The British Empire
In the third millennium, BC, a number of different people were already occupying mainland England. These included Celts and Iberians. Julius Caesar and his Roman armies invaded the country in around 55 BC and then Claudius in 43 BC began the official colonization of the region. The Romans finally left in 407 AD, never having been able to gain control of Scotland or Ireland.Then Germanic people from Northern Germany and Denmark began to arrive and after several bloody battles with the current residents, established roughly half a dozen kingdoms around the country. Wales was united with England by decree in 1536, ironically by a king of welsh descent.
At the end of the 6th century, the predominant Anglo-Saxons began a conversion to Christianity. St Augustine, sent by Rome in 601 was the primary converter. Despite numerous attempts to unite the Kingdom, it did not become one until Alfred the great, king of Wessex, brought about the unification in 871 AD. After repeated incursions by the Danes, England was finally conquered in 1016 by King Canute. This lasted until Edward the Confessor ascended the throne in 1042. When William the Conqueror succeeded Edward, England began to align itself with France. The ties between England and France were reinforced when Henry of Anjou married Eleanor of Aquitane in 1154. Henry then invaded and captured Ireland and Scotland. Upon his death, his sons Richard the Lionheart and John of Lackland conceded their rights in the Magna Carta and set the stage for the Hundred Years War.
Edward III, crowned in 1327 tried to assert his right to the French crown and war began in 1339. The war lasted until 1453 and England lost most of its territory. French influence in England declined and Parliament was formed for the collection of taxes. Then the War of the Roses began as two branches of the Plantagenet dynasty fought for the throne. Henry Tudor of Welsh decent was the victor and the war ended in 1485. Henry became Henry VII and married Elizabeth of York to unite the two families. Henry VII's successor and son, Henry VIII, dissolved England's monasteries after a rift with the Pope who refused to annul his marriage to Catherine of Aragon. Edward VI and Mary Tudor followed on the throne until 1558 when Elizabeth I ascended the throne. The Anglican church was restored by this queen and her reign saw an unprecedented economic prosperity. Virginia, the first English colony in America was established in 1584. The British East India Company was founded in 1600.
James I succeeded Elizabeth I in 1603 and the status of Anglicanism as the state church was reaffirmed in 1604. The kingdoms of England and Scotland were united under the name Great Britain. Charles I followed in 1625 and married Henrietta Maria of France. Rampant persecution of Puritans began in 1637 and many fled to North America. In 1642 parliament tried to oust Charles I and his refusal to leave the throne led to the English Civil War. Parliament aligned with Scotland and 1646 Charles I was captured and executed. Oliver Cromwell, under the auspices of the "Long Parliament" ruled with a heavy hand until Charles II was recalled from exile in 1660. He was succeeded by his brother, James II in 1685. Upon the request of parliament William of Orange was installed on the throne as William III and ruled alone after the death of his wife, Mary.
William was succeeded by Mary's sister, Anne in 1702. Under her reign, Scottish parliament was abolished and the two country's governments were united under on parliament at Westminster in London. In 1712 the throne passed to George I who spoke no English.
In 1755 England again went to war with France but this time won all French territories in the Americas as well as Southern India. These acquisitions were soon followed by Senegal and the Lesser Antilles which put an end to the war. Britain now enjoyed the title of the greatest world power. The joy was to be short lived as England finally accepted the loss of the American colonies in 1783. At this time, as the industrial revolution in Britain rose to a fevered pitch, population began to grow in tremendous numbers. The expansion of trade and manufacturing, agriculture and the textile industry fueled exponential growth and made Great Britain the first truly industrialized nation. Several Reform Acts, aimed at guaranteeing certain basic rights for workers came along throughout the 1800's. Included among these were the right to vote and limiting workdays as well as allowing workers to strike. The latter part of the century saw the introduction of compulsory schooling, championed by William Gladstone. India became a British Empire in 1876 under the conservative Benjamin Disraeli.
The Boer war broke out in 1899 because of the Imperialist policies exercised in South Africa. The Boers were defeated in 1902 and Transvaal and Orange Free State in Africa were annexed. After a reign of 64 years Queen Victorian died in 1901and was succeeded by her son Edward VII. George V was crowned in 1910 and his reign lasted until 1936. After World War II and the Treaty of Versailles, fully one quarter of the Earth's surface belonged to Britain. Extensive social reforms soon followed, including the right to vote to any taxpayer over the age of 21. The world economic crisis of 1929 caused the government to radically restructure the British economy. At this time the territories of Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Newfoundland and South Africa were granted their independence from the Motherland. The second World War marked the definitive end of British supremacy in Europe and overseas. Beginning with India in 1947, many British colonies were all given their independence.
As the 20th century comes to a close, England is still embroiled in the Northern Ireland issue and one of the last British colonies, Hong Kong has been returned to Chinese rule.