Labour and fortitude help Robinson to endure
hardships. They save him from despair. The very process of hard work
gives him satisfaction.
Defoe is a great master of realistic detail. When reading his
description of Crusoes life and work, one feels that the author must
have lived through all the adventures himself. The charm of the novel


lies in Robinson as a person. He develops into a strong-willed man,

able to withstand all the calamities of life.
The novel is a study of man, a great work showing man in
relation to nature and civilization.
When Robinson Crusoe was published, Defoe became famous
and came into money. He was now able to pay his debts. He built
himself a house and kept a coach and a pleasure-boat.
It is said that not long before his death Defoe fell victim to a
serious mental disease. In 1729 he was at work on a new book. Part of
it was in print when he broke off abruptly and fled. He was very fond
of his wife and daughters, but did not want them to know his hidingplace. For two years he lived in poverty and quite alone, and died in
1731. The inscription on his gravestone says, "Daniel Defoe. Author
of Robinson Crusoe..."
The Bank of England was founded in 1694 by William
Paterson, a Scotsman.
The Bank of Scotland was founded in 1695 by John
Holland, an Englishman. The first English coffeehouse,
named Angel, was established in Oxford, be a certain
Jewish entrepreneur named Jacob, in 1650.
Oxford coffeehouses developed into penny universities,
which occupied a significant position in Oxford academic


From Napoleonic wars to Victorian Britain

In the 1790s, the wars of the French Revolution

turned into the Napoleonic wars, as Napoleon
Bonaparte took over the French government. The
war caused a boom in farm production and in
certain industries. At the same time, it caused rapid inflation. In 1797
the Bank of England was forced to stop payment of gold for paper
currency, and Parliament voted the first income tax.
The war did not go well for Britain. During the Napoleonic wars
it had to form four coalitions. Three coalitions collapsed and
Napoleon was planning to invade Britain. It was Admiral Nelson's
victory in the dramatic battle of Trafalgar in 1805 that prevented the
invasion. The battle was won at the price of Nelson's life, but the
French forces never stepped on the British soil. Admiral Nelson was
buried in Westminster Abbey, and the column set up in Trafalgar
Square in the center of London is topped with a bronze statue of the
national hero.
Napoleon's invasion of Russia in 1812 led to the fourth
coalition, which brought together the armies of Britain, Russia,
Austria and Prussia. Britain's contribution included an army led by
The Duke of Wellington, who first fought in Spain and later won the
Battle of Waterloo. Wellington proved to be a capable commander
early in the war. Unlike the majority of the officers of the allied forces,
he did not believe either in the genius of Napoleon himself or in the
invincibility of his army. He insisted that Napoleon usually won his
victories largely due to the psychological effect produced by his army
and his personality. On his appointment as commander of the British
army he wrote about the French, I am not afraid of them. I suspect
1. Napoleonic


that all the continental armies were more than half beaten before the
battle was begun. I, at least, will not be frightened beforehand. At the
beginning of March 1815, the Emperor Napoleon escaped from Elba
and returned to France. He reformed his army with astonishing speed,
and determined to conquer Holland as the first move in rebuilding his
empire. The representatives of the allied European countries that met
at the Congress of Vienna mobilized their armies to stop him, but only
two armies could be brought to Flanders in time: the Prussian army
commanded by Marshal Blucher, and a mixed army of British, Dutch
and German troops under the command of the Duke of Wellington.
They were all divided in their languages, loyalties and experience, so
it was largely due to Wellington's military talent that the allied forces
defeated Napoleon at Waterloo, in Belgium, on June 18, 1815. The
battle of Waterloo brought about Napoleon's downfall. Wellington is
rightly considered to be a national hero, like Admiral Nelson.
At the beginning of the century Britain
enlarged its colonial territories, adding to the
empire the former Dutch possessions of Ceylon
and the Cape of Good Hope.
In the 1820s, Prime Minister Robert Peel
turned his attention to the problem of crime by establishing a regular
police force for London in 1829. The government employed a
specially trained army of men to catch criminals. Although at first
Londoners laughed at the blue-uniformed men in their top-hats,
during the next thirty years almost every other town and country
started a police force of their own. The new police units soon proved
themselves successful, as much crime was pushed out of larger cities,
then out of towns and finally out of the countryside. Robert Peel was
able to show that certainty of punishment was far more effective than
cruelty of punishment.
The beginning of the century also saw the innovations of Robert
Owen, a factory owner from Scotland, who gave his workers shorter
working hours and encouraged trade unions. He built his factory in
the countryside, away from the smog and dirt of the big cities, and

2. The political and

development of the


provide d good housing for workers and a school for their children.
Owen was able to prove that his workers produced more goods in less
time than those forced to work longer hours. Better working and
living conditions resulted in an increase in labour productivity.
Owens ideas and example were supported and
put into life by other reformers, like Authur
Cadbury, the owner of the famous Birmingham
chocolate factory, who built first-class housing for
The main political issue of the 1830s was the
Reform Bill, which became law in 1832. The bill
set up a system of registration that encouraged
political party organization, both locally and
nationally. That measure weakened the monarch and the House of
Lords. Other reforms came in a quick succession. In 1833 slavery was
abolished. By the New Poor Law of 1834 workhouses were opened.
They were meant to provide the homeless people with work and
shelter. Abandoned children were also taken care of in workhouses.
But although the new system involved supervision by a central board
(or Committee), working and living conditions of people in
workhouses were even worse than those of slaves. As the country's
industry was rapidly developing, child labour became common
practice. Children from poor families started working at the age of 4
or 5. They worked in textile factories and in mines for 16 hours a day.
There were cases when little workers had to stay at work for 18 hours.
They worked and slept in the same place. But the worst fate was of
those children who worked as chimneysweeps. They seldom lived to
become adults. It was only in 1849, during the reign of Queen Victoria,
that an act of Parliament limited the working hours of children under
the age of 10 to 10 hours a day.
In 1836 a special law placed the registration of births, deaths and
marriages in the hands of the state rather than the Church. All
attempts on the part of the state to influence and subsidize education
were strongly opposed by the Church.


During the economic depression of 1837 the reform spirit

declined. Working conditions became even worse. The protest
organization, known in history as
Chartist movement, came into being. The Chartists demanded the
immediate adoption of the People's Charter, which might have
transformed Britain into a political democracy with universal
male suffrage, equal electoral districts and the secret ballot. It was also
expected to improve living standards. Millions of workers signed
Charter petitions in 1839, 1842 and 1848. Some Chartist
demonstrations turned into riots. Parliament repeatedly rejected the
People's Charter and the idea was never realized.
In the 1820s Britain welcomed the
independence of Spain's South American colonies
and aided the Greek rebellion against the Turkish
rule. The events in Greece were praised and
supported by Romantic writers and poets. Extending from about 1789
until 1837, the Romantic age stressed emotion over reason. In English
literature the Romantic age was characterized by the subordination of
reason to intuition and passion, as well as the cult of nature (much as
the word is understood now). Individual will was superior to social
norms of behaviour, immediate experience was more important than
generalized and typical experience.
The first Romantics were the poets William Wordsworth and
Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Wordsworth adored and idealized the
countryside and nature. Another Romantic poet and novelist was Sir
Walter Scott. At the beginning of his literary career he wrote poetry.
After the publication of the poem The Lay of the Last Minstrel (1805),
Scott became the most famous poet of the day. Later
he turned to novels. Walter Scott is known as the
founder of the historical novel in English literature.
Walter Scott was a faithful son of Scotland and
studied the past of his native land through
documents, history and legends. His most famous


novels are Ivanhoe, Rob Roy and Quentin Durward. When his
business partner died leaving Scott to pay the debts, the writer had to
start working day and night. That explains the fact why Scott's later
novels are less elaborately worked out than the earlier ones.
Unlike Coleridge, Wordsworth and Scott the next generation of
Romantic poets were full of revolutionary spirit. George Gordon
Byron (1788-1824) exemplifies a personality in tragic
revolt against society. Byron was born to an aristocratic
family and educated at Harrow College. The boy was not
very tall and, what is more, he was lame. That is why
he gave much of his time to sports in order to
compensate for his physical deficiency. He also traveled
a lot both in England an on the Continent. When his
first book of poems (Hours of idleness) was published
in 1807, he was bitterly criticized in the press. But that didnt stop
him. He retorted with an epigram and continued writing.
Byron traveled a lot both in England an on the Continent. In
1809-1811 he travelled to Portugal, Spain, Turkey and Greece. The
earliest fruits of his travels were the first two cantos of Childe
Harold's Pilgrimage (1812). The poem brought him immediate
success and established his reputation as a great poet of England.
Childe Harold's Pilgrimage is partly autobiographical. The hero is a
disillusioned rebel, demanding absolute personal freedom, who
quickly became the symbol of the vanguard literary thought in
Europe. Byron let his hero travel from country to country, filling the
poem with vivid descriptions and satirical remarks.
Between 1813 and 1816 Byron wrote Oriental Tales, which
included 4 pieces. In 1816 he left England and up to 1823 lived in
Switzerland and Italy, where he at first supported and later joined the
Carbonari movement. He wrote two more cantos of Childe Harold,
Manfred and the most famous of his poems, Don Juan, which was
not finished.
In the 1820s Byron got particularly interested in the struggle of
Greece against Turkey. He financed the buying of medicines and arms
for the Greeks and then joined them in person. He participated in the


