Britain

Historical Perspective


Queen Elizabeth I
Britain began as a mystical island on the Northern edge of Europe. Beyond the misty channel, it drew a host of peoples from mainland Europe who would form the nation we now call the British. From the prehistoric people who built the mysterious stonehenge, to the Celts and their druids, and the Romans who at first was afraid to land on shore believing the land was magical to the Nordic and Germanic tribes that flooded in after, and then the Norman overlords that brought this isolated part of Europe back into the fold, it is a land that is unique because of its fascinating mixture rather then in spite it.

For most of its history it seemed that the Island nation was the stopping point for every invading peoples from the continent. But in the last half millenium it would prove to be the most successful and most expansive empire in the history of mankind. It was said at one point that "the sun never sets on the British Empire". Indeed the British possessed colonial holdings around the width of the Earth wherever one could find land to set foot on, even North to South along the length of Africa. Through their domination of the seas, mastery of navigation, and early adoption of industrialization, it was an Imperialist powerhouse for several centuries.




The British Isles had known hunter-gatherer communities since the Ice Age, but the earliest evidence of farming seemed to have arrived from continental Europe between 5000 B.C to 4000 B.C. The early farmers left a lot of evidence of their existence throughout England in the form of so-called "causewayed camps", burial sites, megalithic artwork such as "hill figures" as well as stone circles, and henges (a bank and ditch enclosure).

The Bronze Age began in England around 2500 B.C. with the arrival of the "Beaker people" so-called because of the beaker type pottery that were found in their burial sites. The "Beaker people" were skilled at archery and were a warlike patriarchal society, and quickly supplanted the earlier inhabitants as a sort of aristocracy. However, these people seemed to have adopted the religious practices of the earlier inhabitants. They even continued the tradition of henge building for the next thousand years, in fact much of the henges were built during this period. Stonehenge in Wiltshire is perhaps the most famous of these landmarks. They seem to have also mingled with another group of Europeans that spoke an Indo-European languages we call the "Battle-axe people" who are believed to be a proto-Celtic people, who had domesticated the horse, mastered the use of the wheel and worked with copper. Trade in metals and finished goods flourished between the different groups within the British Isles as well as with continental Europe. These two groups would eventually meld into what became known as the Wessex Culture.


Stonehenge



Pictish Warrior

By around 1500 B.C. clear evidence of a Celtic influx began to emerge in the British Isles. The Celts were extremely warlike, and if they weren't fighting with others they were fighting amongst themselves. So there was never really a Celtic Invasion of the British Isles. However, during the period of "Celtic conversion" much of the previous indigenous practices of building henges and stone circles seemed to have ceased. Instead, the appearance of Hill forts began to dominate the landscape, and in fact often built on top of ancient "causewayed camp" sites. The Celts were skilled with the use of light chariots in battle and often came into battle completely naked except covered from head to toe with a blue-dye called Woad. If that wasn't enough they would charge their enemies screaming in a terrifying rage and took particular pride in collecting the severed heads of their enemies, from which they believed they gained the power of their vanquished foes.

Celtic Society was divided into clans, a sort of extended family, which were loosely affiliated with other clans to form a larger tribe, each of which held their own customs. Celtic wisdom and traditions were held by a Druid caste. They formed a class of elites acting as priests, political advisors, teachers, healers, or arbitrators within their society. In fact, they even acted as a sort of cheerleader for the Celtic Warriors during battles by pronouncing praise for their own warriors while heaping curses at their enemies. They seemed to have held more authority and esteem in Celtic society then the Celtic Kings themselves.

The Celtic immigrants arrived in several waves over a thousand years, bringing not only Iron working (and the Iron Age in 600 B.C.) but two major language families into the British Isles. These were Goidelic which separated into the three Gaelic languages spoken in Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man; the other being Brythonic which separated into Welsh, Cornish and Breton. Many of the Celts who arrived in the last century B.C. were driven to the British Isle as a result of Roman and Germanic expansion into Gaul. These Celts known as the Belgae introduced coinage to Britain and traded in corn, livestock, metals and slaves with their Gaulic cousins on the continent, and even with the Romans. The various Celtic tribes would become the major cultural groups found in the British Isles during the Roman invasion of Britain that would follow. Among these were the Picts, which arrived in what is now Scotland around 1000 B.C., whom the Romans would never vanquish due in part to their fierce and barbaric disposition at least by Roman standards. There is also strong evidence that the Picts were a branch of Scythians since it should be noted that the Greeks and Romans from which we derive most of our historical anecdotal evidence from called any "barbaric" tribes, Celts. Most of these ethnic groups (ironically not including the Picts) would even survive as a separate and distinct cultural entity to the present day.


