English - History and Cultural Relations



Early English history is marked by immigration. Although not the first, the Celts began arriving around 2,500 to 3,000 years ago. England became part of the Roman Empire in A.D. 43. After the Roman withdrawal in A.D. 410, waves of Jutes, Angles, and Saxons arrived and established control, in spite of Danish incursions from the eighth through the eleventh centuries. By the fifth century A.D. , the term "English"—"Angelcynn," meaning "angel kin"—was applied to the Teutonic inhabitants collectively. By the eleventh century, the term included the Celtic and Scandinavian elements and all natives of England, except for the Normans, who remained separate for several generations after their conquest in 1066. The signing of the Magna Carta in 1215 guaranteed the rights of rule by law, a point of pride for the English. In 1301, Edward of Caernarvon, son of King Edward I of England, was created Prince of Wales. The Hundred Years' War (1338-1453) resulted in the claim to large parts of France being lost, and the War of the Roses (1455-1485) led to the Tudor monarchy, which in turn led to a distinctively flourishing English civilization. In 1534, religious independence from the pope was established. Under Queen Elizabeth I, England became a major naval power and its colonies and trade expanded. In 1603, James VI of Scotland succeeded to the throne of England as King James I, and the island of Britain was united under one royal family. After a civil war (1642-1649), a republic under Oliver Cromwell was established, but the monarchy was restored in 1688, confirming the sovereignty of the English Parliament and the English Bill of Rights. By increasing colonial holdings and industrial power in the eighteenth century, the United Kingdom became a world power. Although victorious in both world wars, the country lost its position of world leadership, but it continued its industrial growth. During the postwar period, the Labor party governments passed some socialist legislation nationalizing some industries and expanding social security; but the Thatcher government reversed that trend and increased the role of private enterprise.

Since the Norman Conquest in 1066, a relatively homogeneous population has been maintained. However, England has been a haven for refugees ranging from the Huguenots in the seventeenth century to persecuted Jews in the twentieth. Starting in the 1950s, population homogeneity has been challenged by the immigration of West Indians and South Asians. As of 1989, they comprise about 4 percent of England's population (2 percent of the United Kingdom's population). Laws curbing immigration and prohibiting racial discrimination have been enacted, but racial tensions are present, especially in the inner urban centers of London and West Midlands where 60 percent of the immigrants reside.


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