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History of England facts for kids

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Stonehenge Closeup
Stonehenge, erected in several stages from c.3000-1500BC

Archaeological evidence suggests that England became inhabited between 41,000 and 44,000 years ago, with people continuing to live there beginning around 13,000 years ago. This was at the end of the last glacial period. Stonehenge and Avebury are remains from the Bronze Age. In the Iron Age, people known as Celtic Britons lived in England. In AD 43, the Roman conquest of Britain began. The Romans kept control of their province of Britannia until the early 5th century.

When the Romans left Great Britain, the Anglo-Saxons settled there. Historians often consider this as the origin of England and of the English people. The Anglo-Saxons were a collection of Germanic peoples. They built several kingdoms that became the main powers in present-day England and parts of southern Scotland. They introduced the Old English language and fought over land in Great Britain. After AD 800, Vikings often raided and the Norsemen settled in parts of what is now England. During this period, several rulers tried to unite the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms. This led to the Kingdom of England being established by the 10th century.

In 1066, the Normans invaded and conquered England. The Norman Dynasty established by William the Conqueror ruled England for more than 50 years before the time of succession crisis known as the Anarchy (1135-1154). After the Anarchy, England was ruled by the House of Plantagenet, a dynasty that later inherited claims to the Kingdom of France. A succession crisis in France led to the Hundred Years' War (1337–1453), a series of conflicts involving the peoples of both nations. After the Hundred Years' War, England became involved in its own succession wars. The Wars of the Roses put two branches of the House of Plantagenet against one another, the House of York and the House of Lancaster. The Lancastrian Henry Tudor ended the War of the Roses and established the Tudor dynasty in 1485.

Under the Tudors and later the Stuart dynasty, England started to make and rule other colonies around the world. During the rule of the Stuarts, the English Civil War took place between the Parliamentarians and the Royalists. This war resulted in the execution of King Charles I (1649) and the beginning of republican governments. The first was a Parliamentary republic known as the Commonwealth of England (1649-1653). Oliver Cromwell then took over and led a dictatorship known as The Protectorate (1653-1659). In 1660, the Stuarts returned and took back the throne, but England had a hard time deciding which religion (Catholic or Protestant) they wanted to practice.

In 1707, England and Scotland joined to form Great Britain. Over the next 300 years, the decolonization of most of Great Britain's colonies occurred. This means that many of the colonies that Great Britain ruled became independent countries.


Stone Age

The Stone Age has been divided into three time periods:

  • The Old Stone Age, or Palaeolithic, is said to have had inhabitants who were hunter-gatherers. These people survived by hunting game (wild animals) and gathering edible (able to be eaten) plants. It is thought that because of low sea levels, Britain was still attached to the main continent of Europe for much of this time.
  • The Middle Stone Age, or Mesolithic, is thought to have been a bit more advanced. Simple weapons such as the javelin, bow and arrow, and possibly the sling have been discovered from this time period. The sea level is thought to have risen during this time, causing Britain to separate from Europe.
  • The New Stone Age, or Neolithic, began around 4,000 BC. People began to grow crops and raise animals. It was during this time period that people led a more settled lifestyle. Evidence of monumental tombs that held many dead in chambers has been discovered. Other stone arrangements, such as Stonehenge, are thought to have been built during the Neolithic period. These huge stone structures align with the stars and planets, suggesting that the builders were incredibly intelligent. Flint technology was developed, which produced more tools and materials that were both artistic and useful.

Later prehistory

Maiden Castle, Dorchester.
View of the ramparts of the developed hillfort of Maiden Castle, Dorset, as they look today

The Bronze Age began around 2500 BC. Bronze was used to make various objects that have since been found by archaeologists. Evidence suggests that the Bronze Age was a time when people began to live more for the good of themselves rather than for the good of the community. Some people became powerful and controlled the flow of the precious resources of the time. More weapons were forged and fine metalwork has been discovered from this time period as well. England also became involved in trade, which meant that their culture was influenced by a large part of Western Europe. It is possible that the Celtic languages developed or spread to England because of trade.

