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United Kingdom[]

History[]

England is located on Great Britain, a "green and pleasant" island off of the western coast of Europe. It is the largest member of the sovereign state known as the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Historically a seafaring people, for much of the past 500 years the English have used their incomparable navy to project their power into Europe and across the globe.

Geography and Climate[]

England occupies the greater part of the island of Great Britain (along with the Welsh to the west and the Scots to the north). At some 80,000 square miles in size, Great Britain is slightly larger than the state of Kansas in the USA. In pre-historic times to until approximately 6000 BC a land bridge connected Great Britain to Europe; since that time the two have been separated by the English Channel, which is some 20 miles wide at its narrowest point.

England is endowed with rolling hills and plentiful natural resources, including coal and (at one time) extensive forests. Benefiting from warm water brought to its shores by Atlantic Ocean currents, England enjoys plentiful rainfall and relatively mild winters.

Early History: Enter the Romans[]

The first detailed written description of England comes from the Romans, who under Julius Caesar invaded Great Britain in 55 BC. Caesar found an island of perhaps one million Celtic people divided into various warring tribes and possessing an Iron Age level of technology. Caesar led two expeditions to the island in total, and though he fought several successful battles, unrest in Gaul drew him off the island before he could solidify his conquests.

The Romans returned to Great Britain 90 years later - and this time they came in force. In 43 AD four legions (some 20,000 soldiers) under Aulus Plautius landed somewhere on the southern or south-eastern coast (the exact location is unknown) and made their way inland. After a number of stiff battles they crushed the local opposition, establishing a provincial capital at Camulodunum (Colchester). Over the next fifty years the Romans extended their borders west, conquering Wales despite fierce resistance, and north as far as the river Tyne. In 122 AD construction was begun on Hadrian's Wall, a fortification designed to protect Roman Britain from the fierce Picts (proto-Scots) in the northern highlands.

The Romans remained in power in Great Britain for another three centuries, until approximately 410 AD. They had a profound effect upon the natives during their occupation, introducing important advances in agriculture, technology, architecture, and letters.

The Rise and Fall (and Rise) of the Saxons[]

As the Roman military presence retreated from Britain and Western Europe - under pressure from invading Germanic tribes such as the Vandals - local warlords appeared to fill the power vacuum. But none were strong enough to hold off the ever-increasing attacks on the island by the Picts, the Irish, and other barbarian invaders. According to legend, King Vortigern invited the Germanic Saxons into Britain to fight the Picts, but in 442 AD the Saxons turned on their hosts and conquered much of the lowlands. The Saxons remained in power for roughly fifty years until they were driven out largely thanks to the skillful use of cavalry by the surviving British.

In the mid-sixth century a fresh wave of Germanic invaders, the Anglo-Saxons, reappeared, and they all but annihilated the original inhabitants, driving the remnants of the population west into Cornwall and Wales. The Anglo-Saxons would remain in power for several centuries, a period which saw the conversion of the population to Christianity, and a great increase in scholarship on the island, largely centered on the new Christian monasteries. It is during this period that the inhabitants of south-east Great Britain began to consider themselves "English."

The Vikings[]

By the ninth century England (and Scotland and Ireland, not to mention much of Europe) was under continuous assault from Scandinavian raiders known as the Vikings. The Vikings captured cities and towns along the North Sea, and by the middle of the century they controlled almost half of Great Britain, including London. In 877 Alfred the Great, King of Wessex, was able to stop their advance into Southern England, and over the next 50 years he and his heirs fought relentlessly to retake all of the Danish conquests. Athelstan, Alfred's grandson, was the first man to rule all of England in 927.

However, the Danes were not finished with England, and another wave of raids began in 980. Worn down by 20 years of continuous fighting, in 1013 the English surrendered and accepted Sweyn of Denmark as their king. Sweyn was succeeded by Canute, who ruled until 1035. The Danes and the English coexisted fairly peacefully for the next 30 years until 1066, when England was once again subject to invasion.

