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The Germanic invasions

One reason why Roman Britannia disappeared so quickly is probably that its influence was mostly spread over the towns. In the country-side, where most people lived, farming methods had remained unchanged and Celtic speech continued to be dominant. The Roman occupation had been a matter of colonial control rather than large-scale settlement. But during the 5th century, a number of tribes from the north-western European mainland invaded and settled in large numbers. Two of these tribes were the Angles and the Saxons. They soon occupied the south-east of the country. In the west their advance was temporarily halted by an army of Britons under the command of the legendary King Arthur. Nevertheless, by the end of the 6th century, they and their way of life predominated in nearly all of England and in parts of southern Scotland. The Celtic Britons were driven westwards, where their culture and language survived in south-west Scotland, Wales and Cornwall. The Anglo-Saxons had a great effect on the countryside, where they introduced new farming methods and founded the thousands of villages.

The Anglo-Saxons were pagan when they came to Britain. Christianity spread throughout Britain from two different directions during the 6th and the 7th centuries. It came directly from Rome when St Augustine arrived in 597 to the south-east of England. It had already been introduced into Scotland and northern England from Ireland, which had become Christian more than 150 years earlier.

Britain experienced another wave of Germanic invasions in the 8th century. These invaders were known as Vikings, Norsemen or Danes and came from Scandinavia. Their first attack was in 793 when they destroyed the great monastery on the island of Lindisfarne in the northeast England and killed its monks. In the 9th century they settled in the north and west of Scotland and some coastal regions of Ireland. Their conquest was halted when they were defeated by King Alfred of the Saxon kingdom of Wessex.

However the cultural differences between Anglo-Saxons and Danes were comparatively small. They led the same way of life and spoke two varieties of the same Germanic language (the basis of modern English). Moreover, the Danes soon converted to Christianity.

By the end of the 10th century England was one kingdom with a Germanic culture throughout. Most of the modern-day Scotland was also united by this time, at least in name, in a Gaelic kingdom.


The Medieval period (1066 – 1485)

The successful Norman invasion of England after the Battle of Hastings in 1066 brought Britain into western European culture. Before that most links had been with Scandinavia. Unlike the Germanic invasions, the Norman invasion was small-scale. There were no Norman villages or settlements. The Norman soldiers were given the land and people living on it. A strict feudal system was imposed. Great nobles or barons were responsible directly to the king; the lords owing villages were responsible to a baron. Under them were the peasants, tied to a local lord. They could not travel without his permission. The peasants were the English-speaking Saxons. The lords and the barons were the French-speaking Normans. This was the beginning of the English class system.

The Normans introduced the strong system of government and the Anglo-Saxon kingdom became the most powerful political force in the British Isles. So the authority of the English monarch extended to other parts of these islands in the next 250 years. By the end of the 13th century, a large part of eastern Ireland was controlled by Anglo-Norman lords in the name of the English king and the whole of Wales was under his direct rule. At that time the custom of naming the monarch’s eldest son “the Prince of Wales” began. Scotland managed to remain politically independent, but was obliged to fight in some wars for that.

250 years after the Norman Conquest, a Germanic language (Middle English) and not Norman (French) became the dominant one in all classes of society. In central Wales there were no great settlements of Saxons or Normans. As a result the Celtic (Welsh) language and culture remained strong. Eisteddfods, national festivals of Welsh song and poetry, continued throughout the medieval period and still take place today. The Anglo-Norman lords in eastern Ireland remained loyal to the English king but adopted the Gaelic language and customs.

The political independence of Scotland did not prevent a gradual switch to English language and customs in the lowlands. First, many Saxon aristocrats arrived there after the conquest of England. Second, the Celtic kings adopted the Anglo-Norman style of government. By the end of this period there was a cultural split between the lowlands and the highlands where the Gaelic culture and language prevailed and the authority of the king was not strong.

It was in that period that the Parliament began its gradual evolution. The word “parliament” which comes from the French word parler was first used in England in the 13th century to describe the assembly of nobles called together by the king.




Text-based tasks.