The Roman's first incursion into the British Isles began with Julius Caesar during 55 B.C at what would be now be known as Kent. The first expedition consisted of two legions resulted in the Celts seeking a truce with the Romans after a series of pitched battles. However, after a storm damaged the Roman ships, the Celts began harassment attacks on the Roman coastal encampments. It was during this expedition that the Romans learned of the wealth of agricultural resources available on the Island of Britannia, and the disunity that is part of Celtic politics. This gave birth to the second much larger expedition the next year consisting of five legions and two thousand cavalry. Upon seeing the huge Roman force, the so-called Britons withdrew into their Hill fort. Despite a valiant effort the fort was taken by the ingenuity of the Roman forces. However, the Britons were again saved when another storm wrecked the Roman fleet, forcing them to withdraw to the coast once again to regroup and establish a defensive posture. The British also regrouped, and was briefly united under Cassivellaunus, a leader of the Catuvellauni tribe and conducted harassment attacks on the Roman camp, but was defeated at every engagement. Cassivellaunus was eventually forced to offer terms of surrender to the Romans. However the terms were extremely lenient as Julius Caesar was anxious to return to Gaul to deal with problems that were brewing on the mainland. The Romans would not return however for another 97 years when Emperor Claudius invaded in 43 A.D.

Using the excuse of aiding a Celtic tribe that had an alliance with Rome, the Romans sent a force of 40,000 men to invade Britain. The Romans made quick work of all that opposed them, and within a few months established a zone of control that stretched from Lincoln to Exeter. By 60 A.D. they would take control of almost all of what would be known as Wales and England. However in 61 A.D. a revolt of Celtic tribes lead by Boudicea, of the Iceni tribe almost dislodged the Romans. Boudicea was the widow of the previous Iceni King, but when he died and left her the throne. The Roman overlords would not accept a woman in that position, and subjected her to a humiliating flogging in front of her people, ravished her daughters and forced the Iceni nobility to surrender their wealth and titles. So it was no surprise in her fury, she ended up destroying three major Roman towns: Londinium (London), Verulamium (St. Albans) and Camulodunum (Colchester). The Roman garrisons had been ill prepared and lacking in numbers to defend them and abandoned them to the rebelling Celts. However, when the Romans finally gathered their forces for a counter attack, superior Roman discipline coupled with a curious habit of the Celts to bring along their entire family young and old to the battle, ended up with a great slaughter and an end to the Celtic revolt.


Statue of Boadicea




However, the Romans did not venture further north or west, as the lands there were ill suited to agriculture. Furthermore the fierceness of the Pictish tribes in the North prompted the Romans to build a wall (called Hadrian's Wall) in 121 A.D. that stretched 75 miles across what is now Scotland from modern Wallsend-on-Tyne in the east, to Bowness-on-Solway in the west. The Romans attempted to push north again in 141 A.D. and built the Antonine Wall (between the Forth and Clyde, stretching 37 miles) to secure their position, but was forced to withdraw back to the line established by Hadrian after twenty years of fending off attacks from the Picts. Hadrian's wall would form the demarcation line between Romanized Britain and the untamed barbarians for the duration of the Roman Empire. Roman Britain however prospered and London eventually became the Capitol of the Province. Like with all their other provinces they attempted to assimilate them to the Roman way of life. In fact 4th Century Britain was called "the golden age of the Villa" and the old Celtic religions had been completely supplanted by Christianity. However, beyond the urban centers this process of Romanization was never completely successful. For example Latin did not replace the Celtic languages as the language of the general population. In the 5th Century A.D. various Germanic tribes began to make incursions into the Roman Empire from Central Europe. In order to meet this threat, Roman legions in Britain were bit by bit recalled to defend the eastern frontiers of the Empire. The Picts, Scots and now Saxons, Jutes and Angles from continental Europe began to make inroads into Britain as well. In 410 A.D. Emperor Constantine finally withdrew the last of the legions, leaving the defense of Britain to its native inhabitant. Thereafter, the Romans were never to return.

