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Главная страница » History of Britain (история Британии) » Страница 2
The Empire of the Normans History of Britain (история Британии) 

The late 11th and 12th centuries in Europe were a time of good order, prosperity and progress. An age when war was treated almost as a sport, as something all upper-class men were expected to practise, was not always peaceful. But increasing trade, growing towns and safer travel were signs of better times. The Norman rulers of England were not responsible for these improvements, but they did something to make them possible.

Kings of England enjoyed one great advantage over other rulers. England was a united kingdom, accustomed to royal government. This was the achievement of Alfred and his successors. In more recent times, with the rise of the great earls, the kingdom had shown signs of breaking up into smaller pieces, but that development was prevented by the Norman Conquest.

William the Conqueror did not have to invent centralized government. The system already existed, and a very thorough system it was, right down to the courts of justice in every shire and hundred (a hundred was a division of a shire). The English people were used to regular taxation - one good result of Danegeld («Датские деньги», поземельный налог для уплаты датским викингам) - and together with the huge estates that William kept as royal property, the Norman monarchy could count itself rich.

All that was needed was a strong man at the top. William was such a man, and so were his sons, the rough, red-faced William Rufus (shot in a hunting accident at the age of forty) and the cool, clever Henry I.

William the Conqueror was, above all, a military leader. His army had gained the kingdom for him, and his army had to keep it. The first essential was to make sure of the loyalty of his chief followers, which he did by rewarding them for their service with land. William had about 200 tenants-in-chief (крупных землевладельцев), or barons as they were later called, to whom he gave large estates. He made sure that their estates were scattered in different parts of the country, as he did not want to run the risk of creating dangerous centres of power for some future rebel. ...

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Anglo-Norman England History of Britain (история Британии) 

(+ русский перевод)

In 1100 the population of England was less than 1.5 million - about the size of the present population of Birmingham and Coventry. Only about 100,000 of them lived in towns, and few places were large enough to match our idea of what a town should be. (The word 'town' originally meant a homestead - just one house.) London was, as always, an exception. When William I began to build his White Tower overlooking the Thames, about 20,000 people lived there, all of them inside the walls of the old Roman city. York, Norwich and Lincoln were the next largest, though probably none had more than 5,000 people.

Towns were nevertheless growing fast under the Normans, and they went on growing until the early 14th century. Landowners soon noticed that towns were profitable places, and they were eager to start one, or, more often, to increase the size of a town that already existed. This was something that only rich landlords could do, as it did require some expense to get a town going, though nothing like the expense of building new towns today.

Landlords were not concerned with 'town planning'. New parishes were added on higgledy-piggledy: you have only to look at a city like Norwich, where there are twenty medieval parish churches within five minutes' walk of one spot (not counting the cathedral, which alone might held the whole population) to see the chaos - but attractive chaos - of the growth of a medieval town.

Nine out of ten people in England lived in the country, the majority in small villages. There were isolated farms in some parts, where people lived a pioneer life far from the nearest neighbours, like farms on the frontier of the American West in the 19th century. But Norman England was mostly a country of small villages.

Driving through the English countryside today, the villages seem very close together, but 800 years ago they seemed much farther apart. There were no roads then, only muddy tracks, and a journey of only a kilometre or two could be difficult in winter. In any case, people did not travel. Most of them probably did not want to, they would very seldom have had the opportunity. The English peasant was born, lived and died in the same place. ...

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The England of Henry II History of Britain (история Британии) 
The development of England into a united nation, with a strong central government headed by the king, had received a setback (движение назад) in the chaotic reign of the previous king, Stephen. But the setback was not so severe as it looked to people like the monks who wrote the chronicles of the time. The system had not been destroyed. During the reign of Henry II, law and government in England were restored and strengthened.

Monarchs are always interesting people - because they are monarchs. Historians have been fascinated by the character of Queen Victoria, but if she had been the daughter of a banker or a fishmonger no one would have noticed her. In the Middle Ages, when monarchs were far more powerful than they were in the 19th century, their personalities and talents were more important. England today might be a different place if Henry II had not reigned from 1154 to 1189.