The Iron Age is said to have begun around 800 BC. During this time period, burials of the dead seem to have disappeared. Hillforts were known since the Late Bronze Age, but a huge number were constructed in the period between 600–400 BC, particularly in the South. It is around this time that the earliest mentions of Britain begin to appear in history books. The first historical mention of the region comes from two texts: the Massaliote Periplus, a sailing manual for merchants thought to date to the 6th century BC, and the writings of Pytheas of Massilia. Although both of these texts were quoted by later writers, they are now lost. It appears that trade continued, though less than during the Bronze Age.

Battles also took place over who would control the land, as powerful people emerged and began to form oppida in place of the old hillforts. In 55 and 54 BC, Julius Caesar, as part of his campaigns in Gaul, invaded Britain and claimed to have scored a number of victories.

Roman Britain

Prima tetrarchia Diocletianus
Roman Empire, 3rd century.

After Julius Caesar, the Roman Emperor Claudius began to conquer Britain in 43 AD. By 60 AD, when Rome had conquered much of England, the warrior-queen Boudicca led a revolt against the Romans. A few of the cities that had been conquered by Rome were burned to the ground. In the end, Boudicca was defeated and over the next 20 years the Roman borders continued to grow. Northern England and Wales were finally brought into Roman rule. The border became strong along the line of the Stanegate in Northern England. Hadrian's Wall was built along this line in 138 AD. The Romans, and their culture, were here to stay. Over the course of their three hundred fifty years in charge, England would be affected by Romans living in the land.

The Anglo-Saxon invasion

Britain peoples circa 600
Kingdoms and tribes in Britain, c.700 AD
British kingdoms c 800
Britain c. 800

After the breakdown of Roman rule in Britain from the middle of the fourth century, present-day England was gradually settled by Germanic groups. The Angles, the Saxons, and the Jutes made up the people who were called "Anglo-Saxons." The entire region was referred to as "Hwicce" and settlements throughout the south were called Gewisse. The Battle of Deorham was an important battle that established Anglo-Saxon rule in 577.

The events of the fifth and sixth centuries are difficult to determine because of the myths that are incorporated into them. Characters like Hengist and Horsa, Ambrosius Aurelianus, and King Arthur are mentioned, along with the legends that go along with them.

Seven kingdoms were established. Wessex was in the South; Sussex, Kent and Essex were in the Southeast; Mercia and East Anglia were in the midlands; and Bernicia and Deira were unified to form Northumbria in the North. Northumbria eventually conquered parts of Scotland and Wales. Mercia became the ruling power in the 8th century, and Wessex expanded and became the ruling power in the 9th century.


The Christianization of Anglo-Saxon England began around AD 600, influenced by Celtic Christianity from the northwest and by the Roman Catholic Church from the southeast. Augustine, the first Archbishop of Canterbury, took office in 597. In 601, he baptized the first Christian Anglo-Saxon king, Aethelbert of Kent. The last pagan Anglo-Saxon and Jutish kings died, which made it easier for the official religion of England to become Christianity. The Anglo-Saxon mission (missionaries sent to spread the Gospel) went to Europe in the 8th century, leading to the Christianization of practically all of the Frankish Empire by 800.

Viking challenge and the rise of Wessex

England 878
England in 878

Vikings began attacking in the late 700s. The arrival of the Vikings (in particular the Danish Great Heathen Army) made life difficult for the people of Britain and Ireland. In 867 Northumbria fell to the Danes; East Anglia fell in 869. Wessex defeated the Vikings at Ashdown in 871, but a second invading army landed. Around the same time, Æthelred, king of Wessex died and was succeeded by his younger brother Alfred. Alfred spent the first five years of his reign paying the invaders not to attack. In 878, Alfred's forces were defeated at Chippenham in a surprise attack.

Alfred then showed that he was a great king. In May 878, he led a force that defeated the Danes at Edington. The victory was so complete that the Danish leader, Guthrum, was forced to accept Christian baptism and leave Mercia. Next, Alfred strengthened Wessex and built a new navy of 60 ships. Alfred's success bought Wessex and Mercia years of peace. They were able to rebuild the land that had been attacked and ruined.