However, it is from the Romans that we know much of what the Celts were like. In fact, the name by which these Celts and they would be known to this day comes from their Roman name, the Britanni (or Briton) and Britannia for the Island they inhabited. It is also because of the Romans that much of Britain's road systems and major urban centers were first created, laying a foundation for its development for the next millenium.


Remnants of Hadrian's Wall





Alfred the Great
The next period of history would be known as the Dark Age. With the end of the Roman Empire, recorded history in much of Europe was scanty. However, it was during this period that the ethnic divisions in the British Isles were beginning to solidify into the groups we know today. Britain was dividing into a Brythonic west, a Gaelic North and a Teutonic (Anglo-Saxon) East. Specifically the Welsh, Scottish and English Nations would become an identifiable political entity.

The Welsh called themselves the Cymry, the name Welsh actually comes from the term that the Anglo-Saxon invaders and then neighbors to the east gave to the Romanized inhabitants of the British Isles. The Welsh began to take on a separate identity as they became isolated from the other Romano-British Kingdoms in the North and South of what is now England by the Anglo-Saxons. It is believed that the legends of King Arthur originated from Welsh mythology romanticizing their struggles against the incursions from the various Germanic tribes that began to flood into Britain during the Dark Ages. Indeed there really was a King Authur. Although his life bares little resemblance to that of Legend, he was one of the Romano-British leaders in Wales who prevented the total domination of the entire British Isles by Germanic Invaders.

The Scots were from Ireland, they began to migrate into Pictish country in the 4th Century A.D. As the Romans abandoned the British Isles, the Pictish resurgence forced the Britons in the North to seek help in defending their land. It was the Scotti clan from Ireland that they turned to, eventually they decided to stay. It was Fergus MacErc and his brothers who would be the fathers of Scotland, founding the kingdom called Delriata, in present day Argyllshire. The Scots and the Picts would continue to fight with each other for the next 500 years, although there were occasional periods of peace. It was so through intermarriage between these two warring groups that an heir to both the Scottish and Pictish crown in that of Kenneth MacAlpine finally emerged. It was he who would unite the Picts and the Scots under one King after he defeated opposing Picts in 843 A.D. During this time, Norse (Viking) invaders also began to make incursions into the British Isles and settled in the outlying regions of Scotland and Ireland. Isolating the Scots in Scotland from the brethren in Ireland, setting them on their own separate path of development. Although some of the present day Scottish Clans, most notably the Campbell's, originated from these Norwegian invaders. The mountainous terrain of Scotland also isolated the various Scottish groups, creating the clan system and perpetuating it unto the present day, particularly among those of the highlands. Often these clan allegiances came above those of their allegiance to their King. Nevertheless, the Kingdom of Scotland was born.

In the East, in order to deal with incursions by the Picts, as well as Germanic pirates, inhabitants of the British Isles hired yet other Germanic tribes as mercenaries. They were promised the right to settle in Britain with their families, in exchange for defending the Island from their brethren. However, it was not long before these mercenaries realized that they were more powerful then those who hired them. Slowly but surely they began to take over, establishing a number of Kingdoms throughout Britain. Northumbria, Wessex and Mercia being the three largest, together formed what would be the called England, the name being derived from of these Germanic tribes called the Angles. Despite their takeover of Britain, the English would however be converted to Christianity by the 7th century A.D. However, just as the Anglo-Saxons finally took over what was Romanized Britain under English rule (if at times divided rule), the end of the 9th Century saw the Danes arrive on the scene. The Danes raided along the eastern coast of England, and by 875 A.D. Northumbria, Mercia and East Anglia all succumbed. Only Wessex remained under Saxon hands, and it was under King Alfred, who ruled between 871 A.D. to 899 A.D., who was finally able to turn the tide. After a series of ups and downs, he managed to secure an agreement where the Danes would to confine themselves to the areas they had gotten up to that point. This area was called the Danelaw. Being a learned man, Alfred led a revival of learning and literature, and built the first English fleet. Alfred was known as Alfred the Great for his achievements.