defence of the Fortress of Missolungui. There he went down with a

fever and died.
Byron produced a tremendous impact on A. Pushkin, M.
Lermontov, W. Goethe and other European poets. They translated
and imitated Byron's poems. Pushkin described Oneguin as
. Byron's poem My Soul Is Dark was wonderfully well
translated by M. Lermontov.
The Romantic movement was also reflected in
art. Landscape painting especially acquired new
importance, notably in Britain, and its greatest
exponents were among the leaders of Romanticism.
It was the time of the great English painters John Constable and
William Turner. They are both famous for their landscapes, but
Turner is especially known for his remarkable light effects. Sketching
all over Europe during a long life, Turner produced a succession of
water-colours and oil painting of great subtlety and power. Constable
reinvented the medium of oil paint as a vehicle for his personal
sensations in front of English rural scenery. And though his painting
met with little success at the Royal Academy exhibitions, his idea of
making art from direct observation of nature brought profound changes
to painting later in the 19 th century. Unlike Constable, Turner was
hugely successful in his own time, partly because the works he
exhibited basically corresponded to the prevailing academic theory
that in art landscape should be transformed by the artist's imagination.
Even so, his extraordinary use of colour and light, and his dramatic
innovations in the painting of stormy seas and effects of weather, made
him controversial throughout his career.
Other artists set out to explore the inner world of the mind.
William Blake developed a whole private mythology to investigate the
meaning of human life and its place in God's creation. Blake was a
poet, an artist, a professional engraver and a mystic. His early works
(Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience), although Romantic,

4. Art and artists


were never free from symbolism. Some of his poems were published
only in 1925. Most of his books were self-illustrated.
During the Victorian Age, the British Empire
5. Victorian Age
reached its height and covered about a fourth of the
world's land. Industry and trade expanded rapidly,
and railways and canals crossed the country.
Science and technology made great advances. The size of the middle
class grew enormously. By the 1850s, more and more people were
getting an education. In addition, the government introduced
democratic reforms.
By the late 1830s the monarchy was beginning to
look a disreputable and even unnecessary institution.
Kings were not expected to rule but to reign. From this
low point the monarchy was rescued by Queen Victoria,
one of the most notable figures in British royal history.
She came to the throne in 1837 and reigned u ntil her
death in 1901. Her achievement was restoring respect
and usefulness to the Crown, and then going further by
becoming the symbol of the nation.
Victoria first learned about her future role during a history lesson
when she was 10 years old. The future queen reacted to the discovery by
declaring, "I will be good." She took an active interest in the policy of
her ministers. Her relations with Prime ministers Peel and Disraeli were
excellent but she was not on good terms with Palmerston and
Gladstone. The Queens conscientious approach to her duties did much
to raise the reputation of the monarchy.
One should never forget about the impact of Victorias private
life on the countrys policy. In 1839 Victoria fell in love with her first
cousin, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. They were married in
February 1840, and Albert soon developed a keen interest in governing
his new country. Prince Albert served as his wifes private secretary.
Being an active patron of the arts and sciences he was the prime


organizer of the Great Exhibition of 1851. Albert also favored the

expansion of education, and he served as chancellor of the University
of Cambridge. He became a great champion of strengthening and
modernizing Britain's armed forces. Though Prince Albert was
respected by most of his new countrymen, he was not loved; many
resented him because he was a foreigner. For Victoria, however, her
husband represented perfection, and the two were very happy together.
The royal couple offered an example of family life that contrasted
sharply with the images of the previous British monarchs. They took
an intense personal interest in the upbringing of their children, and
enjoyed a private family life.
Victoria partly owed her success to the fact that she possessed
shrewd commonsense and high principles. In many ways the Queen
was a very contradictory person. She idolized family life, but felt
uncomfortable in the presence of little children. She had no interest
in social issues, and yet the 19th century in Britain was an age of
reform. She resisted technological change at the time when
technological innovations reshaped the face of European civilization.
And a lot of technological initiatives came from Britain. Most
significantly, Victoria was a queen determined to retain political
power; yet unwillingly she greatly contributed to the transformation
of the monarchs political role into a ceremonial one and thus
preserved the English monarchy. In a period when middle-class
values were of greatest importance, Victoria embodied the qualities
that the middle classes most admired devotion to family and
friends, integrity and reliability. Everything that was summed up in
the word respectability. Nowadays we use the word Victorian
not only in the meaning of old-fashioned, but also to characterize
efficiency, high morals and good business practice. But Victorias
most important asset was her devotion to the nation. Even when she
became an elderly woman, she continued to execute her duties.
Victoria early became a widow as Prince Albert died of typhoid
fever in 1861. The Queen wanted to retire from public life
completely but the sense of duty and responsibility made her emerge
from retirement to perform her royal duties. In the last 20 years of


her reign she became as completely loved and idolized as Elisabeth I

had been. Victoria was often called the grandmother of Europe
because by her childrens marriages she was related to every royal
house of Europe.
Home and Foreign Policy
In the 19th century the British Empire was constantly expanding
and reforming its political relations with old colonies. In 1837 there
was a rebellion in Canada. That led to working out the system of selfgovernment for Canada. In 1855, a similar system was applied to the
other two territories with white populations, Australia and New
Zealand. Later, Prime Minister Gladstone became convinced that there
should be Home Rule for Ireland and introduced a Bill in Parliament
in April 1886. But the Bill was lost.
The British Empire managed to acquire new territories in various
regions of the world. Particularly successful was the conquest of India.
Due to internal disputes Indias rulers found themselves completely
unprepared for a well-elaborated British invasion. It was Prime
Minister Disraeli and his government that gave Queen Victoria the
title of Empress of India in 1877.
The opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 and the purchase of a
half-share in the enterprise aroused British interest in the affairs of
Egypt and the Sudan. In fact, the British government did not have any
elaborated policy towards Africa until the end of the century. They did
not want extra territories to administer at great coast. Muh of the
exploration of Africa was left to private individuals: missionaries and
businessmen. David Livingstone, a Scottish missionary explored
much of East and Central Africa. Cecil Rhodes, an explorer,
businessman and settler, aimed to establish a great empire for Britain
in Africa and to build a railroad from Cairo to the Cape. British
influence was similarly extended to Nigeria, Kenya and Uganda
through private companies.
The situation in the Near East was also far from being stable.
There were serious collisions between the Russian and British
Empires about the control other the territory of Afghanistan. Neither
of the two succeeded in conquering the country, but a very bitter


feeling remained and affected the relations between Russia and

The Crimean War (1854-1856)
Britains only war with a great power in the 19th century was the
Crimean War with Russia. It lasted from 1854 to 1856 and was aimed
at the reduction of Russian influence in the Balkan region. The war
revealed that the British army was very inefficient compared to other
European armies.
The most important battles were fought at Alma, Balaclava and
Inkerman. The first Victoria crosses were awarded.
The siege and defence of Sevastopol brings to the
Russian mind the names of admirals Kornilov,
Nakhimov, and the first Russian nurse Daria
Mikhailova. To the English mind, it brings the
name of Florence Nightingale, the first English
nurse. Her work in organizing field hospitals in the Crimea pioneered
modern nursing methods and promoted the recognition of nursing as a
respected profession.
After a long siege Sevastopol was taken by the allies in 1855 and
the war was ended by the Treaty of Paris (1856). The Treaty provided
for the demilitarization of the Black Sea. Neither Russia nor Turkey
was allowed to have a fleet of ships in the Black Sea. The position of
the British Empire was strengthened again. The Russian Black Sea
fleet was rebuilt only 16 years later.
The Boer War
At the end of the century (1899 1901), Britain waged a war in
South Africa known as the Boer War. The presence of British
emigrants in the two Dutch Boer republics, the Orange Free State and
the Transvaal, and the question of their civic rights under the Boer
rule, worsened Anglo-Boer relations. In 1899, the Boers under Kruger,
the Transvaal President, declared war on Britain. It was the first war
overseas to split the public opinion. Moreover, public opinion in
Europe and America turned against Britain as in opened the first


internment camps. The war led to a demand for army reform and to a
reaction against imperialism.
The war was won by Britain and the two Dutch republics
became part of the British Empire, but Queen Victoria did not live to
celebrate the victory. She died in 1901, and her death marked the end
of an age Britains summer.
The development of industry and science.
Victorias reign saw the rapid industrialization of Britain, and a
vast growth of national wealth, reflected in the imperialism of the late
19th century. Britain became the strongest colonial power in the world.
Its trade with colonies flourished. British businessmen wanted to buy
cheap and sell dear, but they were blocked by various preferences
granted to colonial produce. Thus foreign markets were growing more
important than colonial.
The development of industrial production and trade stimulated
the development of transport. The railroad network more than doubled
during the mid-Victorian years. And although originally the railroads
were built to carry goods, they also catered for passengers. The
number of passengers carried annually increased 7 times by the
middle of the century. A boom in steamship building began in the
1860s. The value of British exports went up 3 times and overseas
capital investments increased 4 times.
The Great Exhibition of 1851, held at Crystal Palace in London,
was the first world's fair and symbolized Britains industrial
Working class living standards improved. The growth of trade
unionism led to the establishment of the Trades Union Congress in
The Victorian age was the peak of the so-called English
summer. And not only due to the industrial development and colonial
expansion of the country. It was also the age of rapid development of
science. Charles Darwin and Michael Faraday are two of the most
distinguished figures in the history of British science.