Alfred's son Edward continued his father's success and was able to add East Anglia to his rule. Wessex continued to grow when Edward's son Æthelstan conquered the Kingdom of York in 927 and led an attack on Scotland on land and at sea. He was the first to claim the title "King of the English."

The next kings kept England independent. It was not until 978, when Æthelred the Unready was king, that the Danish threat came back. Two powerful Danish kings (Harald Bluetooth and later Sweyn, his son) both invaded England. They kept attacking, and for almost 20 years, Æthelred paid more and more money to the Danish nobles to try to keep them from invading. These payments, which eventually became too expensive, were called Danegelds.

Æthelred then made an alliance with Normandy in 1001, through marriage to the Duke's daughter Emma. He hoped this would make England stronger. However, in 1002, he ordered the massacre of all Danes in England, which was a huge mistake. The Danes fought back and a Danish king named Cnut crowned himself the King of England.

England under the Danes and the Norman Conquest

U 344, Orkesta
The rune stone U 344 was raised in memory of a Viking who went to England three times.

Cnut was succeeded by his sons, but in 1042, the English native Edward the Confessor rose to the throne. Because Edward did not have a son to be an heir, a furious argument began over who would be king after his death in 1066. Edward had been protected for a time in Normandy by his cousin, Duke William, and Edward had promised William the throne. Godwin, Earl of Wessex, thought he should be king, and so did Cnut's Scandinavian successors.

Harold Godwinson became king, probably appointed by Edward the Confessor on his deathbed and endorsed by the Witan. William of Normandy, Harald Hardråde (aided by Harold Godwinson's estranged brother Tostig) and Sweyn II of Denmark all declared that they should be the next king.

In September 1066, Harald III of Norway (Harald Hardråde) landed in Northern England with a force of around 15,000 men and 300 longships (50 men in each boat). With him was Earl Tostig, who had promised him support. Harold Godwinson defeated and killed Harald III of Norway and Tostig and the Norwegian force at the Battle of Stamford Bridge.

On September 28, 1066, William of Normandy invaded England with a force of Normans, in a campaign known as the Norman Conquest. On October 14, after having marched his exhausted army all the way from Yorkshire, Harold Godwinson fought the Normans at the Battle of Hastings, where England's army was defeated and Harold was killed. Edgar the Ætheling was the most closely related to Edward, but he was young and did not have powerful supporters. However, he was made king by the Witan for a short time after Harold Godwinson died. William was crowned king on Christmas Day 1066.

Norman England

Bayeux Tapestry WillelmDux
Depiction of the Battle of Hastings (1066) on the Bayeux Tapestry

After he was crowned, William immediately began reinforcing his power. By 1067, he faced revolts on all sides and spent four years crushing each one. He then forced Scotland and Wales to recognize him as their overlord.

The Norman Conquest led to a large change in the history of the English state. William ordered that a report called the Domesday Book be written, which recorded all of the people and their lands and property for tax purposes. The Domesday Book showed that within twenty years of William being king, the English ruling class had been almost entirely replaced by Norman landholders, who also had taken powerful positions within the government and the Church. In both England and Normandy, William and his nobles spoke and conducted court in Norman French. The use of the Anglo-Norman language by the aristocracy lasted for centuries and helped to develop modern English.

England produced more than enough cereals, dairy products, beef, and mutton. Wool was brought to Flanders, where it was worked into cloth. England then traded that cloth with other countries to make money.

Henry I, the fourth son of William the Conqueror, succeeded his elder brother William II as King of England in 1100. Henry was also known as "Henry Beauclerc" because of his education. His older brother William had been given the practical training to be king, and Henry had received the alternate, formal education. He worked hard to smooth the differences between the Anglo-Saxon and Anglo-Norman societies.

Before his death, Henry I had required the leading barons, ecclesiastics, and officials in Normandy and England to take an oath to accept Matilda (also known as Empress Maud, Henry I's daughter) as his heir. England did not want to accept an outsider, and a woman, as their ruler. Upon Henry’s death, the Norman and English barons ignored Matilda’s claim to the throne, and Stephen, Henry’s favorite nephew, was welcomed by many in England and Normandy as their new ruler.