After Alfred's reign, Anglo-Saxon rule reached a period of ascendancy in Britain. By 955 A.D. his grandson Aethelstan, ruled over a united England and even took the title "King of the Anglo-Saxons and the Danes" after seizing the five great Boroughs and the City of York from the Danes. All of this however, fell apart with the rule of Ethelred the Unready. A new wave of Viking attacks fell upon Britain. The Danes would force the English to pay an ever increasing tribute called the Danegeld from the years 991 A.D. to 1018 A.D. It would only end when Cnut, the son of the Danish King, finally managed to kill Ethelred's son Edmund, and married his widow to take the English throne. Cnut would eventually become the King of not only England, but of Denmark and Norway as well. His rule over England was fairly peaceful and in fact he did not stay in England for much of it. However, after his death in 1035 A.D. dynastic squabbles finally resulted in the surviving son of Ethelred, Edward the Confessor, who had been in exile in Normandy returning to England to claim the throne. When he died in 1066 A.D. he did not leave a clear heir to succeed him. Two claimants came forward, a prominent Earl called Harold Godwinson and William, Duke of Normandy. Harold being a native of the Britain and a prominent figure in the political scene of England naturally was crowned King, so he prepared to meet William of Normandy in battle to quash the rival claim. However, at the same time the King of Norway, Harald Hardrada, also decided it was a good time to invade England. As the Norman fleet was delayed by storms, Harold had to release his levied troops and take his personal army North to meet the Norwegian threat. Harold managed to defeat the Norwegians at Stemford Bridge. But as fate would have it, the storm preventing the Norman fleet from crossing the channel lifted while Harold was fighting in the North. This allowed William time to land on English soil unopposed. So Harold had to hurry his tired troops south to meet the Norman army. The Normans would lure the Saxons into a series of fatal charges, and eventually the Saxons fled the field when Harold himself was killed. It is then at the Battle of Hastings, that England passed into Norman hands. William was soon dubbed William the Conqueror.


William the Conqueror


Battle of Agincourt

Norman rule was rather oppressive, importing feudalism into England wholesale. The Saxons power structure was completely removed from any position of importance, and the citizenry were reduced to serfdom. Norman influence unlike the previous invaders did not supplant a new populace into England, but merely a new aristocracy, which was French in character and in language. French would remain the language of the nobility and administration in England for the next 400 years. The Normans were also keen on castle building, and it was under Norman rule that many of the castles in England were built. Norman rule also brought England closer into the political sphere and machinations of continental Europe. The Norman Kings frequently had to deal with securing their titles and land claims back in Normandy. In addition, Norman involvement in the Crusades drained further the already overtaxed population of England. However harsh Norman rule was in England, by the time of King Henry I (1100 A.D. to 1135 A.D.) it was recognized by the populace as at least just, and enforced uniformly throughout the land. Henry II (1154 A.D. to 1189 A.D.) would also introduced the system of trial by jury. He was succeeded by Richard, dubbed Richard the Lionhearted on account of his bravery in battle. However his rule was a poor one for England as he needed vast amounts of money to fund his wars in foreign lands and generally leaving the rule of England to his brother John who continued to rule after Richard's death. During his rule England lost much of their continental holdings to Philip of France. The disgruntled nobility then forced him to sign the "Magna Carter" which put the Crown under the rule of common law. Contrary to popular belief the Magna Carter was not an outline for universal freedom and democracy but more as a way for the nobility to take more power for themselves. However, some of the wordings were indeed later used in the Modern English constitution for those more lofty ideals.

In 1337 A.D. the English renewed their ambitions on the continent, thus the conflict known as "The Hundred Years War" between France and England took place. It was begun under the rule of Edward III, and despite successes at Crecy and Poitiers. Then under his descendant's Henry V (1413 A.D. to 1422 A.D.) at the Battle of Agincourt (the battle where the English Longbowmen became immortalized in history for the devastating effects they had on the French forces). In the end however, the English eventually lost almost all of their continental possessions that they gained during this long conflict.

The remainder 15th century, England saw a lot of internal conflicts as various factions vied for power. The best known was the so-called "War of the Roses", between the House of York and the House of Lancaster. However, it was the House of Tudor that finally emerged to rule England. A new middle class was also emerging out of the turmoil, direct taxation and the creation of a permanent national standing army also allowed the crown to finally break the power of the landed nobility. With this, the feudal period in England was finally coming to an end.

Henry VII's reign ushered in the Tudor period of English history. His dynasty would last 118 years. During the Tudor dynasty England propelled itself into a great sea power with unbridled growth in the economy, literature, and social development, albeit at times tumultuous.

