Great Britain - The English-speaking countries
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Great Britain - The English-speaking countries
This term is used for the countries where the majority of the population speaks English as their mother tongue. They are: Great Britain, the United States of America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Republic of Ireland and their dependent territories. Beside these there are countries where English is spoken as a secondary language (e.g. India, Pakistan, lot of south Asian and Pacific countries, the Republic of South Africa etc.).
Important events in British history, political system
Important events in history
· The Pre-Celtic period (about 4 000 - 1 000 BC)
We know only little about people inhabiting the British Isles in pre-historic period - it could be Iberian tribes. They worshipped 1 many gods, believed in immortal and human sacrifices 2 and their priests were called druids. There have been preserved some monuments, such as Stonehenge or Salisbury which were centre of pre-Celtic civilisation in the Britain.
· The Celtic Period (800 BC - AD 43)
The first Celtic tribes come to the British Isles in about 800 - 700 BC. Two centuries later they were followed by ancient Britons after who the country was called Britain. The most important survival of the Celtic tribes is the existence of three live languages: Welsh, and Irish and Scottish Gaelic. 3
· Roman England (AD 43 - 407)
The first Roman invasion was led by Julius Caesar in 55 BC but England was conquered by Romans in AD 43 like colony Britannica. The Roman occupation lasted nearly 400 years but only few people adopt the Latin and only the English upper tribes (nobility) became romanised. The most important monument from this period is the Hadrian’s Wall as a prevent protection against the invasion of the Celtic tribes from the north. With Romans also Christianity came to England.
· The Anglo-Saxon period (middle of 5th century - 1066)
In the middle of the 5th century three Germanic tribes - the Angles, the Saxons and the Jutes - invaded from the Continent conquered the Celts and pressed up them to Wales and Scotland. England under the rule of the Anglo-Saxons was divided into several kingdoms. One of the first best-known King of England was Alfred the Great († 901), who stopped the Scandinavian invasion to England and made a peace with the Danes. But after his death England became part of the Danish Empire.
· The period of feudalism (1066 - 15th century)
William Duke of Normandy invaded England and defended the Saxon king Harold at the Battle of Hastings in 1066. He was proclaimed himself as the King of England and became known as William the Conqueror. The Norman had a big influence for the development of Britain and the English language because they brought feudalism and the Norman language into this country - the modern English nation and language became rising 4 .
Richard, the Lion-Heart (1189-99) was warlike and anxious 5 to rescue the Holy Land from the Egyptian ruler, Saladin. He returned to England in 1194 to suppress baronial opposition. His brother John I lost almost all the English possessions in France and he was forced to sign the Magna Carta Libertatum in 1215. It limited the absolute power of king, and giving guarantee of rights and the rule of law to opposite noblemen. During this period English parliamentary system was developed.
There was The Hundred Year’s War between England and France (1338-1453) in this period because of Flanders in France. At the end French led by Joan d’Arc changed the situation and England definitely lost its power in France.
The winner of the Wars of Roses (1455-85) between the House of York (white rose) and the House of Lancaster (red rose) was Henry Tudor (as king Henry VII) who joined two houses of Roses and founded a new dynasty.
· The Tudor Period (1485 - 1603)
In this period England became to be a world leader in trade and sea power. It was especially because of the great geographical discoveries and expansion. Henry VIII, who is well-known for his six wives, but also for his ambition and brutality, carried out 6 the Reformation in 1534. He broke away from the Roman Catholic Church and founded the Church of England (Anglican Church), of witch he proclaimed himself the head. His daughter Queen Elizabeth I, after who the second half of the 16th century is called ‘the Elizabethan Age’, defeated the Spanish Armada in 1588 and her pirate Sir Francis Drake helped that Britain became the leading power on the sea.
· The Stuarts and the English Revolution (1603 - 1688)
Elizabeth I died without an heir 7 and to the English throne access the new dynasty - the Stuarts - represented by James, King of Scotland (James I as the King of England). The Stuarts finished the long alliance between monarchy and the bourgeoisie, which dominated Parliament. The conflict came to the top under Charles I and in 1640 the bloody Civil war broke out. There were two groups - The Royalists (King’s party) and the Puritans, which were split into two wings: The Presbyterians (ready to compromise with the King) and the Independents (want to fight to the end) which leader was Oliver Cromwell. He reorganised the army and called it ‘the New Model Army’ (because it was all democratised). This Army forced the King to surrender 8. In 1649 Charles I was sentenced to death and executed.