In 1857 Charles Darwin published The Origin

of Species. His theory of evolution based upon
scientific observation, was welcomed by many as
proof of mankinds ability to find a scientific
explanation for everything. But for religious people,
who made the majority of the middle class, the idea
that all living-beings, including human-beings, had
developed from simpler creatures was intolerable. It
led to a crisis in the Church. The battle between
faith and reason lasted for the rest of the century.
Reforms in education
The countrys developing economy needed skilled workers,
technicians and engineers to meet the demands of the growing
industrial centres. From the 1870s to the 1890s, several Education
Acts were passed by Parliament. In 1870 schooling was made
compulsory. All children up to the age of 13 were supposed to go to
school, where they were taught reading, writing, arithmetic and
sometimes elementary science. In Scotland, there had been a state
education system since the time of the Reformation. There were 4
Scottish universities, three of them dating from the Middle Ages. In
Wales, schools had begun to grow rapidly in the middle of the 19 th
century, partly for nationalist reasons. By the middle of the century
Wales had a university and a smaller university college.
The government began to build redbrick universities (and
schools) in the new industrial centres. The term redbrick
distinguished the new universities, usually built of red brick, from
older, mainly stone-built universities of Oxford and Cambridge. The
new universities had a more pragmatic approach to education, and
taught more science and technology to feed Britains industries.
Social life
From the early 1850s to the early 1870s, with occasional years of
high unemployment and business failure, almost all sections of the
population seemed to be benefiting from relative prosperity. Profits
rose, and so did wages and incomes from land. Indeed, those


supporters of protection who had argued in the 1840s that free trade
would ruin British agriculture were mocked by the mid-Victorian
prosperity of agriculture. It was during these years that Victorianism,
came to represent a cluster of moral attributes such as character,
duty, will, earnestness, hard work and respectable behaviour.
These virtues were not only embraced by the striving bourgeoisie, but
all of them also made an appeal to other class sections of the
population, aristocratic or trade-unionist. But in spite of that, there
was always a Victorian underworld. Belief in the family was
accompanied by the spread of prostitution, and in every large city
there were districts where every Victorian value was ignored. Many
Victorians were as eager to read about crime as to read the Bible.
The Late Victorian period was a time of security, the age of
house parties and long weekends in the country. Different variants of
socialist theories spread in Great Britain including Marxism.
London remained the financial, political and cultural centre of
Britain. Moreover, it was one of the countrys industrial centres. You
can now watch an old documentary showing London at the end of the
19th century.
Victorian Literature
The Victorian age gave rise to a new trend in literature critical
realism. The best-known poets of the period were Alfred Tennyson,
Robert Browning and Robert Louis Stevenson. Alfred Tennyson
made his mark very early with Poems, Chiefly Lyrical (1830) and
Poems (1832). In his early work Tennyson brought an exquisite lyric
gift to late-Romantic subject matter, but in the major poems of his
middle period Tennyson combined the larger scale required by his new
ambitions with his original gift or the brief lyric by building long
poems out of short ones.
But the dominant form of literature during the Victorian period
was the novel. Early Victorian literature includes some of the greatest
and most popular novels ever written. Political novels, religious
novels, historical novels, sporting novels, Irish novels,
crime novels, and comic novels all flourished in this


period. Most novelists of the period wrote long works with many
Charles Dickens (18121870), the greatest master of the
century, exhibited an astonishing ability to create living characters.
His novels Oliver Twist, David Copperfield, The Posthumous Papers
of the Pickwick Club, Great Expectations and others put among the
best writers in worlds literature. His exposures of social evils and his
powers of caricature and humour have won him a vast readership.
Even during his lifetime Dickens became the national symbol of the
country. He invented the theatre for one author, and gave public
readings from his novels.
Another master of characterization, William Makepeace
Thackeray (18111883), the author of Vanity Fair, was a popular
writer, working for the enlarged reading public of his day, and
especially for serial publication. Both authors were humourists,
sentimentalists and social satirists. But instead of writing about the
lower classes and social injustice, Thackeray satirized romantic
sentimentality and the snobbishness of upper-class life.
The 19th century saw a surprisingly big number of womenwriters who did not only write for pleasure, but left a substantial trace
in English literature. One of them was Jane Austen, the author of
Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Emma. She had a witty
mind and wrote about right judgement, right behaviour and the
formation of character.
Elizabeth Gaskell remains best-known for the novel Mary
Barton in which she describes with realism and sympathy the lives of
industrial and agricultural workers in the wake of the Chartist
George Eliot is the pen-name of Mary Ann Evans. Her bestknown novels are The Mill on the Floss and Silas Marner. Eliot was
the first among the English novelists to develop an interest in factors
that contribute to making people what they are, the first to analyze
these factors and to show them at work. The idea is manifested in
Silas Marner, which is a wonderful study of English provincial life,
rural speech and character.


The famous Bront sisters, Charlotte and Emily, brought up in

poor surroundings, wrote the books which rank among the most
popular novels of the century. Charlotte Bronts Jane Eyre describes
the life of a poor and plain-looking girl who has a strong character and
wins her happiness. Charlottes sister, Emily Bront, is the author of
one of the greatest English novels, Wuthering Heights. In the opinion
of some critics no woman could have written it. The novel has been
compared to Shakespeares King Lear, chiefly because of its immense
and uncontrollable passions.
The Irish-born intellectual Oscar Wilde was a poet, a writer and
a dramatist. He led an eccentric life that fuelled his witty satires and
epigrams on Victorian society. As a member of the aesthetic
movement in literature, Wilde advocated the idea of art for arts sake.
His works include two collections of fairy stories, the only novel The
Picture of Dorian Gray, a few poems and four comedies Lady
Windermeres Fan, A Woman of No Importance, An Ideal Husband,
and The Importance of Being Earnest. The plays sparkle with clever
paradoxes and witty dialogues.
In the middle of the century, in 1848, a group of seven young
men, led by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, William Holman Hunt and John
Everett Millais, formed the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood (PRB).
They aimed to revolutionize British art by painting serious subjects
directly from nature, with vivid realism of detail. Their chosen name
reflected their wish to return to the sincerity and simplicity of the
artists of the Middle Ages. Their subjects were to tackle modern social
problems drink, prostitution, gambling and so on. They often had a
religious message, as in Holman Hunts The Awakening Conscience.
The young woman in the picture is the kept mistress of the man. She
had jumped up from her lovers lap and is staring out of the window at
the brilliant light we can see reflected in the large mirror behind her.
The light symbolizes Christ, and Hunts title indicates that she has had
a crisis of conscience and has realized the moral horror of her
situation. The Pre-Raphaelites illustrated history, mythology and


literature; they brought a new concern for truth to life and human


The name of Wellington got into the English language
thanks to the high boots he used to wear. In Modem
English the word wellingtons means high rubber
It was after the first name of Robert Peel (Robert Bob
Bobby) that London policemen were nicknamed
The worlds highest award to a nurse today is the
Florence Nightingale medal.


Britain in the 20th century

At the beginning of the 20 th century the

1. The
British did not realize that they were living at the
beginning of the end of an age the age of Britains glory also
known as the English summer. At the time,
Britain was no longer as powerful as it had been.
Britain was losing its leading role in the world.
Polar expeditions
The exploration of the world went on carrying explorers to Polar
regions the Arctic and the Antarctic. Here Britains most serious
rivals were Russia and Norway. At the beginning of the century Robert
Scott, a British naval officer and explorer led two expeditions to
Antarctica. On the first expedition, in 1901 1904, he
carried out surveys of the Ross Sea and on the second
(1910 1912) he led a sledge journey to the South Pole.
Scott tried to use motor sledges, but unfortunately they
failed him. He reached the South Pole on the 18 th of
January 1912, shortly after Roald Amundsen, the
Norwegian explorer. Robert Scott and his four companions died on the
return journey.
European problems
In Europe, Germany had become very strong. Its economic
prospects were clearly greater than Britains. Like the USA, it was
producing more steel than Britain, which enabled it to develop its
industrial potential and build a strong navy. Britain, though did not lag
behind in building its army and navy and producing aircraft and
submarines for military purposes. And although London was still the
center of the world financial system, Britain found that other


countries, especially France, Germany and the USA were increasingly

competing with her. Why did Britain lose the advantages it used to
have? There seem to have been a number of reasons. Other countries,
particularly Germany, had more natural resources, including coal and
iron, as well as wheat-producing lands. As a result of the growth in
international trade, Britain became less self-sufficient, and as a result
of growing American and German competition she began to trade
more with the less competitive countries.
Between 1902 and 1907, Britain concluded treaties and
agreements with Russia, France and Japan to strengthen friendship
and prevent the threat of conflicts. But Britain failed to sign a treaty
with Germany and the Ottoman Empire (the present-day Turkey). And
in fact, Germany was the country Britain feared most of all,
particularly the German navy. Being an island, Britain could not
possibly survive for long without food and other essential goods
which were delivered by sea.
By 1914 the balance of forces in Europe had
2. Britain in
developed into an extremely dangerous situation.
World War I
Britain was even drawn into partnership with
France, its historical rival and enemy. A dreadful
chain of events in the summer of 1914 led to the beginning of the First
World War which started with the murder of the Austrian Archduke in
Sarajevo. Britain hoped that it would not be dragged into the military
conflict, but the leading politicians realized that only a miracle could
prevent the country from being dragged into the war. But no miracle
In August 1914 Germanys attack on France took the German
army through Belgium. But by the treaty of 1838, Britain was
supposed to guarantee Belgiums neutrality, so Britain had to declare
war on Germany. There was another reason for Britain to get involved
in the war. She was afraid that Germanys ambitions, just like
Napoleons a century earlier, would completely change the map of
Europe. And as a result of the war, the map of Europe was really
changed, but in a way different to anybodys expectations.