The Norman Conquest[]

On September 27, 1066, William, Duke of Normandy, launched a major invasion against England, leading 6000 knights and foot soldiers across the English Channel. After defeating the English army and killing the English King Harold at the Battle of Hastings, William marched on London. By December of 1066 most of the English nobility had sworn allegiance to William, and he was crowned at Westminster Abbey on Christmas. Under Norman rule the country's historical ties with Scandinavia were largely severed and England came into much closer contact with Europe.

The Middle Ages[]

Lots of history occurred in England over the next 400 years. There were bitter power struggles, revolts, civil wars, as well as wars in Europe, Scotland and elsewhere. There were several Crusades, a number of plagues and famines, and there were many kings named Richard and Henry, some of whom appeared to be quite mad. Unfortunately, space and time constraints require us to move rapidly to the 16th century, and the rise of Elizabeth.

Queen Elizabeth I[]

Queen Elizabeth I was one of the most remarkable rulers in English history. The daughter of King Henry VIII, Elizabeth took the throne in a period of great social and religious upheaval in England (and across Europe). Intelligent, beautiful, and with a great deal of courage, Elizabeth inherited a country that was virtually bankrupt, on the brink of religious civil war, and under threat of conquest by its much stronger neighbor, Spain. During her reign Elizabeth I united the country, confounded Spain's attempts at conquest, and ushered in one of the great golden ages of arts and literature in human history. She also oversaw a major expansion of the English navy, which would dominate the world's seas for centuries.

For a more detailed discussion of Queen Elizabeth I, see her Civilopedia entry.

The Stuarts[]

Elizabeth I died childless, and the English throne passed to James, the Stuart King of Scotland, who became James I of England. Charles I, James's successor, was overthrown by Parliament after the English Civil War (1641-1645). The crown was reinstated in 1660, but much weaker, serving "at the will of Parliament."

The United Kingdom[]

In 1707, the "Acts of Union" united the kingdoms of Scotland with that of England and Wales. The English and Scottish Parliaments were merged, and England ceased to exist as a political entity. However, England was the largest, wealthiest and most powerful part of the United Kingdom, so much so that many still use the terms England and the United Kingdom interchangeably, much to the annoyance of the Welsh and Scots (and later, the Northern Irish).

In 1800 the United Kingdom attempted to unite with Ireland, becoming the "United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland." Many of the largely Roman Catholic Irish were bitterly opposed to the union, leading to a terrible insurgency that lasted for over a century. In 1922 the southern portion of Ireland was granted its independence, and the UK was once again renamed, this time becoming "The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland."

Rule Britannia[]

Queen Elizabeth's reign saw the first British colony established in the New World, while the powerful British navy protected the growing British interests across the world. England's earliest colonial interests lay in the Caribbean and North America, but over time they expanded into Asia and the South Pacific as well. As British power grew in India, all European competition was driven out, and the English East India Company came to rule the subcontinent in everything but name.

In the late 18th century Britain lost control of much of North America to the Thirteen Colonies (later, the United States of America) in a long and difficult revolution. While this was a great blow to British prestige, the Empire continued to expand unabated, and by the early 20th century the British Empire was the largest and most powerful in history, encompassing one quarter of the Earth's landmass and human population.

The UK at War[]

For much of its history, the UK has sought to keep anyone from becoming a dominant power in Europe, and to keep anyone from developing a navy to rival that of the UK's. During Elizabeth's reign Spain was the biggest threat, and the UK sought to bankrupt Spain by intercepting the Spanish treasure fleets from the New World and to support insurgencies taking place in Spanish possessions. In the 17th century the UK fought a series of wars against the Netherlands when Dutch ships threatened British naval primacy.

In the 19th century the UK faced off against the mighty French Empire under Napoleon Bonaparte. The French had an incomparable army and perhaps the greatest general in human history, while the UK had its navy and the wealth from its worldwide empire. The titanic struggle lasted some 12 years, but eventually Napoleon was defeated and the UK emerged victorious.

The 20th century of course saw the UK pitted against Germany (and allies) in two terrible conflagrations, World Wars I and II. These wars would test the British to the limits of human endurance, and though the UK would be on the victorious side, the cost in wealth and human lives would leave the nation exhausted and virtually bankrupt, bereft of much of its once-great empire.