Henry was about medium height, heavily built, with slight bow legs from spending so much time on horseback. He had reddish hair and a big freckled face, with grey eyes that grew bloodshot and glowed when he was in a rage. Like all his family, he had a fierce temper, and would roll on the floor, biting the rushes that covered it. But normally he was a kind, even humble man, and less cruel than most men of his time. His favourite sport was hunting, and vigorous exercise helped prevent him growing fat.

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King John and Magna Carta History of Britain (история Британии) 
Подписание Великой хартии вольностейGovernment in the Middle Ages depended on co-operation between the king and the barons. As they often quarrelled, it is easy to suppose that they were opponents at heart; or at least that they had different interests, like employers and trade unionists. But when the royal government was strong and successful, the king usually had no trouble with the barons, just as employers and trade unionists get along better when business is good. As a rule, the barons liked a strong royal government, even if that meant some restrictions on themselves. Like most people, they preferred law and order to chaos.

To keep the barons loyal and helpful, the king had to be a man worthy of their respect. King John (1199-1216) fell far short of that standard. Although he was not an evil man, John could be vicious and treacherous. Though clever, he was lazy. Though he had a sense of humour, his jokes could be unpleasant for others. When he went to Ireland as governor for his brother Richard I, he laughed at the old-fashioned appearance of the Irish lords and amused himself by pulling their long beards. The Irish were deeply offended by such behaviour, and no wonder.

Just as foolishly, John angered the English barons. They were already discontented as a result of the heavy taxes they had to pay for the Crusading campaigns of Richard I. John demanded yet more taxes for his French wars and, what was far worse, John's wars were unsuccessful. The barons resented the king's cruel and unpredictable behaviour towards individuals; they suspected him of having his nephew, Prince Arthur, secretly murdered. They were annoyed by John's refusal to seek advice from the men who, according to tradition, should have been his chief counsellors – themselves.


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Scotland and Wales in the 12th - 14th centuries History of Britain (история Британии) 
 битва при Бэннокберне After 1189, when William the Lion bought the independence of Scotland for a sum of 10,000 gold marks, there was peace with England for over a hundred years. William's successor Alexander II and his son Alexander III concentrated on opponents nearer home, like the Lords of Lorne and the Lords of the Isles, who recognized the king of Norway, not Scotland, as their overlord.

These efforts by the Scottish kings roused (рассердили) old King Haakon of Norway, and in 1263 a large Norwegian force appeared in the Clyde. Bad weather scattered (разметала) the ships, but the Norwegians managed to force their way ashore in Ayrshire. There Alexander met them and soundly beat them in the battle of Largs. As a result, Norway gave up the Hebrides to the king of Scots. However, the Lord of the Isles, caring little for overlords, whether Norwegian or Scots, continued to behave as an independent prince.

In 1286 Alexander III died after a fall from his horse. His sons had died before him, and the heir to the kingdom was a baby girl, Margaret, daughter of the king of Norway and Alexander's granddaughter. Scotland was left again without a strong head to wear the crown, at a time, unfortunately for the Scots, when the English crown was resting on a very strong head indeed, that of Edward I.

Edward suggested that the 'Maid of Norway' should marry his son. He sent a ship, with boxes of sweets, to fetch her, but she died on the way from Norway. Who was to reign now? Several nobles had claims of a kind, and the strongest candidates were Robert Bruce and John Balliol. Edward hastened to Scotland, declaring that he would help to judge who had the better claim. Under his menacing (грозный) eye, the Scottish nobles selected Balliol, Edward's choice.

It was obvious that Edward's real aim was to gain control of Scotland himself. His chief reason for preferring Balliol to Bruce was that he believed Balliol would do what he was told. He knew both men, for both had fought with him in France and both held lands in England, which made them Edward's vassals.


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