Essay: Britain the Celts Celtic History

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[. . .] Since then, Anglo-Saxons have formed the cornerstone of English culture, language, and civilization since the decline of the Roman era. The Anglo-Saxon invasion even gave rise to one of the most pervasive and romantic of all British legends: that of King Arthur.

The Anglo-Saxons ultimately converted to Christianity. St. Augustine is credited with the conversion of the Anglo-Saxons (Chapter 3). The conversion of Anglo-Saxons to Christianity caused a fusion of culture and language. This fusion remains a tremendous legacy for the Anglo-Saxons. Roman, Celtic, and Anglo-Saxon influences impacted the development of Christianity throughout the region. These multifaceted influences shaped the way Christianity would be practiced not just in England but around the world. Medieval Anglo-Saxon England was also the first period of pan-British unity: in which disparate kingdoms were politically consolidated. Until the Viking and Norman Conquests, the Anglo-Saxon culture dominated life in England. In fact, Old English is primarily an Anglo-Saxon language.

The Vikings

The Vikings were warrior traders who came to England in the 8th century CE, primarily in search of plunder (Chapter 3). They settled in the region. Territories settled by Danes were called Danelaw: regions in which Danish language, customs, and culture flourished. There was, however, resistance to the Scandinavian presence in Britain. For example, King Alfred the Great tried to pay the Danes to leave. In 878, Alfred won a decisive victory, at the Battle of Edington. After this, the Danes converted to Christianity and also agreed to leave Wessex to the English. However, new groups of Danes later arrived and threatened peace in England. Fortified towns were built, changing the landscape of Britain (Chapter 3).

The influence of the Vikings on British society ranges from language to the resurgence of interest in Latin. Much of the influence of the Vikings was therefore reactionary: a means to establish a unique British identity, politics, and culture distinct from and in opposition to, the Danes. English Kings were being called upon to be powerful in order to keep away Viking invaders. At times, Viking presence proved highly disruptive in England. Viking invasions led to the decline of monasteries and other centers of learning and culture in England (Chapter 4). Ironically, Britain became stronger and more cohesive as a result of having to fight the Danes for political and economic control. When learning and literacy were ultimately revived, they were so in English rather than in Latin as before. This led to the rise of the English language as the preferred common and scholarly language of Britain.

The Normans

Just as the Vikings assimilated in part to the local English culture in custom and religion, so too did the Vikings in France. In France, the Vikings would blend with the local Gallic people and become the Normans. In part because of a shared Viking heritage, but also because of strategic political and military objectives, the Normans invaded England in one of the most important eras in British history. The Norman invasion forever changed the culture, landscape, language, and look of Great Britain. As Norman kings gained power, they were able to succeed at the Battle of Hastings in 1066. The Norman invasion was a tumultuous period, one that revealed the diversity of factions among different kingdoms throughout Britain. William the Conqueror was the most famous Norman.

One of the legacies of the Normans in England was the feudal model. William the Conqueror amassed more land and power, allowing for a feudal state to emerge. The feudal state was based on a scheme in which the King owned the title to all land. Land-owning nobles called Barons would be given land in exchange for military protection. Each Baron was in charge of a certain number of knights, who were sworn to protect the King and country. Also part of the feudal model was the feudal contract, in which lords and vassals were engaged in an apparently mutually beneficial relationship. During this period of British history, much of familiar British architecture emerged including the Norman style churches and Norman style fortresses and castles. Court culture and royal hierarchies found their parallels in the Norman Christian Church: which was another major legacy of the Normans in England. The Normans attempted to reduce church corruption, but also established a hierarchy of bishops. William the Conqueror also merged church and state [END OF PREVIEW]

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