History of England


Traditionally, the starting point of English history is marked with Roman Conquest of British Isles in 43 BC and appearance of Roman Britain on the current territory of England and Wales. However, there were people living before, who nowadays are referred to as Britons.

The Roman Era on English lands was finished in 411, when German tribes of Jutes, Angles and Saxons pushed out both Romans and Celts. According to a popular version, Britons asked Germans for a protection from Northern Celtic tribes, Scots and Picts. During the next four centuries, Anglo-Saxons created seven kingdoms (the so-called Heptarchy), which accepted Christianity in the 8th century.

In the 9th century Britain became a subject of constant raids performed by Vikings, who gradually subjugated all the Saxon kingdoms except for Wessex, which later became the first English Kingdom. The huge milestone in English history is associated with October 14th 1066 (the Battle of Hastings), when William the Conqueror defeated English Army of King Harold, the last Anglo-Saxon king. It is interesting to know that it was the last battle conducted on English territory ever since. This marked the end of the process of feudalism alongside the political unity of the country. The Normans had a profound impact on the life of English society, which has undergone a major administrative, legal and financial reorganization; it also relates to French language, spoken by Norman conquerors and leaving a serious mark in the Saxon culture.

A descendant of William the Conqueror, Henry I, who became the King of England in 1154, founded the dynasty of the Plantagenets. This period of English history has many issues and dates to point out. One of his ancestors, John Lackland, signed the famous Magna Carta document, which guaranteed the supremacy of law and legal rights and is considered the first constitution of the UK. During the rule of his son, Henry III (1216-1272), English parliament appeared and later King Edward I (1272-1307), in his turn, used the growing power of England to conquer Wales; after a hard struggle, this area was joined.

The period of Plantagenets also emphasizes the Hundred years’ war (1337-1453), military conflict between England and France, which was initiated by desire of English Kingdom to return its territories on the continent, supplemented by its claims on the French throne. Eventually, England faced a defeat and the only area left under English rule was the port of Calais, hold until 1559.

The overthrow in this war has led to the internal lift-over within England, when after the Wars of the Roses (1455–1485), the conflict between rival houses of Lancaster and York, Henry VII started the Tudor’s Dynasty reign in the kingdom. It was an epoch of centralized authority, age of Reformation and establishment of Church of England in 1534, which functioned separately from Rome and was headed by English King. The Church of England was also instated by the last representative of House of Tudors – Elizabeth I, who also made English Kingdom a powerful naval country (it was facilitated by breaking down the famous Spanish Armada in 1588). The period of her rule is often called the Golden Age of England.

In 1603 King James from Scottish Dynasty of Stewarts took English throne (as far as Elizabeth did not have own children) and, in this way, united England and Scotland despite the official treaty was signed a century later, in 1707. This monarch did not receive much appreciation from English people due to his Scottish origin; he also demonstrated himself as the patron saint of Catholic groupings within the country and persecutor of the local puritans. King James also broke Tudors’ tradition of neglecting diplomatic affairs with Spain and France and started the conflict with Parliament, which peaked during the rule of his son, Charles I of England (1625-1649), who dissolved the parliament and has governed the country for 11 years exclusively. His aggressive policy of absolutism, supplemented by suppressing religious reforms in Scotland and Ireland, lead to the outbreak of English civil war (1642–1651) between Royalists and Parliament’s supporters, headed by Oliver Cromwell, who eventually became The First Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland and Ireland.

In the period of 1653 -1658 the country was ruled by Oliver Cromwell. He led military campaigns in Scotland and Ireland in 1652 and completely subdued them; Ireland was brutally robbed and lost a third of its population. Similarly, the war against the Netherlands and Spain ended, which further strengthened the superiority of England's sea lanes.

After his death, his son was called from emigration to mount the throne as King Charles II (1660-1685). His monarchy is characterized by strong and severe policy towards regicides; the political contradiction occurred between king’s supporters (Tory) and his rivals (Whigs), which was stopped by Charles II with blood and iron. All in all, this was not the only bad thing happened in England by the end of the 17th century: the wars on the sea with Holland continued, in 1665 the plague took its tithe of people and a year later the entire London almost died under the fire.

The prosperity of England was returned during the rule of William III of England (William III of Orange); in particular, this period is associated with economic and political stability, the birth of political parties and freedom of press. In 1694 40 English merchants create the Bank of England. Anne Stewart, second daughter of James II, replaced him on the throne. Her reign is marked mainly with final union of England and Scotland: in 1707 the Kingdom of Great Britain emerged. Since that time the History of England is considered in the context of the entire history of Great Britain as far as all the monarchs, who ruled the country after, spread their policy on each part of modern United Kingdom.