Global Language and World Culture
British history milestones synthesis

British history milestones synthesis

Milestones in British History by English Culture
Milestones in British History by English Culture

The British are coming. One if by land, two if by sea.
Paul Revere

The British nation is unique in this respect. They are the only people who like to be told how bad things are, who like to be told the worst.
Winston Churchill

British History Through Twenty Centuries of Difficult Relationships

The Romans were the first invaders of Britain after the Celts conquered it about 700 BC. The first Roman soldier who set foot on Britain was Julius Caesar in 55 BC, but the Romans actually moved into Britain only a century later in 43 A.D. under Emperor Claudius, who founded Londinium on the river Thames. Britain became a province of the Roman Empire and life went on peacefully until Rome fell in the 5th century AD.

The Roman conquerors were not welcome at all by the Celt inhabitants. They were divided into tribes, but they managed to federate and set up a rebellion in 60 AD. The Britons were led by a queen, Boadicea, who proved a good leader. Although fearless and enthusiastic, her troops were not trained as a real army, so the Roman legions defeated them and Boadicea was killed.

In 1066, a Norman duke crossed the Channel and conquered England. He became William I. The Normans however kept their possessions on the continent: in the 14th century they had more lands in France than the French king and even possessed a part of Spain. In fact the Hundred Years’ War was fought by the French king against the English to send them back to their island. The Normans were a people from Scandinavia who had conquered part of northern France in the same centuries when other Scandinavian peoples were conquering Britain: the Angles, the Saxons, the Danes, the Vikings. When the Normans conquered England in 1066 they had already taken up the French culture and they still felt French, that’s why they claimed the French crown.

A second attack on Britain came from Europe at the end of the 18th century. After conquering most of Europe, Napoleon understood that his power was incomplete without Britain. He fought against the English supremacy all over Europe, but he was defeated in 1814 and kept prisoner until his death in 1821.

Napoleon had great enemies in Britain. One was William Pitt, the Prime Minister who was able to organize defence at home and provide support’ for the anti-Napoleon army. The others were two generals, Nelson and Wellington. The former destroyed Napoleon’s fleet at Trafalgar, the latter beat his army at Waterloo, in Belgium.

Another man conquered a large part of Europe half a century ago, Adolf Hitler. And he decided to do what Napoleon had tried to do: take possession of Britain. The Battle of Britain was long and terrible, but Britain received the help of the USA and her former colonies. In the end Hitler was defeated.

Between 1939 and 1945 the British fought against Hitler, the most dangerous threat ever. A symbol of Britain’s struggle for survival and democracy was Winston Churchill. He was able to unite all the parties and the people to let them feel in national unity.

The defeat of the French Fireships before Quebec
The defeat of the French Fireships before Quebec

You are a member of the British royal family. We are never tired, and we all love hospitals.
Queen Mary

One of the most beautiful things about Britain, apart from the NHS and the free education, is the British Army.
John Lydon

Milestones in British history

1066 Battle of Hastings

At this battle the Anglo-Saxon king Harold was defeated’ and killed by an invading army of Normans under their ruler William the Conqueror. William was crowned king of England and established a strong unified kingdom. In the following centuries the English were able to begin the conquest of Wales, Scotland and Ireland.

1215 Magna Carta

The English barons forced King john to sign an agreement called the Magna Carta (the Great Charter) and accept that every English citizenU, even the king, must obey the laws of the land. The document limited the powers of the king and gave people the right to have a fair trial’. It became the foundation of ordinary English people’s legal rights.

1284 Conquest of Wales

After many wars and rebellions King Edward I succeeded in conquering Wales, although it was not officially united to England until 1543. Edward built a chain of castles in Wales to protect his forces and control the Welsh. Attempts to conquer Scotland and Ireland were less successful; it took the English hundreds of years to completely dominate the British isles.

1348 Black Death

A terrible plague’ called the Black Death arrived in Europe from China. It reached Britain in 1348 and killed about one in every three people. Both towns and countryside were devastated; in some places there were famines because there were not enough people to work in the fields. Britain suffered from other plagues over the following centuries, including the Great Plague in 1665.

