England (Latin Anglia),
political division of the island of Great Britain, the principal division of
the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. England occupies all
of the island east of Wales and south of Scotland, other divisions of the
island of Great Britain. Established as an independent monarchy many centuries
ago, England in time achieved political control over the rest of the island,
all the British Isles, and vast sections of the world, becoming the nucleus of
one of the greatest empires in history. The capital, largest city, and chief
port of England is London, with a population in 1996 of 7 million. It is also
the capital of the United Kingdom and the site of the headquarters of the
Commonwealth of Nations.
somewhat triangular in shape, with its apex at the mouth of the Tweed River.
The eastern leg, bounded by the North Sea, extends generally southeast to the
North Foreland, the northern extremity of the region called the Downs. The
western leg of the triangle extends generally southwest from the mouth of the
Tweed along the boundary with Scotland, the Irish Sea, St. George’s Channel,
and the Atlantic Ocean to Land’s End, the westernmost extremity of England and
of the island. The northern frontier extends from Solway Firth on the west
along the Cheviot Hills to the mouth of the Tweed on the east. The base of the
triangle fronts the English Channel and the Strait of Dover. The total area of
England is 130,410 sq km (50,350 sq mi), 57 percent of the area of the island.
This total, approximately the size of the state of North Carolina, includes the
region of the Isles of Scilly, southwest of Land’s End in the Atlantic Ocean;
the Isle of Wight, located off the southern coast; and the Isle of Man, located
in the Irish Sea.
One of the
principal physiographic features of England, as well as of the entire island of
Great Britain, is the deeply indented coast. Most of the indentations are
excellent natural harbors, easily accessible to deepwater shipping, a factor
that has been decisive in the economic development and imperial expansion of
England. By virtue of the high tides that prevail along the eastern coast, a
number of rivers and their estuaries provide this region with safe anchorages.
The most important of these belong to such ports as Newcastle upon Tyne, on the
Tyne River; Middlesbrough, on the Tees River; Hull, on the Humber River; Great
Yarmouth, on the estuary of the Yare River; and London, on the Thames River.
The most important harbors on the southern coast include those of Dover,
Hastings, Eastbourne, Brighton, Portsmouth, Bournemouth, and Plymouth. The
western coast, considerably more broken than either the eastern or southern
coast, also has numerous anchorages. Of outstanding commercial importance are
the harbor of Bristol, at the confluence of Bristol Channel and the Severn
River; and Liverpool Harbor, at the mouth of the Mersey River.
The terrain of
England is diversified. The northern and western portions are generally
mountainous. The principal highland region, the Pennine Chain (or Pennines),
forms the backbone of northern England. It is composed of several ranges
extending south from the Cheviot Hills to the valley of the Trent River and
numerous spurs and extensions that radiate in all directions. The extreme
elevation of the Pennine Chain and the highest summit in England is Scafell
Pike (978 m/3,209 ft above sea level). A large portion of the area occupied by
the Pennine Chain comprises the Lake District, one of the most picturesque
regions in England. The terrain east of Wales and between the southern
extremities of the Pennine Chain and Bristol Channel is an extension of the
rolling plain that occupies most of central and eastern England. Much of the
western part of this central region is known as the Midlands; it contains an
area that is known as the Black Country because of its intensive industrial
development. To the east lies The Fens, a vast drained marsh area. To the south
of Bristol Channel an elevated plateau slopes upward, culminating in the barren
uplands and moors of Cornwall and Devon. Dartmoor (about 600 m/about 2000 ft
above sea level), one of the wildest tracts in England, is situated in this
region. Successive ranges of chalk hills, seen from the English Channel as
white cliffs, project eastward from Devon to the Strait of Dover.
As a result of the
relative warmth of the nearby seas, England has a moderate climate, rarely
marked by extremes of heat or cold. The mean annual temperature ranges between
11° C (52° F) in the south and 9° C (48° F) in the northeast. Seasonal
temperatures vary between a mean of about 16° C (61° F) during July, the
hottest month of the year, and 4° C (40° F) during January, the coldest month.
The average January and July temperatures for the city of London are 4° C (40°
F) and 18° C (64° F), respectively. Fogs, mists, and overcast skies are
frequent, particularly in the Pennine and inland regions. Precipitation,
heaviest during October, averages about 760 mm (about 30 in) annually in most
England has some
agricultural and mineral resources but must rely on imports of both.
Approximately two-fifths of the land area is arable, with the richest soils
found in the east. Substantial reserves of iron ore are concentrated in
Cumbria, Staffordshire, and Lancashire. Waterpower resources are small and
mostly concentrated in the highlands of Cumbria, in northern England.
In early times,
England, like most of the island of Great Britain, was heavily forested,
chiefly with oak and beech in the lowlands and pine and birch in the
mountainous areas. Woodlands now constitute about 8 percent of the total land
area. Various types of fruit trees are cultivated, including the cherry, apple,
and plum. A common shrub is a species of furze known locally as gorse. Numerous
varieties of wildflowers are also found.
the chief indigenous fauna of England are several species of deer, fox, rabbit,
hare, and badger. The most widespread bird is the meadow pipit, and sparrows
are abundant. Grouse are found in the northern counties. Other familiar species
are the crow, pigeon, rook, starling, and several members of the thrush family.
Reptiles, of which only four species occur on the entire island of Great
Britain, are rare in England. The most common freshwater fishes found in
England are trout and salmon.
The great majority
of the people of England, like those of the British Isles in general, are
descended from early Celtic and Iberian peoples and later invaders of the
islands, including the Romans, Anglo-Saxons, Danes, and Normans. After 1945
substantial numbers of blacks and Asians immigrated into the country. England,
once a nation of small rural villages, has become highly urban since the early
19th century. For information on language and literature, see English Language; English Literature.
The population of
England (1996) was 49,089,000. The overall population density of about 376
persons per sq km (about 975 per sq mi) was one of the highest in the world.
governmental purposes, England is divided into 34 counties, 46 unitary authorities, and Greater
London (established in 1965 as a separate administrative entity). The counties
are subdivided into districts, which
together are further divided into parishes. Each level of local government is
presided over by a council, the members of which are elected to four-year
terms. In districts that have the title of city or borough, the chairperson of
the council is the mayor. The present counties and former counties of England
are described in separate articles.
