British Culture

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Summary of ‘Britain’
The country and its people:
an introduction for learners of English
Revised and Updated

Author: James O’Driscoll


The chapters which you need to study for the exam are as follows: Chapters 1 – 5, 10, 11, 13, 14, 16, 20 – 23 plus reader 07 2538 SCC UK: Government and Monarchy

Chapter 1. Country and People

The British Isles lie off the north-west coast of Europe. It consists of two great isles and several much smaller ones. - Great Britain is the largest Island.
- Ireland is the other large one.

There are two states:
- The Republic of Ireland
- The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

The last state mentioned above is more familiar known as:
- ‘the United Kingdom’ or ‘UK’ The adjective used in this context is ‘British’.

Crown dependencies:
- the Channel Islands
- the Isle of Man

Britain consists of 4 separate nations:
- England
- Scotland
- Wales
- Ireland

Names of flags:
- St George’s Cross
- St Andrew’s Cross
- Dragon of Cadwallader
- St Patrick’s Cross

At one time the four nations were distinct from each other in almost every aspect of life. - People in Ireland, Wales and highland Scotland belonged to the Celtic race - People in England and lowland Scotland were mainly of Germanic origin

Languages spoken in Celtic areas:
- Irish Gaelic, Scottish Gaelic and Welsh
Languages spoken in Germanic areas:
Germanic dialects (including the one that has developed into modern English).

Why is England so dominant:
- The system of politics is identical in all four nations
- The English language is identical in all four nations
- The English customs and practices are dominant in all four nations. Union Jack

It’s important to remember that England does not make up the whole of the UK. Today, there live lot of people in England from other British countries who would never describe themselves as English.

England48.9 mln
Scotland5.1 mln
Wales2.9 mln
Northern Ireland1.6 mln
UK total58.6 mln
< Population of UK in 1995

Chapter 2. History

Prehistory (approximately 2000 years ago)

About 2000 years ago there was an Iron Age Celtic culture throughout the British Isles. These Celts arrived from Europe and intermingled with the people who were already there. There are no written records of this period.

Two astonishing remaining pieces of that period:
- Stonehenge
- Silbury Hill

The Roman period (43-410)

The Roman province of Britannia covered most of present-day England and Wales. During this time a Celtic tribe called ‘The Scots’ migrated from Ireland to Scotland where they became allies of the Picts (also Celtic).

The Romans left very little behind in their occupation. Reminders of their presence are place names like Chester, Lancaster, and Gloucester. These all include the word ‘castra’, variants of the Roman word ‘castra’ (military camp)

The Germanic invasions (410-1066)

Two features of the Roman occupation:
- Its influence was largely confined to towns, therefore Celtic speech remained dominant. - The Roman occupation had been a matter of colonial control rather than large-scale settlement.

Fifth century: a number of tribes from the north-west European mainland invaded and settled the south-east in large numbers: - The Angles
- The Saxons

This invasion meant two things for the Celtic Britons, they were either Saxonized or driven westwards.

The Anglo-Saxons didn’t have much effect on the cities and towns, however they did have a great effect on the countryside. Their culture formed the basis of English society for the next thousand or so years.

Eighth century: a number of Germanic invasion, this time known as Vikings, Norsemen or Danes. They came from Scandinavia. They eventually conquered and settled in the extreme north and west of Scotland, and also some coastal regions of Ireland. There conquest of England was halted when they were defeated by King...
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