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Very Early British History


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A short history of Britain, to give you an idea of where we are at the beginning of the semester

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Very Early British History

  1. 1. A (brief) history of Britain Or, what the heck are Anglo-Saxons and why do I care about them? Or, You’ve Gotta Start Somewhere © 2015 Melissa Mohlere
  2. 2. Background of Britain • The Roman Empire held part of Britain from approximately AD 40 to AD 410. That period is called ‘Romano-Britain Age.” • In the fifth century, the Saxons, a Germanic people from mainland Europe, invaded Britain. • They were a pagan race.
  3. 3. Invasions of the Saxons
  4. 4. What changed? So what? • The Roman Empire didn’t leave much of their influence behind. (It was falling apart.) • When the Germanic Saxons began to arrive, they brought with them a language, culture, and protection from the neighboring tribes (including the Scots). • In 597, Christian missionaries, led by St. Augustine, began to arrive. They brought Latin vocabulary, and created early forms of literature
  5. 5. More on language • The missionaries used Latin, combined with Old English sounds, to write down stories. Note that there is no standard way of spelling, so they wrote how things sounded. (Dialect influenced spelling.) • Worth noting that spelling was “flexible” even through Shakespeare’s time! We have examples of Shakespeare’s signature, and he wasn’t always consistent on the spelling of his own name!
  6. 6. I’ve been watching “Vikings” on Amazon. Where are they? • The Vikings started invading around 787, hanging around until the 11th century. • The Danes remain in power in England until about 1042. • One of the great early Kings was a Dane, called Cnut.
  7. 7. Where Beowulf fits in all this • The action of Beowulf takes place in the 6th centery (we believe), but was only written down between the 8th and 11th century. • We don’t know who wrote down Beowulf. • The setting is in Scandanavia (see map on the previous page) but it is considered to be one of the earliest English writings because it was written down in England.
  8. 8. The manuscript • There is a single remaining manuscript of the text of Beowulf, located in the British Library in London. • Link to image • It is an Epic poem, likely told in spoken word for centuries before it was written down.
  9. 9. And finally… • 1066 is known as one of the greatest dates in English history. • William the Conqueror, a Norman king, invades Britain, which is just over the English channel, in the Battle of Hastings. • The Normans were in modern-day France. (Hint: The allies invaded France in World War II on the beaches of Normandy)
  10. 10. Citations, because I can only fit so much in my brain… “Ages of English Timeline.” BBC News. BBC. Web 13 Jan 2016. guage_timeline/index_embed.shtml Nelson, Libby. “25 Maps That Explain the English Language.” Vox. Vox Media, 03 Mar. 2015. Web. 13 Jan 2016. explain-english