Birmingham, population (1995) 1,017,500, is the second largest city and is the center
of an extensive industrial area that contains major concentrations of the
automotive and other industries. Liverpool (470,800) is the second largest port
and a major cargo export outlet for Britain; it is also a great commercial and
industrial center. Manchester (432,600) is the chief commercial hub of the
cotton and synthetic-fiber textile industries, as well as an important
financial and commercial center and a major port. Among other important cities
are Sheffield (528,500), the heavy engineering center famous for its
high-quality steels, cutlery, and tools, and Bristol (400,700), a leading port
and commercial center.
Church of England, a Protestant Episcopal denomination, is the state church and
the nominal church of nearly three-fifths of the population. The denomination
next in importance is the Roman Catholic church, which has about 6 million
members in England. Among the numerous Protestant denominations are the
Methodist, Baptist, Congregationalist, Unitarian, and Society of Friends.
England also has thousands of Muslims and Jews. Large communities of Hindus,
Muslims, and Sikhs have immigrated to England since the 1950s.
the development and administration of the educational system, see United Kingdom. In England and Wales
school attendance is compulsory between the ages of 5 and 16. About 90 percent
of the elementary and secondary schools are organized and maintained by local
education authorities and supported entirely by public funds; the remainder are
voluntary schools, provided and maintained by a private body, usually of a
E1 Elementary and Secondary Schools In the mid-1980s about 7.7 million pupils
were attending publicly maintained schools in England and Wales. Enrollment in
independent schools was about 512,000; these private schools are referred to in
England as “public” schools. The transfer from elementary to secondary school
generally takes place at the age of 11.
E2 Specialized Schools Children with conditions such as blindness,
deafness, mental retardation, or other disabilities are given special aid in
ordinary schools or attend one of the day or boarding schools established for
such children. In the mid-1980s these special schools numbered nearly 1500 in
E3 Universities and Colleges
In the mid-1980s
some 500 institutions provided part-time or full-time education beyond the
secondary level (called “further education”) for students who do not go to a
university. These schools included colleges, polytechnics, and institutes of
agriculture, art, commerce, and science. Colleges of education numbered about
Of the 34
traditional degree-granting universities in England, all except Oxford and
Cambridge (see Cambridge, University
of; Oxford, University of) were founded in the 19th and 20th centuries, many of
them since World War II (1939-1945). In the mid-1980s full-time university
students totaled more than 290,000 annually.
Little is known of
the earliest inhabitants of England. The megaliths at Stonehenge and a
prehistoric temple found at Stanton Drew in 1997 attest to the early presence
of an able people, as do early historical and archaeological reports, but the
first lasting influence on English culture was contributed by the Celts. Roads
and ruins bear witness to the Roman occupation, which began with the invasion
of Julius Caesar in 55 BC and
extended until the 5th century AD.
Christianity was introduced by Roman soldiers but made little headway with the
populace, and its spread awaited the arrival of Saint Augustine, first
archbishop of Canterbury, in the 6th century.
the Roman departure, the Saxons became dominant. A record of their era is
provided by the annals known as the Anglo-Saxon
Chronicle and by the writings of Saint Bede the Venerable, the theologian
and historian. The Norman Conquest in 1066 overthrew the Saxon dominance and,
in its mixing of elements from the Saxon and Celtic past with the Norman,
created a new culture. The Normans introduced feudalism and the French language
to the upper classes. From the 11th to the 14th century French was used at
court and in vernacular literature; Latin was used in scholarly literature.
major task for William the Conqueror and his successors was the amalgamation of
Norman and Saxon and their common defense against warlike factions in Scotland,
Wales, and Scandinavia. A stable social order directed toward these goals
evolved slowly; elements of it still persist today. For example, both the
strong class system of the English and their hereditary peerage have their
roots in the Norman period.
decline of feudalism, starting late in the 14th century, led in England as
elsewhere to the rise of cities and the development of a middle class. By the
14th century a national secular culture was beginning to emerge, and the
English language (an amalgam of Anglo-Saxon and Norman-French elements) was
being adopted by the educated. The English, however, had unique limitations
caused by the size of their island and the limited type and amount of resources
found there. To fill their needs they developed into a nation of traders and
mariners. The exploits of Sir Francis Drake and the defeat of the Spanish
Armada (1588) led to commercial advantage as much as to naval victories.
Supremacy at sea not only gained England an empire but put the English in touch
with peoples the world over. Wealth flowed back to the island in consequence,
and so did ideas that enriched the traditions of England. Limited local
workforces contributed to the invention of machines and to the earliest
manifestations of what became known as the Industrial Revolution.
the prime traditions of the English are a fierce pride in their freedom, a
unity against adversity, and an ability to bring differing factions together in
compromise. Pride in being English is also a national trait, although the
English show considerable diversity in habits, manners, and even in speech.
Queen's Birthday, observed on the second Saturday in June, is an important day
of celebration in England. The sports most favored are cricket, rugby football,
association football (soccer), and tennis. Both dog and horse racing are also
F1 Libraries and Museums More than 500 public library authorities
administer some 40,000 branch libraries throughout Britain. Among the libraries
in London are the British Library, the various divisions of which constitute
the largest library in Britain; the University of London Central Library; the
Science Museum Library; and the Public Record Office Library, which contains
the National Archives. Many cities and towns have museums of art, natural
history, and archaeology. The best-known and largest museum is the British
Museum in London, which contains collections of art and archaeological
specimens from all over the world. Other outstanding museums in London are the
Tate Gallery, the National Gallery, and the Victoria and Albert Museum.
F2 Art and Archaeology See United Kingdom
F3 Music See Music, Western.