Apart from the Crimean war, it was Britains first European war
in fifty years. It turned into four years of bitter fighting. Fortunately,
no military actions occurred on the British Isles. Britain fought
overseas on the Continent and in the Middle East. It was during that
war that Britain produced the first tank Mark I. It was a monstrous
machine which scared the enemy with its mere exterior. The tanks
could crawl at a speed of 5 kilometres an hour, which was more than
enough to scare the enemy.
It is clear that the war at sea was much more important for
Britain than the war on land, because defeat at sea would have
inevitably resulted in British surrender. From 1915 German
submarines started to sink merchant ships bringing supplies to Britain.
They managed to sink 40 per cent of Britains merchant fleet and at
one point brought Britain to within six weeks of starvation.
The feeling of hatred to Germany and Germans in Britain was so
strong that when Germany offered to make peace at the end of 1916,
neither Britain nor France welcomed the idea. In 1917 the attacks of
German submarines on neutral shipping drew America into the war
against Germany. The arrival of American troops in France and Italy
ended Germanys hopes and it surrendered in November 1918.
Britains losses in the war were fifty times more than in the
twenty-year war against Napoleon: 750,000 died and 2,000,000 were
seriously wounded.
Public opinion demanded no mercy for Germany. Hence, when
France and Britain met to discuss peace at Versailles in 1919,
Germany was not even invited to the conference. The prominent
British economist of the time, John Keynes, argued that it was foolish
and short-sighted to punish Germany as Europes economic and
political recovery was impossible without Germany. But his advice
was neglected. Later on, Germany took revenge in the economic and
political sphere in the 1930s when it started preparations for the next
world war.
3. Social issues
in the 1920s

In 1918 Parliament voted for universal

suffrage for men. The struggle of women for equal


rights, which had begun at the end of the 19 th century gained new
force as British women were determined to win voting rights. In fact,
it was recognized that in Britain women were treated worse than
anywhere else in Europe. A man treated his wife and daughters as if
they were his property. Wife beating was one of the social problems.
And although suffragettes had been demanding equal rights since
1897, the violent and sometimes vulgar methods they used caused a
feeling of hostility. The war of 1914 changed everything. Britain
would have been unable to continue the war without the women who
took mens places in the factories and mines, who nursed them in
hospitals. By 1918 29 per cent of the total workforce in Britain was
female. But it was not until 1928 that British women got voting rights.
The liberation of women also took other forms they started to
wear lighter clothes, shorter hair and skirts, began to smoke and drink
openly and began to wear cosmetics. Married women wanted smaller
families. Divorce became easier. From 1910 to 1939 the number of
divorces increased ten times over. Social issues could not fail to be
expressed in literature.
Economically, the mid-twenties and the
beginning of the thirties were marred by a general
decline in the economic situation. The men who had
won the First World War had been promised a land
fit for heroes, but it was easier said than done. The cost of the war
had led to increased taxation and a fall in the living standards. In 1926
popular discontent led to a general strike. As the government could
not control the situation, businessmen were allowed to make quick
profits, particularly in textile and engineering industries, and in the
shipyards. As a result, from 1930 to 1933 Britain, like most European
countries and the USA was severely hit by the economic crisis known
as the Depression. Over 3 million people lost their jobs. The effect of
the depression was even worse in Germany, Britains most important
market. The economic collapse of Germany led to the rise of Adolf
Hitler. Powerful new Nazi and Fascist governments were taking over
in Germany, Italy, Austria and Spain. In the middle of the 1930s the
4. The General
Strike and


British economy began to recover. It depended a great deal on

Britains growing motor industry.
When George V died in 1936, the crown went
to Edward VIII. But he abdicated the same year in
order to marry American divorcee, Wallis Simpson.
The throne went to George VI who remained king
up to 1952. When he died, elder daughter Elizabeth became Britains
next monarch. King Georges wife, Queen Elizabeth, whom everybody
knew as the Queen Mother, died in 2002.
5. The

In 1935 it was already clear that Germany was

preparing to regain its position in Europe, and if
necessary, by force. The government was faced
with the problem of rebuilding the army and the
navy. This meant huge investments in heavy industry. By 1937,
British industry was producing weapons, aircraft and equipment for
war. Financial aid was rendered by the United States of America.
At the same time Germany and its European and Asian allies (the
Axis powers) Italy and Japan were taking advantage of Britain and
Frances indecision and started occupying territories of other states.
There was good evidence that Germanys demands could not be easily
satisfied. In order to avoid a war, Britain cooperated with Germany in
the take-over of the German-speaking parts of Czechoslovakia by
Germany. On his return from Munich, the British Premier said that for
the country it meant a temporary peace. Six months later Germany
occupied the rest of Czechoslovakia. Britain, realizing that the war
was inevitable, gave a guarantee of support to Poland in case of a
German invasion. In September 1939 Germany invaded Poland, and
Britain declared a war.
Few people in Britain realized how strong the German army was.
(The first period of the war the end of 1939 was relatively quiet for
Britain as it was not involved in any military action. That period is
known as the phony war.) But in May 1940 Germany attacked the
allied British and French forces, defeated the French army and drove
6. Britain in
World War II


the British army into the sea on the beaches of Dunkirk. At Dunkirk, a
small French port, the British army was saved by thousands of private
boats that crossed the Channel. Dunkirk was a miraculous rescue from
a military disaster. In the same year, 1940, the Germans started
bombing British cities. The colloquial name for the series of air-raids
by the German Air Force is known as the Blitz. The purpose of the
raids was to weaken British resistance to projected invasion. The cities
of London and Coventry were particularly badly damaged.
Battle of the Atlantic began the same year. The German strategy
was to cut off Britains supplies of food and munitions by submarine
action. Rationing for essential items of food, clothing and fuel was
In 1941 Britain received first shipments of food and arms from
the USA as part of the Lend-Lease Plan.
The war had begun as a traditional European struggle where
Britain fought to save the balance of power but it quickly became
world-wide. Both sides wanted to control the oil fields in the Middle
East and the Suez Canal, which was Britains route to India.
In 1941, Japan, which was Germanys ally, attacked Britains
colonial possessions in Malaya, Burma and India. As a result, the
soldiers of the Empire had to fight against the Axis of Germany, Italy
and Japan practically all over the world.
In 1941 two most powerful world nations had to join the war
the USSR and the USA. The Allied Forces joined their efforts in
fighting against the common enemy.
In February 1945, the leaders of the Allied Forces, Churchill,
Roosevelt and Stalin, met for a conference in Yalta, where the final
defeat of Germany was planned. Germany was to be demilitarized and
divided into 4 zones of occupation. The Allied leaders also agreed that
it was necessary to establish the United Nations Organization. It was
set up in 1945 to maintain world peace and foster international
cooperation.. At the Yalta Conference, the USSR agreed to enter the
war against Japan.
As you know, the war in Europe ended in 1945 when the allied
troops defeated Germany. Germany signed the Act of Capitulation on


May 8, 1945, that is why May 8 is celebrated in Europe and the USA
as Victory Day. But World War II ended only in September. When
Japan refused to surrender, the USA dropped atomic bombs on
Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which resulted in the immediate death of
over 110,000 civilians. Many thousands more died later from the aftereffects.
The war cost Britain 303,000 soldier and 60,000 civilians.
Strange as it may seem, in the 1940s Britain produced a writer
whose literary career actually started during the war. James Aldridge
worked as a war correspondent and visited Norway, Greece, Egypt,
Lybia, Iran and the Soviet Union. His first novels, Signed with Their
Honour and The Sea Eagle were based on his war experiences. After
the war, Aldridge mainly wrote about the national liberation
movement in the former colonial countries. The writers anti-colonial
views were expressed in his novel The Diplomat.
After the war, the victorious Allies created the
United Nations. The Allies formed themselves into
a Security Council into which they invited some
less powerful nations. They hoped that the success
of wartime alliance would be carried into peacetime. But the idea of
common purpose which had previously united them, no longer
In 1948-49 the Soviet Union stopped all road and rail traffic to
West Berlin. It was only due to a huge airlift of essential supplies from
the West that West Berlin survived the blockade which lasted almost a
year. As a result of the struggle for West Berlin, two opposing alliances
were set up: the NATO of the western nations and the Warsaw Treaty
Organization, or the Warsaw Pact of the eastern bloc.
In 1950, the United Nations faced a problem in the Far East.
Troops of North Korea started a war against South Korea. British
troops formed part of the United Nations force which defended South
Korea. Only fear on both sides limited the level and extent of the war.
But while Britain became more fearful of Soviet intentions, it also
became unhappy with the forceful attitude of its ally, the United States
of America.
7. Britain in the
post-war period


