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English Literary History
Transcript of English Literary History
Anglo Saxon England
Medieval English Literature
Romans Abandon England
While conquering Gaul (modern France), Julius Caesar first made Roman contact with the Celtic Britons in 55-54 BCE; however, it would be over a hundred years until the Romans returned to conquer the islands. In 43 CE, Emperor Claudius mounted an invasion of the island, and slowly conquered large swathes. To the north, the Romans moved into Lowland Scotland, and then built Hadrian's Wall in 122 CE; to the west, the were stopped at the Mountains dividing present-day England from Wales, and they could not take Cornwall.
A series of invasions from the Picts (Highland Scotsmen), Irish Celts, and Angles, Jutes, and Saxons (Germanic tribes from modern day Denmark, Netherlands, and northern Germany), coupled with problems in Rome (Alaric and the Visigoths sacking them and all), led the Emperor Honorius refused to send a garrison to defend the Roman British citizens. The raids had been occurring for years, but this was the final straw.
Reign of the "Historic"
There is scant proof of a "real" King Arthur: no contemporary source attests to him, and no one can agree whether he led Celts fighting the Romans, Romans fighting the Saxons, Celts Romans, or Anglo-Saxons Romans.
The "Gallic Chronicle" notes that England is now fully under Saxon (and Angle and Jute) control.
Fall of Rome
Romulus Augustus, last Western Roman Emperor is forced to abdicate by Odoacer. (Note--over-simplified...)
While the Celtic peoples on the Islands had been Christian for well over 100 years, dating to Saint Patrick, the Anglo-Saxons were not. Augustine of Canterbury began his evangelizing, and within a few years, most of the major Saxon kings had converted.
"Consolation of Philosophy"
According to Bede, this is roughly when Cædmon--the first "great" named English poet, began to sing his poetry aloud.
Nu sculon heriġean heofonriċes Weard
Meotudes meahte and his modġeþanc
weorc Wuldor-Fæder swa he wundra ġehwæs
eċe Drihten or onstealde
He ærist sceop ielda bearnum
heofon to hrofe haliġ Scyppend.
ða middanġeard moncynnes Weard
eċe Drihten æfter teode
firum foldan Frea ælmihtiġ.
The Venerable Bede Completes "Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum"
before the Viking Raids
For almost 100 years, starting in 787, Vikings both raided and then settled lands all over Europe. They had particular success in the British Isles, and were able to secure whatever lands they so chose.
Clovis was the first Frankish (French) King to unite the tribes. His conquests, and his 496 conversion to Christianity, set the stage for renewed intellectual growth.
Alcuin in born in York, England. He was an important English poet, theologian and scholar who wrote in Latin, and his reputation led to him being invited into Charlemagne's court, where he helped bring about the Carolingian Renaissance with his writings and innovations to script. His Carolingian Miniscule made monks' handwriting more legible, and was the standard style into the 13th century.
Charlemagne crowned Holy Roman Emperor on Christmas.
As we shall see, the Vikings were far more than just ruthless barbarians, and their exploits helped shape European and English history and language for the subsequent 300 years.
Charlemagne united most of Western Europe for the first time since the collapse of the Western Roman Empire. Illiterate himself, he became a patron to the arts and sciences, and helped bring about a "Dark Ages" Renaissance. Charlemagne began his rule of the Franks in 768. The Holy Roman Empire, which he founded, was a long lasting, complicated association of principalities and countries that would last, in some form, until 1806.
Muhammad founds one of the world's most populous religions, which spreads more quickly than any religion in the history of the world, redrawing maps of the known world, and in the process becoming an intellectual and cultural storehouse, both preserving great Western works that would have been lost after the Western Roman Empire collapsed and also, due to its tolerance of Christians, Jews, Zoroastrians, Buddhists, and Hindus, bringing forth a cosmopolitan Renaissance of artistic, theological, philosophical, and scientific understanding.
"Great Heathen Army" invades England. Unlike earlier Viking raids, which were more "snatch and grab," this army invaded with the intent to settle. Eventually, King Ælfred the Great--who would come to power in 871--would win enough victories to make the Viking leader Guthram be baptized, but not enough to force the Vikings entirely out of England.
These boundaries kept the peace up up through the time of William the Conqueror, allowing a much cultural exchange.
