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British History Notes.docx

Course Code
HIST 2500
Harriet Edwards

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British History
Prehistoric and Roman Britain
- First arrivals were Stone Age hunters
- Stonehenge
- Last prehistoric invaders were Celts
o Spoke Brythonic
Words Britain and British
o Changed the countryside
o Rectangular fields
o Ditches, walls
o Iron and tin
- Boudicca
o Pg. 19
o Resists Rome
o First British hero to defend against an invader
- The Roman Empire
o At its height, included Britain
o Britain was a mystical, far away land
o Julius Cesar contacts the Celts with an invasion in Aug 55BCE
Protracted Roman conquest and occupation
o By C1st and mid C2nd Roman architecture, road systems
Attempt to introduce Roman culture to Britain
o As barbarians invaded, the empire was indefensible and the troops in
Britain were recalled to defend Rome
- Life in Roman Britain
o Pop. Est 2, perhaps 4-6 million
o Ruled by governors
o Standing army approx. 60 000
o Hundreds of cities built
o Economy based on farming and iron
o Slavery
o Little or no history of religion
Pagan worship
- Hadrian’s Wall
o Built after 122AD
o Emperor Hadrian
o 80 mile boundary marking the border between Roman territory and
the Pictish North
Intended to control flow of goods and people
- First half of the C4th
o “Golden age” of Roman Britain
Spread of Christianity after the Edict of Milan
- Roman Economy
o Agriculture
o Mining

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- Decline and Fall
o Life menaced by Germanic barbarians who raided the coast
o Roman villas and cities fell into decay after 410
o Iron industry collapsed
o Situation becomes lost during the reign of Emp. Honorius (395-423)
o Roman rule was always weak
Small ruling class
Large garrison
o Roman Empire in decline
Britain attacked by
Celts from Ireland
Picts from Scotland
Saxons from Europe
o By 401, Roman troops withdrawn to defend Italy from Goths
o Rome sacked in 410
Britain left to defend itself
o By mid C5th all direct links to Britain broken
o Romans made few permanent contributions to British civ
Survival of Christianity
The Anglo-Saxon Era 410-1066
- Angles from Schleswig, Holstein
- Saxons from region between Elbe and Rhine
- Jutes from Jutland, modern Denmark
- Celts, Welsh, Irish and Cornish pushed back
- Primitive fundamentals
- Not ruled as a unified country
- 12 different Anglo-Saxon kingdoms
- 7 survive, one becoming dominant
o Bretwald (paramount king)
- Kingdom of Wessex established approx 800
o King Egbert
- Revival of Christianity
o Introduced by Romans
o Lost during barbarian invasions
o Anglo-Saxons worshiped Pagan gods
o Monks preserve Christianity
o Pope Gregory I begins to revive Christianity
Sends St. Augustine on a mission to England
o King Ethelbert converted and baptized

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- Viking Raids
o Minor attacks in the south
o Attracted by the wealth of monasteries
o Massive attacks starting in North Umbria and moved south
- Alfred the Great r. 871-899
o Battle of Edgeington
o Retook Wessex
o Controlled Mercia, East Anglia
o Divided England into shires
o Unified the legal system
o Tried to establish a single written language
Monasteries were to keep a chronicle
o Developed defensive maneuvers
Constructed defensive boroughs (burhs)
Tried to engage the Vikings at sea, failed
o Thought that he was a scholar
Translated books from Latin
Ecclesiastic History of the English Peoples
Written by the Venerable Bard
Tried to ensure all Lords and members of his court were
o Since the Vikings were attacking monasteries, Alfred is seen as a
defender of Christianity
o When the Viking leader was converted a peace treaty was signed
Danes controlled North (Danelaw)
Alfred controlled South including London
Gave Alfred time to build up his army and fortify his territory
o Dies 899
Series of successors re-conquer Danelaw
- Edgar the Peaceful r. 959-975
- Reign of Ethelred the Unready
o 982 Vikings sack London
o 1012 Vikings kill Archbishop of Canterbury
o Dies at the same time as his successor
o Witan royal council chooses new king
- Witan chooses a Dane as King
o Cnut (Canute) r. 1016-1035
o Accepted Anglo-Saxon laws
o Relatively peaceful rule
- Edward the Confessor
o Very religion
o Unsettled ruled
o Constructed Westminster Abbey
Mostly completed in 1065
o Edward dies in early 1066
o Had no heir
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