Britains foreign policy was also concerned with finding a new

part to play in the changing world. It had to get used to changing
relations with its friends, particularly with America, with the European
countries, and with members of the Commonwealth, a new association
of former British possessions.
At the end of World War II, the German
colonies in Africa, as well as Iraq and Palestine in
the Middle East, were added to Britains area of
control. The empire was now bigger than ever
before and covered a quarter of the entire land surface of the world.
The UN Charter in 1945 called for an end to colonialism and for
progress towards self-government. In India, there had been a growing
demand for freedom back in the 1920s and 1930s. The national
liberation movement was led by Mahatma Gandhi. In 1947 the British
troops and officials finally left India. The first Indian President was J.
Nehru. The former colony split into a Hindu state called India and a
smaller Muslim state called Pakistan. Later, in 1971, part of Pakistan
broke away to form Bangladesh. Ceylon became independent in 1948
and changed its name into Sri Lanka in 1972.
Britain also left Palestine where it was unable to keep the
promises either to the Arab or to the Jewish population. As a result of
the establishment of a new independent state of Israel in 1948,
Palestinian Arabs were left not only without a state, but without a
territory or even autonomy of their own.
For most of the 1950s Britain managed to keep its other
possessions, but after the Suez conflict it began to give them up. Until
1956, Britain had controlled the Suez Canal, but in 1956 Egypt
decided to take it over. Britain, together with France and Israel,
attacked Egypt. But the rest of the world, particularly the USA, loudly
disapproved of Britains actions and forced Britain to withdraw troops
from Egypt.
The 1960s are known in history as the decade of decolonization
and bitter struggle of colonies for independence. Between 1945 and
1965, 500 million people in the former British colonies became
8. The fall of the
colonial system


independent. As a result, the former British possessions, which greatly

depended on Britain economically, and even more politically, formed
the Commonwealth of Nations.
In 1982 Britain went to war in the Atlantic to win
back the Falkland Islands from Argentina, after
Argentina had invaded the islands. The operation,
which was denounced for the useless casualties by
the majority of the countries, was quite popular in the United
Kingdom. Once more Britain felt that it was a world power capable of
defeating the enemy. The war itself cost 900 million pounds, and the
total cost of defending the islands from 1982 to 1987 rose to 3 billion
9. The
Falklands War

Ever since the 17th century Britain traded more

with its colonies than with its neighbours. It was
after the fall of the colonial system that Britain
turned its attention to its European neighbours.
In 1949 Britain joined with other European countries to form the
Council of Europe in order to achieve greater unity between its
members. But that aim was never achieved. In fact, in 1957 Britain
refused to join the other six European countries in the creation of the
European Common Market. As time went by, Britains financial and
economic difficulties increased and it could no longer stay out of the
united Europe. But it was too late: when Britain tried to join the
European Community in 1963 and then again in 1967, the French
president General de Gaulle refused to allow it. Britain only became a
member in 1973, after de Gaulles retirement.
After World War II Britain found itself unable to keep up with
the military arms race between the United States and the Soviet
Union. It soon gave up the idea of an independent nuclear deterrent,
and in 1962 took American Polaris nuclear missiles for British
submarines. As a result, Britain was tied even more closely to the
Britain supported the USA in many political matters which
alarmed its European partners. In 1986 Britain allowed US aircraft to
10. Britain in


use British airfields from which the Americans attacked the Lybian
capital, Tripoli. One thing was clear to Europeans: Britain still had not
made up its mind whether its first political loyalty lay across the
Atlantic or in Europe. As a result of this pro-American policy Britain
lost its position in Europe.
At the end of the 1970s unemployment rose
rapidly, reaching 3.5 million by 1985. It was highest
in the industrial north of England and in Belfast,
Clydeside and southeast Wales the same places
that had suffered most during the Great Depression
in the 1930s. In 1979-1981 the country was hit by
an economic crisis. In 1984 coal miners launched a general strike in
protest against pit closures. They were supported by workers in other
industries, especially by dock workers and those in the shipbuilding
industry. After a year of violence, during which miners fought with the
police, the strike was called off. The government headed by Margaret
Thatcher won a victory in the greatest industrial conflict of the
century. The years of Thatcherism finally brought the country out of
the deadlock economically, no matter how unpopular her measures
might have seemed at moments.
Margaret Thatcher was elected to Parliament as the Tory leader
in 1979 and resigned her post to another Tory, John
Major, in 1990. It was also during her rule that Britain
established closer relations with the USSR. Margaret
Thatcher was the prime minister who actually put an end
to the Cold War in Europe.
In February 1991 the British troops were involved in
the Gulf War, where they assisted American and other
coalition forces to drive Saddam Husseins Iraqi army out of the
occupied Kuwait. The economy showed signs of deep recession. High
inflation and sagging production were now accompanied by rising
unemployment, which even affected the City yuppies (young urban
professionals). And finally the Tories lost a general election and Tony
Blair became the new Labour Prime Minister.
11. Britains
development at
the end of the


Blair started his first term of office with introducing a poll tax
which at once made him far less popular than during the election
campaign, and announcing that Britain was going to build socialism.
The idea, though, was soon forgotten.
Probably the most unpopular move of the Blair government so
far has been Britains involvement in the Iraqi war. But recent events
have shown again that Britain still remains the most faithful ally of the
Britain experienced new social problems,
particularly after the arrival of immigrants in
Britain. Most immigrants lived together in poor
areas of large cities. By 1985, almost half this black
population had been born in Britain.
One of the problems still topical today is unemployment. Black
people find it harder to obtain employment. The government passed
laws to prevent unequal treatment of coloured people, as well as
control the number of immigrants coming to Britain every year.
Sometimes, in order to fully carry out these laws, immigration officers
resorted to such measures as detention of people at airports or
separation of members of the same family. These barbaric measures
were explained by the fact that the huge inflow of immigrants,
especially to the old 19 th-century industrial centres caused economic
problems which finally led to riots and inter-racial clashes.
12. Social

If we look back at Victorian literature, we can

see that the English novels of the 19 th century were
written at a time of great confidence in British
society, culture and political organization. The
writers of the 20 th century could not share this confidence. The
changes in beliefs and political ideas were influenced strongly by the
events of the two World Wars and by the events across the world that
led to the disappearance of the British Empire.
13. 20th-century



The leading writers at the beginning of the 20 th century were

Rudyard Kipling, H.G. Wells, David Lawrence, Virginia Woolf, James
Joyce, Aldous Huxley, John Galsworthy and George Bernard Shaw.
Rudyard Kipling, who was born in India and was a true Briton,
a patriot and an advocate of the ideology of the British Empire. He is
the author of The Jungle Book, Kim and numerous stories. H.G.
Wells , the author of The Invisible Man, The Time Machine, the War
of the Worlds, was interested in the scientific advances of his age and
looked ahead to imagine what the results might be in the future. David
Lawrence, the author of Sons and Lovers, Women in Love, felt it was
the writers job to show how an individuals personality was affected
by conventions of the language, family and religion. Aldous Huxley,
the author of Brave New World, gave a picture of a society so heavily
organized and controlled that the only way for people to be themselves
lay in escape. James Joyce was born and educated in Ireland and
spent most of his adult life in Europe, mainly in France, Italy and
Switzerland. His first stories, published as Dubliners, are realistic on
the surface but also carry a deeper meaning. His most famous book,
Ulysses, is regarded as one of the most important novels written in
English in the 20th century. In Ulysses, Joyce created a completely new
style of writing which allows the reader to move inside the minds of
the characters. He presents their thoughts and feelings in a continuous
stream, breaking all the usual rules of description, speech and
punctuation. This style is known as interior monologue or stream
of consciousness, and it has had a powerful influence on the work of
many other writers. The novel is funny, touching and often satirical;
some events are clearly fanciful, while other parts of the book are
completely realistic.
Virginia Woolf also attempted to explore the consciousness of
her characters (in fact, she was the original inventor of the style
known as the stream of consciousness) But she did not attempt to
deal with so many types of people and situations as James Joyce was.
The writer who vividly depicted the problems of
social and family relations of the period was John
Galsworthy (1868-1933). He was one of the last


representatives of critical realism in English literature a novelist,

dramatist, short-story writer and essayist taken together. His mastery
as a writer lies in his criticism of national prejudices, exciting plots
and a realistic observation of life and characters. His works give the
most complete and critical picture of English middle-class (mostly
upper-middle class) society at the beginning of the 20 th century. The
Forsyte Saga followed by The Modern Comedy describes three
generations of the Forsyte family its ups and downs. The elder
generation saw the coronation of Queen Victoria, their children saw
her funeral. Soames Forsyte, the Man of Property, possesses all
characteristic features typical of the English society at the turn of the
century. The Forsytes live through the social and political changes that
shook the British society: the movement for womens rights, the
Victorian reforms, the Boer War and the First World War. They see the
end of Britains glory.
Although Galsworthy excelled as a novelist he is as well known
as a dramatist, the author of numerous plays. In his creative work
Galsworthy was strongly influenced by Russian and French literature.
Galsworthy enjoyed popularity in his lifetime. Much of his
energy was devoted to the Pen-club, an association of writers of which
he was president until his death in 1933.
The first notable post-war trend in English literature was
represented by the so-called Angry Young Men in the 1950s and
1960s. This group included the novelists John Waine, John Braine
and Kingsley Amis. They attacked outmoded social values left over
from the pre-war world.
Another angry young man was John
Osborne. In his play Look Back in Anger he shows Jimmy Porter, a
young man from a middle-class family whose protest took a ridiculous
form and made him feel his own uselessness.
Among other prominent writers of the post-war period was
Charles Percey Snow who wrote Strangers and Brothers, The Affair,
Corridors of Power the title has ever since become a byword.
John Boynton Priestley, who started writing in the late 20s,
lived well into the 80s. To him we owe the plays Time and the