F4 Literature See English Literature.
law originated in the customs of the Anglo-Saxons and of the Normans who
conquered England in 1066. The Norman kings established a strong, centralized
system for the administration of justice, and the royal courts developed a
complex system of rules based on custom. Clashes between the power of the
monarch and competing interests, the feudal barons in early times and later
Parliament, produced basic legal documents that have had tremendous influence
on the whole English-speaking world. The most famous of these documents is the
Magna Carta, signed in 1215; scarcely less important is the Bill of Rights of
1689. The principles that an individual should be convicted only by judgment of
that individual's peers, that personal liberty should not be infringed or personal
property taken without due process of law, and that a citizen should be guarded
against unreasonable searches and seizures were all first articulated in these
fundamental pronouncements of English law and in their elaboration in decisions
by English judges. In this sense English law is judge-made law and, although
statutes are continually passed by Parliament, the general principles of the
law are still found in the decisions of the courts rather than the statutes.
Such a system is made possible by the doctrine of binding precedent, by which a
lower court must follow the rules and principles articulated by the superior,
appellate courts. See also Common
Law; English Constitution.
and Government See United Kingdom.
history of England begins with the Anglo-Saxons, who invaded Great Britain
about AD 449. They displaced the
previous occupants from the southeastern part of the island and called it
Angle-land, or England. Previously, the island, like Europe, was home for a
succession of peoples dating from the beginnings of the Old Stone Age.
Ice Age, during which Neandertals and then Cro-Magnons inhabited Great Britain,
ended about 8000 BC. The rising
sea level produced the English Channel and made Great Britain an island. In the
new environment of forest and swamp the Middle Stone Age came and passed,
followed by the New Stone Age, during which the practice of agriculture was
begun. This period brought a stream of new people to Britain. By 3000 BC the Iberians, or Long Skulls, were
farming the chalk soil of southern England, and by 2500 BC the pastoral Beaker folk had established themselves. The
latter, named for their characteristic pottery, are noted for their bronze
tools and their huge stone monuments, especially Stonehenge. These monuments
attest to their social and economic organization as well as their technical
skill and intellectual ability.
the 1st millennium BC the Celts
overran the British Isles, as they did virtually all of western Europe. With
iron plows they cultivated the heavy soil of the river valleys; with iron
weapons and two-wheeled, horse-drawn chariots, they subdued and absorbed the
indigenous inhabitants of the islands. Their priests, the Druids, dominated
A1 Roman Rule
Although it had
long been known to the Mediterranean peoples as a source of tin, Britain did
not enter the Roman world until Julius Caesar's arrival in 55 BC—a sort of afterthought to his
conquest of Gaul. Caesar's contact, however, was temporary; permanent
occupation had to wait until Rome had solved more pressing problems at home.
Emperor Claudius I
invaded Britain in force in AD 43,
but nearly two decades passed before the Romans had captured Anglesey,
headquarters of the feared Druids (see
Druidism), and put down the revolt of Boudicca, queen of the Iceni. The Roman
governor Gnaeus Julius Agricola won the Battle of Mons Graupius (AD 84), somewhere in Scotland, but the
northern tribes proved hard to subdue. In 123, Hadrian's Wall, stretching 117
km (73 mi) from Solway Firth to the Tyne River, became the northern frontier.
was a military outpost, taking a tenth of the Roman army to hold it. Several
towns attained a degree of Roman urban civilization, boasting baths and
amphitheaters. Numerous villas—vast estates worked by slaves and featuring
sumptuous noble dwellings—were also established. Beyond these, the countryside
remained Celtic. See also Britons.
A2 Roman Withdrawal Britain in the 3rd and 4th centuries felt
the decline of the Roman Empire. An official known as the count of the Saxon
Shore oversaw defenses against raids by Saxons and others along the North Sea
coast. Would-be emperors stripped Britain of its occupying forces, moving the
legions elsewhere to serve their own political ambitions. In 410 Rome abandoned
Britain. After nearly four centuries of occupation, it left little that was
permanent: a superb network of roads, the best Britain would have for 1400
years; the sites of a number of towns—London, York, and others bearing names
that end in the suffix -cester and -caster; and Christianity. The
Anglo-Saxons, who occupied the country after the Romans left, ignored the
towns, chased Christianity into Wales, and gave their own names, such as
Watling Street, to the Roman roads.
knowledge of England in the 5th and 6th centuries comes from the British writer
Gildas (6th century), the Anglo-Saxon
Chronicle (a history of the English people begun in the 9th century),
saints' lives, poetry, archaeological findings, and place-name studies. In the
absence of Roman administrators, British warlords, nominally Christian, ruled
small, unstable kingdoms and continued some Roman traditions of governance. In
the mid-5th century, they revived the Roman policy of hiring Germanic
mercenaries to help defend them against warlike peoples of the north (Picts and
Scots). The Saxon mercenaries revolted against their British chiefs and began
the process of invasion and settlement that destroyed the native ruling class
and established Germanic kingdoms throughout the island by the 7th century.
Later legends about a hero named Arthur were placed in this period of violence.
The invaders were variously Angles, Saxons, Frisians, Jutes, and Franks in
origin, but were similar in culture and eventually identified themselves
indifferently as Angles or Saxons. Any man of noble birth and success in war
could organize an army of warriors loyal to him personally and attempt to
conquer and establish a kingdom.
the 7th century the Germanic kingdoms included Northumbria, Bernicia, Deira,
Lindsay, Mercia, East Anglia, Essex, Wessex, Sussex, and Kent. They were
turbulent states, but all Anglo-Saxon societies were characterized by strong
kinship groups, feuds, customary law, and a system of money compensations
(wergeld) for death, personal injury, and theft. They practiced their
traditional polytheistic religions, lacked written language, and depended on
mixed economies of agriculture, hunting, and animal husbandry.
B1 Reintroduction of Christianity The dominant themes of the next two
centuries were the success of Christianity and the political unification of
England. Christianity came from two directions—Rome and Ireland. In 596 Pope
Gregory I sent a group of missionaries under a monk named Augustine to Kent,
where King Ethelbert had married Bertha, a Christian Frankish princess. Soon
after, Ethelbert was baptized, Augustine became the first archbishop of
Canterbury, and the southern kingdoms became Christian.
