Introducere in Istoria si Civilizatia Britanica

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Domenii: Istorie Universala, Engleza

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Familiarizarea studentilor cu elemente de istorie si cultură britanică, ce stau

la baza întelegerii poporului englez si a limbii engleze, care facilitează cunoasterea

literaturii engleze care facilitează cunoasterea literaturii engleze si care. În general

sunt absolut necesare unui specialist în limba si literatura engleză; prelegerile vor

aborda teme majore, cu semnificatii deosebite pentru istoria li civilizatia engleză.


Great Britain’s full political title is The United Kingdom of Great

Britain and Northern Ireland. The archipelago is constituted of England,

Scotland and Wales, forming the largest island known officially as Great

Britain. The second island, Ireland, is shared between the UK and The

Republic of Ireland.The rest of the islands – Anglesey, the Orkneys, the

Shetlands, the Hebrides, the Isle of Wight and the Isles of Scilly are also

included in the British administration.

The Channel Islands – off the French coast – have a special position, and so

does the Isle of Man – in the Irish Sea. They are not part of the UK, although they

are members of the Commonwealth. They have nevertheless the status of selfgoverning

Crown Dependencies but the British government is still responsible for

their defence and international relations.

More precisely, Britain’s geographical position is marked by 0° longitude –

passing through Greenwich, the international time measure – by latitude 50° N –

passing through the Lizard peninsula in the South West and by 60° N latitude,

across the Shetland islands.

Despite its relatively small and compact size, if compared with other

European countries, Britain possesses a richly varied landscape. Its physical area

amounts to about 244,100 km², 95% of which is land. England’s surface is

129.634 km², Wales’ – 20, 637 km², Scotland’s – 77,179 km² and Northern

Ireland’s – 13,438 km².

For millions of years Britain was part of the European mainland but, after

the last Ice Age, when apparently the glaciers melted suddenly, the sea level rose,

separating Britain from Europe through the English channel in the South, and the


North Sea in the North. Nowadays, in the South, only 32 km of water – the Straits

of Dover – separate England from continental Europe.


1. Give possible explanations for the concentration of population in South

East England.

2. Find on the map other important European countries situated at about the

same latitude as England. Explain the differences between England’s climate and

their type of climate.

3. Name the capitals of the following regions: Scotland, Ireland, Cornwall,

Wales and England.


In prehistoric times the British Isles were inhabited by a population about

which very few things are known today. Since the monuments it left behind are

similar to those discovered in Malta or Spain, it was assumed this civilization was of

Mediterranean origin. Except for various fossils and objects dated 250.000 BC, when

apparently the island was not separated from the mainland, the most important

prehistoric monuments belong to the megalithic period ( about 3000 BC)

Near Avebury, in the Wiltshire county we find, inside the largest circle of

cromlechs existing in Europe, a monument of cult built around 1800 BC, a genuine

megalithic cathedral, over 500 stones form an ensemble of rings to which led

immense alleys. A hundred meter farther an artificial hill is still visible today,

whose dimensions and greatness make the viewer assume that the efforts deployed

in its construction by a primitive people were at least equal to that of the Egyptians

that built the Giseh monuments.

But the most famous prehistoric monument, which has excited the popular

imagination for centuries, is undoubtedly Stonehenge. In the West of England, in

the midst of Salisbury Plain, standing is one of the most famous landmarks in the

world: Stonehenge. Even in its current ruined state, the monument is undeniably

impressive. Stonehenge has had a great deal of aggression associated with it, both

in this century and before. Indeed, it seems likely that the monument was erected

and maintained by a military and political elite who exercised authority over a

large part of southern Britain in the late Neolithic period. As far as its purpose is

concerned, as always in the case of other astronomically oriented monuments, such

as those in Bolivia, Mexico, India or Egypt, the destination is still not very clear.

Stonehenge appears to have functioned as either a temple or a sanctuary dedicated

to the cult of the sun or of the moon, or even as an astronomical observatory.

Another plausible assumption would be that Stonehenge played an important part

in what used to be the Neolithic cult of the dead, an assumption supported by the

existence of the numerous incineration tombs discovered around it. Apparently, it

was constructed in several steps (between 1800-1400 BC) but just how it was built

remains a mystery, if we take into consideration the primitive technology of the

time and the fact that the stones it was made of came from over 385 km away, in

Wales (Dyfed), from the Prescelly Mountains. The entire complex was built in

different epochs, starting with 1900 BC, and going to 1400 BC.

The Stonehenge monument has impressed many artists throughout the ages –

such as Turner or John Constable who, around 1835 immortalized it in a watercolor, or

Thomas Hardy, in the setting of whose novel Tess of the d’Urbervilles, the monument


plays a significant part; nowadays, every year on the day of the summer solstice, a

traditional holiday takes place, that gathers not only inhabitants of Salisbury, but also

foreign tourists who arrive there in order to watch the spectacular sunrise on the site,

even if it has been fenced off from the public to prevent its destruction.


1.Which other prehistoric monuments are supposed to have been created in

about the same period with Stonehenge?

2.Which is the role played by the monument in Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the

d’Urbervilles. What significance is attributed to it in this novel?

3.What is the difference between the Avebury henge and Stonehenge?

4. Can you give example of other prehistoric monuments built for religious

reasons in other parts of the world?


As it possessed no unitary government or rule the territory of Britain did not raise

any serious problems to invasions from across the Channel. It is only with the advent

of the Normans that the isle became a difficult conquest. Before that, the physical

characteristics of Britain made it an easy access through many havens and navigable

rivers in the south. The temptations that determined various migratory groups and

eventually the Romans themselves to take possession of the island included not only

the tin, pearls, various metals, among which gold, but also its fertile soil as well as its

mild climate, due to what we know today as the Gulf Stream, but which the early

inhabitants found surprisingly balanced for a country situated so up north.

After the conquest of the Gaul by the Romans, Britain seemed the following

natural war objective. These mysterious islands seemed able to satisfy Caesar’s

needs for victories and riches for his soldiers and partisans, but also his secret

desires of astonishing Rome once more. Thus, the first Roman incursion in Britain

took place in August 55 BC, when Caesar landed with two legions trying to

conquer these unfamiliar lands. However, the operation did not end with a victory,

but rather a bitter compromise. The following year, (54 BC), Caesar returned trying

to complete his conquest, only to find the Britons prepared and organised, under

the command of a local leader, Cassivellaunus, whose lands stretched north of the

Thames; it was again Caesar’s diplomatic skill that helped him subjugate all the

tribes – mostly by deftly operating with the divide ut regnum formula. The

hostilities ended by an agreement and Caesar established the tribute Britain was to

pay to the Roman people. But after Caesar’s death, Britain fell into oblivion for

almost a century and it is only under Claudius’ reign that various groups of interest

began to consider these distant lands as a possible new source of glory and profit

for the Empire. As a result, in 43 AD., Caesar sent to Britain an expedition formed

of 4 legions, which landed in Britain and took over the lowlands of England and –

not without some difficulty – over part of the Wales and Scotland, so that, at the

beginning of the second century, England was entirely under Roman rule.

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