Historical Background of the History of English

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Historical background of the History of English

Plan of the Lecture:
1. Historical background of the History of English.
2. Celts.
3. Romans.
4. Angles, Saxons, Jutes.
5. Scandinavians.
6. Norman conquest.
7. Pre-written and written history of English.
8. Old English manuscripts.
Pre-Roman Britain
Man lived in what we now call the British Isles long before it broke away from the continent of Europe, long before the great seas covered the land bridge that is now known as the English Channel, that body of water that protected this island for so long, and that by its very nature, was to keep it out of the maelstrom that became medieval Europe. Thus England's peculiar character as an island nation came about through its very isolation. Early man came, settled, farmed and built. His remains tell us much about his lifestyle and his habits. Of course, the land was not then known as England, nor would it be until long after the Romans had departed. We know of the island's early inhabitants from what they left behind on such sites as Clacton-on-Sea in Essex, and Swanscombe in Kent, gravel pits, the exploration of which opened up a whole new way of seeing our ancient ancestors dating back to the lower Paleolithic (early Stone Age). Here were deposited not only fine tools made of flint, including hand-axes, but also a fossilized skull of a young woman as well as bones of elephants, rhinoceroses, cave-bears, lions, horses, deer, giant oxen, wolves and hares. From the remains, we can assume that man lived at the same time as these animals which have long disappeared from the English landscape. So we know that a thriving culture existed around 8,000 years ago in the misty, westward islands the Romans were to call Britannia, though some have suggested the occupation was only seasonal, due to the still-cold climate of the glacial period which was slowly coming to an end. As the climate improved, there seems to have been an increase in the number of people moving into Britain from the Continent. They were attracted by its forests, its wild game, abundant rivers and fertile southern plains. An added attraction was its relative isolation, giving protection against the fierce nomadic tribesmen that kept appearing out of the east, forever searching for new hunting grounds and perhaps, people to subjugate and enslave. The Celts in Britain used a language derived from a branch of Celtic known as either Brythonic, which gave rise to Welsh, Cornish and Breton; or Goidelic, giving rise to Irish, Scots Gaelic and Manx. Along with their languages, the Celts brought their religion to Britain, particularly that of the Druids, the guardians of traditions and learning. The Druids glorified the pursuits of war, feasting and horsemanship. They controlled the calender and the planting of crops and presided over the religious festivals and rituals that honored local deities. Many of Britain's Celts came from Gaul, driven from their homelands by the Roman armies and Germanic tribes. These were the Belgae, who arrived in great numbers and settled in the southeast around 75 BC. They brought with them a sophisticated plough that revolutionized agriculture in the rich, heavy soils of their new lands. Their society was well-organized in urban settlements, the capitals of the tribal chiefs. Their crafts were highly developed; bronze urns, bowls and torques illustrate their metalworking skills. They also introduced coinage to Britain and conducted a lively export trade with Rome and Gaul, including corn, livestock, metals and slaves. Of the Celtic lands on the mainland of Britain, Wales and Scotland have received extensive coverage in the pages of Britannia. The largest non-Celtic area, at least linguistically, is now known as England, and it is here that the Roman influence is most strongly felt. It was here that the armies of Rome came to stay, to farm, to mine, to build roads, small cities, and to prosper, but...
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