On December 22, 1135, Stephen was anointed king with the support of the church and nation, while Matilda waited in France for an opportunity to strike. In the autumn of 1139, Matilda invaded England with her half-brother Robert of Gloucester. Her husband, Geoffroy V of Anjou, conquered Normandy but did not cross the channel to help his wife. During this breakdown of central authority, the nobles began building castles without government permission. These castles are called adulterine castles.

Stephen was captured and Matilda was proclaimed queen, but she was soon removed from London. Civil wars followed, and in 1148, Matilda returned to France. Stephen reigned until his death in 1154 and had most of the adulterine castles torn down. Feudal barons began to have more power and civil war and lawlessness broke out. In trying to make peace with Scottish and Welsh raiders, he handed over large areas of land.

England under the Plantagenets

Empress Matilda and Geoffroy's son, Henry of Anjou, who was the Count of Anjou, Duke of Normandy, and Duke of Aquitaine, invaded England and succeeded Stephen as king. Henry became called Henry II and destroyed the rest of the adulterine castles. He grew his power into Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Flanders, Nantes, Brittany, Quercy, Toulouse, Bourges, and Auvergne.

During the reign of Henry II, power shifted away from the barons and the Church. Power was given back to the monarchy. Society moved away from feudalism. During Henry II's reign, new Anglo-Angevin and Anglo-Aquitanian aristocracies developed.

Henry's successor, Richard I "the Lion Heart" (also known as "the absent king"), took part in the Third Crusade and was captured while returning home. His successor, his younger brother John, lost much of Richard's territories, including Normandy, following the disastrous Battle of Bouvines in 1214.

From 1212 onward, John had a constant policy of maintaining close relations with the Pope, which partially explains how he persuaded the Pope to reject the legitimacy of the Magna Carta.

Magna Carta

Magna Carta (British Library Cotton MS Augustus II.106)
One of only four surviving exemplifications of the 1215 text, Cotton MS. Augustus II. 106, property of the British Library

During his reign, a combination of higher taxes, unsuccessful wars, and conflict with the Pope had made King John unpopular with his barons. In 1215 some of the most important barons decided to rebel against him. John met with English leaders along with French and Scot allies at Runnymede. There, he sealed (the king's version of an official signature) a document called the Magna Carta. The Great Charter (Magna Carta in Latin) limited the king's power. John received the approval of the Pope to break his word as soon as things had settled down, though, because he claimed that he was forced to sign the document. This started the First Barons' War.

John's son, Henry III, was only 9 years old when he became king (1216–1272). He did not like the rules in the Magna Carta, but he was forced to call the first "parliament" in 1264. One of the many rebellions and civil wars Henry III faced included the Second Barons' War.

14th century

Edward I (reigned 1272–1307) strengthened the powers of his government, and he brought together the Parliaments of England (such as his Model Parliament). He conquered Wales and tried to conquer the Kingdom of Scotland. William Wallace, a Scottish knight, rallied troops to fight Edward. He was eventually defeated, but not before he inspired other Scots to fight for their freedom from England.

Edward I's son, Edward II was a weak king who spent most of his reign trying to control the nobility. Meanwhile, the Scottish leader Robert Bruce began retaking all the territory conquered by Edward I. In 1314, the English army was disastrously defeated by the Scots at the Battle of Bannockburn. Edward's wife, Queen Isabella, traveled to her native France and then, along with Roger Mortimer, invaded England. Edward fled to London, was deposed, and was later murdered.

Millions of people in northern Europe died in the Great Famine of 1315–1317. In England, half a million people died, more than 10% of the population.

Edward III, son of Edward II, was crowned at age fourteen after his father was deposed by his mother and Roger Mortimer. At age seventeen, he led a successful coup against Mortimer, the de facto ruler of the country, and began his personal reign. Edward III reigned from 1327–1377, restored royal authority, and went on to transform the Kingdom of England into the most efficient military power in Europe. During his reign, the Black Death occurred and he declared himself the rightful heir to the French throne. This started what would become known as the Hundred Years' War.

In 1373, England signed an alliance with the Kingdom of Portugal, which is claimed to be the oldest alliance in the world still in force.