After the execution the House of Lords were abolished 9 and England was declared as the republic - The Commonwealth, where O.Cromwell had title ‘Lord Protector’. In 1660, after Cromwell’s death, there was restore the monarchy by Charles II. In Parliament there was founded two new political parties - the Tories (aristocracy) and the Whigs (bourgeoisie).
In 1668 James II attempted to restore 10 Catholicism and absolute monarchy so parliament leaders decided to depose him 11 and offer the crown to William of Orange (as William III) and his wife Mary (sister of Charles II, as Mary II). The English called this events ‘The Glorious Revolution’ (revolution without any bloodshed 12 ) and its definitely confirmed 13 the sovereign of the Parliament.
· Colonial expansion and industrial revolution (1688-1850)
In the Seven Years War (1756-63) Britain defeated France and Spain and received Canada, Florida, Gibraltar, Minorca and another settlements in Mediterranean and Africa.
Colonial expansion continued very quickly but in 1776 the British colonial Empire suffered a great loss 14 : the 13 North American colonies proclaimed their independence and founded the USA.
Also the situation in Ireland - after many centuries of fighting between England and Irish - was very bad in 18th century and there were several serious rebellions against British rule.
Britain was in the Napoleonic Wars with France between 1803-15. In October 1805 the British fleet under Admiral Nelson celebrated the great victory because they defeated the Spanish and French fleets near the Cape Trafalgar.
At the start of the 19th century England definitely took the leader in European commerce and trade and prepared the way to the Industrial Revolution. There were many innovations in Britain - in 1769 steam engine by James Watt, steam locomotive by George Stephenson in 1814 etc.
· The Victorian Era (2nd half of the 19th century)
This period is called after Queen Victoria (1837 - 1901) and was full of great changes and reforms (e. g. Darwinism, Marxism). Britain became the absolutely strongest world power and between 1840-60 there were the golden period of the manufactures. There were formed successors of Tory and Whigs, The Conservative Party and The Liberal Party. India, Australia, New Zealand and many Africans and Asiatics areas were joined to the Empire.
· 20th Century
The First World War (1914-18) between the Central Powers and Alliance had caused human casualties 15 on all fronts - from 9 million died over 1 million were British - but big economic looses too.
The British 1930s were the policy of appeasement with Hitler. In 1938 British PM Neville Chamberlain with other European representatives signed a pact with Hitler in Munich allowing Germany to annex the Sudetenland in CR and later the rest of Bohemia and Moravia. The biggest British personality during the Second World War was the British PM sir
Winston Spencer Churchill († 1965) under who Britain fought for survival. The air battle - Battle of Britain in 1940 - gone down into history (many of British pilots were from Czechoslovakia and become the British national heroes). In the Second World War about 390 000 British people lost their lives.
In the Post-World-War period - Cold War - Great Britain was one of the founding members of OSN and NATO in the end of 1940s.
During the 1960s Britain had to recognise the independence of the majority of its colonies. Between 1979-92 there was the first women Prime Minister - ‘iron lady’ - Lady Margaret Thacher who fought against Argentina in 1982 because of Falklands Islands. In the spring 1997 The Labour Party won the elections and Tony Blair became the British PM.
At the end of August 1997 Great Britain and whole the world suffered the big disaster 16 when Lady Diana Spencer, Princess of Wales, who was one of the most favourite and most famous personality in the world, died after the car crash.
There is also about 47 per cent of the British now, who are suppose that the monarchy is overlived and who are for the republic.
The Formation of the United Kingdom
Wales was united with England in 1536 under king Henry VIII. Scotland was united in 1603, but it existed with separate parliament till 1707. Ireland was conquered by Henry II in 1171 but had itself parliament until 1800. In 1801 was established the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. In 1922 Ireland was partitioned into two parts - free Irish Republic and Northern Ireland - and the name of kingdom was changed to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (short form is the United Kingdom, U.K.).
The big problem in Northern Ireland is a conflict between Protestants (ruling class in Ulster) and Catholics (minority in Ulster but majority in the Irish Republic). This conflict begun in 17th century, when the English and Scottish Protestants confiscated Irish lands and became the ruling class. On the other side the Irish never accepted the reformation. This conflict made big political and social unrest mainly in past but it is still going on.