Northumbria the Christianity from Rome met Celtic Christianity, which had been
brought from Ireland to Scotland by Saint Columba and then to Northumbria by
Saint Aidan, who founded the monastery of Lindisfarne in 635. Although not
heretical, the Celtic church differed from Rome in the way the monks tonsured
their heads, in its reckoning of the date of Easter, and, most important, in
its organization, which reflected the clans of Ireland rather than the highly
centralized Roman Empire. At the Synod of Whitby in 664, Northumbria's King Oswy
chose to go with Rome, giving England a common religion and a vivid example of
unification. Theodore of Tarsus, who became archbishop of Canterbury in 668,
created dioceses and gave the English church its basic structure.
meeting in Northumbria of Celtic and Mediterranean scholarship produced a
flowering of letters unequaled in western Europe. The Venerable Bede, a
Northumbrian monk, was the outstanding European scholar of his age. His Ecclesiastical History of the English People
made popular the use of BC and AD to date historical events. It also
treated England as a unit, even while it was still divided among several
kingdoms. Charlemagne chose Alcuin of York, another Northumbrian, to head his
B2 The Process of Unification The Germanic kingdoms tended to coalesce by
means of warfare. As early as the time of Ethelbert of Kent, one king could be
recognized as Bretwalda, or ruler of Britain. Generally speaking, the title
fell in the 7th century to the kings of Northumbria, in the 8th to those of
Mercia, and finally, in the 9th, to Egbert of Wessex, who in 825 defeated the
Mercians at Ellendun. In the next century his family came to rule all England.
Alfred and the Danes Egbert's grandson, Alfred, became king of Wessex in one
of England's darkest hours. The Danes, part of the Viking forces that had begun
to raid the English coasts in the late 8th century, had given up their primary
goal of plunder and were now set on conquering England. Wessex and Alfred were
all that stood in their way. Alfred at first had to buy a respite, but after
his victory at Edington in 878 he forced the Danish king Guthrum to accept
baptism and a division of England into two parts, Wessex and what historians
later called the Danelaw (Essex, East Anglia, and Northumbria). By creating an
English navy, by reorganizing the Anglo-Saxon fyrd, or militia, allowing his warriors to alternate between
farming and fighting, and by building strategic forts, Alfred captured London
and began to roll back the Danish tide.
also gave his attention to good government, issuing a set of dooms, or laws, and to scholarship,
which had declined in the years since Bede and Alcuin. He promoted, and
assisted in, the translation of Latin works into Old English and encouraged the
compilation of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle.
For his many accomplishments, Alfred was called The Great, the only English
king so acclaimed.
conquest of the Danelaw was completed by Alfred's son, Edward the Elder, and by
his grandson Athelstan, who won a great victory at Brunanburh in 937. Most of
the remainder of the century was peaceful. In this atmosphere, Saint Dunstan,
archbishop of Canterbury from 960 to 988, was able to restore the English
church to health and prosperity.
B3 The United Kingdom The conquest of the Danelaw meant the
creation of a unified government for all England and the evolution of the
territorial state, which was replacing the kinship structure of earlier times.
The king ruled with the assistance of the witenagemot, a council of wise men
who participated in the issuing of dooms and oversaw the selection of kings.
About 40 shires (counties) were created out of former kingdoms or from
significant military or administrative units. Each had a shiremoot, or court, consisting of all free males and meeting twice
a year, at first presided over by a royal official called an alderman (later an
earl) and then by a shire reeve, or
sheriff. Smaller administrative, tax, and military units, called hundreds, had courts roughly parallel to
the older folk moots, which met every
four weeks, handling most of the ordinary judicial business. England had the
most advanced government in western Europe, especially at the local level and
in the office of sheriff, the key link between the king and local
administration. After 991 this government proved capable of collecting the
Danegeld, a tax on land, initially used as tribute to the Danes but later as an
ordinary source of royal revenue. No other country in western Europe had the
ability to assess and collect such a tax.
B4 The End of Anglo-Saxon Rule A new round of Danish invasions came in the
reign of Ethelred II. Often called the Redeless (meaning “unready,” or “without
counsel” or “unwise”), the Danegeld was his idea, as was the attempt to kill
all the Danes from previous invasions, who were by this time becoming
assimilated. In 1014 he was driven from the throne by King Sweyn I of Denmark,
only to return a few months later when Sweyn died. When Ethelred died in 1016,
Sweyn's son Canute II won out over Edmund II, called Ironside, the son of
Ethelred. Under Canute, England was part of an empire that also included
Denmark and Norway.
the short and unpopular reigns of Canute's sons, Harold I (Harefoot) and
Hardecanute, Edward the Confessor, another son of Ethelred, was recalled from
Normandy (Normandie), where he had lived in exile. Edward's reign is noted for
its dominance by the powerful earls of Wessex—Godwin, and then his son, Harold
(subsequently Harold II)—and for the first influx of Norman-French influence.
Edward was most interested in the building of Westminster Abbey, which was
completed just in time for his burial in January 1066.
death without an heir left the succession in doubt. The witenagemot chose
Harold, Earl of Wessex, although his only claim to the throne was his
availability. Other aspirants were King Harold III (the Hard Ruler) of Norway
and Duke William of Normandy. Harold II defeated the former at Stamford Bridge
on September 25, 1066, but lost to William at Hastings on October 14. William
was crowned in Westminster Abbey on Christmas Day.
Under the Norman and Plantagenet Kings The year 1066 was a turning point in English
history. William I, the Conqueror, and his sons gave England vigorous new
leadership. Norman feudalism became the basis for redistributing the land among
the conquerors, giving England a new French aristocracy and a new social and
political structure. England turned away from Scandinavia toward France, an
orientation that was to last for 400 years.
was a hard ruler, punishing England, especially the north, when it disputed his
authority. His power and efficiency can be seen in the Domesday Survey, a
census for tax purposes, and in the Salisbury Oath of allegiance, which he
demanded of all tenants. He appointed Lanfranc, an Italian clergyman, as
archbishop of Canterbury. He also promoted church reform, especially by the
creation of separate church courts, but retained royal control.
