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History of Great Britain

Britain was the part of the continent of Europe until about 6000 BC.
Celts arrived 2 500 to 3000 ago. Their language survives in Welsh and Gaelic territories as well as in the names of the main European rivers (the Thames, the Elbe, the Rhine and the Danube).

England was added to the Roman Empire in 43 AD. The Romans built camps, forts and roads and also Hadrian´s Wall as the protection against the invasion of the Celtic tribes. Trade flourished and Christianity was brought to Britain. After the retreat of Roman legions in 410 the waves of Jutes, Angels and Saxons arrived from German lands. They drove Celtic peoples into the mountains of Wales and Scotland and fought with Danes from the 8th and 11th centuries. The most famous Saxon king was Alfred the Great. In the 11th century the Danish King Canute made Britain part of his Scandinavian Empire.
The last successful invasion was made by French speaking Normen led by William Duke of Normandy, who became William the Conqueror after defeating the Saxon King Harold in the Battle of high positions. In this time the Norman and Anglo - Saxon languages and customs merged. (We know this period from the legends about Ivanhoe and Robin Hood.)
The opposition by nobles forced King John to sign Magna Charta in 1215, a guarantee of rights and the rule of law. During the 13th century the parliamentary system slowly developed.

English dynastic claims to large parts of France led to the Hundred Year´s War (1338 - 1453) and the defeat of England. A long civil war, the War of the Roses, between the House of Lancaster (whose emblem was a white rose) and the House of York (whose emblem was a red rose), began in 1455 and ended in victory for Henry Tudor. Religious independence from Rome was secured when the Church of England was separated from the authority of the Pope in 1543 by King Henry WIII.
Under Queen Elizabeth I (1558- 1603) Britain became a major sea power, leading to the founding of colonies in the new world and expansion of trade with Europe and the Orient. In 1588 England defeated the Spanish Army and this, together with the explorations carried out by Sir Francis Drake and Sir Walter Raleigh, helped establish British supremacy on the seas.

Scotland was united with England when James VI of Scotland was crowned James I of England in 1603.
A struggle between Parliament and the Stuart Kings led to a bloody Civil War (1642 - 1649). The country was divided between the supporters of Charles I, who wanted to rule absolutely, and the Army leader, established a republic and King Charles was beheaded. The monarchy was restored in 1660 but the Glorious Revolution in 1688 confirmed the sovereignty of Parliament. In the 18th century parliamentary rule was strengthened.

Technological innovations led to the Industrial Revolution.
The 13 North American colonies were lost, but replaced by growing empires in Canada and India.
Britain´s role in the defeat of Napoleon in 1815 strengthened its position as the leading world power. The extension of franchise in 1832 and 1867, the formation of trade unions, the development of universal public education were among the social changes which came with industrialization and urbanization in the 19th century. Large parts of Africa and Asia were added to the empire during the reign of Queen Victoria (1837- 1901). In the time of victorious World War I Britain suffered huge casualties and economic losses.

Ireland became independent in 1921 and the independence movement became active in India and other colonies.
The country suffered major bombing damage in Word War II, but held out against Germany after the fall of France in 1940. Winston Churchill, with his famous V-victory sign, offered the nation: “Nothing but blood, toil, tears and sweat.”
Industrial growth went on in the post - war period, but Britain lost its leading position to other powers. Labour governments passed programmes nationalising some basic industries and expanding social security. The Thatcher conservative government has however increased the role of private enterprise.

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