England sports a long and colourful history packed with stories. Little is known of settlers in the pre-Roman period but it is believed these ancient Britons were a Celtic people that migrated to Britain whilst a landbridge still connected the isle to the mainland. The Romans began their attempts to conquer Britannia (as it was known) in 55 BC but it wasn’t until 43 AD that Claudius successfully led an invasion. Within a few years the Romans ruled the land, setting up cities, roads, spas and constructing Hadrian’s Wall during their period of rule. However by the 5th century the Roman Empire finding itself ailing on the continent, withdrew from Britain, leaving the way clear for an Anglo-Saxon invasion by the Germanic tribes of Western Europe.
The Norman conquest, marked by the victory of William the Conqueror at the battle of Hastings in 1066, caused many Anglo-Saxons, particularly the wealthy, to flee to Ireland, Scotland and Scandinavia. The Normans carried out a huge census of England, documented in the Domesday Book, an incredible historical artefact, full of information about life in 11th-century England. A later line of monarchs, the Tudors, also had an enormous impact in the 15th century. King Henry VIII broke away from Catholicism and created the Church of England in order to get a divorce and marry again. This decision had huge implications for the future of England and the country passed between the Catholics and Protestants, as following monarchs tried to undo and then strengthen Henry's decision. Around a century later, in 1642 the English Civil War saw dividing lines drawn up again, this time between those who supported Parliament and Cromwell, and Royalist supporters of King Charles I. The war led to the King’s execution and left in place a framework for rule by parliamentary democracy which is still in place today.
Inspired by Portuguese and Spanish exploration in the 15th century, by the early 20th century, the British Empire had become the largest in the world, with numerous overseas colonies and supported by an economic system dependent on global trade. However the onset of both WWI (1914-18) and WWII (1939-45) signalled the beginning of the end for the Empire and by the fifties Britain had begun to divest itself of its colonies. Post-war Britain looked very different, as many women were brought into the workforce for the first time, taking the place of men who were away, fighting at the front. Labour leader Clement Atlee introduced significant social change that was to bring free healthcare, better housing and more access to education for future generations.
In the swinging 1960s London led the world in music, fashion and culture as Twiggy, The Beatles and the Rolling Stones took the world by storm. Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was a divisive icon of the 1980s, polarising opinion with her measures to tackle England’s economic woes. Tony Blair’s New Labour administration came to power in 1997 on the back of a campaign promising change but his tenure has been tarnished by the controversial support of a US-led war with Iraq. The last decade has seen a shifting political and economic landscape, with terrorism made a real threat after the London bombing of July 7th 2007 which killed 53, and brought the capital to a standstill. The effects of the global financial crisis of 2008 are still reverberating years later, with the current coalition government set on reducing the country’s deficit by setting out austerity measures aimed at reigning in public spending.