William died in 1087, he gave England to his second son, William II (Rufus),
and Normandy to his eldest son, Robert. Henry, his third son, in due time got
both—England in 1100, when William II died in a hunting accident, and Normandy
in 1106 by conquest. Henry I used his feudal court and household to organize
the government. The exchequer (the royal treasury) was established at this
wanted his daughter, Matilda, to succeed him, but in 1135 his nephew, Stephen
of Blois, seized the throne. The years from 1135 to 1154 were marked by civil
war and strife. The royal government Henry had built fell apart, and the feudal
barons asserted their independence. The church, playing one side against the
other, extended its authority.
C1 Henry II Matilda's son, Henry Plantagenet, Count of
Anjou, succeeded, as Henry II, in 1154 (see
Plantagenet). The Angevins, especially Henry II and his sons, Richard and John,
expanded royal authority. Henry ended the anarchy of Stephen's reign, banishing
mercenaries and destroying private castles. He strengthened the government
created by Henry I. Most important, he developed the common law, administered
by royal courts and applicable to all of England. It encroached on the feudal
courts' jurisdiction over land and created the grand jury. Its success demonstrated
its efficiency and the growing power of the king.
attempted to reduce the jurisdiction of church courts, especially over clergy
accused of crimes, but was opposed by Thomas ŕ Becket, his former
chancellor, whom he had made archbishop of Canterbury. His anger at Becket's
intransigence led ultimately to Becket's martyrdom in 1170.
empire included more than half of France and lordship over Ireland and
Scotland. His skill at governing, however, did not include the ability to
placate his sons, who rebelled against him several times, backed by the kings
of France and by their mother, Eleanor of Aquitaine.
C2 Richard and John Richard I, the Lion-Hearted, was in England
only briefly. He was busy fighting in the Crusades and later for the land lost
in France during his absence, especially while he was a captive in Germany.
Even during Richard's absence, however, the government built by Henry II
continued to function, collecting taxes to support his wars and to pay his
who inherited the resentment against Angevin rule aroused by his father and
brother, added to his troubles by his own excesses. In 1204 he lost Normandy.
In 1213, after a long fight with Pope Innocent III over the naming of Stephen
Langton as archbishop of Canterbury, John capitulated and acknowledged England
to be a papal fief. All this precipitated a quarrel with his barons over his
general highhandedness and their refusal to follow him into war in Normandy.
The barons, led by Langton, forced John in 1215 to accept the Magna Carta, or
Great Charter, by which he admitted his errors and promised to respect English
law and feudal custom. He died the next year, still at war with the barons.
Although the loss of Normandy seemed a disgrace at the time, it left England
free to develop its unique institutions without outside interference.
C3 Economic Prosperity and Baronial Revolt When John died in 1216, the barons accepted
his nine-year-old son as King Henry III. They assumed control of the government
and confirmed the Magna Carta in 1225, as did Henry when he came of age two
years later. Thus began the tradition of royal confirmation of the Magna Carta
and the idea that it was the fundamental statement of English law and of
prospered in the 12th and 13th centuries. Land under cultivation increased;
sheep raising and the sale of wool became extremely important. London and other
towns became vital centers of trade and wealth, and by royal charters they
acquired the right to local self-government. The universities of Oxford and
Cambridge were established. The population probably doubled from about 1.5
million to more than 3 million.
monasteries, especially those of the Cistercians, led the rural expansion and
became wealthy in the process. More than a dozen cathedrals were built, as well
as scores of abbeys and parish churches, all attesting to the wealth of England
and of its church. In the 1220s the friars, Franciscans and Dominicans, arrived
in England, improving the quality of preaching and becoming the leading
scholars in the universities.
III was not an able king, however. He quarreled with the barons, who thought
that they, rather than his favorites, should have the major offices. In 1258
the Provisions of Oxford attempted to give control of the government to a
committee of barons. Civil war broke out in 1264, and the baronial leader Simon
de Montfort came briefly to power. Montfort, however, was killed in the Battle
of Evesham in 1265, and power returned to Henry and his able son, Edward.
C4 Reforms and the English Parliament Edward I restored royal control and made
several reforms: He limited the barons' right to hold their own courts of law;
he curtailed the vassals' right to dispose of land to the detriment of their
feudal lords; and he gave English common law the direction it was to take for
centuries to come. Most important, he used and developed Parliament, which was
essentially the king's feudal council with a new name and an enlarged
membership. The Model Parliament of 1295, following Montfort's pattern of 1265,
consisted of great barons, bishops, abbots, and representatives of counties and
towns. In 1297, to get money for his wars, Edward accepted the Confirmation of
Charters, agreeing that taxes must have the common assent of the whole realm.
This was soon taken to mean assent in Parliament. In the following century,
Parliament divided into two houses, Lords and Commons, and made good its claim
to control taxation and to participate in the making of statutes.
conquered northwest Wales, ending the rule of its native princes. He built
stone castles, adopted the Welsh longbow as an English weapon, and named his
oldest son the Prince of Wales. He intervened in Scottish affairs, even
claiming the Scottish throne. Having fought the Scots often but with little
effect, Edward died in 1307 without having subdued the northern kingdom. His
son, Edward II, gave up the campaign. In 1314, at the Battle of Bannockburn,
King Robert Bruce made good Scotland's claim to independence. One cost of the
war was the long-lasting enmity of Scotland, backed by its alliance with France.
C5 The 14th Century Edward II was a weak king, partly influenced
by favorites and partly dominated by the ordinances of 1311 that gave the
barons the ruling power. Although he freed himself of baronial rule in 1322, he
was forced to abdicate in 1327. His son, Edward III, got on well with the
barons by keeping them busy in France, where England continued to hold
extensive territory. In 1337 he initiated the Hundred Years' War to vindicate
his claim to the French throne. The English had some initial success at Crécy
(1346) and Poitiers (1356), where they used the English longbow with deadly
effect against the French. By 1396, however, England had lost all its previous
gains. The expense of the war repeatedly forced Edward to go to Parliament for
taxes, enabling it to bargain for concessions and to establish its rights and
Black Death struck England in 1349, reducing the population by as much as a
third (see Plague). The Statute of
Laborers (1351) tried to freeze wages and prevent serfs and workers from taking
advantage of the resulting labor shortage. The Peasants' Revolt in 1381
reflected the continuing unrest (see
Tyler's Rebellion). It was a time of economic and social change—manorial
service was being commuted to cash payments, and serfdom was on the way to its
demise in the following century.
move of the popes from Rome to Avignon in France (1309-1376) and the Great
Schism (1378-1417), in which rival popes opposed one another, caused a loss of
English respect for the papacy. Statutes of Provisors (1351, 1390) limited the
pope's ability to appoint to church offices in England, and the Statutes of
Praemunire (1353, 1393) prevented church courts from enforcing such
appointments. John Wycliffe, an Oxford professor, criticized corruption in the
church and had ideas similar to those of the later Protestant reformers. In
1382 he was removed by an ecclesiastical court to the country parish at
Lutterworth, and his ideas were declared heretical. His followers, the
Lollards, were persecuted but not stamped out.