Conways, The Inspector Calls, the novels Festival at Farbridge, The

Lost Empire, The Magician, Angel Pavement and many others.
George Orwell is mostly known for his anti-utopian novels
Animal Farm and 1984.
William Golding, the author of a wide
inventive range of fiction, explored human evil in his novels Lord of
the Flies, The Inheritors and The Paper Men. Golding won the Nobel
Prize for literature in 1983. John Le Carre (the pen-name of David
Cornwell) won popularity for his complex spy-stories The Spy Who
Came in from the Cold, Tinker, Taylor, Soldier, Spy, The Russia House
and The Night Manager.
The 20th-century classic of English literature, Graham Greene,
was born in 1904 and died in 1991. His first book, The Man Within,
was written while he was still an Oxford student. Since 1930 onwards
he devoted himself entirely to literary work. Before World War II he
became known as the author of the novels The Lawless Roads and
The Power and the Glory. In 1941 he was sent by the Foreign Office
on a mission to Sierra Leone where he remained until 1943. In 1944
he wrote for an anti-fascist journal which was illegally published in
After the war, he wrote The Heart of the Matter (where the
action is set in Africa), The Quiet America (Vietnam), Our Man in
Havana (a mock spy-story), Travels with my Aunt and many others.
One of his last novels was Doctor Fischer of Geneva or the Bomb
Party. In all, Graham Greene wrote some 30 novels, entertainments,
plays, childrens books, travel books, collections of essays and short
Two of the most remarkable poets of the 20 th century who
continued tradition and experiment in their work were William Butler
Yeats and T.S. Eliot.
W.B. Yeats, the Irish poet, was the more traditional of the two. In
his romantic poetry written at the turn of the century, he exploited
ancient Irish traditions, and then gradually developed a powerful and


rich poetic language. He reached his maturity in the late 1920s and the
1930s. Yeats was a Nobel Prize winner.
T.S. Eliot was born in the USA in 1888. After graduating from
Harvard University, he went to England where he worked as a teacher
in a boys school and later worked at Lloyds Bank in London.
Eliot is not just the most discussed poet of our time; he is,
perhaps, the most important figure in the modern poetic
tradition. In 1948 Mr. Eliot was awarded the Nobel Prize
for his work as a trail-blazing pioneer of modern poetry.
His best-known things are Four Quarters, Murder in the
Cathedral (describing the murder of Thomas Becket),
The Family Reunion, Old Possums Book of Practical
Cats (which was made into a musical) and The Cocktail Party these
are plays in verse. The musical Cats is still on in London.
George Bernard Shaw, the most prominent dramatist of the
century, was born in Ireland but spent most of his
long adult life in England. He started his career
with writing critical articles on music and
literature. In the late 1880s he took to reading
literature on social subjects, including The
Capital by Karl Marx. At the same time he took
an active part in the work of Fabian Society,
which aimed at turning Britain into a socialist
Bernard Shaw satirized the faults of the
British system of government and was justly nicknamed the bad boy
of the nation. An important aim of his plays was to face the audience
with completely new points of view. Shaw vividly described the evils
of contemporary society in his Plays Unpleasant, which included
Widowers Houses and Mrs. Warrens Profession. He enjoyed the
shock and offence this often produced, particularly when his ideas
were expressed with much wit. Even in Plays Pleasant (Pygmalion,
Arms and the Man, The Apple Cart) he remained true to himself. He


delighted in saying and showing the opposite of what his audiences

expected. (In The Devils Disciple the man whom conventional society
thought of as evil and selfish was ready to sacrifice himself for others.)
Pygmalion is particularly well known because it was the basis for the
musical play and film My Fair Lady. In the story of the professor who
takes a flower-girl from the London streets and makes her into a lady,
it is behaviour and not only the language that really shows the
difference between the characters. For Eliza, the flower-girl, the most
important thing in human relationships is that people care about each
other. For Professor Higgins, the most important thing is that they help
each other to improve themselves. Shaw delights in showing opposing
attitudes in sharp and witty language that often turn upside down the
accepted opinion of his time.
Apart from the later plays by George Bernard Shaw, the most
important drama produced in English in the first half of the 20th
century came from another Irish writer, Sean OCasey, who continued
the movement known as the Irish Renaissance. Later, there came to the
front another Irish-born novelist and dramatist Samuel Beckett who
got the Nobel Prize for literature in 1969. He lived for a long time in
France and wrote his laconic symbolic works in French and then
translated them himself into English. His most famous play is Waiting
for Godot (1952). Both English and American audiences
enthusiastically received the plays by Tom Stoppard. His plays,
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead (1966) is often staged by
Moscow theatres.
Although classical music in Britain is a minority interest, Britain
has made its contribution to its development in the 20 th century. The
leading British composer was Benjamin Britten, the author of the
opera Peter Grimes and a world masterpiece The War Requiem,
which became one of the major anti-war music pieces. Britten was
also an outstanding pianist and conductor.
In the 1960s, British musicians also influenced the development
of European and even world music: The Beatles signified a new
tendency in popular music. The group brought unprecedented


sophistication to rock music and symbolized the personal and political

rebellion and search for identity of many teenagers and young adults
of the 1960s. The group was formed in 1960 and dissolved in 1970, it
consisted of four Liverpool-born musicians: George Harrison, John
Lennon, Paul McCartney and, after 1962, Ringo Starr (Richard
Starkey). From the simple, fresh style of early songs such as I Want to
Hold Your Hand, the Beatles progressed to innovative, experimental
works such as the album Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band.
Since the 1960s, popular music in Britain has been an enormous and
profitable industry.

Changes in the language

In recent decades the English language in the UK
has undergone certain phonetic, lexical and
grammatical changes:
o Instead of the sound [W] we now hear [a]
in the words apple, sand, Trafalgar Square. The sound [e] as
in the words letter, send has become more open [E].
o There is a general tendency to use the verb to arrive rather
than to come; the phrase I would like instead of I want
and, naturally, the words joyful, lively instead of gay which
is now used in the meaning of homosexual
o 1. The verb will has distinctly become purely modal,
especially in what we used to know as the Future Indefinite
(Simple) Tense. Hence, most linguists now prefer to speak
about the ways of expressing a future action (including will
for a future action) rather than speak about the use of Future
Indefinite. At the same time, Future Continuous is being
increasingly used. 2. The difference in use between the modal
verbs can and may denoting permission has practically

14. The
development of
the English


The spread of English. Variants of English.

Historically, the British colonial expansion brought about a
quick spread of English to the new territories. The American
continent, Australia and New Zealand, South-East Asia and part of the
Middle East were conquered by English in no time. At the same time,
English became the language spoken in the former Celtic territories
Wales, Scotland and Ireland. When Ireland gained independence and
proclaimed a republic, it made Irish its state language, but English
remains as the second state language.
The four centuries of more or less independent development of
the English language on the American continent have left their traces
in the language. To begin with, American English is not a separate
language, it is just a variant of English, just like Canadian English,
Australian English and even UN English.
The following charts show major spelling, phonetic, lexical and
grammatical differences between the British and American variants of
A. Spelling differences
British English
centre, theatre
-ogue dialogue, monologue
-amme programme
-ough though, through
defence, offence
-srealise, organization

American English
center, theater
dialog, monolog
-am program

tho, thru
defense, offense
-zrealize, organization
-ling traveling

B. Phonetic differences



British English
(traditional / modern)
[Wpl] / [apl]
[sWnd] / [sand]



C. Lexical differences


British English

to send
two weeks
to fill in / out a
to do up a room
different from / to
at the weekend
in / to hospital
to have a bath
to have a holiday
to have a break


American English

back of
metro, subway
to mail
to fill out a form
to do over a room
different from /than
on the weekend
in / the hospital
to take a bath
to take a vacation
to take a break

D. Grammatical differences
British English
American English
Absence of necessity:
neednt / dont need to
dont need to
After demand, insist, etc.:
should do
(should is not used)
Regular and irregular verb:
1. burn burned burned
1. burn burned - burned
burn burnt burnt
2. spell spelled spelled
2. spell spelled spelled
spell spelt spelt
3. get got got
3. get got gotten
An action in the past with a result at the moment of speech:
Present Perfect
Today English is increasingly being used as a global language.
Non-native speakers of English now outnumber native speakers 3 to 1.
The new English speakers arent just passively absorbing the language
they are shaping it. New Englishes are mushrooming all over the
globe, ranging from Englog, spoken in the Philippines, to
Hinglish the mix of Hindi and English that now crops up
everywhere from fast food advertisements to South-Asian college
campuses. In South Africa, many Blacks have adopted their own
version of English as a sign of freedom in contrast to Afrikaans, the
language of oppression. The English-Spanish hybrid spoken in the
United States and Mexico is known as Spanglish. All languages are
works in progress. But Englishs globalization, unprecedented in the
history of languages will revolutionize it in ways we can only begin to



Elizabeth II is the queen regnant of sixteen independent
states known as the Commonwealth realms. All together,
these countries have a combined population, including
dependencies, of over 129 million. She holds each crown
separately and equally in a shared monarchy, and carries
out duties in and on behalf of all the states of which she is
sovereign. In theory her powers are vast; however, in
practice, and in accordance with convention, she rarely
intervenes in political matters.
During World War II, Princes Elizabeth Windsor trained
as a driver and mechanic, drove a military truck, and rose
to the rank of Junior Commander. She is, at present, the
only living head of state who served in uniform during
World War II.
Although the first recorded proposal for a metric system
was made in 1668 and the adoption of metric units has
been discussed regularly by Parliament since 1818, the
United Kingdom is still currently using non-metric units.
The use of non-metric units as supplementary units is
likely to continue beyond the projected end date of 2009.
Informal usage of Imperial units remains widespread
among people of all ages and the media, particularly for
describing body measurements.

