Mezinos Wales and its Celtic kingdoms. On either side of the throne stand the symbolic state sword and shield of Edward III. This institution became the House of Commons. In London the development of craft guilds went further than elsewhere, with a rich upper level of the mcdwall community, histoy so-called livery companies, controlling most of the affairs of the city.
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Morgan ed. Pen guin I owe an ent irely different kind of debt to my wife, Elizabeth. She not only persuaded me to write thi s book, but in man y places suggested an eleganc e and clarity quite beyond my own abiliry. To her , th en, I ded icate the end-product, with my love and tha nks. They affect social and eco nom ic life, population and eve n po lit ics.
Britain is no except ion. It has a milder cl ima te th an much of the European mainland beca use it lies in the way of the Gulf Stream, wh ich brings warm water and winds from th e G ulf of Mexico. Within Britain the re are differen ces of climate betwee n north and south , east and west. Annual rainfa ll in the east is on average about mm, whil e in man y part s of the west it is more th an doubl e tha t. The co untryside is Britain has not always been an island.
It became one only afte r the end of the last ice age. T he te mpera ture rose and the ice cap melted , flooding the lower-lying lan d tha t is now und er the No rt h Sea and th e English C ha nne l. The north and west are mountainous or hilly.
Much of the south and east is fairl y fl at , or low-lying. This mea ns th at th e so uth and east on the who le have bette r agricultural conditions, and it is possible to harvest crop s in early A ugust , two months earlier than in the no rth. So it is not surprising that southeast Brita in has always been the most popu lated parr of th e island. For this reason it has always had th e most poli tical powe r. The Ice Age was not just one lon g eq ually co ld period. Th ere were warmer times wh en the ice cap retreated, and co lder periods when th e ice ca p reach ed as far south as the River Thames.
O ur first evidence of hum an life is a few stone tools, dating from one of the warmer period s, about , BC. These simple objects show th at th ere were two different kinds of inhabitant. The ea rlier group made the ir too ls from flakes of flint , similar in kind to stone tools found across the north European plain as far as Russia. The ot her group made too ls from a ce ntral core of flint, probably th e earliest meth od of hu man too l makin g, wh ich spread from A hand axe, rJ1l.
U ntil modern t imes it was as easy to travel across water as it was across land , whe re roads were frequently unusable.
At moments of great da nger Britain has been saved from da nger by its surrounding seas. These who built Swnehenge knew! They also Iuul [he authority fa conrrol large: numbers of workers, and to fetch some of fhe stone from diswnr parts of Wales.
Hand axes made in thi s way ha ve been found widely, as far north as Yorkshire and as far west as Wal es. However, the ice adva nced again and Britain became hardly habit able until an other milder period , probably around 50 , BC.
Durin g thi s t ime a new type of human bein g seems ro have arriv ed, who was the an cestor of th e modern British. T hese people looked similar to rhe mode rn British, but were probably sma ller and had a life span of on ly about th irty years. Around 10, BC, as th e Ice A ge drew to a close, Britain was peop led by small groups of hunters, gatherers and fis he rs.
Few had settled homes, and th ey seemed to have followed herds of deer which provided them with food and clothing. By about BC Britain had finally become an island, and had also beco me hea vily forested. For the wanderer-hunter culture this was a disaster, for [he co ld- loving deer and other an ima ls on which th ey lived largely died out.
About BC Neolith ic or New Stone Age peopl e crossed th e narrow sea from Europe in sma ll round boats of bent wood covered with an ima l skins. Each could carry one or two persons. These people kept an ima ls and grew corn crops, and kn ew how to make pottery, They probabl y came from eithe r th e Iberian Spani sh peninsula or even the North African coast.
They were small, dark , and long-headed people , and may be the forefath ers of dark-ha ired inhabitants of Wal es and Corn wall today. They settled in th e western parts of Britain and Ireland, from Cornwa ll at th e southwest end of Britain all th e way to th e far north. These were the first of several waves of invaders before th e first arrival of the Roman s in 55 BC. It used to be though t th at these waves of invaders marked fresh srages in British development.
The great "public works" of th is tim e, which needed a huge organ isat ion of labour, reil us a little of how preh istoric Brirain was developin g. The earlier of these works were great "barrows", or burial mounds, made of ea rth or stone. Most of these barrows are found on th e cha lk uplands of south Brita in. To day th ese upland s have poor soil and few trees, but they were not like tha t th en.
Unlike southern sites, where wood was used which hill since rotted, Skara Brae is all stone. Behind the firepillCe bottom left there arestorage shelves against the back wall. On the riRht is probably a stone sided bed, in which rushes err heather were placed forwarmth. Eventually, and ove r a very long period, the se areas became overfarmed , whi le by BC the climate became drier, and as a result this land co uld no lon ger suppor t man y peop le.