1) Produce 5 sentences of your own, using the vocabulary. Read your sentences out in Russian and ask any of your friends to translate them back into English. Check if your sentences sound the same.

2) Text-based questions.

1. Name the UK nations of the Celtic origin.

2. To what historic period does the Celtic culture date back?

3. What memorials of the Roman times in Britain can you name?

4. In what areas did the Romans mostly spread their influence?

5. Who were the Anglo-Saxons and where did they settle?

6. What do you know about the start of Christianity in England?

7. Where did the Vikings come from?

8. When were the English and Gaelic kingdoms created?

9. What is the date of the Battle of Hastings? What was its result?

10. What did Britain gain from the Norman invasion?

11. What state system did the Normans bring? Characterize it.

12. Why is the monarch’s eldest son called “the Prince of Wales”? When did this custom appear?

13. Why did the Welsh language remain strong?

14. Did Scotland preserve their own language in the lowlands? Why?

15. What does the word “parliament” mean?

3) Put 8 more questions to the text and write them down.

4) What do these figures refer to?

















5) Explain these words in English.

o The prehistoric period

o Mystery

o Aristocracy

o Settlement

o European mainland

o Successful invasion

o Permission

o Independent

o Classes of society

o Cultural split


6) Make a crosswords based on the words from the text.


7) Word-building. Create new words based on the one given in the table.


Noun verb adjective / present (past) participle
  to survive  
  to develop
  to settle  
to own  

8) Underline all the irregular verbs in the text and give the three forms of them.


9) Write out all the tribe-names and illustrate the difference between them.


10) Translate this text from Russian into English.


11) Humour. Read, understand and enjoy the humour.


Ø Read the joke below and reproduce it in your own words:

An Englishman, an Irishman and a Scotsman were reading a newspaper article about which nationalities’ brains were for sale for transplant purposes. An Irishman’s or a Scotsman’s brain could be bought for £500 but an Englishman’s brain cost £10,000. That proves,’ said The Englishman, ‘that Englishmen are much cleverer than Irishmen or Scotsmen.’ ‘No it doesn’t,’ said The Irishman, ‘it just means that an Englishman’s brain has never been used.’

Ø Read some more jokes and guess, what nationalities are meant.


A …….. enters a bus and asks the driver:

- Excuse me, is it necessary to pay the ticket for a flower?

- Sure not.

- Come on, Rose!


Q: What do you call a sheep tied to a fence in …..?

A: A leisure center.


Two …….., a father and his son, are going to America.

- Daddy, when we’ll arrive?

- Shut up and swim.


Q. What do you call a …….. with many girlfriends?

A. A Shepherd.






1) The “why”-questions. Provocative thinking.

1. Why is there no written record of the pre-historic period in Britain?

2. Why are there almost no traces of the Roman culture on the British Isles?

3. Why did the Danes have much in common with the Anglo-Saxons?

4. Why didn’t the French language become official in Britain after the Norman invasion?

2) Research questions. Choose the issue that interests you most and search for more information. Prepare a report and deliver it to your classmates.

· Iron Age

· Silbury Hill

· Stonehenge

· Londinium

· King Arthur

· King Alfred

· The Vikings

· The Battle of Hastings

· Robin Hood

3) Two thousand years ago there was an Iron Age culture on the territory of the British Isles. Describe the Roman and Russian culture of the same period.

4) There is a 19th century statue of Queen Boadicea outside the Houses of Parliament. Find out, when she lived and why she is remembered.

5) Find out more British toponyms (place names) that derive from the Roman root “casta”.

6) Find out more information about the leader of the Romans and the leader of the Normans at the time of their conquests of Britain and report some facts about them to your group-mates.

7) The name of St. Augustine is mentioned in the text. What was the name of the man who brought Christianity to Ireland? Search for some information about their lives and share it with your group-mates.

8) Read an extract from the text and translate it into good Russian. Find out what wall, towns and baths on the British territory are mentioned.

