History of The United Kingdom & Ireland

Kings & Queens

King Offa of Mercia (Anglo-Saxon)

757 - 796
  • Offa was one of the first kings who managed to control a very large area, which superseded the family or tribe connections.
  • Offa's Dyke 780 AD: to keep out the Celts from the west (Wales)

King Alfred of Wessex (Anglo-Saxon)

871 - 899
  • The king who made most use of the Church to help establish a system of law, to educate the people and to write down important matters (Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, Bede ’s Ecclesiastical History of the English People).
  • Defeated the Danes in 878 (Battle of Edington)
  • Danelaw 885

Witan chose Harold Godwinson king


William the Conqueror

1066 - 1087

William of Normandy defeats Harold Godwinson at Hastings and becomes king of England and Normandy.

  • William the Conqueror governed England and Normandy by travelling from one place to another to make sure that his authority was accepted.
  • Kings were crowned in Westminster and the treasury stayed in the old Wessex capital, Winchester, but there was no actual capital. Wherever the king moved around the country, he and his large number of followers had to be given food by the local people and somewhere to stay.

Edward the Confessor dies


Edward “the Confessor” more interested in the Church than in kingship. There was a church in almost every village. Pattern of the English village, with its manor house and church, dates from this time.

  • Edward had spent most of his life in Normandy (his mother a daughter of the duke of Normandy)
  • The Normans are Vikings in France
  • French and Christian
  • Edward died in 1066 -> no obvious heir. Edward had brought many Normans to his English court, but they were not liked by the more powerful Saxon nobles
  • The Witan chose Harold Godwinson to be the next king of England.
  • He was challenged by Duke William of Normandy, who claimed that Edward the Confessor had promised him the throne.

William Rufus

1087 - 1100
  • William the Conqueror favored 2 of his 3 sons: Robert got Normandy, William Rufus England.
  • William Rufus was killed in a hunting accident in 1100 (Henry was present). He had no son to inherit the throne of England.
  • Henry, rode to Winchester, took the treasury, then rode to Westminster and was crowned king three days later.

Henry II

1154 - 1189

Henry II was the first unquestioned ruler of the English throne for a hundred years and he was ruler of far more land than any previous king.
- Henry used his feudal right to appoint bishops. He delayed the appointment of a new archbishop for five years, enabling him to get all the financial income of Canterbury.

Edward I

1272 - 1307

Edward I ruled over Wales and in Ireland he controlled Dublin and “the Pale” the surrounding area, but he did not control Scotland. In 1290 a crisis took place over the succession to the Scottish throne. Among the most likely to succeed (of 13 candidates) were John de Balliol and Robert Bruce, both Norman-Scottish knights. In order to avoid civil war the Scottish nobles invited Edward I to settle the matter. Edward invaded Scotland and put John de Balliol on the throne. Edward made him provide money and troops for the English army and the Scottish nobles rebelled. Edward invaded again and captured all the main Scottish castles. A popular resistance movement arose, led by William Wallace

The Tudors

1485 - 1603
  • The year 1485 has usually been taken to mark the end of the Middle Ages in England.
  • Henry VII: believed that business was good for the state. avoided wars -> left 2 million pounds

  • Henry VIII: wasteful, political power in Europe. Spain (Catherine of Aragon) and france, CHURCH OF ENGLAND, , Anne Boleyn

  • Edward VI: child when he became king, so the country was ruled by a council

  • Mary: was the Catholic daughter of Catherine of Aragon. She was the first queen to actually rule England. marry King Philip of Spain. . She then began burning Protestants.

  • Elizabeth I became queen in 1558. She wanted to find a peaceful answer to the problems of the English Reformation. Elizabeth kept her cousin, Mary, as a prisoner for twenty years. named Philip as her heir to the throne of England, Mary had become a serious threat, and Elizabeth agreed to her execution in 1587.

In 1588 news of this Armada reached Elizabeth. She realized that the Spanish had to be fought at sea. The English defeated the Armada, helped by the weather, and England became a major sea power.

The Stuarts

1603 - 1688


Roman Invasions (Julius Caesar)

55 BC
  • Caesar claimed Celts were collaborating with Gauls (under Roman rule)
  • First invasion 55 BC. Fight tactics, chariots, no reinforcements.
  • Second invasion one year later, failed again.

Roman Invasion (Claudius)

43 AD
  • Trade between Britain and the Roman Empire had increased > Roman army met with assorted levels of resistance
  • Some tribal leaders resisted, others became client-kings, acquiring both wealth and status as a result.