1534 Reformation

In the early 16th century the Roman Catholic Church was going through the crisis of the Reformation. Followers of Martin Luther rejected the authority of the Pope and the teachings of the Church. When Pope Clement VII refused to allow King Henry VIII to divorce his first wife, Henry also decided to break away from Rome. He established the Church of England with the monarch as its head. England became a Protestant country.

1588 Defeat of Spanish Armada

Henry VIII’s daughter became Queen Elizabeth I. In her reign (1558-1603) the English navy defeated the Spanish Armada and prevented an invasion. England became an important sea power. English ships sailed around the world, setting up colonies in America and trading in Asia. Elizabethan England was also the time of Shakespeare, a golden age for English music, literature and theatre.

1649 Execution of King Charles I

Charles I wanted to rule, the country by his divine right as king. Parliament rebelled against him, initiating the English Civil War (1642-49). The Royalists were defeated by the Parliamentary forces, led by the great general Oliver Cromwell. The king was ,xecuted and England became a republic (1649-60) with Cromwell as its head. Charles’s son, Charles II, returned to the throne in 1660 but his power was limited. Parliament was now the supreme authority.

1707 Creation of the United Kingdom

England (+ Wales) and Scotland had had the same king since 1603, but now the two countries were officially united. Ireland only became part of the United Kingdom nearly a century later, in 1801.

The British Empire map by English Culture Blog
The British Empire map by English Culture Blog

In recent times, European nations, with the use of gunpowder and other technical improvements in warfare, controlled practically the whole world. One, the British Empire, brought under one government a quarter of the earth and its inhabitants.
John Boyd Orr

Were you to read the British press today, you would learn that the British Empire never forgets its defeats.
Robert Trout

The British Empire

100 years ago a quarter of the world was under British rule. This Empire had developed over the centuries for a variety of reasons, including trade, military security, exploration and emigration.


Ireland was originally invaded in the twelth century. By the 17th century the English had conquered the island, confiscating much of the land in the north and giving it to Protestant settlers from Scotland and England. In 1801 Ireland became part of the United Kingdom. However the native Irish people, mostly Catholic, frequently rebelled against British rule in 1921 the south (the Republic of Ireland) became independent. The six counties of Northern Ireland, where the majority are Protestant, remained within the UK.


English settlers first came to North America in 1607. In 1776, the American colonies rebelled to set up the United States of America, winning independence in 1783. The first English colonies in Canada were in the 17″ century. The English defeated the French in 1763 to take complete control, including Frenchspeaking Quebec. Canada became an independent dominion, with its own government, in 1867.
In the West Indies, the English took Jamaica from the Spanish in 1655. Other islands, such as Barbados and Trinidad, also became colonies in the 17th century. They became independent in the 1960s.


The East India Company began building trading settlements in India in the early 1600s. The British ruled most of the Indian sub-continent from the 1811 century until 1947 when India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka became independent. In the rest of south-east Asia, Malaysia and Singapore were under British control from 1786 until 1963, Burma from 1852 until 1948 and Hong Kong from 1841 until 1997.


In West Africa, Ghana and Nigeria were British territories from the mid-18th century until about 1960. The British also bought South Africa from the Dutch in 1814 and held it until 1931. In East Africa, Kenya, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe were British colonies from the 1890s until the 1960s. At the end of the 19th century the British also controlled Egypt and Sudan in the north.


Captain Cook explored Australia in 1770 and the first colony, a prison, was set up in 1788. The first colony in New Zealand was not until 1840. Australia became independent in 1901 and New Zealand in 1907.

The end of Empire

Britain fought in two great wars in the 20″ century against its main enemy, Germany: World War I (1914-18) and World War II (1939-45). After these wars, although it was victorious, the country was exhausted and had neither the money nor the military power to rule an empire. In any case the colonies now wanted to govern themselves. The Empire came to an end but most of its former members still maintain links through an organization called the The British Empire

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