II, the grandson of Edward III, began his reign when he was ten years old, with
rival factions fighting for control of his government. As an adult he governed
moderately until 1397, when he became involved in a struggle with the leading
nobles. In 1399 his cousin, Henry Bolingbroke, Duke of Lancaster, forced him to
abdicate and became king in his place as Henry IV.
C6 The Lancastrian and Yorkist Kings Since 1216 the royal succession had always
gone to the king's eldest son. By this rule, Henry IV, the son of John of
Gaunt, Edward III's fourth son, had no claim to the throne. The rightful heir
was Edmund, Earl of March, who was descended from Edward's third son. Because
of the irregularity, Henry and his Lancastrian successors were not secure in
their claim to the throne. This weakness was manifest in his concessions to
Parliament and to the church as well as in his wars with powerful and
rebellious families in Wales and the north.
V, who succeeded his father, had one ambition: to duplicate Edward III's
military exploits in France. He won a brilliant victory at Agincourt in 1415
and had his success confirmed in the Treaty of Troyes (1420). He married the
daughter of the mad French king, Charles VI, assumed control of the French
government, although not the entire country, and could expect a son of this
marriage to inherit both kingdoms.
1422 both Henry and Charles VI died, bringing the nine-month-old Henry VI to
the throne of both countries. For a time, Henry's able uncles, John of
Lancaster, Duke of Bedford, and Humphrey of Gloucester held things together,
the former in France, the latter in England. In 1429, however, Joan of Arc
appeared, inspiring French resistance to English rule. Although Joan was
captured and burned as a heretic in 1431, the English position in France became
Wars of the Roses Henry
VI was not capable of ruling; during his reign, control of the kingdom passed
from one noble faction to another. The war in France only emphasized Henry's
inability at home. The loss of Normandy in 1450 and the corruption of the
government incited an abortive popular rebellion, led by Jack Cade. The loss of
everything in France, except Calais, in 1453, was a prelude to the dynastic
conflict called the Wars of the Roses (1455-1485).
wars were fought between two branches of the royal family, the Lancastrians,
who in the person of Henry VI possessed the throne but lacked the ability to
rule, and the Yorkists, led by Richard, Duke of York, who had a valid claim to
the throne and greater ability. The issue was complicated in 1453, when the
king's wife, Margaret of Anjou, gave birth to a son, destroying Richard's
status as heir apparent.
turning point in the wars came in 1460. That year Richard was killed in battle,
and his cause was taken up by his son, Edward. Assisted by Richard Neville,
Earl of Warwick, he defeated the Lancastrians in 1461, took Henry captive, and
so overawed Parliament that it acclaimed him king as Edward IV. Henry, however,
escaped, and Edward's subsequent marriage (1464) to Elizabeth Woodville and his
alliance with Burgundy alienated Warwick, who then joined forces with Margaret
of Anjou to depose Edward and restore Henry to the throne (1470). Edward
returned the following year, supported by his brother-in-law, Charles the Bold
of Burgundy, and decisively defeated the Lancastrians. Thereafter, he was
secure on the throne and restored some degree of sound government. When Edward
died in 1483, the throne went to his 12-year-old son, Edward V, but it was
usurped three months later by the boy's uncle, Richard, Duke of Gloucester, who
became king as Richard III. Two years later, Henry Tudor, asserting a weak
Lancastrian claim, defeated Richard at Bosworth and became Henry VII.
in the 15th Century The 15th century was a time of trouble and change. The
country was ravaged by war and plague, and the population did not begin to
increase again until near the end of the century. The weakness of the royal
government allowed a breakdown of law and order. Feudal barons with their
retainers became powerful unto themselves, a condition often called bastard
feudalism. The once great export of wool declined sharply but was gradually
replaced by woolen cloth, the product of a new cottage industry. Landlords
exploited the demand for wool by enclosing land and raising more sheep,
disrupting the age-old economy of the countryside but laying the foundation for
growth (see Enclosure). All that
England needed was a king who could restore efficiency to the royal government
and bring law and order to the countryside. Henry VII in 1485 appointed himself
to do just that. Seldom have a man and his mission been more happily matched.
and Stuart England Henry VII possessed only his ability and the ancient
name and audacity of his Welsh ancestors. His grandfather had married the widow
of Henry V, and his father had married Margaret Beaufort, who was descended
illegitimately from Edward III. Henry's only claim to the throne was his victory
at Bosworth and his subsequent success. The pragmatic Tudors gave England the
government it wanted; with the exception of Mary I, they seldom tried to lead
where their subjects were not ready to follow.
got rid of his Yorkist rivals, including some impostors. He married Elizabeth,
Edward IV's daughter, and soon had a nursery full of babies, the only Tudor so
blessed. He gained recognition abroad, from Spain in 1489 by the Treaty of
Medina del Campo, and then from France, the Netherlands, and Scotland. He
restored strong, efficient government, such as England had once enjoyed but
lacked for many years. He promoted English trade, which he could tax, avoided
foreign wars, and saved money. He became rich and powerful, commanding
England's respect if not its love.