I. Review the material of Section 3 and do the following test.
Check yourself by the key at the end of the book.
Test 3


1. The Romantic writers and poets were

a. W. Scott; b. R. Burns; c. G. Byron; d. W. Wordsworth; e. O.
2. The Chartist movement appeared in the century.
a. late 18th; b. early 19th; c. middle of the 19 th; d. late 19th
3. Florence Nightingale is the heroine of the war.
a. Napoleonic; b. Crimean; c. Boer
4. The Victorian age falls on the century.
a. late 18th; b. early 19th; c. late 19th; d. 19th
5. Disraeli was
a. an artist; b. a prime minister; c. a musician
6. The writers of the Victorian age are
a. Goldsmith; b. Dickens; c. Maugham; d. Ch. Bronte; e. Milton; f.
7. The women-writers are
a. G. Eliot; b. E. Gaskell; c. P. Shelley; d. J. Austen; e. A.
Tennyson; f. E. Bronte
8. J. Constable and W. Turner were outstanding English
a. artists; b. writers; c. musicians; d. politicians
9. English policemen are called bobbies after
a. Robert Peel; b. Robert Browning; c. Robert Walpole
10. A workhouse was
a. a factory for poor workers; b. a prison for homeless children; c. a
public institution for sheltering homeless people in return for
11. The fall of the colonial system came
a. after World War I; b. after World War II; c. in the 1980s.
12. American English is
a. a separate language; b. a variant of English; c. a dialect of
II. Get ready to speak on the following topics:
1. The Industrial Revolution and the development of Englands
economy in the 18th century.
2. English Enlightenment.


3. Britain in the two World Wars.

4. Great Britain between the two world wars. The development of the
economy. The Great Depression. The general strike.
5. The fall of the colonial system and the British Empire.
6. Britains political an economic relations with European countries
and the USA in the post-war period.
7. Literature and Arts in the 20 th century.
8. Changes in the English language. Variants of English. The spread of
III. Topics for presentations:
The Industrial Revolution in England.
The Victorian age.
The 19th century British society.
The history of monarchy in Britain
The Church of England.
British society today.


Chapter 1
1. archbishop
2. arms
3. brethren ['breTrRn]
4. bronze [brOnz]
5. case endings
6. cattle
7. 'chariot
8. the clergy
9. to con'vert (to)
10. copper
11. correlation
12. descendant
13. drainage ['dreInIdG]
14. to drive off (away)
15. dwelling
16. earl [R:l]
17. fierce ['fIRs]
18. glacier ['gleISR]
19. to grind [graInd]
20. hermit ['hR:mIt]
21. heir [ER]
22. to in'habit
23. legion ['li:dGn]
24. mammoth ['mWmRY]




1. ; 2.

1. ; 2.

25. martyr ['mQ:tR]
26. monk [mANk]
27. pagan ['peIgRn]
28. to 'persecute
29. plough [plau]
30. to plunder ['plAndR]
31. pre'dominant
32. pre'dominantly
33. pre'vailing
34. raid
35. reminiscence
36. to resist [rI'zIst]
37. revival [rI'vaIvl]
38. the Rhine [raIn]
39. rite
40. 'Roman
41. rune [ru:n]
42. 'runic
43. to slay (slain)
44. slanted ['slQ:ntId]
45. to sow
46. spear [spIR]
47. to surrender
48. sun-worshipper
49. sword [sO:d]
50. temple
51. tin
52. tool
53. tribe
54. tributary ['trIbjutRrI]
55. troops



( )

56. to Lunder'estimate
57. 'valley
58. weapons [wepnz]
59. whale [weIl]
60. whalebone
61. to worship ['wR:SIp]
Chapter 2
1. 'archer
2. armour ['Q:mR]
3. axe [Wks]
4. arrow ['Wrou]
5. to besiege [bI'si:dG]
6. to bless
7. 'borrowing
8. brand [brWnd]
9. calf [kQ:f]
10. canon ['kWnRn] law
11. cavalry ['kWvRlrI]
12. county ['kauntI]
13. crusade [kru:'seId]
14. cru'sader
15. deer (deer)
16. to de'feat
17. domain [dR'meIn]
18. drawbridge
19. duke
20. duchy ['dAtSI]
21. to exaggerate
22. friar ['fraIR]




23. feudal [fju:dl]

24. to flee
25. goat [gout]
26. holy
27. inferior [In'fIRrIR] (to)

28. to intertwine
29. knight [naIt]
30. 'merchant
31. 'minstrel
32. moat [mout]
33. mutton ['mAtn]
34. outlaw ['autlO:]
35. ox (oxen)
36. peasant ['pezRnt]
37. 'pitchfork
38. pole
39. the Pope
40. pork
41. to re-affirm
42. to re'pent
43. serf (serfs)
44. shire ['SaIR]
45. siege [si:dG]
46. stem
47. to stem from
48. to subdue [sRb'dju:]
49. superior [sju:'pIRrIR]
50. to swear [swER]
(swore, sworn) an oath



() (-/-)

; ,

(), ()



() (-/-)

51. Teutonic [tju: 'tOnIk]

52. theology [YI'OlRdGI]

53. tomb [tu:m]
54. treachery ['tretSRrI]
55. 'vassal
56. veal
Chapter 3
1. to annul [R'nAl]
2. apprentice [R'prentIs]
3. artisan ['Q:tIzRn]
4. bourgeoisie
[LbuRGwQ:'zi:]5. burgess ['bR:dGRs]
6. to burn at stake
7. 'cannon
8. cloth [klOY]
9. to condemn [kRn'dem]

10. 'craftsman
11. dauphin ['dO:fIn]
12. to deprive [dI'praIv]
(of) 13. to devour [dI'vauR]
14. devourer [dI'vauRrR]
15. to en'close (land)
16. enclosure [In'klouGR]

17. to e'vict
18. famine ['fWmIn]
19. feudal duty






( )

20. greed
21. heresy ['heresI]
22. to im'pose
23. lead [led]
24. luxurious
25. to merge [mR:dG]
26. 'miller
27. 'miracle
28. to 'mumble
29. 'mystery
30. nun
31. plague [pleIg]
32. 'pestilence
33. poll [poul] tax
34. to pro'mote (sth)
35. to rally ['rWlI]
36. to re'bel
37. 'rebel
38. re'bellion
39. to re'volt (against)
40. re'volt
41. to 'ransom
42. 'ransom
43. raw material(s)
44. rent
45. rival [raIvl]
46. siege [si:dG]
47. 'sorcery
48. spices
49. to super'sede
50. 'tenant
51. to try






(.) ,


52. to 'undermine
53. vagrant ['veIgrRnt]
54. virtue ['vR:tju:]
55. 'weaver
Chapter 4
1. adultery [R'dAltRrI]
2. alliance [R'laIRns]
3. 'basin-shaped 'vessels
4. to be'head
5. 'bulky
6. 'caravel ('carvel)
7. 'cargo
8. to Lcircum'navigate the
9. 'coastal
10. to de'feat (sb)
11. to 'execute
12. exe'cution
13. to flourish [flArIS]
14. to fall a victim (to)
15. (il)legitimate
16. luxury ['lAkSRrI]
17. to maneuver
18. merchandise
19. nation-states
20. overwhelming






21. Papacy ['peIpRsI]

22. 'Papal
23. to 'perish
24. predecessor
25. to prey (on)
26. to re'pay sixtyfold (sth) 27. to re'vive
28. slave trade
29. 'stumbling block
30. to sur'vive
31. treason ['tri:zn]
Chapter 5
1. to attribute
2. 'bailiff
3. beggar
4. evil [i:vl]
5. ferry / to ferry

60 (-)

6. ghost [goust]
7. to hoister a flag

8. horn

9. inncourt

10. inquisitive [in'kwIzItIv]

11. jester
12. the Jig

13. menace ['menRs]

14. pauper ['pO:pR]

15. pawnbroker

16. pickpocket
17. playwright


18. soliloquy [sR'lIlRkwI] (.)