In 1381, a Peasants' Revolt led by Wat Tyler spread across large parts of England. It was stopped by Richard II, with the death of 1500 rebels.

In 1399, Henry IV became king. He spent much of his reign defending himself against plots, rebellions, and assassination attempts.

15th century – Henry V and the Wars of the Roses

Henry V came to the throne in 1413. He continued a new phase of the Hundred Years War, referred to as the Lancastrian War. In the Treaty of Troyes, Henry V was given the power to succeed the current ruler of France, Charles VI of France and to marry Charles IV's daughter. Henry V and Catherine of Valois married in 1421, but Henry V died of dysentery in 1422. His plans to take over as King of France and lead a crusade to retake Jerusalem from the Muslims were left unfinished.

Because Henry V's son, Henry VI, was an infant when he became king, England was ruled by the Regency Government of England 1422–37. The Regency Council tried to make Henry VI the king of France, but an unexpected thing happened: in 1429, Joan of Arc began to lead a military effort by the French to keep the English from gaining control of France. With her help, the French soldiers were able to push the English forces back. The French regained control of their territory.

Henry VI began ruling as king in 1437 and married a French noblewoman, Margaret of Anjou in 1445. England lost the Hundred Years War in August 1453, and Henry fell into a period of mental breakdown. Civil war, known as the Wars of the Roses (1455–1485) began because Henry was unable to control the nobles, who were fighting each other.

Henry's cousin, Edward IV deposed Henry in 1461 and became king. He restored power to the crown but died at only 40 years old.

Edward's brother Richard, Duke of Gloucester declared himself king while Edward's sons, Edward V and Richard, were imprisoned in the Tower of London. It is thought that Richard III (Edward's brother) had his nephews killed so that he could become king.

In the summer of 1485, Henry Tudor, the last Lancastrian male, landed in England from his exile in France. He defeated and killed Richard in battle at Bosworth Field on August 22 of that year and became king as Henry VII. The battle at Bosworth Field is considered to be the end of the Middle Ages in England.

Tudor England

Henry VII

Henry VII ascended to the throne in 1485, ending the Wars of the Roses. In an effort to maintain peace between the two warring families, he married Edward IV's oldest daughter Elizabeth in January 1486. This united the houses of York and Lancaster. The Tudors would continue to rule England for 118 years.

Henry VII did have to defend his position as king from various menaces who wanted to dethrone him, but he was successful. When his country was at peace, two of his children married foreign spouses. Arthur married Catherine of Aragon, Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain's daughter. Henry's daughter Margaret married James IV of Scotland.

In 1501, the king's son Arthur, having married Catherine of Aragon, died of an illness at the age of 15. When the king himself, Henry VII, died in 1509, the position of the Tudors was secure at last. His younger son and heir, Henry, Duke of York, called Henry VIII, succeeded him with no opposition.

Henry VIII

Hans Holbein, the Younger, Around 1497-1543 - Portrait of Henry VIII of England - Google Art Project

Henry VIII was a handsome, athletic young king who looked like he would have a prosperous rule. He married Catherine of Aragon after Arthur died, and they had several children, but none survived infancy except a daughter, Mary.

In 1512, Henry VIII wanted glory as a victorious king and started a war in France. Meanwhile, James IV of Scotland (Henry's other brother-in-law), sided with the French and declared war on England. At the Battle of Flodden on September 9, 1513, the Scots were completely and totally defeated. Most of the Scottish nobility were killed along with James himself. When Henry returned from France, he was given credit for the victory even though he had nothing to do with it.

He divored Catherine, who had served as regent while he was gone, and had several other wives and children.

In 1542, Henry started another war with France, but was only able to conquer the city of Boulogne. The French retook the Boulogne in 1549. Scotland also declared war and at Solway Moss was once again totally defeated.

As he neared the end of his life, Henry's paranoia and suspicion became worse. The total number of executions during his 38-year reign numbered in the tens of thousands. He died in January 1547, at the age of 55 and was succeeded by his son, Edward VI.