The United Kingdom is a constitutional monarchy based on unwritten traditions and common law. The official head of State is the monarch (from February 1952 Her Most Excellent Majesty Elizabeth the Second) but she is only a formal head of State, Nation and Commonwealth and her powers are limited by the constitution. The Queen is also the temporal head 17 of the Church of England (the Anglican Church). The Queen’s residence is Buckingham Palace in London.
The supreme legislative authority in the U.K. is the British Parliament, which is very old institution (developed in 13th century). It is composed of the House of Lords (the Upper House; it has over 1 000 hereditary peers 18 , but only 250 active), the House of Commons (the Lower House; it has 650 elected Members of Parliament - MPs) and the Sovereign 19 („the Queen in Parliament“ - makes formally royal assent 20 , but has no real power). The two Houses share the same building, the Palace of Westminster in London. The most important political parties are The Labour Party (reformed socialist party) and The Conservative Party (capitalist class).
The executive power is exercised 21 by the Cabinet (has usually 20 members) formed by the party which has the majority in the Parliament (from 1997 it is The Labour Party’s Cabinet) and its head is the Prime Minister (from 1997 the Labours leader Tony Blair). The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is divided into five parts: England (39 counties, 8 metropolitan counties + Great London), Wales (8 counties; Cardiff), Scotland (9 regions and 3 island districts; Edinburgh) and Northern Ireland (26 districts, Belfast).
British national flag - the ‘Union Jack’ - symbolises the union of England, Scotland, Welsh and Ireland; each part of GB has its own flag. The national anthem is „God Save The Queen!“
London is the capital of both England and the United Kingdom. It lies on the river Thames and covers an area of 1 580 sq kilometres. There live about 12 million in London (including conurbation). London consists of the City of London and 32 boroughs  and it is the seat of the Monarch, the Parliament and the Government. There are many important historical buildings, museums, galleries, exchanges etc. so tourism is of great importance. It means London is one of the most important financial, commercial and cultural centres in the world as well as port.
The Celts settled the territory of nowadays London as early as 800 B.C. but probably the site had been inhabited in the Stone Age too. The place had been occupied by the Romans from about 55 B.C. and about 43 A.D. they established Londonium (‘Llyndum’ in Celtic - it means ‘a walled place situated high’). When the Romans left the island in the fifth century, it remained the capital of the Britons. It kept its importance during the Anglo-Saxon time and later during the reign of the Danish kings in the 10th and 11th centuries.
Tasso di cambio sterlina britannica (GBP) - Gran Bretagna
During the 12th century under a reign  of Norman kings (William the Conqueror was first in 1066) the royal court moved from Winchester to London for ever. The 17th century brought much suffering to London. In 1665 more than 75 000 people died from a plague epidemic  and a year later, in 1666 the Great Fire of London destroyed four fifths of the city! During the following decades hectic building activity re-built the whole town. Sir Christopher Wren was appointed  as the main architect and he constructed many important buildings. Until the reign of Queen Victoria (1837 - 1901) London acquired its present appearance and importance. German bombing during World War II caused serious damages especially in the City, though this cannot be noticed nowadays.
A great number of popular tourist attraction can be found in London’s central and northern parts. The City of London is the oldest part of London and has been self-governing enclave from the 12th century. This part of London is the largest commercial and financial centre of Europe. The top tourist attraction in London is the Tower of London. William the Conqueror began to built this massive fortress - the White Tower - in 1066. The Tower served till 16th century as a royal home, a prison a royal mint and observatory . Now it is a museum where tourist go to see an expositions of weapons, the Crown Jewels, the prison where many famous persons were kept (e.g. Rudolf Hess, Hitler’s deputy ). There is also the execution block where Henry VIII’s wives, Ann Boleyn and Catherine Howard were beheaded . The Tower is guarded by the Yeomen Warders (incorrectly called ‘Beefeaters’) who still wear the uniform of Turod times. Six ravens are kept in the Tower to protect the whole Kingdom - the old legend says that the Kingdom will cease to exist  when the ravens leave the Tower. There is still performed  the 700 years old ceremony when the main gate is located every night.
Next to the Tower stands Tower Bridge (built in 1894), which is the most famous bridge in London. It rises in the middle to allow ships to pass up the river and the rising takes 90 seconds.