Ælfred, born in 849 in the Kingdom of Wessex, in many ways modeled his reign after Charlemagne: he promoted literacy, learning, religion, and national unity. In fact, he is the first king to style himself the King of the Anglo-Saxons, as opposed to the King of a certain tribe.
Tang Dynasty, c. 700
Founding of the Tang Dynasty in China, which will last until 907, and which contains the first great flowering of Chinese poetry.
Viking state of Russia founded by Rurik, intially in Novgorod, and moving later to Kiev (where it would become known as the Kievan Rus' in 882, and survive until the Mongol Invasions).
Roughly the end of the Mayan Classical Period.
Song Dynasty Founded in China
The Song Dynasty until 1279.
Northern Song, c. 1111
Erik the Red is exiled from Iceland, and subsequently begins colonization of Greenland.
Earliest known datable printed book in China.
Vikings settle Iceland.
Arrival of the Magyars into Hungary.
"Arrival of the Hungarians," by Árpád Feszty, in commemoration of Hungary's Millennial.
Leif Ericson, Erik the Red's son, establishes the Viking colony of "Vinland" in present day Canada.
Cnut, King of Denmark, ascends to the English throne, where he will rule until 1035
The Tale of Genji, written by Murasaki Shikibu, is completed sometime before this date.
The Seljuq Empire, against whom the First Crusades will later be launched, is "founded" by Tughril Beg. Although it will be usurped by 1194, it lays the cultural groundwork for the later Ottoman Empire, partially through fusing the Turkish culture of its founder with the rich Persian culture to the east.
Due to a debate over the primacy of the Pope, and the theological issue concerning the Nicene Creed (the Roman church added "filioque" to "qui ex Patre procedit"), in 1054 legates of Pope Leo IX excommunicated the Patriarch of Constantinople, Michael Cærularius, in the Hagia Sophia. Cærularius proceeded to excommunicate the Pope. While we now recognize this as a pivotal moment in Christian history, contemporary Byzantine and Western chroniclers did not take much note.
Battle of Hastings
After much confusion surrounding who would take the English throne after the death of Edward the Confessor in 1066, two rival claimants emerged: Harold Godwinson (left) and William of Normandy. Each had claimed Edward left him the throne. Since Harold was already an Anglo-Saxon Earl, he quickly had himself crowned.
William refused to stand for this, and gathered an army of Norman soldiers and invaded England. The Normans were themselves descendents of Viking raiders, whose leader, Rollo, was granted the region Neustra (present day Normandy) by the Frankish King Charles III (known as Charles the Simple) in 911 as a bribe. The Vikings (called "Normans" from "Norsemen"), settled, converted to Christianity, and quickly adopted the French language and customs. Given their Viking heritage, they were feared warriors.
The Normans invaded across the English Channel, and on October 14, 1066 defeated King Harold (traditionally with a spear to the eye) in the Battle of Hastings, ending his reign, and making him the last Anglo-Saxon king.
Now William I of England, he became known as William the Conqueror to the victorious Normans (and William the Bastard to the losing Anglo-Saxons). This was a watershed moment: the rulers of England no longer spoke English. William built many fortifications throughout his new kingdom, including the famed Tower of London. He also commissioned the "Domesday Book," a huge government undertaking that was part census and part geographical writing. It's purpose was to help update the tax rolls, but it has proven invaluable for historians (less so for literature scholars). This also marked an end to the close relationship between England and Scandinavia, and moved the islands culturally towards France. Every English monarch since (other than those who had a short reign) can trace their lineage back to William I, including the reigning Queen II. He is her 22nd Great-Grandfather
"Harold Rex interfectus est."
Hugh Capet elected and crowed king of the Franks. The Capetian Dynasty that followed would rule France uninterrupted until the revolutionaries of French Revolution executed Louis XVI in 1792--then, after the final defeat of Napoleon in 1815, they ruled again until 1848.
Descendents of Hugh Capet produced (among others):
36 Kings of France
9 Kings of Portugal
2 Kings of Albania
4 Kings and Queens of Poland
10 Kings and Queens of Spain
4 Kings and Queens of Hungary
11 Kings and Queens of Naples
8 Kings of Sicily
12 Kings and Queens of Navarre