Edward VI and Mary I

Edward VI was only nine years old when he took the throne in 1547. His uncle, Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset changed the Henry VIII's will and got letters patent giving him much of the power of a monarch by March of 1547. Seymour took the totle of Protector. Protests arose because many did not like the power Seymour had. John Dudley, who is known as Lord President Northumberland, removed him from power. Northumberland took the power for himself, but he consulted the Regency council more, so they accepted him. It was during Edward's reign that England became a Protestant nation as opposed to a Catholic one.

Edward was beginning to look like he would become a great king when he became severely ill with tuberculosis in 1553 and died that August. He would have been 16 in two months.

Mary I (1516–1558), who was quite popular in London at the time, took the throne. Mary was a devoted Catholic who believed that she could turn the clock back to 1516, before the Protestant Reformation began.

Returning England to Catholicism led to the burnings of 274 Protestants, which are recorded in John Foxe's Book of Martyrs. Mary then married her cousin Philip, son of Emperor Charles V, and king of Spain. Philip was not popular in England. He was Catholic and king of Spain, a country that was at war with France. France did not like the idea of being surrounded by Habsburgs (the dynasty that ruled Spain at the time) and was unfriendly with England because of it. It is believed that Mary died of uterine cancer in November of 1558. Her death was celebrated in the streets of London.

Elizabeth I

The reign of Elizabeth I brought back a sort of order after the difficult reigns of Edward VI and Mary I. The religious issue which had divided the country since Henry VIII was put to rest by the Elizabethan Religious Settlement, which re-established the Church of England. Elizabeth managed to balance the interests of the Puritans and Catholics, keeping the peace among them.

Elizabeth did not want to marry, which meant that it was never certain who her heir to the throne would be.

Other than the Revolt of the Northern Earls in 1569, Elizabeth was able to keep the government stable. She was able to govern throughout England and the population grew during her rule. From 1564 to 1616, the population grew from three million to almost five million.

Elizabeth's cousin, Mary, Queen of Scots, who was a devoted Catholic, was forced out of Scotland because they had become Protestant. She fled to England, where she was arrested by Elizabeth. After 19 years in confinement, Mary was still believed to be the real ruler of England by too many people, and Elizabeth had her tried for treason. Mary was sentenced to death and beheaded in February of 1587.

Elizabethan Era

Queen Elizabeth I's reign, from 1558–1603, is known as the Elizabethan Era. It is referred to as the golden age in English history. The arts, a boost in the economy, and peace were present during the golden age.

Poetry, music, and literature bloomed during the Elizabethan Era. William Shakespeare and many others wrote plays that were different from England's past style of theatre. England sent out explorers and expanded her territory. Economically, the country began to do well because of trans-Atlantic trade. France and England paused their conflict during Elizabeth's reign because France was involved in its own religious battles and because English troops were no longer in France. Philip II of Spain tried to invade England with the Spanish Armada in 1588, but he was famously defeated. The Protestant Reformation became more acceptable to the people, even though most countries near England were Catholic, because of the Elizabethan Religious Settlement. It was also the end of the period when England was a separate realm before its royal union with Scotland.

The National Armada memorial in Plymouth using the Britannia image to celebrate the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588 (William Charles May, sculptor, 1888)

Foreign affairs

Elizabeth was cautious in foreign affairs. She did risk war with Spain by supporting the "Sea Dogs," such as Walter Raleigh, John Hawkins, and Sir Francis Drake. These men attacked Spanish merchant ships carrying gold and silver from the New World. During the Anglo-Spanish War, Spain tried to invade and conquer England. The Spanish Armada was defeated in 1588 and Elizabeth's name has been remembered along with their defeat.

17th century

Union of the Crowns

Elizabeth died in 1603 at the age of 69. Her closest male Protestant relative was the King of Scots, James VI, of the House of Stuart, who became King James I of England in a Union of the Crowns. King James I & VI became the first monarch to rule the entire island of Great Britain. Upon taking power, James immediately made peace with Spain, and for the first half of the 17th century, England stayed out of European politics.

Colonial England

Captain John Smith landing in Jamestown
Captain John Smith landing in Jamestown, Virginia, 1607

In 1607, England built an establishment at Jamestown. This was the beginning of colonialism by England in North America. Many English settled in North America for religious or economic reasons. Approximately 70% of English immigrants to North America who came between 1630–1660 were indentured servants. By 1700, Chesapeake planters transported about 100,000 indentured servants, who accounted for more than 75% of all European immigrants to Virginia and Maryland.

