HENRY FREEMAN – BRITISH HISTORY IN 50 EVENTS – 2015
This is an interesting panorama.
It quotes some cultural and scientific events as historical, which is important
and absolutely right. William Shakespeare and his “Histories” reflected the
taste of the English for history and also influenced them with a global vision
that refused the notion of King by divine right of any sort. In the same way
his vision of religion is quite different from any fundamentalism like the one
that will prevail under Cromwell (though also under James I before Cromwell).
Isaac Newton and his revolutionary invention of physics with his theory of
universal gravitation. Edward Jenner and his invention of the first vaccine.
Charles Darwin and his discovery of natural selection and evolution of the
species through mutations and reproduction. Finally George Orwell and his
ill-fated and yet visionary science fiction book 1984. That is history too and the motor of history in the mind of
people is cultural.
It would have been interesting to
say that the British Isles
before the Ice Age and before the Indo-European Celts. What we call Old Europeans
who represent 75% of our DNA were all of Turkic origin and spoke agglutinative
languages. New Europeans only arrived after, and at times long after, the Ice
Age from the Middle East but they only represent 25% of our DNA though they
represent today probably 95% of our languages (Hungarian, Finnish, Lap language,
a few languages in the Caucasus, plus Basque language are all agglutinative,
without counting the languages of immigrants. That would have enabled him to
speak of the Picts in Scotland
and of the fact that Stonehenge is on the same pattern as Gobekli Tepe in Turkey
back to 9,500 BCE. By same pattern we mean the circular structure, the erected
stones, and probably similar cosmic orientation. This Gobekli Tepe settlement
is what we consider the very first
construction showing the new division of labor coming with the invention of
agriculture and herding in the Middle East and that was part of the
indo-European culture that was to conquer Europe via Greece
and via the Caucasus
and the northern European
steppes and plains. (http://www.gcisd-k12.org/cms/lib/TX01000829/Centricity/Domain/829/3.1.pdf
accessed April 17, 2016, among others)
As for the “written history” of
the Celts. It must be clearly said the Celts had a writing system, the Ogham
accessed April 17, 2016), but they wrote on non-durable media (bark
essentially). As for these Celts you must also take the Cornish into account,
but more than all others the Irish who apparently imposed some kind of
dependence on the British Celts. This is clearly reflected in the Welsh Triads
and in the Cornish tradition of Tristan and Yseult. They also had relations
with continental Bretons and Gauls.
The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (890-1150) should have been connected to the
other great Anglo-Saxon work of poetry, Beowulf.
The mention of Middle English is correct if it is seen as early Middle English
and this development requires the presence of French in England since
English is a Creole Germanic language, with Anglo-Saxon underlying syntax (and
part of lexicon) and French overlying lexicon and cultural references.
The Domesday Book is essential
because it was the way William I imposed his control on the country. He
instated a Norman nobility here and there, where he could and with the men he
had, and he recognized, though at a second rank, the local Anglo-Saxon Barons.
He organized this census to know the country and it is important because then
we know England
was a fully feudal country and most human beings who were tilling the earth
were serfs and part of the chattel of the estates. This classification will
still be used when the Tudors come to power.
And this explains the Magna
Carta. Only the Pope had authority over a feudal king, and only in his being a
king or not, not in his policies. But no one under the king could dictate any
decision of his since the King was king by divine appointment. His policies
were thus divinely inspired. The king could only “grant” anything to anyone and
the Magna Carta is such a grant from the king. It was possible because in
Runnymede the Norman
nobility, the Anglo-Saxon barons and the Church came together and asked the
king to please grant them a few things. It was a second time such a gfrant from
the king was performed (Charter of Liberties, Henry I, 1100) but the first time
a strong pressure was exerted onto the king. He granted them several things and
the first human rights: widows and orphans got their rights (freedom,
independence and property) recognized and protected. Before a widow was left
without any resources and an orphan was the property of anyone who wanted to
take him, including being cast down into the feudal class of serfs. The King
was one of the looters of estates that fell in the hands of a widow or an
The concept of Parliament can be
traced to Edward I and his Model Parliament in 1295, but it is the continuation
of the feudal practice of the Estates General with the originality of the
two nobilities in England and with the
simple fact that all humans who were part of chattel were not in anyway
concerned: they were the unconsidered estate that will later be integrated in
the third estate in the French tradition (French Revolution) but will be kept
out of voting for a very long time in England, in fact up to 1918 as shown in
the following timeline (http://www2.stevenson.ac.uk/comenius/articles/univsuff/uk_dg/suff_1a.htm
accessed April 17, 2016)
1265 : Parliament
established. It contains 2 chambers. One is 'the Lords' - unelected
aristocrats. The other is 'the Commons'. These Members of Parliament (MPs) are
smaller landowners and are elected only by male landowners.