The Roman Occupation (from “1066 and All That” by C.W. Sellar, R.J. Yeatman)


“For some reason the Romans neglected to overrun the country with fire and sword, though they had both of these; in fact after the Conquest they did not mingle with the Britons at all but lived a semi-detached life in villas. They occupied their time for two or three hundred years in building Roman roads and having Roman Baths, this was called the Roman Occupation, and gave rise to the memorable Roman law, ‘He who baths first baths last’, which was a good thing and still is. The Roman roads ran absolutely straight in all the directions and all led to Rome. The Romans also built towns wherever they were wanted, and, in addition, a wall between England and Scotland to keep out the savage Picts and Scots”.


9) Write a composition named “Cultural differences have deep roots”.



Supplementary reading.

From “Growth and structure of the English language” by Otto Jespersen

Ch. IV. The Scandinavians (Extract)

It is true that the Scandinavians were, for a short time at least, the rulers of England, and we have found in the juridical loan-words linguistic corroboration of this fact; but the great majority of the settlers did not belong to the ruling class. Their social standing must have been, on the whole, slightly superior to the average of the English, but the difference cannot have been great, for the bulk of Scandinavian words are of purely democratic character. This is clearly brought out by a comparison with the French words introduced in the following centuries, for here language confirms what history tells us, that the French represent the rich, the ruling, the refined, the aristocratic element in the English nation. How different is the impression made by the Scandinavian loan-words. They are homely expressions for things and actions of everyday importance. The difference is also shown by so many of the French words having never penetrated into the speech of the people, so that they have been known and used by the ‘upper ten’, while the Scandinavian ones are used by high and low alike; their shortness too agrees with the monosyllabic character of the native stock of words, consequently they are far less felt as foreign elements than many French words; in fact, in many statistical calculations of the proportion of native to imported words in English, Scandinavian words have been more or less inadvertently included in the native elements. Just as it is impossible to speak or write in English about higher intellectual or emotional subjects or about fashionable mundane matters without drawing largely upon the French and Latin elements, in the same manner Scandinavian words will crop up together with the Anglo-Saxon ones in any conversation on the thousand nothings of daily life or on the five or six things of paramount importance to high and low alike. An Englishman cannot thrive or be ill or die without Scandinavian words; they are to the language what bread and eggs are to the daily fare.



Ch. V. The French (Extract)

Many of the French words, such as cry, claim, state, poor, change, and, one might say, nearly all the words taken over before 1350 and not a few of those of later importation, have become part and parcel of the English language, so that they appear to us all just as English as the pre-Conquest stock of native words. But a great many others have never become so popular. There are a great many gradations between words of everyday use and such as are not at all understood by the common people, and to the latter class may sometimes belong words which literary people would think familiar to everybody.

From what precedes we can now understand some at least of the differences that have developed in course of time between two synonyms when both have survived, one of them native, the other French. The former is always nearer the nation’s heart than the later, it has the strongest associations with everything primitive, fundamental, popular, while the French word is often more formal, more polite, more refined and has a less strong hold on the emotional side of life. A cottage is finer than a hut, and fine people often live in a cottage, at any rate in summer.

The difference between help and aid is thus indicated in the Funk-Wagnalls Dictionary: ‘Help expresses greater dependence and deeper need than aid. In extremity we say “God help me!” rather than “God aid me!” In time of danger we cry “help! help!” rather than “aid! aid!” Help includes aid, but aid may fall short of the meaning of help’. All this points at the same thing that help is the natural expression, belonging to the indispensable stock of words, and therefore possessing profounder associations than the more literary and accordingly colder word aid, cf. also assist. Folk has to a great extent been superseded by people, chiefly on account of the political and social employment of the word; Shakespeare rarely uses folk (four times) and folks (ten times), and the word is evidently a low-class word with him. Hearty and cordial made their appearance in the language at the same time (1380s), but their force is not the same, for ‘a hearty welcome’ is warmer than ‘a cordial welcome’, and hearty has many applications that cordial has not (heartfelt, sincere: a hearty slap on the back; abundant: a hearty meal).



Date: 2015-01-29; view: 2094

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