D1 Henry VIII Ambitious and bold, Henry VIII was a vivid
contrast to his careful, workaday father. Humanist scholars praised him; one of
them, Thomas More, served in his government. In 1513 Henry won the Battle of
the Spurs in France and beat the Scots at Flodden (see Flodden Field). He exhausted his inherited wealth, but won fame
and discovered the talents of Thomas Cardinal Wolsey, who as chancellor and
archbishop of York dominated the years 1514 to 1529. The blight on Henry's
reign was his desire for a male heir. Although his wife, Catherine of Aragón,
bore him six children, only one—later Mary I—survived infancy. Wanting a son,
and smitten by Anne Boleyn, Henry appealed to the pope for a divorce. When the
all-capable Wolsey could not obtain it, Henry dismissed him and summoned the
Reformation Parliament. The result was the Church of England, with Henry as
supreme head, separate from Rome but otherwise Catholic.
Boleyn, whom Henry was now free to marry (1533), gave birth not to a son but to
another daughter, Elizabeth. Anne soon lost the king's favor and was beheaded
for alleged adultery. Henry's third wife, Jane Seymour, died giving birth to
Edward, his only surviving son. Three later wives, one of whom he divorced and
another of whom was beheaded, had no children.
Cromwell, Henry's second administrative genius, oversaw the revolutionary
changes of the 1530s. These included the break with Rome and dissolution of the
monasteries, the new growth of Parliament, especially the House of Commons, and
the creation out of the old King's Council of a new bureaucratic structure,
including the Privy Council and the prerogative courts, which were controlled
by the Crown. See also Star Chamber,
D2 Henry's Heirs
Under Edward VI, a
minor dominated successively by Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset, and John
Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, the English church became Protestant.
Parliament's Acts of Uniformity enforced the Book of Common Prayer. When Edward
died at the age of 16, Northumberland tried but failed to save Protestantism
and himself by preventing the succession of the king's half-sister, Mary.
I, the daughter of Catherine of Aragón, restored the Roman Catholic church and
married her cousin, Philip II of Spain. Her burning of almost 300 Protestants
made the people hate her and Rome, however, and her marriage led to war with
France and the loss of Calais. When Bloody Mary, as she was known, died in
November 1558, England rejoiced in the accession of her half-sister, Elizabeth.
I, one of England's greatest sovereigns, had her grandfather's frugality and
care and her father's imperious manner and his ability to charm and overwhelm.
She had a sense of what people wanted and would allow, and she had the judgment
to pick able and devoted ministers.
with Parliament, she settled the church in 1559 on a moderate course. She
neutralized the Scottish threat by helping the Protestant and pro-English
faction to win dominance there. She assisted the Protestant rebels in the
Spanish Netherlands and encouraged English sailors to raid Spanish ships on the
high seas. Her navy defeated the Spanish Armada in 1588 and prevented the
invasion of England. Ireland, increasingly rebellious and vulnerable as a
possible point of foreign attack, was finally completely conquered in 1603.
Elizabeth presided over England's rise to glory abroad and to prosperity and
literary achievement at home, justifiably giving her name to England's golden
D3 The Early Stuarts The accession of James I, the son of
Elizabeth's cousin, Mary, Queen of Scots, united the crowns of England and
Scotland. It also began a century of domestic conflict, due in part to the
personalities of the Stuart kings, but more to the problems inherited from the
previous reign. The Puritans, or extreme Protestants, who had already been
restive under Elizabeth, grew increasingly dissatisfied with the Church of
England, which they felt was still too Catholic. Religious unrest reached its
height when anti-Puritan William Laud became archbishop of Canterbury in the
1630s. The Gunpowder Plot, a Roman Catholic conspiracy to blow up Parliament in
1605, confirmed English fear of Rome.
major conflict was between king and Parliament—that is, between James's idea,
passed on to his son, Charles I, of monarchy by divine right, and Parliament's
insistence on its own independent rights. Chief Justice Sir Edward Coke, after
being dismissed by James for advocating an independent judiciary, backed
Parliament's assertion of its right to impeach the king's ministers (1621) and
helped produce the Petition of Right in 1628. The petition, like the Magna
Carta, forced Charles I to admit limitations on his authority.
attempted to rule without Parliament from 1629 to 1640. His efforts to obtain
money without the aid of Parliament by all kinds of extraordinary levies became
notorious. The measures by Laud and the Court of Star Chamber to restrain the
Puritan press and pulpit, and the prosecution of Puritan leaders in 1637, led
to an outcry against prerogative courts. Charles's attempts in 1637 to impose
English-style worship in Scotland led to a rebellion, which in turn forced
Charles to summon Parliament in 1640.
D4 The English Revolution This Parliament, known as the Long
Parliament, used the crisis to get control of the government. It released
political prisoners, and it arrested and executed Archbishop Laud and Sir
Thomas Wentworth, Earl of Strafford, who were blamed for the king's policies.
It abolished the prerogative courts, limited the king's ability to tax, and
established the rule that Parliament should meet every three years.
other measures, however, such as the Root and Branch Bill, which proposed
abolishing bishops in the church, Parliament was hopelessly split. The division
was further exacerbated by Charles's attempt to arrest some members of
Parliament whom he accused of conspiracy. Failing that, the king withdrew with
his supporters, the Cavaliers. The Puritan remainder of Parliament, called
Roundheads, then issued a call to arms, and Charles gathered his forces as
well. Civil war was inevitable; its first battle was fought at Edgehill in
Roundheads eventually won the war, in part because the Solemn League and
Covenant brought help from Scotland, but more because of the military
leadership of Oliver Cromwell, who created the Ironsides cavalry regiment and
then the New Model Army. The strife produced a wealth of political ideas, the
most famous being those of the radical, democratic Levellers, but discussion
brought no settlement. Charles, who had surrendered to the Scots in 1646 and
been turned over to the Roundheads in 1647, escaped in the confusion, made a
deal with the Scots, and began the second civil war in 1648. Cromwell and the
New Model Army won again and then purged Parliament of all but a “Rump” of
members conformable to army control. The Rump brought the king to trial and
executed him on January 30, 1649. It abolished the monarchy and the House of
Lords and declared England a commonwealth. See
also Covenanters; English Revolution; Rump Parliament.