The largest and the best-known church of the city is St. Paul’s Cathedral, built by Christopher Wren in 1711 (after 35 years). It stands on the site of the previous cathedral which was damaged by the Great Fire in 1666. St.Paul’s Cathedral is built in Baroque style, the main nave is 170 meters long and the central dome rises 111 meters high - it is the second largest church in the world (after St.Peter’s Cathedral in Rome). St.Paul’s cathedral has seen many important occasions - Sir W.Churchill’s funeral service in 1965 or the wedding of Prince Charles and Diana Spencer in 1981. There are buried Admiral Nelson and Sir Ch.Wren himself.
Great Britain is the oldest parliament democracy in the world. The Houses of Parliament are the political centre of the Untied Kingdom. They were re-built in Neo-Gothic style in 1840 but the oldest part of this buildings, Westminster Hall dating back from 1097. The House of Lords is a gothic hall decorated in red, with the throne of the Sovereign and the House of Commons consist of parallel rows of green lather benches . And 97,5 meters above the Parliament rises the clock tower called Big Ben, one of the best-known London’s landmarks . But Big Ban isn’t really the mane of the clock, it is the name of the bell.
Facing the Houses of Parliament is the most important church in the country - Westminster Abbey. Its history goes back to the 11th century and since William the Conqueror times, monarchs are crowned and heroes buried there - e.g. Elizabeth I, Mary Stuart, Henry VII. On of the biggest ceremony being held in Westminster Abbey was the funeral ceremony of Princess Diana in September 1997. Not far from the House of Parliament is Buckingham Palace, the London home of the kings and queens of Great Britain. It was built in 1703 but the first Monarch to live there was Queen Victoria in 1837.
Whitehall is the seat of Government and close to this complex there is Downing street, whose number 10 has been the home of the Prime Minister (since 1735).
Trafalgar Square is said to be the largest in London. Its name commemorates  the naval victory of Admiral Nelson who defeated Napoleon’s fleet at Cape Trafalgar in 1805. In the middle of the square there is Nelson’s Column (50 meters high) with a five meters high statue of Admiral Nelson. One side of the Trafalgar Square forms the famous National Gallery. It houses one of the greatest collections of painting from 13th to 20th centuries - e.g. da Vinci, Tizian, Rubens, van Gogh, Renoir etc. A short way from Trafalgar Square is Piccadilly Circus. It is centre of entertainment, night clubs, theatres, cinemas and restaurants. The most beautiful view of the square is at the night when it is lit  by many colourful advertisements. In the centre of the Circus at the top of the Fountain stands Eros, the Greek God of love. Kensington Palace was competed in 1605 and later it was a residence of Sir Ch.Wren. Now it is one of the Royal Palace and it was Princess Diana’s residence till her tragically death.
There are also many parks and gardens in London. The most popular among tourists is Hyde Park. The best known part of this park is the Speaker’s Corner, where everybody can speak publicly without fear of being arrested for their opinion. Another famous parks are St.James’s Park with lake and small island form the 19th century, Kensington Gardens etc. London is also world famous as cultural and scientific centre. There are famous Royal Opera House, National Theatre, British Museum and Library with more than 11 million volumes, Madame Tussaud’s wax museum of famous and infamous world figure etc. Pop and rock fans can visit many of London’s music arenas, especially Wembley Arena. London is the seat of many universities and collages. Many tourists visited the Old Royal Observatory in Greenwich, where the Prime Meridian of zero longitude runs.
The river Themes has been used as a highway since prehistoric times and the Port of London is considered to be one of the best in the world. There are five airports in London, the biggest of them being Heathrow west o the city and Gatwick in the south. London’s underground, often called ‘tube’ is the world’s oldest - since 1863 - and its network is about 420 km and 273 stations on ten lines. Another typical kind of transport in London are its red Double-decker buses.
Great Britain - geography, places of interest
It covers an area of 242 429 sq km and the population is 58 295 119 inhabitants. The capital city is London (6 904 600) and the main ethnic groups are: English (80 %), Scottish (10 %), Irish (4 %) and Welsh (2 %). The Great Britain currency is One Great Britain pound sterling (1 GBP), which is 100 pences.
The British Isles are two large islands - Great Britain (England, Wales and Scotland) and Ireland (the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland) and lie between North Sea and Atlantic Ocean. There are more than 5 000 smaller islands too (e.g. Isle of Man, Isle of Wight, the Hebrides, the Orkneys, the Shetlands or the Channel Islands).