Henry VII was succeeded by his son Henry VIII (1509 A.D. to 1547 A.D.), most famous for his portly stature and the serial executions of his many wives in his quest to provide a male heir to the throne. However, this would be an unfair characterization as in his youth he was considered a true renaissance prince who was amiable, intelligent, capable and athletic. His achievements would include the reformation of the English church making England a Protestant nation (however this would also put Ireland and England at odds as they would staunchly adhere to Catholicism), the union of England with Wales. He would also set England towards its path as a great sea power. Regardless of his efforts for a male heir, however it ended up that a woman would rule England. At first the crown settle on Mary, Queen of Scots, but her rule proved unpopular as she was a militant catholic and then married the Spanish crown prince. The crown finally rested on Elizabeth I (1558 A.D. to 1603 A.D.), the so-called Virgin Queen.

Elizabeth was determined to show that a woman could rule as Queen, which before would have been considered unthinkable. She would prove to be the greatest ruler in the Tudor dynasty if not one of the greatest in English history. She was an extremely astute leader marked by her ability to compromise (at least when it served her purpose) and in her ability to find those who was capable and loyal to serve her. Tension between Spain and England was constant during Elizabeth's reign not only for religious reasons but also for possession of colonies across the Atlantic. Top that off with the fact that English pirates (such as Sir Francis Drake, who were officially reprimanded but privately praised) were making a fortune for themselves and for England in raiding the Spanish treasure ships. So in 1588 A.D. Spain finally decided to send the massive Spanish Armada to invade England in order to put an end to this situation. However, with Drake in command of the English fleet, the hit and run tactics of the quicker English ships forced the tattered Spanish fleet limping back to Spain. It was also a time of literary flowering in England as well, that saw the works of Shakespeare, Spenser and Francis Bacon. Her reign was a golden age for England and a high point in English history.


Henry VIII


Oliver Cromwell

The English crown would pass from the Tudors to the House of Stuart after Elizabeth's death. James VI and his successor Charles I were autocratic rulers and resented and was frustrated by the power of the Parliament. They incidentally like Mary had before them connections to the Scottish monarchy. So it was inevitable that conflict would arise between the Crown and the Parliament. Full-blown civil war finally broke out in 1642 A.D. The parliamentary forces were lead by Oliver Cromwell who developed the New Model Army, and whose troops were nicknamed Roundheads on account of their hairstyle. The Parliamentary forces proved to be victorious, and despite all effort to persuade the King compromise, it proved impossible. Charles I was tied for treason in 1649 A.D. and executed. The Monarchy as well as the House of Lords (which were a governing body that dealt with the issues of the Landed Nobility) was abolished.

The next decade saw the rule of the Commonwealth. While Parliament was nominally in power, it was Cromwell and the army that really held the power. Cromwell would also have to squash an attempt by Charles I's heir to restore the monarchy, yet when conflict between the Parliament and Cromwell came to head. It was Cromwell who would suspend the Parliament to establish what was known as the Protectorate, which in essence worked as if it was a monarchy. Cromwell was not only a Protestant but of a radical sect called the Puritans (which had become popular among the middle class of England). The protectorate government would institute many social reforms that put a ban on many activities that they saw as vices (from theatrical plays, drinking to gambling), and making Church attendance mandatory. He also conducted a brutal campaign in Ireland seizing much of Ireland in lieu of payment to his troops. Cromwell's dictatorial rule naturally proved unpopular. So after Cromwell's death, Parliament offered to restore the monarchy if Charles II would agree to certain concessions on reforms and a general amnesty for all Parliamentarian supporters, to which he agreed.

So in 1660 A.D. that Charles II was crowned King and returned to England on a wave of popular support. He repealed the puritanical laws of the past decades and life for the common people was far more relaxed. However, London was hit with the "Great Plaque" in 1665 A.D. and the following year the "Great Fire", over 100,000 were estimated to have perished from the plaque and 450 acres in the heart of London burned to the ground from the fire. After the reign of Charles II, the crown would eventually pass to a Dutch (as a means to avoid having a Catholic Monarch) then to a German in that of George of Hanover. All this could be explained though the blood relatives of the English Monarchs that were increasingly entangled with those of the rest of Europe. The English Parliament would also formally past a law that forbade any Catholic from ruling and the Bank of England was also formed in 1694 A.D. Then in 1707 A.D. Scotland and England were also brought together in a formal Union to create the nation of Great Britain.

