Коротка історія Англії, Детальна інформація
Establishment of the Kingdom of England
For three centuries a struggle went on between the little Anglo-Saxon kingdoms set up in the 5th – 6th centuries. As feudal relations develop the owners of the bad landed estates strive to unity the separate kingdoms into one state under the power of the king.
At the end of the 8th century another branch of Germanic people begins to attack Britain the separated Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms fighting among themselves become an easy prey for the invaders. The 9th century sees the political unification of the Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms.
How the united Kingdom of the England established;
How England was raided by new enemies;
How the Kingdom of England was strengthened under the reign of Alfred the Great.
Unification of the Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms
The Anglo-Saxon Kingdom waged a constant struggle against one another for predominance over the country. From time to time some stronger state seized the land of the neighboring Kingdoms and made them to pay tribute, or ever ruled them directly. The number of Kingdoms was always changing, so were their boundaries.
The greatest and the most important Kingdoms were Northumbria, Mercia and Wessex. For a time Northumbria gained supremacy. Mercia was the next Kingdom to take the lead. The struggle for predominance continued and at last at the beginning of the 9th century Wessex became the strongest state. In 829 Egber, king of Wessex, was acknowledged by the Kent, Mercia and Northumbria. This was really the beginning of the united Kingdom of England, for Wessex never again lost its supremacy and King Egbert became the King of England. Under his rule all the small Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms were united to form one Kingdom which was called England from that time on.
The clergy, royal warriors and official supported the King ‘s power. It was the King who granted them land and the right to collect dues from the peasants and to hold judgment over them. In this was the royal power helped them to deprive the peasants of their land and to turn them into serfs.
The political unification of the Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms was sped up by the urgent task of defending the country against the dangerous raids of new enemies. From the end of the 8th century and during the 9th and the 10th centuries Western Europe was troubled by a new wave of barbarian attacks. These barbarians came from the North from Norway, Sweden and Denmark and were called Northmen. In different countries the Northmen were known as the Vikings, the Normans, the Danes. They came to Britain from the invaders came to be known in English history as the Danes.
Danish Raids on England
The Danes were of the same Germanic race as the Anglo-Saxons themselves and they came from the same part of the continent. But unlike the Anglo-Saxons whose way of life had changed greatly ever since they came to the Britain, the Danes still lived in tribes. They were still pagans. They worshipped Woden. The god of war – Thor, the Hammer God and other gods.
At the end of the 8th century they began to attack Britain, as the Anglo-Saxons had done themselves four centuries earlier.
The Danes were well armed with sword, spear, dagger, battle-axe and bow. Their ships were sailed-boats but they were also provided with oars. The sails were often striped red and blue and green. The Danes were bold and skilful seamen.
In 793 the Danes carried out their first raids on Britain. Their earliest raids were for plunder only. The raiders came in three or four ships, each with as many as a hundred men on board. They came in spring and summer and when the ships was loaded with plunder they returned home for the winter. Every year they went to different places – rarely to the same place twice. Thus all the Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms faced the same dangerous enemy.
In later years large Danish fleets (more than three hundred ships) brought large armies to conquer and settle in the new lands. They didn’t go home for the winter but they made large camps, well-guaranteed to which they brought booty.
From these camps the Danes would make many raids upon the village in the area. This began the fourth conquest of Britain.
The Danish raids were successful because the Kingdom of England had neither a regular army nor fleet in the north sea to meet them. These were no coastguards to watch the coast of the island and this made it possible for the raiders to appear quite unexpectedly. Besides there were very few roads and large parts of the country were covered with pathless forests or swaps. It took several weeks sometimes before anyone could reach a settlement from where a messenger could be sent to the King or to the nearest great and powerful noble, to ask to help. It would take the King or the noble another few weeks to get his fighting men together and go fight against the enemy.
Northumbria and East Anglia suffered most from the Danish roads. The Danes seizes the ancient city of York and then all of Yorkshire. Here is what a chronicle wrote about the conquest of Northumbria : ”The army raided here and there and filled every place with bloodshed and sorrow. Far and wide it destroyed the churches and monasteries with the fire and sword. When it departed from a place it left nothing standing but roofless walls. So great was the destruction that at the present day one can hardly see anything left of those places. At last all England worth of the Thames that is Northumbria, Mercia and East Anglia, was in their hands. Only Wessex was left to face the enemy. Before the Danes conquered the North, they had made and attacked Wessex, but in 835 King Egbert defeated them. In the reign of Egbert’s son the Danes sailed up the Thames and captured London. Thus the Danes came into conflict with the strongest of all Anglo-Saxons – Wessex.