Vikings invade


Battle of Edington (King Alfred - Danes)

  • King Alfred (Wessex) defeated the Danes at Edington in Wiltshire

Battle of Hastings (Harold Godwinson - William of Normandy)

  • Harold Godwinson defeated The Vikings.
  • He learned that William of Normandy had landed in the south -> rushed back with the men who had just fought the Vikings in the north. He could have mobilized the Saxon fyrd (army), but he didn’t want to wait.
  • He was defeated in the battle of Hastings. William was crowned king of England in Westminster Abbey on Christmas Day, 1066.

Vikings attack in Yorkshire

  • The Vikings in the north of Britain, attacked in Yorkshire -> Harold Godwinson had to march to the north to fight them. He defeated them.
  • He learned that William of Normandy had landed in the south -> rushed back with the men who had just fought the Vikings in the north. He could have mobilized the Saxon fyrd (army), but he didn’t want to wait.
  • He was defeated in the battle of Hastings. William was crowned king of England in Westminster Abbey on Christmas Day, 1066.

Henry I invades Normandy


captured Robert (his elder brother). Now Henry ( Henry I) ruled Normandy and England.

Battle of Lewes (Montfort-Henry III)

  • Civil war after Henry had overthrown the Charter
  • De Montfort defeated Henry at the Battle of Lewes in 1264, a victory so complete that de Montfort was effectively able to take control of the realm. But in 1265 he was killed at the Battle of Evesham and the rebellion collapsed.

Battle of Evesham

  • Simon de Montfort dies and the rebellion collapsed
  • His summoning of knights, burgesses and commoners – the first time the people had been represented – to attend Parliament can be said to be the origin of the concept of modern representative parliament

Hundred Years War (England-France)

1337 - 1453

During the next century the Plantagenets, Edwards, Richards, and after 1400 Henry IV, Henry V and Henry VI from the Lancaster side of the family, kept trying to win back large territories in France. They claimed a right to the French throne and fought the so-called ‘Hundred Years War’ (1337-1453). Initially they were successful, but things didn’t go so well in England: during 1348-1349 the plague, better known as the Black Death, swept through the country and more than one-third of the population died.

Wars of the Roses (Lancaster - York)

1460 - 1485
  • Henry VI mentally ill
  • the Edwards and Richards had had another relative when the Lancaster side of the family had taken over in 1400: the family in York
  • Duke of York would make a better king than the present, mentally ill, king Henry VI, the Lancastrian. Between 1460 and 1485 their supporters fought the ‘Wars of the Roses.
  • half the lords of the sixty noble families had died in the wars

Birth of Parliament

The modern British parliament has a legacy that stretches back to just after the Norman Conquest, when an informal group of nobles and high-ranking clergy met to advise the kings of England. Soon it developed into a more formal assembly, the Great Council, meeting three times a year to assist the king in governing his kingdom and making laws.

Magna Carta

  • Protection of church rights,
  • Protection for the barons from illegal imprisonment,
  • Swift justice
  • limitations on feudal payments to the Crown

Provisions of Oxford

  • A group of barons led by Simon de Montfort, 6th Earl of Leicester
  • 15-member Privy Council to advise the king and oversee the entire administration.
  • Selected by barons
  • Met in Parliament 3 times a year
  • First time King had to share power

Provisions of Westminster


Included inheritance and tax reforms

Statute of Marlborough


Henry was restored to power, the growing importance and power of Parliament was now irrefutable and Henry was forced to make some conciliatory moves, which were recognized under the Statute of Marlborough, passed in 1267. Many of the clauses in that document remain in force today.

Model Parliament


Edward I went one stage further in 1295 summoning to Parliament two knights and lesser Church figures from each county and, from each of various towns, two representatives that did not belong to the clergy or aristocracy. His motive was to gain more widespread support and raise money for his military campaigns. Termed by historians in the 19th century as the Model Parliament, this set the pattern that was to follow. Two years later he consented not to collect taxes without parliamentary consent.

The Romans 43 AD - 410 AD

  • “Britain” comes from the word “Pretani”, the Greco-Roman word for the inhabitants of Britain. The Romans mispronounced the word and called the island “Britannia”. The Romans invaded because the Celts from Britain were helping the Celts from Gaul.
  • Romano-British (= Romanised Celts) culture across southern half of Britain (Humber to Severn)
  • Roman towns: -chester, -caster, -cester
  • Roman roads (6 met in Londinium)
  • The Romans could not conquer “Caledonia” (=Scotland)

Hadrian's Wall

122 - 130
  • Strong wall along the northern border to keep out the Scottish Celts.
  • Actual border few miles north

Romans left Britain

  • Roman control of Britain came to an end as the empire began to collapse.
  • When the Romano-British, the Romanized Celts, were faced with invasions from the Picts, the Irish and the Saxons, they had to defend themselves, as Rome succumbed to invaders itself in AD 410.