Chapter 6
1. to billet (soldiers)
2. to brand
3. county ['kauntI]
4. cradle [kreIdl]
5. edible ['edIbl]
6. gentry ['dGentrI]
7. hos'tility
8. inca'pacity
9. maize
10. to 'persecute
11. perse'cution
12. pew [pju:]
13. pre'dicament
14. pillory
15. pulpit ['pulpit]
16. to survive [sR'vaIv]
17. treatise ['tri:tIz]
18. to whip [wIp]
19. nation-states
20. overwhelming
21. Papacy ['peIpRsI]

(, )



22. 'Papal
23. to 'perish
24. predecessor
25. to prey (on)
26. to re'pay sixtyfold (sth) - 60 (-)


27. to re'vive
28. slave trade
29. 'stumbling block
30. to sur'vive
31. treason ['tri:zn]

Chapter 7
1. 'turbulent
2. a se'dan-chair
3. 'rural labour
4. spinning jenny
5. flying shuttle
4. 'revenue
5. a standing army
6. Lammu'nition
7. in'surgents
8. lightning conductor
9. ma'rine painter
10. survivals of feudalism
11. minister
12. 'pillory
13. En'lightenment



Chapter 8
1. boom
2. income tax
3. 'workhouse
4. 'chimneysweep
5. universal male 'suffrage
6. 'watercolour
7. lame
8. engraver


Chapter 9
1. motor sledges
2. to be marred [mQ:d] by
3. a general strike
4. to 'abdicate / abdi'cation
5. to with'draw troops from
6. to de'nounce
7. an 'ally
8. de'tention




Chapter 1
1. Iberians [aI'bi:rjRnz] / ( ,
. .. .
2. Druids ['dru:Idz] , ,
, ,
, , .
3. Celts [kelts] , ,
2- I
4. 'Britons , Picts , Scots , Gauls [gO:lz]
, ,
5. Pytheus ['pIYjRs] , ,
IV . . . ;

6. Marseilles [mQr'seIj] , -
7. Herodotus [he'rOdRtRs] , ,

( ) ,



9. Offas Dyke ['OfRzLdaIk] ,

, VIII .;
10. St. Alban [snt'O:lbRn] ( 287 .),
-, .
22 .
11. Angles [WNglz] , 'Saxons , Jutes [dGu:ts]
V ..
12. Jutland ['dGu:tlRnd] Peninsular [pI'nInsju:lR]
13. Sussex ['sAsIks] , Wessex ['wesIks] ,
Essex ['esIks] , Kent , Mercia ['mR:SjR]
, East Anglia ['WNglIR] ,
Northumbria [nO:'YAmbrIR] , ,
14. 'Brittany ,
, -.
15. Ruthwell ['rITl] Cross (
. , ).
16. Old English (VXI .); Middle
English (XIXV .); New English
17. Caedmon ['kWdmRn] , ,
(XII .).


18. the Venerable Bede [bi:d] (672735),

, ,
19. Beowulf ['beIRwulf] , , ,
20. Danelaw (Danelagh)
['deIn'lO:] ,
- IXX .;
, ( ).
21. Danegeld ['deIngeld] , 991 .

. 1012
1163 .
22. Canute (Cnut) [k(R)'nu:t] , ,
(10161035). .
23. Edward ['edwRd] the Confessor [kRn'fesR]
, (XI .),
Chapter 2
1. Normandy , ,

2. William the Conqueror ['kONkRrR]
( I), ,

3. Battle of Hastings ['heIstINz] (1066),


4. Domesday ['du:mzdeI] Book ,
, ,
5. Richard the Lion Heart (Richard Lion-Hearted)
, (11891199),
6. Thomas 'Malory , XV .,
7. Thomas a Beckett , ,
II, .
8. Magna Carta ['mWgnR'kQ:tR] (the Great Charter)
, , 1215 .
9. Simon de Monfort ['saImRndR'mOntfOt]
, ,
10. 'levelled endings ,
11. syn'thetic forms ,
12. ana'lytical forms ,


13. romance [rou'mWns/rRmWns] ,

; ().
Chapter 3
1. the Low Countries ,
2. gentry ['dGentrI] ,
3. guild [gIld] ,
, ,
4. copyholder (: ,

1925 .
5. Flanders ['flWndRz] , ,
, .
6. Venice ['venIs] , ;

. Venetian [vI'ni:SRn]
7. Hanseatic League [LhWnsI'WtIk'li:g] ,
- .

, .


8. Yeomanry ['joumRnrI] ,
, .
9. Rouen [rwQ:] , .
10. Wars of the Roses ,
( ) (
11. 'Lollards , ,
1381 .
12. Petrarch [pe'trQ:rk], Boccaccio [bou'kWtSIou] ,
, .
13. incunabula [LInkju:'nWbju:lR] or incunable [In'kju:nRbl]
(pl. incunables) , ,
1500 . .
Chapter 4
1. Cape of Good Hope .
2. the West Indies
(, ..)
3. John Cabot ['kWbRt] ,

4. Reformation : 1.
. 2.
XVI .,

. .
, . , . .


5. Catherine of 'Aragon ; Anne Boleyne

['bulIn, bu'lIn, bu'leIn] ; Jane Seymour ['si:mR]
; Anne of Cleves [kli:vz] ;
Catherine Howard ['hauRd] ; Catherine Parr
[pQ:] VIII.
6. Mary Tudor (Bloody Mary) ( ),
, VIII .

, .
7. Mary Stuart ['stjuRt] or Mary Queen of Scots
, (1542-87),
I ,
8. Dante ['dWntI] ; Leo'nardo da Vinci ['vIntSI]
Michelangelo [maIkl'WndGelou]
; Rabelais [rRb'leI] ; Erasmus [I'rWzmRs]

[kou'pR:nIkRs] ; Francis Bacon ;
Albrecht Durer ['dju:rRr] ; Machiavelli
[LmWkjR'velI] ; Hans Holbein ['hOlbaIn]
9. Thomas More [mO:] , ,

11. Elizabethans ,
XVI XVII ., 20


I: . , . , . , . , . , .
, . .
12. Walter Raleigh (Raleigh) ['rO:lI] (),
, ,
, , , I.
13. the Invincible [In'vInsRbl] Ar'mada ,
, 1586-1588 .
; 1588 .
15. virginal ['vR:dGInRl] ,
16. William Byrd [bR:d], Thomas Weelkes ['wi:lkIs], John Bull
[bul] , ,
Chapter 5
1. Puritans ['pju:rItRnz] ,
, .
2. Poor Laws (XVI .),


3. Richard Burbage ['b:bIdG] ,
, ,
, . , ,
4. William Shakespeare ['SeIkspIR] ,


5. Ben Johnson ,
6. Plutarch ['plu:tQ:k] (. 45 . 127),
(50 ).
7. Loves Labours Lost ( ), Hamlet
(), Midsummer Nights Dream ( ),
Macbeth (), King Lear ( )
. .
8. Dark Lady , ,
. .
Chapter 6
1. James I I, , .

2. Gunpowder Plot ,
I 1605 . , ,

, ,
3. Pilgrim Fathers - ( ,
1620 .
4. Thanksgiving Day ,
1621 ;
, .


5. Charles I I, ;
6. Short Parliament ,
2 1640 .; I.
7. Long Parliament , I
1640 ;
1653 .
8. Oliver Cromwell ,

. 1653 .

9. Cavaliers [LkWvR'lIR(r)] ,
XVII . .
10. Roundheads ,
11. Ironsides ,
. XVII .
12. Commonwealth ,
. , I 1649 .
1660 .
13. Restoration ,
1660 .
14. Whigs , ,
80- XVII .


15. Tories , ,
70- 80- XVII .

. XIX .
16. William Harvey ; Robert Boyle
; Robert Hook ; Isaac Newton ['aizRk'nju:tn]
; Edmund Halley ['hWlI]
17. Christopher Wren [ren] ,
, .
18. Great Fire of London (1666),
19. Van Dyck [LvWn'daIk] ; William Dobson
; Francis 'Barlow
20. Henry Purcell ['p:sl] ,
, .
21. John Bull [bul] , ,
22. John Milton ,
(Paradise Lost), (Paradise Regained).


Chapter 7
1. Quakers ,
, ,
2. the Luddites , ,
XIX .,

, .
3. Kays flying shuttle /

4. Joshua Reynolds, William Hogarth ['hougQ:Y], Thomas
Gainsborough ['geInsbRrR] ,
5. George Frederick Handel (16851759)
6. Nonconformist Church
(, )

, .
Chapter 8
1. Napoleon [nR'pouljRn] I,
(17691821), (18041815),


C. ,
2. the Battle of Trafalgar [trR'fWlgR]
(1805) - -

(Horatio Nelson), .
20 ,
3. the Duke of Wellington ,
, , - (1828
4. Robert Owen ['ouIn] ,
- XIX .
. 1799 .
, ,

. 1848 .
(The Grand National Consolidated Trades
Union). .
(Arthur Cadbury),

5. Chartist movement ,
(People's Charter):
, ,


, .


6. William Wordsworth ['wR:dswRY]
(17701850), Samuel Taylor Coleridge ['koulrIdG]
(17721834), -,
School), (the Lake
District) - , .
7. Walter ['wOltR] Scott (17711832),
(Rob Roy), (Ivanhoe ['aIvRnhou]),
(Quentin Durward ['dR:wRd]).
8. George Gordon Byron (1788-1824),
XIX .,
(Child Harold's Pilgrimage),
(Don Juan), (Manfred).
9. Carbonari [LkQ:bO'nQ:rI] ,
, 1802 .
1820 .

10. John Constable (17761837), William
Turner (17751851), XIX .,


11. William Blake (1757-1827), ,

, ,
Chapter 9
1. The Ottoman Empire ,
, .
, ,
, .
2. Lsuffra'ggettes (
. ,
3. the phony war (Brit.) : 6
1939-1940 .,
4. the Land Lease Plan -:


. -
5. the Allied Forces, the Allies
: , , ,
6. the Commonwealth of Nations (the British Commonwealth)
50 ,
. ,


7. John Galsworthy ['gO:lzw3:TI] ,

, , .,


Key to Tests
Test 1: 1-a,d; 2-b; 3-a; 4-b; 5-a; 6-b; 7-a; 8-a; 9-b; 10-c; 11-b; 12-c.
Test 2: 1-c; 2-a; 3-c; 4-a,b; 5-b; 6-c; 7-c; 8-b; 9-a; 10-b; 11-b; 12-a.
Test 3: 1-a,c,d; 2-c; 3-b; 4-d; 5-b; 6-b,d,f; 7-a,b,d,f; 8-a; 9-a; 10-c; 11b; 12-b.


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Great Britain: Culture across History


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