English Civil War

English civil war map 1642 to 1645
Maps of territory held by Royalists (red) and Parliamentarians (green) during the English Civil War (1642–1645)
Sir Anthony Van Dyck - Charles I (1600-49) - Google Art Project
King Charles I, who was beheaded in 1649

The First English Civil War broke out in 1642 because of conflicts between James' son, Charles I, and Parliament. The Royalist (king's) army was defeated by the New Model Army of Parliament at the Battle of Naseby in June 1645. Charles surrendered to the Scottish army at Newark. He was eventually handed over to the English Parliament in early 1647. He escaped, and the Second English Civil War began. It was a short conflict, with the New Model Army quickly securing the country. Charles was captured and put on trial. He was beheaded in January 1649 at Whitehall Gate in London, making England a republic. The trial and execution of Charles by his own subjects shocked the rest of Europe. The king argued to the end that only God could judge him.

The New Model Army, under the command of Oliver Cromwell, then defeated Royalist armies in Ireland and Scotland. Cromwell was given the title Lord Protector in 1653, making him 'king in all but name' to those who did not agree with him. After he died in 1658, his son Richard Cromwell succeeded him in the office but he was forced to leave the position within a year. For a while, it looked as if a new civil war would begin as the New Model Army split into factions. Troops that were stationed in Scotland under the command of George Monck eventually marched on London to restore order.

Restoration of the monarchy

The monarchy was restored in 1660, with King Charles II returning to London.

In 1665, the Great Plague of London killed many in the city. Shortly afterward, in 1666, the Great Fire of London, which raged for 5 days, destroyed approximately 15,000 buildings. After the Restoration, the power of the crown was reduced, and by the 18th century, England was one of the freest countries in Europe.

Glorious Revolution

In 1680, the Exclusion crisis occurred because many people in England did not like the fact that a Catholic was King of England. After the death of Charles II in 1685, his Catholic brother King James II & VII was crowned. From that point, there were various factions pressing for his Protestant daughter Mary and her husband, Prince William III of Orange, to replace him. This became known as the Glorious Revolution.

In November 1688, William landed in England with an invading force, and succeeded in being crowned king. After this, James attempted to retake the throne by force in the Williamite War, and was finally defeated by William at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690.

In December 1689, one of the most important constitutional documents in English history, the Bill of Rights, was passed. The Bill gave people more rights and created more restrictions for the crown. William did not like the constraints, but he chose not to fight with Parliament and to abide by the Bill.

In parts of Scotland and Ireland, there were Catholics who remained loyal to James. They tried to get him restored to the throne, but were unsuccessful.

Formation of the United Kingdom

Until 1707, the Kingdom of England and the Kingdom of Scotland were ruled by one king but governed by two separate parliaments. The Acts of Union, passed by both parliaments, declared that the single Kingdom of Great Britain was to be formed and governed by a unified Parliament. The Treaty of Union was written to ensure this rule of Great Britain.

The Acts took effect on May 1, 1707. On this date, the Scots Parliament and the English Parliament united to form the Parliament of Great Britain, based in the Palace of Westminster in London, the home of the English Parliament. For this reason, the Acts are referred to as the Union of the Parliaments.

The Act of Union of 1800 united the Kingdom of Ireland and the Kingdom of Great Britain to create a new state called the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. The English capital of London became its capital.

Modern England, 18th–19th Centuries

After the formation of the United Kingdom, the history of England is no longer the history of a sovereign nation. Instead, it is the history of one of the countries of the United Kingdom.

Industrial Revolution

The first general laws against child labor, the Factory Acts, were passed in Britain in the first half of the 19th century. Children younger than nine were not allowed to work and the workday of youth under the age of 18 was limited to twelve hours.

During the late 18th century and early 19th century, the English way of life began to change from farming to industry. This was known as the Industrial Revolution. Machines in the city's factories could make products faster than people at home. Cities became overcrowded with families who needed to work. Many more infants and children died, crime rose, and people became poorer.