The Present and Future[]

It has taken some years, but the UK has recovered from the devastation of the wars of the 20th century. Although it is no longer a super power – the United States and increasingly China are the world's "superpowers" – it retains a powerful navy, a thriving culture and a strong economy. While an integral part of the increasingly united and powerful Europe it is also the strongest ally of the United States of America. There is no doubt that the "green and pleasant land" will continue to affect the course of world events for now and the foreseeable future.

English Trivia[]

The world's first public zoo opened in London in 1829.

The Bank of England is one of the few with its own nickname: The Old Lady of Threadneedle Street.

Before the invention of the mechanical clock in the 14th century, the most complex machine in Europe (and perhaps the world) was a pipe organ in the cathedral in Winchester, England, completed in around 950 AD. It had 400 pipes, and 70 men were needed to operate its 26 bellows.

Queen Berengaria, the wife of Richard the Lion-Heart, never set foot on English soil – she instead ruled from Italy and France.

The delicious Colchester oysters were one of the main reasons for the Roman invasion of Britain in 43 AD.

Churchill[]

History[]

Winston Churchill, whose full name was, "Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill," was undoubtedly one of the most important people of the twentieth century. At various times a soldier, journalist, author, and politician, during his long life Churchill was known for both his intellectual brilliance and his outspoken support for what were often unpopular opinions. At various times he was either the most beloved or the most hated man in Britain. In the years since his death Churchill's reputation has grown to semi-legendary proportions.

A descendant of the famous English general the Duke of Marlborough, Churchill was born in 1874 at Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire. After a mediocre performance at the public school Harrow, Churchill joined the army, where he freely used his family connections to get assigned to several colonial wars, narrowly escaping death on a number of occasions - and by all accounts having a ripping good time while doing so. During this period Churchill became a very popular wartime journalist, writing numerous columns and several best-selling books about his experiences. Churchill's maneuvering and flagrant self-promotion alienated his fellow officers and essentially ended any chance of high promotion in the Army; however he was able to parlay his popularity to gain a seat in Parliament.

In 1900 Churchill was elected to a Conservative seat in Parliament. However in 1904 his strong opposition to the Conservative policy of tariff protectionism led him to change parties and join the Liberals, who held power at the time. In the Liberal government Churchill held a number of different minor posts. In 1911 he was appointed First Lord of the Admiralty, overseeing the Royal Navy's ambitious modernization program.

During the First World War, Churchill approved the disastrous Gallipoli invasion of Turkey. Churchill was soundly criticized for the failure, and in 1916 he resigned the Admiralty and left the government, rejoined the army and went off to the Western Front to fight in the trenches.

Despite his many eccentricities and flaws, however, Churchill was widely recognized as one of the ablest men in Great Britain, and in 1917 he was back in government again, holding a number of important Cabinet posts. After the Liberal Government fell in 1923 Churchill swapped parties once again and joined the Conservatives, famously saying, "Anyone can rat [change parties], but it takes a certain ingenuity to re-rat." He was appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1924 and presided over Britain's disastrous return to the Gold Standard, for which he was again soundly criticized. After the Conservative Government fell in the 1929 General Election, Churchill lost his government post and became estranged from the political power brokers in both parties.

The rise of Nazi Germany also led to a resurgence of Churchill's political career. Although he had earlier praised Fascist Italy as a bulwark against communism, in the late 1930s Churchill became one of the few voices speaking out against the growing power of Hitler. When the British government adopted the policy of appeasement, Churchill was almost alone in voicing opposition, a position which gained him a number of admirers, but which also earned him a lot of public and political criticism.

When the Second World War broke out, the public lost a great deal confidence in the government of Neville Chamberlain (who had spearheaded the policy of appeasing Hitler). To shore up support for his government Chamberlain asked Churchill to resume his post as First Lord of the Admiralty. Showing genuine greatness of character Churchill accepted the position, working tirelessly to improve the Royal Navy and absolutely refusing to criticize his Prime Minister during wartime. However by early 1941 it was clear that Chamberlain no longer enjoyed the confidence of the people or of Parliament, and Churchill was appointed Prime Minister of Great Britain.

