THE GROWTH OF NATIONAL INSTITUTIONS IN ENGLAND
ENGLAND became a distinct nation before any other European country. Ever since the decline of the Roman Empire its history had been distinctive. The Romans abandoned it before their other western provinces, and it was the one land of any size where the language of the German invaders replaced that of the Roman provincials. The British Isles were almost the only Christian lands of the West that were not included in Charlemagne's empire. When that empire dissolved into local lordships, the petty Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, on the contrary, began to coalesce into one state. The Northmen and other invaders disrupted the Frankish Empire. But under King Alfred and his successors the Anglo-Saxons united in resistance to the Danish invaders. The Danes, too, soon fused with their Anglo-Saxon kinsmen into one homogeneous people. Feudal tendencies manifested themselves, it is true, but William the Conqueror and his sons greatly strengthened the royal power and developed a businesslike central administration which did much to hold the country together. The Normans in their turn were absorbed into the mass of the population. The language gradually altered under French and Latin influence from Anglo-Saxon to something more like our modern English. Art and culture and ecclesiastical usages were affected by the Continent. But the Norman kings retained the old local institutions and agreed to observe the ancient customs of the reign of Edward the Confessor.
Early attainment of national union
The Norman kings, nevertheless, had introduced feudal institutions into England and were themselves obliged to rule largely by feudal methods. However, they were successful in crushing all attempts at rebellion on the part of their barons until the twenty years of disputed succession and civil war between Stephen
The king and the feudal nobles