English Empire Leaders: Elizabeth
, Churchill Starting technologies: Fishing Mining Unique unit: Redcoat Unique building: Stock Exchange First colony: American Empire DESCRIPTION:
In the classical age Britain lay on the periphery of the civilized world Julius Caesar`s visitations to the island in 55/54 BC were viewed as a daring voyage into the unknown. But in 43 AD the island was invaded by Roman soldiers under the Emperor Claudius, and it was to spend the next four centuries as a Roman province. The Romans built cities, roads, and great bathhouses, the ruins of which can still be seen today. With the collapse of Roman power under Germanic onslaught, tribal migrations into Britain began about the middle of the 5th century. The first arrivals were invited by a British chieftain to defend his kingdom against the Picts and Scots. These first mercenaries were from three tribes - the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes - which were located on the coastlands of northwestern Germany. Eventually, these peoples would themselves topple the existing order, and Britain would spend many centuries divided between various warring kingdoms such as Mercia, East Anglia, and others. The first political entity that could rightly be called "England" formed out of the efforts of the kingdom of Wessex to unite the island against the invasion of Danes and Vikings in the 9th century. But the English domination was fleeting the subsequent Norman Conquest (1066) resulted in the subordination of England to a Frankish aristocracy, and the introduction of feudalism to the Isles.
The Norman invasion reoriented England from the Scandinavian world to the Mediterranean one, and reintroduced many elements of Latin culture that had been lost in the Germanic invasions. The English Normans would eventually give rise to a purely British line of kings, the Plantagenets. Three centuries later, the Wars of the Roses was the final struggle between the Yorkist and Lancastrian descendants of the Plantagenets for control of the throne. When Henry Tudor, earl of Richmond, seized the crown in 1485, leaving the Yorkist Richard III dead upon the field of battle, few Englishmen would have predicted that 118 years of Tudor rule had begun. Elizabeth I (1558-1603) proved to be the most able Tudor monarch. No observer in 1558, any more than in 1485, would have predicted that despite the social discord, political floundering, and international humiliation of the past decades, the kingdom again stood on the threshold of an extraordinary age. Her reign ushered in two centuries of British exploration, colonization, and artistic and intellectual advances. When Elizabeth, the "Virgin Queen," died childless, Parliament offered the crown to the closest blood kin, James VI of Scotland, who became James I of England (1603-1625) and founded the Stuart dynasty. The Stuarts kings did not possess the best luck Charles I was defeated by the forces of Parliament in the English Civil War and executed, and a scant four decades later his descendent James II was also overthrown in the "Glorious Revolution" of 1688. But despite all this turbulence, by 1700 England had merged with Scotland to become "Britain" and established an identity that would be both Protestant and Parliamentry.
The British Empire was to be one based on trade and control of the seas. Using the soldiers commonly denoted "Redcoats", every major war Britain engaged in during the 18th and 19th centuries increased its colonial power. The Seven Years` War was particularly notable in this respect, and so were the Napoleonic Wars. By 1820 the total population of the British Empire was 200 million, 26%% of the world`s total population. However acquired, all these acquisitions added to the crown`s and the country`s power and reputation. For the privileged and the rich, the Victorian era was pre-eminently one of confidence and arrogance, under the able guidance of Britain`s two longtime Prime Ministers, Gladstone and Disraeli. Stretching from Australia and New Zealand through India, much of Africa, and Canada, the British Empire under Victoria was truly one on which the "sun never set."
But the "long summer of peace" came to an end in the bloodbath of Flanders. Although Britain suffered far less physical damage than France and underwent no political revolution, World War I may have affected it more fundamentally than any other European power. The war was a catalyst for social and economic change. The mainstays of the early Industrial Revolution, such as coal mining, textile production, and shipbuilding, upon which British prosperity had been built, were now impoverished or redundant. Britain was slow to develop many of the newer manufacturing industries, such as those involving chemicals, electronics, and automobiles. British foreign policy for much of the postwar period aimed at rehabilitating Germany, while domestic policy focused on institutionalizing socialism to counter public concerns. In general, these movements were opposed by France and resulted in a rupture between Britain and its wartime ally, forcing France into a position of isolation that would have prodigious consequences for Europe with the rise of Hitler in the 1930s. World War II was a British victory, but left the nation bankrupt and unable to prevent the onset of decolonization in the 1950s and 1960s. Although Britons maintained a high standard of living, the British economy continued to perform poorly throughout the 1960s and 1970s. As a reaction, Margaret Thatcher (1979-1990) set out to end socialism in Britain. Her most dramatic acts consisted of a continuing series of statutes to denationalize nearly every industry that Labour had brought into public ownership during the previous 40 years. Promising that "we shall govern as New Labour," the Blair government installed in general elections in 1997 accepted some of Thatcher`s foreign policies but also carried out the economic reforms it promised in its manifesto. Faced now with terrorist attacks that threaten the lives of ordinary civilians, Britain has pledged to work together with the United States and other nations to defend this attack on civilization.