In the west the war began catastrophically for the Allies. The Germans launched their attack against the British and French forces in 1940. Supported by air power and infantry, the German tanks had outflanked the Allied positions, forcing the French and British into precipitous retreat, advancing so rapidly that the defenders didn't have enough time to reform a new line. The Germans came within inches of destroying the British army, forcing it to abandon all of its equipment and stage a chaotic evacuation at Dunkirk, leaving thousands of British soldiers behind to be captured. France was forced to surrender, and German soldiers occupied Paris.

As past events had foreshadowed, Churchill was at his very best during adversity. Britain stood alone against Hitler. Her army was badly crippled; only the Royal Navy and Air Force stood between the British and the Germans. Churchill worked tirelessly to shore up Britain's defenses and to find allies against Hitler, and his brilliant rhetoric rallied the battered spirits of the British people and earned him the admiration of people across the world. Throughout the dark days of the Battle of Britain and the Blitz that followed, Churchill seemed to hold the empire together by sheer indomitable force of will.

Diplomatically, Churchill was an opportunist. Despite his hatred of Communism and his extreme personal dislike of Stalin (who had earlier allied with Germany to gobble up Poland), when the Germans attacked the Soviet Union Churchill sought an alliance with the USSR, famously saying, "If Hitler invaded hell I would make at least a favorable reference to the devil in the House of Commons." His most important diplomatic task, however, was to cultivate the good will - and eventually the military intervention - of the United States.

It can be argued that Churchill's friendship with American President Franklin Delano Roosevelt saved Great Britain from destruction. Facing strong internal opposition to becoming involved in the war, at first the President had to move slowly, maintaining at least a nominal appearance of neutrality while gradually shifting American public opinion from Isolation to Intervention. However when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor at the end of 1941, Germany declared war against the United States to fulfill it's military agreements with Japan, allowing Roosevelt to openly bring the growing might of the US military and industrial complex to Great Britain's (and the USSR's) aid.

Within a very short period the US Army Air Force was attacking German targets in Europe, and soon thereafter large numbers of American troops were staged in Great Britain, ending forever any chance of a successful German invasion. As the war progressed the growing English and American forces launched a major invasion of Europe while their air forces pounded German factories and cities around the clock, crippling the Nazis enough to allow the Soviet Union to annihilate the German army in the Eastern Front.

After the war ended in victory Churchill lost power almost immediately - perhaps because the people thought he was too old, or because they didn't believe he was the correct leader to rebuild the shattered empire. Though he remained in Parliament for a number of years (and briefly regained the post of Prime Minister during the Suez Crisis), by and large Churchill's direct participation in world events was at an end.

After being voted out of office Churchill wrote a history of the Second World War, for which he received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1953. In 1965 Churchill suffered a stroke and passed away at the age of 90. Churchill's death was mourned across the globe, and his funeral was attended by an enormous number of foreign dignitaries. His reputation has only grown in the years since his death, and today Churchill is possibly the most popular and revered figure in all of English history.

Unique Attributes[]

Admiral Class[]

The Admiral-class battlecruisers were to have been a class of four British Royal Navy battlecruisers designed near the end of World War I. Their design began as an improved version of the Queen Elizabeth-class battleships, but it was recast as a battlecruiser after Admiral John Jellicoe, commander of the Grand Fleet, pointed out that there was no real need for more battleships, but that a number of German battlecruisers had been laid down that were superior to the bulk of the Grand Fleet's battlecruisers and the design was revised to counter these. The class was to have consisted of HMS Hood, Anson, Howe, and Rodney — all names of famous admirals — but the latter three ships were suspended as the material and labour required to complete them was needed for higher-priority merchantmen and escort vessels. Their designs were updated to incorporate the lessons from the Battle of Jutland, but the Admiralty eventually decided that it was better to begin again with a clean-slate design so they were cancelled in 1919. No more battlecruisers would be built due to the arms limitations agreements of the interbellum.

Spitfire[]

The spitfire is a fighter aircraft used by the British Royal Air Force during the second world war. During the Battle of Britain in 1940, the Spitfire was amongst the fighting resistance against the invasion of the German Luftwaffe, although despite popular misconception they were not the primary RAF fighter during this battle.

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