Strengthening of the Kingdom in Reign of Alfred the Great (871-898)
In 871 the Danes invaded Wessex again. But it was not so easy to devastate Wessex as other parts of England. Wessex had united the small Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms and under the reign of Egbert grandson, King Alfred (871-899) who became known in England as Alfred the Great. Wessex became the centre of resistance against the invaders.
Alfred managed to raise an army and to stop the offensive of the Danes. He made new rules for the army in which every free man had to serve and to come provided with the proper weapons. A levy of infantrymen made up of free peasant and an army of knights consisting of landlords were formed. The landlords were ordered to come with good armour and horseback. Only half of the infantrymen of the shire served in the army at a time. The others were occupied with their work at home and when it was their turn to serve, they became warriors. Thus all the free peasant of Wessex were trained to fight and Alfred could raise a large levy of infantrymen when it was necessary. The army of horsemen was increased too. During the reign of Alfred the Great the first British Navy was built and a war of ships larger and faster than those of the Danes protected the island. Many places which could be easily attacked by the enemy were fortified. Earthen walls were built around them. These walls or forts, were protected by fighting men who owned land in the neighbourhood. As a result of all these measures the Anglo-Saxons won several victories over the Danes. In the treaty which followed in 886, the Danes promised to leave Wessex and a part of Mercia. They settled in the north-eastern part of England, a region which was from that time called the Danes law, because it was ruled according to the law of the Danes. The great Roman road, Walking street was the boundary that separated the Dane law from Wessex.
Thus the Danes were prevented from conquering the whole island and the country was divided into two parts: the Danelaw (Northumbria, East Anglia and part of Mercia) where the Danes spoke their own language and kept to their way of life and English south-western part of the country, that is Wessex, which was under Alfred rule. At the end of the 9th century new Danish attack were made, but they were beaten off: Anglo-Saxons won their first victory on the sea, and soon the Danes no longer dared to attack Wessex.
In time of peace Alfred the Great took measures to improve the laws in the interests of the great landowners and to raise the standard of culture among them. King Alfred knew not only how to write and read – an uncommon thing even for princes in those days – but he was well versed in Greek and Latin. He read a good deal and he realized how to backward the Anglo-Saxons were compared with the people of France and Italy and even more so as compared the Romans five hundred years earlier. The Anglo-Saxons whose ancestors had destroyed the Roman civilization in Britain four centuries before could build nothing better than rough timber devilling and wore nothing finer than coarse homespun. The King sent for artisans, builders and scholars from the continent. The monasteries and churches which had been burnt by the Danes were rebuilt and schools were set up in the monasteries for the clergy.
Alfred demanded that all the priests should learn Latin, as the Bible and service-books were in that language. And it was the duty of the clergy to all future state officials to learn the Latin as well. A school was started in the palace itself where the sons of the nobles learned to read and write.
Alfred himself sometimes taught there. As nearly all the books at that time were written in Latin and few people could read them, translations of some Latin books into Anglo-Saxon were made. Books on religion, history and philosophy were translated so that those people who learned to read could understand them in their own tongue.
The books which were translated from the Latin taught men mainly about the history and geography of the continent. Alfred ordered that the learned men should begin to write a history of England called the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle which was continued for 250 years after the death of Alfred. It is mainly from the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle that the book of today get their information of the events of English medieval history. The Anglo-Saxon chronicle is on view now at the British Museum. Only scholars who have studied the Anglo-Saxon language in which it was written can understand it and translate it into modern English.
King Alfred also ordered that the old customs and laws followed by the Anglo-Saxons before him in Wessex and Mercia should be collected. The laws were added to the collection and a code of English law was drawn up. Everybody had to follow the laws of the Kingdom. In the reign of Alfred the Great the power of the royal officials strengthened greatly. The whole country was divided into shires and hundreds as before and through his officials King Alfred held old parts of the country under control. In the reign of Alfred the Great the Kingdom of England became stronger and it helped the big property against the invaders.
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