It is d ifficult today to imagi ne these areas, part icu larly the uplands of Wiltshire and Dorset , as he avily peop led areas. Yet the monuments remain. After BC th e cha lkland peopl e started building great circles of earth banks and dit ches. Inside, they built wood en build ings and sto ne circles. These "henges", as they are called, were cen tres of religious, polit ica l and economic power.
By far th e most spectac ular, both then and now, was Stonehenge, wh ich was built in separate stages over a period of more than a thousand years. The precise purposes of Stonehenge remain a mystery, bu t during th e seco nd phase of build ing, after abo ut BC, hu ge blueston es were brough t to th e site from south W ales.
This could only have been ach ieved because th e political autho rity of th e area surround ing S tonehe nge was recogni sed over a very large area, indeed probably over the whole of the British Isles. T he movement of these bluestones was an extremely important even t, the sto ry of which was passed on from gene rat ion to gene ration. Stonehenge was almost certainly a sort of capital, to which th e chiefs of othe r gro ups came from all over Britain. C ertain ly, earth or stone hen ges were built in many part s of Brita in, as far as the O rkney Islands north of Sco tla nd, and as far south as Corn wall.
They seem to have been co pies of th e great Sto nehenge in the south. In Ireland the cen tre of preh istoric c ivilisation grew around the River Boyne and at T ara in U lster. The importan ce of these place s in folk mem or y far outlasted the builders of the monuments.
After BC new groups of peop le arrived in southeast Britain from Europe. T he y were roundheaded and strongly built, taller than Ne o lithic Britons. Borh itemsdistinguisht.. It conwins a fineb Jecoraud POtlery be tker Neolirh ic Briton s beca use of th eir mil itar y or met alwork ing skills.
Their infl uence was soo n felt and, as a result, they became leaders of Brit ish soc iety. Their arrival is marked by the first ind ividual graves, furni sh ed with pottery beakers, from which th ese peopl e get th eir name: the "Beaker" peo ple. Why did people now dec ide to be buried separately and give up th e o ld communa l burial barrows? It is di ffi cul t to be ce rtai n, but it is tho ugh t that the old barr ows were built partly to please th e gods of the soil, in the hope that th is would stop the chalk upland so il gett ing poorer.
T he Beaker people brou ght with th em from Europe a new cerea l, barley , which co uld grow almost anywhe re. Perh aps they fel t it was no longer necessary to please th e gods of the cha lk upland so il. T he Bea ker people prob ably spoke an IndoEuropean language. They seem to have broug ht a single culture to the who le of Britain.
They also brought skills to make bronze too ls and th ese began to replace sto ne one s. But th ey acce pte d man y of the old ways. Stonehenge remaine d th e most important cen tre until BC. British socie ty continued to be ce ntred on a number of hen ges ac ross the co untryside. However, from about BC on wards th e henge civilisation seems to have become less important , and was overtaken by a new form of society in southern England, that of a settled farming class.
At first thi s farming society developed in order to feed the peop le at the henges, but eventually it became more important and powerful as it grew richer. T he new farmers grew wealth y beca use th ey learn ed to enr ich the soil with natural waste mate rials so that it did not beco me poor and useless.
This change probably happened at about th e same time th at the ch alk uplands were becoming drier. Famil y villages and fort ified enclosures appeared across the land scape, in lowerlying areas as well as on th e chalk hill s, and th e o ld central control of Sto nehenge and th e othe r henges was lost. Farms like this were established in southeasl Britain fram about ec O71wards. In men ofCeltic Europe hws were square.
From thi s time, too, power seems to have shifted to th e Thames valley and southeas t Brita in. Except for short periods, poli t ical and econo mic power has remain ed in the southeast ever since. Hi ll-forts rep laced henges as the cent res of local power, an d most of these were found in the southeast, suggest ing that the land successfully suppor ted more peopl e here th an elsewhere. There was an other reason for the sh ift of power eastwards.
A number of better-designed bronze swords have been found in the Thames va lley, suggesting th at the local peo ple had more adva nced met alworking skills. Man y of these swords have been found in river beds, almost ce rtain ly thrown in for religious reason s.
The Celts Around BC , ano ther grou p of people began to arrive. Man y of them were tall, and had fair or red hair and blue eyes. These were the C elts, who prob ably came from central Europe or furthe r eas t, from southe rn Russia, and had moved slowly westwards in earlier centuries. The Cel ts were technically advanced. They kn ew how to work with 1 The foundat ion sto nes iron, and co uld make better weapon s than the people who used bronze.
It is possible th at th ey drove many of the o lder inh abitants westwards into W" les, Sco t land and Ireland.
An Illustrated History Of Britain
An illustrated history of Britain
An Illustrated History of Britain
ISBN 13: 9780582749146