Local governance

Microcosm of London Plate 009 - Billingsgate Market (tone)
The Billingsgate Fish Market in the early 19th century
Louise Rayner Chester Eastgate Street
Chester, c. 1880

The Local Government Act of 1888 brought about a system of local government that was standard across local areas in England. The county business needed to be handled more efficiently by elected officials that managed small land areas. The land that had been divided into counties was used as the boundaries for each local government.

Even with this improvement, it was still felt that further local division would benefit the people. Large cities and rural areas in the same county could be better administered by two separate bodies of administration. The Local Government Act 1894 was the solution that created 59 "counties in themselves," or "county boroughs" to administer the urban centers of England.

20th and 21st Centuries

The turn of the century brought an end to land being the main source of wealth for the upper classes. Farms had gone through a depression, and land and inheritances were heavily taxed, causing many to sell their estates.

General history and political issues

Ve Day Celebrations in London, England, UK, 8 May 1945 D24586
Victory in Europe Day celebrations in London, 8 May 1945

The Anglo-Irish treaty of 1921 established the Irish Free State (now the Republic of Ireland) as a separate state, leaving Northern Ireland as part of the United Kingdom (UK). The official name of the UK thus became "The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland."

England, as part of the UK, joined the European Economic Community in 1973, which became the European Union in 1993.

There is a movement in England to create a devolved English Parliament. This would give England a local Parliament like those already working for Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales. This issue is referred to as the West Lothian question.

Political history and local government

In 1972, the existing way to administer the local areas was wiped away and lawmakers began from scratch to create a new two-level administrative system across the country. They ended up with metropolitan county councils and Greater London. This was called the Local Government Act of 1972. New counties were created to cover the entire country. Many of these were based on the historic counties, but there were some major changes, especially in the north. This two-level system lasted only 12 years. In 1986, the metropolitan county councils and Greater London were abolished.

The rate-capping rebellion occurred in 1985 among English local councils. The councils did not like that the Conservative government of Margaret Thatcher limited their spending. They tried to get those powers removed by refusing to set any budget at all for the financial year of 1985-1986. They thought that this would leave the government with two choices: help the counties directly or get rid of the restrictions. However, all 15 councils that refused to set a rate eventually did so. The campaign failed and powers to restrict council budgets have remained in place ever since.

Recent changes

In 2009, new changes to local government were made. New unitary authorities were created in areas that previously had a two-level system of counties and districts. In five shire counties the jobs of the county and district councils were combined into a single authority, and in two counties the powers of the county council were absorbed into fewer districts.

As part of the June 2010 United Kingdom budget, it was announced that regional development agencies were being done away with and Local enterprise partnerships were being created. On June 29, the Department of Communities and Local Government and the Department for Business, Innovation, and Skills sent letters to local authority and business leaders. In these letters, the leaders were asked to send their proposals to replace regional development agencies in their areas by September 6, 2010.

On September 7, 2010, details were released of 56 proposals for local enterprise partnerships that had been received. On October 26, 2010, during the Conservative Party Conference, it was revealed that 22 had been given the temporary "green light" to begin their plans and others may later be accepted with some changes. 24 bids were announced as successful on October 28, 2010. As of 2021, there are 38 local enterprise partnerships (LEPs) across England.

Queen Elizabeth II, who began her rule on February 6, 1952, ruled until her death on September 8, 2022. Her son Charles III inherited the throne at age 73.

Interesting facts about the history of England

  • Winchester was the first capital of England.
  • One of William the Conqueror's rules was that everyone needed to be in bed by 8:00 pm.
  • England hosts an annual wife-carrying race to remember the Vikings and how they carried women from town when they raided.
  • In the 1500s, it was law for every man over the age of six to wear a flat cap (hat) on Sundays.
  • Henry VIII introduced a beard tax. If someone didn't pay it, their beard was shaved off.
  • Lake Havasu City, Arizona, purchased London Bridge and had it brought over and reassembled there.
  • Llanfairpwllgwyngyll is a real town in Wales. It has the second-longest one-word place name in the world. The long version of the word is Llanfair­pwllgwyngyll­gogery­chwyrn­drobwll­llan­tysilio­gogo­goch.

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