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The Britain is an island of 230,000 km2 comprising England, Wales and Scotland. At a time when Scotland is questioning its independence and will deliver its verdict in 2014 on the occasion of a referendum, it is useful to return to the history of this island. Gérard Hocmard, associate of English, presents in his book Great Britain an original treatment between historical synthesis and tourist parallels. He goes back to the first traces of occupation until today.
The History of Great Britain in about twenty chapters
The first pages which present the different nations making up Great Britain set the scene and immediately avoid any confusion. Great Britain includes England, Wales (since 1535) and Scotland (since 1707). The United Kingdom includes Great Britain to which is added Northern Ireland.
Gérard Hocmard summarizes, in about twenty chapters, the history of Great Britain starting from the first traces of occupation noted on the Suffolk side in 700,000 BC. The first inhabitants were hunter-gatherers. It was during the Mesolithic period (10,000 to 5,000 BC) that the island broke away from the European continent. During the following periods, the population becomes sedentary and adopts new agricultural techniques before replacing stone with metal. The Iron Age (750 to 50 BC) saw the arrival of groups from Eastern and Western Europe.
The Romans arrived in Great Britain in 55 BC, invaded it in 43 BC and remained there for 500 years. Only the occupation of the Romans in Scotland was limited. The latter built two barriers: Hadrian's Wall in 122 and the Antonine Wall in 141. Romanization contributes to the construction of ports, fortresses, thermal baths, temples, roads as well as to the contribution of new crops: grapes, blackberries , cherry ... The period between 440 and 1066 was marked by different waves of invasions launched by the Saxons, Germans, Hungarians, Danes, then the Vikings in the 9th century.
In 1066 Guillaume Duke of Normandy conquers England, introduces feudalism and gives birth to the dynasty of Norman kings and Plantagenêt. They will be followed by the dynasties of Lancaster and York, The Tudors, Stuart and Hanover until the descendants of Victoria. The successions are animated by the wars of independence of Scotland (from 1296), the 100 years war (1337-1453), the war of the two roses (1455-1485), as well as the reform of Henry VIII ( 1534) and the attachment of Wales to England (1535). After the reign of Elisabeth 1st, successful in intellectual progress, a close relative, ascends the throne: Jacques VI of Scotland becomes Jacques I of England (1603-1625). After his reign, several revolutions broke out in 1642 and 1688 which saw the Stuart family replaced by the protectorate of Cromwell then by the Protestant family of Orange.
The 18th and 19th centuries are centuries of prosperity unprecedented for the British Empire enriched with its colonies and strengthened by its industrialization. It grows with Scotland in 1707 by the act of union but will lose its American colonies in 1783. The reign of the queen Victoria notably marks this period. The latter ensured the longest reign (1837-1901) in full rural exodus and mechanization of agriculture. In 1901, Great Britain is the first world power comprising ¼ of the emerged lands and more than ¼ of the world population.
In the 20th century, Great Britain was weakened by the two world wars and the loss of its colonies. It created in 1931 by the statute of Westminster the Commonwealth including in particular the former colonies and joined the European Union in 1973. The welfare state set up after the war will be upset by the conservative revolution of Margareth Thatcher (1979 to 1990), which will give way to John Mayer and Tony Blair. The book ends with questions relating to the future of Great Britain and Scotland, but also their place in Europe. A referendum on independence for Scotland, which has had a parliament since 1999, will take place in 2014.
A Guidebook for "place the trip in its cultural and historical frameworke "
The book is strewn tourist staff and testimonials. The angle chosen consists in not giving practical information (timetables, prices of visits) and prefers " place the trip in its cultural and historical context ". Readers are considered to be potential visitors needing historical material to discover the riches of the island. You will thus meet many illustrated presentations concerning the neo-Gothic Palace of Westminster, Windsor Castle, the Hadrian Wall (122), Loch Ness, the Welsh forts or even the megalithic complex of Stonehenge in England. However, the legend of the illustration relating to Loch Ness on page 11, should have been more precise. It should be added that beyond the loch itself, we notice the ruins of Urquhart Castle built around 1230 which was the victim of the conflicts between England and Scotland.
Reading is also punctuated by briefs portraits of historical figures keys such as William the Conqueror, the Scottish independentist William Wallace, Richard III, Marie Stuart of Scotland, Winston Churchill ... Not to mention intellectuals such as Charles Darwin, the Scottish novelist Sir Walter Scott, the English playwrights William Shakespeare and Charles Dickens ... Great Britain is presented in its most varied forms: historical, political, sporting, literary, scientific, artistic heritage and even its myths and legends: Robin Hood, Arthur ...
Intended for all audiences, Gérard Hocmard's book retraces the history of the island from the earliest settlements by mixing history and tourism. The brackets dedicated to monuments or major figures constitute a certain added value. Although England is at the heart of the story, its dominance strengthening in modern times, the author sets out to present key moments in Scottish and Welsh history. It is with pleasure that we discover lighting specific to different nations such as: The city of New Larnark in Scotland classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Scottish King Robert the Bruce or the legend of the Red Dragon, symbol of Wales.
A few points to raise. The book, which covers the entire history of the island, would have benefited from having a lexicon and a summary chronology in order to facilitate reading. The different genealogies help to locate among the families: Plantagenêt and Normans, Stuart, Lancaster and Tudor. One can however regret the absence of genealogies of the various Scottish kings and the Welsh kings which would have made it possible to visualize more the separate evolution of the nations until the integration into Great Britain.
In summary: Gérard Hocmard's work encourages the reader to travel and also invites them to develop their curiosity thanks to an indicative bibliography.
Gérard Hocmard, associate of English and honorary professor of Khâgne, is general delegate of the France-Great Britain Association and guide-lecturer of the Clio Agency.
HOCMARD Gérard, Great Britain, PUF, Paris, 2013.
For further :
Chronology of Great Britain, Agence clio