1642-60 : English
Civil War. This is a war between the Parliament and the King for who has
control of the state. King Charles I is executed and England is briefly a Republic. In
1660 the monarchy is returned, but it never regains its power. From now on, the
Prime Minister, chosen by Parliament has the most influence.
of Union unites England/Wales and Scotland
. The United Kingdom
is now formed.
1819 : The
Peterloo Massacre. A mass demonstration in favour of universal male suffrage is
attacked by troops and 15 people are killed.
1832 : Great
Reform Act. Before this time only landowners could vote for MPs to sit in the
House of Commons. This meant 1
in 7 men could vote. (440,000 people) After 1832 the
male urban middle classes gain the vote, and so the electorate increases to 1 in 5 men (650,000 people).
1867 : Second
Reform Act. This extends the vote to the skilled urban male working class. The
electorate increases to 1 in
1884 : Third
Reform Act. The vote is now given to working class men in the countryside. The
electorate is now 2 out of 3 men.
1918 : Representation
of the People Act. Almost all men over 21 years old, and women over 30 years
old now have the vote.
1928 : Effectively
all women and men over 21 now have the vote.
The One Hundred Years’ War, the
Black Death and the War of Roses represent one hundred and fifty years of
absolute instability and catastrophes in England
though England escapes the
Lutheran movement because England’s
Reformation is quite different. But the arrival of the printing press is a
challenge, considered as it was at the time, a mystery that needed initiation
(in the meaning of some ritual and sacred initiation) for anyone to be able to
work on it. It should have been insisted upon that the press arrived long
before the Tudors;, yet it will only be managed by a guild for a long time and
in 1557 Mary I will introduced what was called copyright by making the
Stationers Company of London the beneficiaries of a Charter that enabled the
Sovereign to ban some books, protestant books for Mary I, Catholic books for
Elizabeth I. This copyright protected the books, the authors and the printers,
provided they respected the censorship edicted by the sovereign and implemented
by the Stationers Company. This censorship will remain till 1710 and the
Statute of (Queen) Anne that established full freedom of the press and gave to
the authors the full control and benefit of the copyright they became the sole
I think it is important to
retrace such facts because they show how England
was at the forefront of a
very long evolution towards individual civil and political freedoms.
The restoration is not emphasized
enough and the Glorious Revolution comes a little like a twist in the fabric
though it was an essential turn in history. An essential date is 1679, the Habeas
Corpus Act before the Glorious Revolution that sees Parliament choosing the
king and queen that were to sit on the throne, though Mary II was the daughter
of the running away king James II and her husband, the prince of Orange, was
her fist degree cousin. The blood line was respected but Parliament made the
choice and thus imposed the Bill of Rights in 1889 that gave full freedom of
speech to members of parliament, within parliament and within the standard
electoral meetings that only concerned ONE man our of SEVEN men, hence 14% of
the MALE ONLY population over 21 YEARS OF AGE, or so.
A last thing that should be
emphasized is the very first industrial revolution. Many factories are still
called mills because the first mechanical energy used to work weaving looms (Edmund
Cartwright, 1785) was water via the old medieval mills. Instead of turning one
stone, the mill water wheel turned an axle that activated via belts the loom itself
thus multiplying the productivity of the overlooking person. The steam engine
was only to come a few decades later (James watt, 1781). The invention of the
mechanical loom will also come later (Jacquard, 1801) and the invention of the
first steam engine running on metal rails is from George Stephenson, 1814. It
is difficult not to mention these dates if we want to understand what happened
in the 19th century which had been liberated by the English political and
social evolution of the 18th century (the enclosure movement, the rural exodus
and the development of cities and the first mills and factories using hydraulic
energies along all canals and rivers and the invention of some kind of urban
serfdom with workhouses.
For the modern times I would
insist on a completely different dynamic coming to England and developing in
England: the dynamic of the total freedom of circulation, distribution, broadcasting
and reception of any information and cultural product via the internet, and the
debate around the defense of intellectual property which was first ever defined
by the House of Lords convening in judicial form to rule on the Donaldson vs
Beckett case in 1774.
The main problem of England, or Great
Britain or the United Kingdom is that they were at
the avant-garde in the world for the questions that absolutely transformed the
world and dominate today all discussions, debates and decisions. And to have
been at the avant-garde for so long is not necessarily easy for the future. And
an English Prime Minister can be tricked by a hefty present from his mother
badly invested in a perverse American invention from President Theodor
Roosevelt who invented with JP Morgan the first ever tax and financial haven
113 years ago, in 1903 when Panama
was cut off from Colombia.
We are always haunted by the past.
Dr Jacques COULARDEAU