Iberians (3500 – 3000 B.C.)
They probably came to Britain from the Iberian Peninsula (Španělsko). They were small, dark hunters, later they kept animals, grew corn and learned how to make pottery.
Stonenhenge (3000 BC) – it was probably burial ground
Beaker people (about 2000 B.C.)
They were strongly built and taller than the Iberians. They brought with them the knowledge of bronze. As a result, they were able to cultivate heavier soils.
Celts (700 B.C.)
They were tall, red-haired warriors, who settled the whole of central and western Europe. They plundered, slaughtered and drove the inhabitants into remote areas.
Roman Britain (55 B.C. – 5th century)
Some invasions were unsuccessful, the actual conquest by Emperor Claudius took place in 43 A.D. By 80 A.D. the Romans had conquered England and Wales. In 128 A.D. Hadrian’s Wall was built to protect the conquered area from the invasions of Picts and Scots from the north.
In the 4th century, Roman rule began to decline due to growing chaos in Rome. In the 5th century, the Roman army was withdrawn from Britain. This left free way to Saxon invaders.
Roman heritage: Roman roads, towns, remnants of Roman words and names (e.g. street, wall, mile).
The Anglo-Saxon period (5th – 11th century)
This invasion was a part of the Migration Period. The three most powerful tribes were the Angles, who gave name to the country as the most numerous tribe, the Saxons, and the Jutes.
In the 6th century a group of 7 separate kingdoms arose in England: Kent, Northumbria, Mercia, East Anglia, Essex, Sussex and Wessex. They were unstable and often at war. In the 10th c. England was united under the Kings of Wessex.
Viking invasions (9th – 11th c.)
The development and peace of England was interrupted by the Vikings. They were Scandinavian fishermen, merchants and farmers who lived in Denmark, Norway and Sweden. They attacked English kingdoms one after another, only Wessex remained unconquered. Alfred the Great, king of Wessex, finally managed to defeat them in 878. The invaders kept the north-eastern part of England, known as the Danelaw, a confederation of Scandinavian communities.
The Norman Conquest (1066)
In 1066 Edward the Confessor, Anglo-Saxon king, died. As he had no son, his brother-in-law, Harold became the king. However, the Duke of Normandy, later known as William the Conqueror, also claimed the throne. In 1066 he beat King Harold at the Battle of Hastings. Harold was killed and William the Conqueror became king. The conquest had far-reaching consequences for England. The relations with Scandinavia were cut and it came under French cultural influence.
Magna Carta (13th century)
In 1215, King John signed the Magna Carta, which restricted the power of the ruler and recognized the rights and privileges of the barons and freemen. The ‘Great Charter’ became an essential part of English law.
Wars of the Roses (1455-1485)
Two great English noble houses wanted the crown: the House of Lancaster with their symbol of a red rose and the House of York with their white rose. The last battle of the War of the Roses in 1485 ended thirty years of civil war in England at Bosworth Field when Lancastrian Henry Tudor’s army defeated the army of the Yorkist Richard III. However, by marrying the Yorkist princess Elizabeth, Henry brought the warring families together and brought peace to the country.
Church of England (16th century)
The English Reformation began during the reign of the Tudor dynasty, when Henry VIII wanted a divorce from his first wife, Catherine of Aragon. She had not produced a son, only a daughter, Mary. The Pope refused to accept this divorce, so Henry founded the Church of England with himself as head in 1534, and divorced Catherine. He had a child with his second wife Anne Boleyn, another girl, Elizabeth, later Queen Elizabeth I (1558-1603). In her age – called the Elizabethan age – England prospered in many ways. Her conflict with Roman Catholic Spain led to the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1558. Thus England became the leading power on the sea, which led to colonial development. When the queen died in 1603, England was a European power.
English Civil War (1642-1651)
English Civil war was a conflict between Parliamentarians and Royalists. The Parliamentarians were led by Oliver Cromwell who defeated king Charles I, had him executed, and changed the monarchy into Commonwealth of England (a republic).
Glorious Revolution (1688)
The monarchy was restored in 1660 and Charles II succeeded to the throne. Later, when King James II (brother of Charles II) was suspected of imposing the Catholic faith on the English, the King was overthrown and James’ son-in- law William of Orange and his wife Mary became joint sovereigns after a successful invasion from Holland in 1688. This event is commonly known as the Glorious Revolution. One of the outcomes of this revolution is the fact that only a Protestant can become a ruler.
Acts of Union (1707)
These two acts joined England and Scotland into one kingdom, called Great Britain.
The 18th century was marked by the growing power of Britain in world policy. Britain took part in several important wars that decided not only about Europe, but also about overseas territories. At the end of the 18th century England became the richest country in the world.
The 19th century was marked by further growth of the British Empire. This period is called Victorian England after Queen Victoria (1837-1901). The symbols of this era were prosperity, but also extreme poverty of the working-class people.
Warlike preparations were universal from the end of the 19th century. Britain declared war on Germany when German troops invaded Belgium in 1914. The war ended by signing the Treaty of Versailles in 1918.
In 1938, to prevent another war, Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain together with the representatives of France and Italy signed a pact with Hitler in Munich allowing Germany to have the Sudetenland. After Poland was attacked in 1939, France and Great Britain declared war on Germany. In 1940 Winston Churchill, one of the most significant politicians of the 20th century, became Prime Minister. He led his country until the end of the war.
20th century – political stability
After WWII, the country gained its political and financial stability. However, in the 1960s Britain had to recognize the independence of the majority of its colonies.
The UK is a founding member of NATO (established in 1949) and since 1973 it has been a member of the European Union.