George I showed little interest in running the country and left much of it in the hands of the Parliament. The countries finances was eventually turned over to the Bank of England after a great financial scandal toppled the government, but as a result, England's economy became one of the best managed in Europe over the next several centuries. His successor George II embarked on the "Seven Tears War" in 1755 A.D. and as a result, seized control or solidified their colonial possessions and spheres of influence that was in dispute against the French in North America and Africa. They were also making headway in India, which gave England a trade monopoly with the resource rich subcontinent. However, his son George III (1760 A.D. to 1820 A.D) was constantly beset with bouts of insanity. Despite this, England was firmly set on a road of Empire, as its influence and military might grew. After quelling yet another rebellion in Ireland, it was officially unified with Great Britain to form the United Kingdom in 1799 A.D. The English would also go on to defeat Napoleon under the leadership of Sir Authur Wellesley, later the Duke of Wellington. The English fleet under Horatio Nelson also proved that England was the master of the seas. James Cook would prove England to be a master of Navigation. England would establish colonies in as far as Australia and New Zealand during the 18th century. While England enjoyed successes in the old world and in far off Oceania, it would however loose possession of its American colonies in the American Revolutionary war (1775 A.D. to 1783 A.D.). There was also great social unrest with the beginning of the industrial revolution as well.

Despite the turmoil, Britain only grew stronger and at age 18 Queen Victoria (1837 A.D. to 1901 A.D.) came to the throne. England was at the height of its overseas power, and Queen Victoria long reign would see it reach its greatest expanse. The two other prominent figures of this period were Gladstone and Disraeli who both served as Prime Ministers during Victoria's reign. Gladstone was a liberal and a humanitarian while Disraeli was an imperialist and nationalistic. These two opposing figures fought on opposite sides of the issues but it was Disraeli and his policies that got the Queen's favor. He was not only charming but a personal friend of the Queen, so it was no surprise how English policy towards the rest of the world was carried out. India was at this time administered by the East India Company, but after a mutiny of Indian troops, the country became fully under control of the British government. In fact Queen Victoria was declared Empress of India in 1876 A.D. A trade dispute with China would also result in the Opium War, which saw Britain, make further colonial gains in Asia. In Africa, Rhodes was carrying out ambitions to see British influence stretch from the North in Egypt all the way to South Africa. Including her colonies in Canada, Australia and New Zealand, British influence was felt literally around the world. Although by the end of the 19th century all three would gain its independence they would remain staunch allies of Britain and part of the commonwealth. However, Ireland was again trying to reassert its independence and resorted to terrorism in order to make its point, the fruits of which are still a problem to this day. Great writers such as Charles Dickens and Alfred Tennyson echoed the social sentiments and romanticism of the Victorian era.


Queen Victoria

Winston Churchill
In the 20th century, continuing social problems with industrialization and urbanization, as well as the Irish problem made it clear that maintaining a British Empire was no longer tenable. The British Monarchy would also gradually step away from being a political entity or rulers and ease into a role as symbolic heads of state. Britain would also make a diametric change in European foreign policy. Events in Southern Africa and German military build up made it clear that they would be a greater threat to Britain then its traditional enemies the French. Subsequent British policy did nothing to help Germany feel at ease and when the First World War erupted, England allied with France and Russia against Germany. The First World War (1914 A.D. to 1918 A.D.) was an extremely bloody struggle for all sides. It saw the advent of airplane and tank as well as chemical weapons in war, but it was characterized by an almost stalemated situation of years of trench warfare where each side made little advances for months. In the end Britain and her allies were victorious. The allies however saddled Germany with extremely humiliating and expensive terms for peace. Thus the seeds of the Second World War was sewn with the end of one war.

Following a world wide economic depression between the war years, and the rise of the Nazi party in Germany. The Second World War erupted in 1939 A.D. Britain entered the war extremely ill prepared and it resulted in a retreat on several fronts. From the European continent as France was occupied by Germany, and colonial possessions in the Far East fell to Germany's ally Japan. Germany had to break Britain's air defenses before it could hope to mount a successful invasion. So Britain had to hole up and defend itself from the onslaught of the German airforce in the Battle of Britain. Britain had to endure the bombing of its cities and the brutality of this war made the previous war pale in comparison, no one was spared in this conflict on either side. Winston Churchill was the Prime Minister through the Second World War, who made many impassioned speeches and whose leadership would eventually lead Britain to victory.

