History of Great Britain Timeline

  • About 500 B.C. Celtic people came to Britain from Europe. In 43 A.D., they found themselves invaded by the Romans. Queen Boadicea led a fierce revolt, but by 128 A.D., the Romans were victorious. The Roman conquest was not all bad, since it gave the Celts Roman learning and culture.
  • Around 500 A.D. the Celts were invaded again, by Saxons from north-western Germany. The Saxons were pagans, and St. Augustine came to convert them to Christianity in 597. By the ninth century, Alfred the Great was promoting peace and learning among his sometimes unruly subjects.
  • Alfred also had to deal with Viking invaders who plundered the land. In 871, Alfred defeated the Vikings. The Saxon dynasty was doomed to end, though. The last Saxon to rule was Harold Godwinson.
  • In 1066 the Norman Duke William, claiming a right to the English crown, defeated Harold at the Battle of Hastings. It was a great shock to the Saxons. They tried to rebel, but the Normans built castles and kept the Saxons in line with a warrior class of knights.
  • The Norman rulers wielded more power than the Saxon once had. In 1215 this came to a head, when several nobles confronted King John and made him sign the Magna Carta, an agreement to respect their rights.
  • Because William had ruled Normandy, Edward III declared in 1337 that he had the right to be king of France. This started the Hundred Years War. In 1415 Henry V defeated the French at Agincourt and won the throne of France. However, the English lost all the French land they had conquered by 1453.
  • The Hundred Years War might have gone on, however, except for the War of the Roses. Two noble families, the Lancasters and the Yorks, fought for the English crown from 1455 to 1485. The war ended in 1485, with the defeat of Richard III by Henry Tudor at the Battle of Bosworth Field.
  • Henry Tudor became Henry VII, the first of the Tudors to rule. His son, Henry VIII, began the Church of England in 1534, when the Pope refused to let him divorce his first wife. Henry had six wives altogether, two of which he beheaded for infidelity.
  • In 1558, Henry’s daughter Elizabeth began her reign. It was a time of exploration and prosperity. The Spanish Armada was defeated in 1588. English ships sailed around the world, and Shakespeare wrote great works for the stage. On Elizabeth’s death in 1603, James I became the first Stuart king.
  • With the Pilgrims in 1620, England began to colonize the New World. But trouble was coming, as Charles I dissolved Parliament in 1629, and the English Civil War broke out. Charles was executed by the Puritan government of Oliver Cromwell, and the monarchy was ended. The monarchy was restored in 1660, and Charles II began his reign.
  • This period, called the Restoration, was a time of fun after the oppressive Puritan rule. But in 1664, the plague broke out, and in 1666, the Great Fire destroyed much of London.
  • The last Stuart king, James II, was deposed in 1688, and in 1689, the English Bill of Rights declared that monarchs would govern along with Parliament. In 1714, the crown passed to the House of Hanover. The House of Hanover still reigns, although its name changed to Windsor during World War I.
  • In 1707, Britain became known as Great Britain, after the Act of Union between Scotland and England.
  • The late 18th century saw the invention of the steam-powered cotton mill in 1783, and the start of the Industrial Revolution. In the early 19th century, Napoleon was defeated by the Duke of Wellington at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.
  • In 1837, 18-year-old Victoria became Queen of England. Her long reign would encompass many changes. The Industrial Revolution expanded, and people moved from the country to towns to work in factories. In 1877, London got electric lighting. Free education became available for everyone in 1891.
  • Queen Victoria reigned until 1901, and gave her name to an era. The Victorians were known for being prudish. But it was also a time of social advancement, inventions, and great literature.
  • Great Britain had much wealth from its colonies. But in 1914, it went to war with Germany, due to a series of alliances. This war and World War II from 1939-1945 were very costly, and after World War II, the colonial people demanded their freedom. Britain has now given up all its colonial interests.
  • In 1952, Elizabeth II became queen. Her reign has seen Britain join the European Community in 1973, and Margaret Thatcher became the first woman Prime Minister in 1979. It also witnessed the Channel Tunnel connect Britain to Europe in 1994.
  • Elizabeth has lived to see the birth of her great-grandson George in 2013.

    Comments are closed here.