General History - 100 to 500 years ago
100 Years Ago
England rules ¼ of the whole of the earth and about ¼ of it's people.Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa added to existing jewels like India (including Pakistan and Bangladesh)The whole of Africa is split up and ruled by countries in Europe (including England)The English having massacred a fifty million Buffalo in America not to mention many North American natives (Indians) follow these atrocities by killing for "sport" some half a million native Australians (Aborigines) and replacing them with 3 million "white" men, 12 million cattle and 100 million sheep.At home women finally are allowed to vote!The First so called World War
Some 100 years ago the Europeans who for the last few hundred years had been fighting each other in Europe, then North America and the Far East pounced on Africa. Hardly anybody was left out. The French started with foot holds in Muslim Algeria and the English notably aided by Cecil Rhodes expanded their "shared" foothold in South Africa (Shared with the Afrikaners who were originally Dutch (and French) extreme Protestants called Huguenots who had fled religious persecution at home).
The Belgium's hired English explorer David Livingstone to help them "take" the Congo region.
Of the countries involved (England, France, Germany, Portugal, Spain and Italy) it was only Italy who were beaten by the locals. (Abyssinians now Ethiopians in the Horn of Africa)
These European countries held a conference (the scramble for Africa) in Berlin in 1884 on how to split up Africa between them. The Africans were not invited to this meeting!!
France ended up with the most land with England in second place. As far as the English were concerned the French could keep their land as they had ended up with "a huge desert with insignificant minerals occupied by Muslim fundementalsts". Whereas the English largly thanks to the ruthless homosexual Rhodes ruled the beautiful countries in the south of Africa where they found some of the worlds largest deposits of Gold and Diamonds. England also ruled Nigeria on the west coast (full of oil) and Christian/Muslim Arabic Egypt and Sudan in the north.
English victories were made easier by the English inventor Maxim who produced the worlds first machine gun. A convenient tool for annihilating a few local "Blacks" who were not immediately attracted to giving their lands to the English invaders from overseas.
The English ended up by ruling from south to north;
South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe (then called Rhodesia after Cecil Rhodes), Zambia, (not Tanzania this went to the Germans), Kenya, Uganda, and the Muslim/Christian areas Sudan and Egypt; plus Nigeria on the west coast.
100 years ago the English, the world conquering nation, were shattered to be beaten in battle by the Afrikaners in the Boer War. (Boar being the Afrikaner word for farmer)
Australia and New Zealand
These territories were discovered and mapped by Europeans notably Englishman James Cook some 250 years ago 1768. The Dutch explorer Abel Tasman was 100 years ahead of Cook but the Dutch appeared to have no interest in the land. Here was a land of similar size to the USA (USA 3.8 million sq. miles Australia 3.0 m. sq. miles) that was inhabited by humans who had apparently not seen any other humans ever since they arrived some 35,000 years ago. Called Aborigines they were still stone age peoples who had not even invented the wheel. English settlers massacred ¾ of them.
As with America the English initially used Australia as a penal colony (To clear the overflow from London prisons). Free English settlement started about 1850 when gold was discovered. 100 years ago when Australia grew from a colony to a dominion within the British Empire the half a million native Australians were replaced by 3.5 million Europeans, 12 million cattle and 100million sheep.
Australia was given "Dominion" status along with New Zealand Canada and South Africa which permitted local government rather than government from London, the English Queen remained their queen and the English military was in theory available to defend their territories.
Technology 100 years ago
This is really the start of modern day life as it is to day, built round the fruits of technology, the majority at this time were still British inventions although Germany and the USA were also contributing. Some examples;
With all those sheep in Australia and nobody to eat them locally they needed to be shipped back to England if they were to be worth any thing. England invented steam turbine, propeller driven steel ships some 10 times the size and faster than the wood and sail variety. (Steam Turbines invented by Englishman Charles Parsons). The sheep had to come to England via the Equator so for edible meat they required cooling. Refrigerators were invented by British physicists Lord Kevin and James Joule (cooling by adiabatic expansion).