After the War, it was clear that while Britain was victorious, it was no longer the foremost superpower in the World and it could not continue to hold on to its colonial possessions. It had depended heavily on the aid and military power of its former colonies. In particular the United States, which had long since, reconciled with its former colonial parents and acted as allies on equal terms since the First World War. India, the so-called Jewel of the British Empire, along with a host of colonial possessions in Asia, Africa and most of Ireland (with the exception of Northern Ireland) would also gain its independence. It had a lot of rebuilding to do after the war, and still suffered from economic weakness years after the war. However, after the 1950's Britain's recovery was in full swing and it entered a period of economic prosperity. It would also remain, after the war, a staunch ally of the western European powers and the United States as member of NATO. It would also become part of the European union after a period of initial hesitation. In a liberal era, the creation of a separate assembly for Wales and Scotland was approved in recent years, while remaining a part of the United Kingdom, without the tensions and often violence present in the past that characterized England's relationship her other Britannic compatriots. It still remains if the question of Northern Ireland can eventually follow the same road.



Overall Strategy for Players Using Britain


Highlander Regiment
Battle of Balaklava
Britain as modelled in Rise of Nations possesses a number of very useful advantages that stretches through almost all ages. This makes them a very strong civilization to play with a lot of flexibility on how one wants to play them.

Their unique units start from the classical age to gunpowder age. It is an archer unit, which suggests a defensive strategy in the early game, as the most likely rushing unit is the heavy infantry which archers are a counter to. This combined with their towers and forts which has better range makes them a strong defensive civilization in Rise of Nations. However, the tower bonus maybe useful in a tower "rush" type of strategy. But firing further and combined with a good border push they could really put a dent into people's economy with a unit that is difficult to take out without siege units. Their archers also auto-upgrade for free, this is a great bonus as it allows you to build up a huge army of archers without having to have the extra resources to upgrade a mass of unit all at once. The early massing option allows the British to either create an extremely strong defense or surprise people with a big archery attack force.

Their economic bonuses which includes a bonus on commerce cap, and double taxation income give them the option of expanding early and faster, without having to upgrade their commerce cap first. The taxation bonus can directly benefit in creating an archer army, but the wealth from this can be used to but any of the other resources except knowledge which gives the British a lot of flexibility in strategy.

In the later ages they get the Highlander and then the Black Watch which are more effective forms of light infantry. These will be good for the final attack that the British player who was doing a defensive strategy should be using to take over enemy cities, and to annihilate any opposing infantry defenders. In the modern age the British gets the Lancaster bomber, which if needed will be a true asset to taking down your enemies, especially good against Russia where you want to stay off the ground as much as possible. Beware of enemy AA of course, but on the flip side, the British themselves possess a bonus in anti air units and defenses. This further enhances the defensive aspects of the British.

On the high seas, the British in Rise of Nations also creates ships faster. This will allow the British to dominate the sea by creating a naval force early. Being able to field a naval force quickly is key to being able to control the seas, because if you have the seas and enemy shore line covered, it will be very hard for them to even create a navy to retake the waters. If you are some how behind, the faster ship creation maybe critical for a naval recovery as you should be able to outpace enemy ship production if you had taken your economic bonuses to full advantage. The domination of the seas will also be critical to stake out those valuable fishing and oil resources and deter a naval invasion.

To summarize, their super economy and long lasting line of unique units makes them a force to be reckoned with throughout all ages, and devastating one in the later ages.


Britain as modelled in Rise of Nations

Unique units



  • Archer Line
Longbowmen (Classical Age)
cheaper, and more effective against heavy infantry.

King's Longbowmen (Medieval Age)

King's Yeomanry (Gunpowder Age)

  • Gun Infantry Line
Highlander (Enlightenment Age)
more effective against other infantry

Black Watch (Industrial Age)



  • Bomber Line
Lancaster Bomber (Modern Age)
more powerful against buildings



Unique powers (The Power of Empire)

  • 25% Higher Commerce Cap
  • Recieve Double Income from Taxation
  • Forts and Tower +2 Range
  • Receive Free Fishing Boat with each New Dock
  • Create Ships 33% Faster
  • Archers Receives Free Upgrades
  • Receive free archer whenever you build a new Barracks,
    one at start, two with Medieval, three with gunpowder age
  • Create AA Units, AA Buildings 25% cheaper and 33% faster

Written By: One Dead Angel

References

Britain Express, BBC, Great Britain UK Guide, Dot To Domesday, Britannia.com.