British American Group

Britain – Country Profile

Posted on: November 7, 2006

  • Formal Name: United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
  • Location: Europe
  • Status: UN Country
  • Capital City:London
  • Population: 59,755,700
  • Area [sq.km]: 244,880
  • Currency: £1 pound sterling = 100 pence
  • Languages: English, Welsh, Scots Gaelic, Irish Gaelic (all official)
  • Religions: Protestant, Roman Catholic, Muslim, Hindu, Judaism
  • Government type: Constitutional Monarchy

William the conquerorEveryone knows the famous “William The Conqueror”. He came from Normandy to take over England, overthrowing King Harold at the Battle of Hastings in 1066 A.D. He was then crowned on Christmas Day as King William I.

William’s tenure as king brought about the creation of the Domesday Book, a written record documenting people and the land they owned. Also of great importance, Britain has never again been invaded and conquered since his reign. But what about the time before William’s conquest? What happened after the Roman period of Britain’s history but before the 1066 Battle?

The Anglo-Saxons were a Germanic people who inhabited Britain in between these two eras. Alfred the Great (871 A.D. – 899 A.D.) came to the throne as King of the West Saxons (Wessex), but rechristened this name to King of the Anglo-Saxons. This title was meant to establish Alfred’s rulership over all free English people. The word ‘English’ comes from the Anglo-Saxons, whose language was ‘Englisc’. Indeed, the word ‘England’ itself springs from them, evolving from ‘Angle-land’.

Language and name origins

When Saxon invaders came to Britain, they did not kill all the native people, but they very nearly killed their language. They replaced the native Celtic tongue with their own Germanic one. Many Britons escaped the invaders by heading north or west. Many who fled west put rocky, rough mountain terrain in between themselves and the Saxons, who referred to them as wealas (‘slave’), and the term evolved into what is now known as Wales. Welsh is believed to be one of the surviving Celtic languages of this period.

While the Saxons were in power (and thus becoming Anglo-Saxons), there came new place names, many of which still exist today. Settlements already established by native Britons were not destroyed, but the Saxons found the names difficult to pronounce, so they renamed them in their own language. This was most prevalent in Southern Britain. See Regia.org for more Anglo-Saxon influence on words, days of the week, and placenames.

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