III. The Postclassical Period, 500–1500 > F. Europe, 461–1500 > 1. Western Europe in the Early Middle Ages, 461–1000 > k. The British Isles
  The Encyclopedia of World History.  2001.
k. The British Isles
1. England
Prehistoric Britain. The prehistoric inhabitants of Britain (called Celts on the basis of their language) were apparently a fusion of Mediterranean, Alpine, and Nordic strains that included a dark Iberian and a light-haired stock. Archaeological evidence points to contacts with the Iberian Peninsula (2500 B.C.E.) and Egypt (1300 B.C.E.)  1
1200–600 B.C.E
The true Celts are represented by two stocks: Goidels (Gaels), surviving in northern Ireland and high Scotland, and Cymri and Brythons (Britons), still represented in Wales. The Brythons were close kin to the Gauls, particularly the Belgi. Their religion was dominated by a powerful, organized, priestly caste, the druids of Gaul and Britain, who monopolized religion, education, and justice.  2
55 B.C.E.–c. 450 C.E
Roman occupation began with Julius Caesar's conquests in Gaul and Britain (57–50 B.C.E.); Emperor Claudius's personal expedition and conquest (43 C.E.) were decisive in the romanization of Britain. Construction of the great network of Roman roads began (eventually five systems, four centering on London). Bath emerged as a center of Romano-British fashion.  3
Roman conquests in the north began under Agricola (See 71–84); results north of the Clyde-Forth line were not decisive. Emperor Hadrian completed the conquest of Britain in person; construction of Hadrian's Wall (123) from Solway Firth to Tyne mouth. Firth-Clyde rampart (c. 142).  4
Emperor Septimius Severus arrived (208), invaded Caledonia (Scotland), restored Roman military supremacy in the north, and fixed Hadrian's Wall as the final frontier of Roman conquest.  5
Height of villa construction in the plain of Britain. Chief towns: Verulamium (St. Albans), Colchester, Lincoln, Gloucester, York. Sheep raising was widespread, and the skill of the artisans and clothworkers of Britain was already famous on the Continent in the 4th century. The island south of the wall was considerably romanized. Recent archaeological investigations suggest that Christianity had made progress.  6
Withdrawal of the Roman legions and the end of the Roman administration coincided with an intensification of Nordic pressure and the influx of Jutes, Angles, and Saxons, which permanently altered the racial base of the island. By c. 615 the Angles and Jutes had reached the Irish Channel and were masters of what is virtually modern England. A Celtic recrudescence appeared in the highlands of the west and northwest. The history of Britain for two centuries (c. 350–597) is obscure.  7
Seven Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, the Heptarchy, emerged after the Teutonic conquest: Essex, Wessex, Sussex (Saxon, as the names suggest); Kent (Jutes); East Anglia, Mercia, Northumbria (Angles).  8
The supremacy of Ethelbert of Kent in the Heptarchy.  9
Ethelbert's supremacy coincided with the arrival of Augustine the Monk (See 590–604) and the conversion of Kent to Christianity. The Frankish princess Bertha, Ethelbert's wife, who was already Christian, probably exercised a strong influence on him; she was archetypical of the role of women in evangelization. The hegemony in the Heptarchy passed eventually to Edwin of Northumbria (who had also been converted).  10
Oswald of Northumbria called Aidan from Iona, a monastery on an island off the west coast of Scotland. His mission began the great influence of Celtic Christianity, which for a time threatened to replace the Roman Church.  11
c. 628–89
Benet Biscop, a strong supporter of Benedictine monasticism. He founded the monastery of Wearmouth in Northumbria and on five trips to Italy collected books, manuscripts, and paintings that formed the intellectual milieu for the work of Bede.  12
The Encyclopedia of World History, Sixth edition. Peter N. Stearns, general editor. Copyright © 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Maps by Mary Reilly, copyright 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.