The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is a country of great history rich in important events and entertaining legends connected with them. It’s not enough to write several volumes to tell the full history of the country. That’s why we’ll try to answer the question where the British come from and who they are.
They say, that in prehistoric times Britain was joined to Europe. So the first people came there over dry land. The present English Channel which separates Britain from Europe appeared at the end of the Ice Age. In the New Stone Age the hunters crossed the sea to the west of the Channel and settled along the Western shores in search of food. The first inhabitants of the island came from the Iberian peninsula, where Spain is located, somewhere after 3000 ВС. After 2000 ВС the people from the east of Europe entered the country. The two peoples intermixed. They left us Stonehenge and Avebury as impressive monuments of their time.
After 800 ВС the Celts arrived from Central Europe and opened up a new important page of the British history. The name «Britain» comes from the name of a Celtic tribe known as the Britons. Their influence was greatest in Wales, Scotland and Ireland, as they were driven to these parts by the invaders who followed them. That’s why these parts of Britain are very different from England in language, customs and traditions.
In 55 ВС Julius Caesar, the Roman ruler, invaded Britain. However, his first expedition was not successful, because his force was small, and the Celts fought well. In the following year 54 ВС he invaded the country with a larger army and this time the expedition was successful: the Celts were defeated. But Caesar didn’t stay in Britain. He left the country with slaves and riches and made the Celts pay a regular tribute to Rome.
Some 90 years later, in 43 AD, the country was conquered by the Romans and the occupation continued to the beginning of the 5th century (410 AD). Roman influence was greatest in the south and south-east, while in the north and west the country remained untouched. The Romans built many towns, connected them by good roads. The largest of the towns was called Londinium. Roman culture and civilization had a positive influence on the development of the country. When the Romans left, Britain remained independent for some time.
However quite soon it was attacked by Germanic tribes: the Jutes, the Saxons and the Angles. And by the end of the 5th century the greater part of the country was occupied. People began to call the new land of the Angles and Saxons England. Wales, Cornwall, the northern part of Britain and Ireland remained unconquered and preserved Celtic culture.
The Saxon kingdoms fought one against the other. In 829 the greater part of the country was united under the name England.
The northern part was the home of the Picts and Scots. After the conquest of the Picts by the Scots in the 9th Century this territory was called Scotland. And in’ the 11th century a united Scottish kingdom was formed.
An important event which contributed to the unification of the country was the adoption of Christianity in England in 664.
In the 9th century the Danes attacked England. It was Alfred who defeated the Danes making them sign a peace agreement.
The last of the invaders to come to Britain were the Normans from France. In 1066 Duke William of Normandy defeated the English at the battle of Hastings and established his rule as king of England known as William the Conqueror. The French language became the official language of the ruling class for the next three centuries. This explains the great number of French words in English. The power of the state grew and little by little England began to spread its power. First on Wales, then on Scotland and later on Ireland. Wales was brought under the English parliament in 1536 and 1542 by Henry VIII.
In 1603 the son of Mary Queen of Scots James Stuart became James I of England. The union of England, Wales and Scotland became known as Great Britain. However the final unification of Scotland and England took place in 1707 when both sides agreed to form a single parliament in London for Great Britain j although Scotland continued to keep its own system of law, education and have an independent church.
Ireland was England’s first colony, but even now there are problems there connected with religion. The Irish people can be divided into two religious groups: Catholics and Protestants. The fighting between these groups is connected with the colonial past. In the 16th century Henry VIII of England quarreled with Rome and declared himself head of the Anglican Church, which was a Protestant church. He tried to force Irish Catholics to become Anglican. This policy was continued by his daughter Elizabeth I. The «Irish question» remained in the centre of British politics till 1921. After a long and bitter struggled the southern part of Ireland became a Free State. The northern part of Ireland where the Protestants were in majority remained part of the UK. After all the years of confrontation the people of Northern Ireland understand that only through peace talks and respect for the rights of both Catholics and Protestants can peace be achieved.
Recently, there have been many waves of immigration into Britain. Now Britain is a multinational society, which benefits from the influence of different people and cultures.