The Angles, Saxons and Jutes 430 - 850

  • England (land of the Angles) / Weallas (land of the foreigners).
  • The Witan (King’s Council). Originally informal groups of senior warriors and churchmen, later a formal body, issuing laws and charters.
  • Shires (Saxon), or counties (Norman). - Shire reeve (sheriff), the king’s local administrator.
  • Landscape changed: bigger ploughs+oxen -> fields long and narrow and system for using fields: spring, autumn crops, another left to rest. After harvest: common land
  • Manor House: building where villagers came to pay taxes, justice was administered and men joined the fyrd (army)
  • Lord/aldermen of the Manor had to organise all this and make sure village land is shared properly
  • Danish name: Earl
  • NOW: aldermen = elected officers in local government / earl = high ranking noble

Anglo-Saxon settlers

  • Britain no longer protected by Romans
  • Raided by Germanic tribes, illiterate warriors
  • The British Celts tried to fight them off, but by AD 570 they had been pushed back to the west, past Gloucester

First Bishop of Canterbury (Augustine)

  • Christianity had become firmly established in Britain -> but Saxons belonged to an older Germanic religion.
  • Pope sent Augustine to re-establish Christianity in England.
  • Canterbury (Kent), because this king’s wife had come from Europe and was already Christian.
  • Christian authority more important than faith.
  • Saxon kings helped the Church to grow, Church increased the power of kings.
  • monasteries, or minsters

Offa's Dyke

  • King Offa of Mercia (757 – 796) built a dyke to keep out the Celts from the west.

The Vikings


885 - 950
  • King Alfred captures London and negotiated a treaty with the Danes
  • Viking Rule was recognized in the east and north (Danelaw)
  • In the rest of the country Alfred was recognized as king


  • Saxon king Ethelred decides to pay the Vikings after they start raiding again
  • To get the money he set a tax on all his people = Danegeld
  • beginning of a regular tax system to provide money for armies

Norman conquest (and Plantagenets from 1120)

Feudal System

Approx. 1066

William organized the kingdom according to the feudal system.

Principles of feudalism:

- Every man had a lord, and every lord had land. The king was connected through this ‘chain’ of people to the lowest man in the country. At each level a man had to promise loyalty and service to his lord. Each lord had responsibilities to his vassals. He had to give them land and protection

  • Feu: Land held in return for duty or service to a lord.
  • Vassals: All land owned by the king, but held by others, called ‘vassals’, in return for a promise to serve the king in war for up to forty days.

The nobles also had to give their king part of the produce of the land. Greater nobles gave part of their lands to lesser nobles, knights, and other ‘freemen’.
- Some freemen paid for the land by doing military service, others paid rent. The noble kept ‘serfs’ to work on his own land, who were not free to leave and often were little better than slaves.

Domesday” Book


William wanted to know exactly who owned which piece of land, and how much it was worth. He needed this information so that he could plan his economy, how much he could ask in tax. He sent a team of people all through England to make a complete economic survey.

Thomas Becket

1162 - 1170
  • Henry used his feudal right to appoint bishops. He delayed the appointment of a new archbishop for five years, enabling him to get all the financial income of Canterbury.
  • In 1162 he appointed his friend Thomas Becket, hoping this would give him more power over the church. Thomas Becket refused at first, then agreed to help the king, changed his mind and fled to France.
  • He returned in 1170, determined to resist the king. The king was furious and Becket was murdered in the name of the king, on the altar steps of the cathedral. All Christian Europe was shocked, and Henry was forced to ask the pope’s forgiveness.

Magna Carta

  • Richard Coeur de Lion -> Crusades -> left no heir
  • Replaced by his brother John (greedy)

  • John unpopular: took more money from his subjects and offered no protection. He also quarreled with the pope and the pope closed every church in England.

  • recapture Normandy. His lords no longer trusted him and refused, they marched to London, where they were joined by angry merchants. John was forced to sign the Magna Carta .

Black Death

1348 - 1350
  • more than one-third of the population died.
  • After this there were not enough people left to work on the land, so now the peasants had to be paid for their work. This made the poor more powerful.