Cromwellian Regime The problem of settling the government on a permanent
basis was never solved. The new Council of State had to depend on the force of
the army and the scant legitimacy of the Rump Parliament. Cromwell was the
dominant individual. From 1649 to 1651 he subdued Ireland and Scotland and
brought them into the Commonwealth. In 1653 he dissolved the Rump, tired of its
attempts to perpetuate itself. After the experiment of the nominated Barebone's
Parliament failed, Cromwell in December 1653 accepted the Instrument of
Government, England's only attempt at a written constitution. The protectorate,
which it created, was governed by a House of Commons and Cromwell as Lord Protector.
Parliament challenged the restrictions of the Instrument and then proposed the
so-called Humble Petition and Advice to amend it. Cromwell accepted a second
house of Parliament and the right to name his successor, but refused the title
a Royalist uprising in 1655, Cromwell divided England into 11 military
districts commanded by major generals. This, more than anything except the
killing of Charles, turned people against Cromwell and taught them to hate
Puritans and standing armies.
pursued an active foreign policy. The Navigation Act of 1651 provoked the Dutch
War of 1652 to 1654, from which England gained some success. Jamaica was taken
from Spain in 1655. Allied with France, England in 1658 won the Battle of the
Dunes and took Dunkerque in France. Not since Elizabeth's reign had English
ships and arms been so successful and so respected.
protectorate collapsed after Cromwell died in September 1658, and his son,
Richard, was unable to gain the respect of the army. In the ensuing confusion,
General George Monck, the commander in Scotland, marched to London, recalled
the Long Parliament, and set in motion the return of the dead king's eldest son
D5 The Restoration England welcomed Charles II home in May 1660
and attempted to restore things to what they had been in 1642. Only a dozen men
were executed for their role in the execution of Charles I. Both the people and
Charles had learned the value of moderation, but the issue of sovereignty
remained to be resolved.
restored bishops to the church and expelled Dissenters (Protestants who did not
conform to the Church of England), restricting their worship and political
activity. In 1673 the Test Act removed Roman Catholics from the royal
government. The Popish Plot of 1678 and the move to exclude James, the king's
Roman Catholic brother, from the succession revealed the political parties then
forming. The Whigs, favoring Parliament and hating “popery,” urged exclusion;
the Tories, favoring the kings and the Anglican church, opposed it. When
emotions cooled, Charles regained control and ruled without Parliament. He died
in 1685, passing the throne to James.
Restoration was a reaction against Puritanism—in behavior, literature, and
drama—yet Paradise Lost, written by
John Milton, was published in 1667 and Pilgrim's
Progress, by John Bunyan, was published from 1678 to 1684. In 1662 Charles
chartered the Royal Society, to promote the study of natural science. In 1665
the last outbreak of bubonic plague occurred. After London burned in 1666,
Christopher Wren rebuilt it in beauty and grandeur.
D6 The Glorious Revolution James II soon lost the goodwill he had
inherited. He was too harsh in his suppression of a revolt by James Scott, Duke
of Monmouth (an illegitimate son of Charles), in 1685; he created a standing
army; and he put Roman Catholics in the government, army, and university. In
1688 his Declaration of Indulgence, allowing Dissenters and Catholics to
worship freely, and the birth of a son, which set up a Roman Catholic
succession, prompted James's opponents to invite William of Orange, a
Protestant and stadtholder of the Netherlands and husband of the king's elder
daughter, Mary, to come to safeguard Mary's inheritance. When William landed,
James fled, his army having deserted to William.
was given temporary control of the government. Parliament in 1689 gave him and
Mary the crown jointly, provided that they affirm the Bill of Rights listing
and condemning the abuses of James. A Toleration Act gave freedom of worship to
Protestant dissenters. This revolution was called the Glorious Revolution
because, unlike that of 1640 to 1660, it was bloodless and successful:
Parliament was sovereign and England prosperous. It was a victory of Whig
principles and Tory pragmatism. John Locke's Two Treatises of Government (1690) provided an attractive
theoretical justification for it.
who would not swear allegiance to the new monarchs were called nonjurors or
Jacobites—Jacobus being Latin for James. The Jacobites were most numerous among
the Roman Catholics in the Scottish Highlands and in Ireland. Both areas were
subdued, but at a cost of the Massacre of Glencoe in Scotland and the Battle of
the Boyne (see Boyne, Battle of the)
and greater repression of Roman Catholics in Ireland.
D7 The Last of the Stuarts With William, England also got William's war
with France, the War of the League of Augsburg (1689-1697), and the War of the
Spanish Succession (1701-1713). William spent his entire life fighting the
territorial ambitions of France's Louis XIV. The first war accomplished little
save Louis's recognition of William as William III, King of England. In the
second war, the victory of John Churchill (later Duke of Marlborough) at
Blenheim in 1704 showed that England was once again a force to be reckoned with
in European affairs. See Blenheim,
wars also demonstrated the wealth that England now had at its disposal and the
willingness of the English to levy taxes on themselves in Parliament. In 1693
England created a permanent national debt and in 1694 chartered the Bank of
England. These and the developing stock exchange were the basis of London's
growing financial position in Britain and in the world.
Two Treatises of John Locke and his Essay Concerning Human Understanding
(1690), based on empiricism and common sense, and the Principia of Isaac Newton (1687), integrating the laws of motion
with the idea of universal gravitation, gave England a commanding place in the
world of thought. This, matched with its wealth and military success, showed
that England had not destroyed itself in the internal quarrels of the previous
century, but had in fact put its house in order and created the basis of ideas
and power by which it would dominate the modern world.
D8 Union with Scotland Before James II's younger daughter, Anne,
came to the throne in 1702, her many children had all died. To prevent a return
of the Roman Catholic Stuarts, Parliament in 1701 passed the Act of Settlement,
providing that the throne should go next to the Protestant Electress Sophia of
Hannover, the granddaughter of James I, and to her descendants. Scotland, angry
at its exclusion from trade with the English Empire, hesitated to duplicate the
act, as it had the Bill of Rights in 1689. The only solution was to combine the
two kingdoms, which was done by the Act of Union of 1707, creating the kingdom
of Great Britain. See Act of Union;
Settlement, Act of.
For the subsequent
history of England, see United