Great Britain can be divided into two main regions. The highland Britain is the mountainous part and there are e.g. the Highlands of Scotland (Ben Nevis 1 342 m), the Pennines,the Cambrian Mountains or the Cheviots Hills. The lowland Britain are plains hardly ever reaching 1 300 m above sea level.
British rivers are not very long but they are quite deep because of frequent rainfalls. The biggest are the Thames (336 km), the Severn (354 km) and the Trent, which are navigable for ocean-going ships from the sea and for small vessels too. The lakes are to be found in the Lake District in England and in the Highlands of Scotland (called „lochs“). The biggest are Lake Windermere, Lake Derwentwater and Loch Ness. The biggest cities are London, Birmingham, Glasgow, Liverpool, Manchester, Edinburgh etc.
Great Britain has a mild, humid climate. There are mild winters, not very hot summers and no extremes of temperature, but frequent changes of the weather. Rain is fairly common 2 throughout the year. It is because of south-west wind blowing from the Atlantic and the Gulf Stream.
Places of interest
There are many interesting places in UK besides its capital London. One of the most popular tourist attraction is Stratfort-upon-Avon, the birthplace of William Shakespeare. The top attraction is the house in Henley Street where Shakespeare was born. In the Holy Trinity Church we can see the Shakespeare’s grave. Very spectacular 3 place is Stonehenge, where is the very old prehistoric megalithic monuments dating about 3 000 BC. The ruins stand in the centre of a huge circle 98 m in diameter. The ruins consist of two stone circles and a horseshoes. The purpose of these is unknown but it may be ritual sanctuary 4 probably used like an astronomical ‘calendar’.
Quite similar ruins are near the Salisbury but there is also magnificent Cathedral of Saint Mary (13th century).
Interesting are Oxford and Cambridge which are well-known for one of the most prestige universities. The first of these was founded in 12th century and has 34 colleges now. The second one is from 13th century. Canterbury is the seat of the Archbishop and there is a magnificent cathedral which oldest part is from 11th century. It is the place where the first convent on the British Isles was established by St.Augustine who convert England to Christianity. Thomas Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury was murdered there in the cathedral in 1170 by order the king. Winchester is the ancient Roman town with a majestic cathedral which oldest parts dates beck to the 7th century. It is the longest church in Europe and has 170 m.
Bath is worth seeing for the remains of the Roman bath built 2 000 years ago.
Hastings is near the battleplace where William the Conqueror defeated the Anglo-Saxons in 1066. Hadrian’s Wall is a remain of the Roman fortifications built between 122-26 AD to protect England against the Celtic’s invasion.
Whole the English countryside is full of peaceful harbour-towns with sandy beaches, fishing boats, yachts etc. Scotland is interesting for its traditions - playing the pipes, wearing kilts made of tartan and for Scotch whisky (in Gaelic it is ‘uisge beatha’ - the water of life).
British was the first country in the world to become highly industrialised and it belongs to the G-7 countries. The main natural resources are: high quality coal 5 (Newcastle), petroleum and natural gas (North Sea), there are reserves of tin 6, clay 7 and limestone 8 too. In GB is mainly the steel, vehicles (ships and planes) and traditional textile industry. This country has well-developed agriculture system which is concentrated on cattle and sheep breeding 9 .
2 nesmrtelnost a lidské oběti
3 Welsh, Irish and Scottish Gaelic podrobně viz Maturitní téma č.1
4 vznikal, formoval se
5 bojechtivý a dychtivý
6 provedl, uskutečnil
8 donutila krále vzdát se
9 zrušen (rozpuštěn)
10 pokusil se obnovit
11 rozhodli sesadit ho
13 upevnilo, posílilo
14 impérium utrpělo velkou ztrátu
15 způsobila ztráty na životech
16 utrpěl velké neštěstí
17 světský představitel
18 dědičných šlechticů
19 svrchovanost, suverénnost
20 souhlas, schválení, potvrzení
21 výkonná moc je provozována
 morová epidemie
 byl jmenován
 královská mincovna a observatoř
 náměstek, sekretář
 byli sťati (popraveni)
 přestane existovat, zanikne
 je stále vykonáván
 rovnoběžných řad potažených zelenou kůží
 orientační, záchytný bod, také ve smyslu pamětihodnost
 je osvětleno
1 málokdy přesahující
2 docela častý
3 atraktivní, pozoruhodný ke shlédnutí
9 chov dobytka a ovcí
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