The Medieval Foundations of England

The Medieval Foundations of England

The Medieval Foundations of England

The Medieval Foundations of England

Excerpt

In its geological formation the island of Britain presents two sharply contrasted parts: a line drawn from the mouth of the Tees to the mouth of the Exe represents roughly the division between them. This basic divergence largely explains the different course of development in each region until the eighteenth century, when the Industrial Revolution introduced the new factor of mineral exploitation and altered the traditional economic balance. In particular, it explains the limits of the Roman Occupation of Britain during the first four hundred years of that country's history and the varying degree of romanization to which it was subjected.

I. THE LOWLAND ZONE TO THE SOUTH AND FAST

In a remote prehistoric age Britain had formed part of the northern plain of Europe, and it was a geological accident that had turned a river bed into the English Channel. Consequently, the lowlands of Southern England have their counterpart in the lowlands of Northern France and, historically if not geologically speaking, they have never been separated. Far from being a barrier, the Channel has always formed an easy means of communication, far simpler to traverse than mountain ranges or forest lands or swamps. And it must be borne in mind that, to those who came from the eastern shores of the North Sea, the Channel gave access equally to the lands on either side. The successive waves of Celtic peoples crossed the narrow seas, as before them some of the Neolithic peoples had done. On both sides of the Channel the Belgic Celts had made their settlements before Cæsar made his two 'armed demonstrations' in 55 and 54 B.C., ostensibly to prevent collaboration between them in resistance to Rome. To the German tribes who assaulted and finally occupied the north-west provinces of the Roman world, both north and south coasts of the Channel were similarly exposed. Many Britons, driven from Britain, found refuge in Armorica, and the language spoken in Brittany was basically that which was spoken in Cornwall until the eighteenth century. Even . . .

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