London was the first city in the world to have an underground railway. (Now called the Tube). Initially powered by coal and steam, about 100 years ago it was converted to clean electric motor power thanks to the fundamental inventions of Englishman Michael Faraday.
Also at this time man first flew in the air. The Wright Brother's plane kept airborne for 45 minutes in 1907.
This period would not be properly described without mentioning German born Jewish physicist Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955). In 1905 working in Switzerland he published four separate papers which were so revolutionary and far ahead of their time that nobody could understand them. His special theory of relativity is probably his most famous work. He created the intellectual environment to develop Nuclear Power and Bombs. With the arrival of Hitler Einstein became domicile in the US.
Also 100 years ago
The Suffragette movement (militant arm of the Women's Social and Political Union) started in England where women campaigned for more equality with men, denied to them since the birth of time. After 20 years of rioting, self inflicted starvation and moving oratory women were finally given the vote in 1918.
The concept of Radio(Wireless) was thought of by Maxwell (1873), demonstrated by Hertz (1888) and finally made a commercial reality by Marconi in 1895.
Television now the most powerful advertising and propaganda medium of all was developed by Britisher John Baird in 1926.
This period also saw the birth of two related industries Recorded Music and Pop (Popular music). This required the development of the Microphone, the gramophone (record player), the amplifier and the loudspeaker. Starting in about 1900 it took almost 30 years for all the pieces to be put in place. Singing to entertain hundreds of people with out a trained operatic voice was possible for the first time creating such legends as Americans Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra, both multi millionaires, would probably have been nothing without these inventions.
The major contributors were; Emil Berliner (a German living in America) the gramophone record. Lee de Forest an American invented the triode valve permitting amplification 1928. Americans Rice and Kellogg invented the loudspeaker (moving coil) in 1925. To complete the picture Englishman Alan Dower Blumlein developed the first high quality moving coil microphone as well as two channel stereo sound (1928). The world had for the first time high quality recorded and amplified music.
WORLD WAR 1
100 years ago the great powers of Europe, although they had carved up Africa nicely between them, eyed each other nervously waiting for the first one to make a territorial advance. This nervousness was caused by power shifts in three major European Empires;
The German Empire becoming a world force for the first time.The old Austro-Hungarian Empire, centred in Vienna, loosing its middle European domination.The huge Ottoman Empire centred in Turkey but stretching the from Austrian boarder in the west (Bosnia) across the whole of Arabia, was also beginning to breakdown creating a political vacuum in Serbia and the rest of the Balkans.
Two sides developed:England plus France and Russia (Called the Triple Entente)Germany in support of the old Austro-Hungarian Empire which included Bosnia and Italy, called the Triple Alliance.
In June 1914 a Serbian assassin shot and killed Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie on a visit to in Sarajevo Bosnia. Austria then invaded Serbia. Russia who had an alliance with Serbia (and still has) declared war on Austria. Germany, supporting Austria, declared war on Russia. England came into the war when Germany invaded neutral Belgium.
Hence this was not a world war as World War 2 but involved the whole of the world wide British Empire who came to Europe to help the English plus the Americans who also came to help the English.The English lost a million lives in this war, not won by England and her allies until 1918.
The main feature of this war were trenches. That is the main battle line between the Germans on the one side and the English and French on the other were two long parallel trenches stretching over 500 miles from the English channel to Switzerland. This generated a military stalemate. The side that attacked was immediately wiped out by the other side.
This stalemate needed one side to think up a new weapon to mow through the opposing trenches. Two inventions finally came on the scene but both too late to make any real difference at the time The aeroplane, nobody thought of using it to drop bombs.
The Tank, invented by Englishman Sir Ernest Swinton. They were deployed first in the Battle of the Somme in 1916 but were not reliable enough to make any difference until about November 1917.
The Submarine. As in World War 2 the Germans developed the submarine and even at this early stage of its development to devastating effect against the English merchant naval fleet carrying food to England. German U boats were one of the main contributors to the Americans coming to support England in this war as the Germans developed a strategy of "if you see it torpedo it" and some US ships got in the way. All parties came to realise that one Sub could sink one Battleship which would have cost some hundred times as much.
Some 10 or so years after the war an arms race developed as to who could build the biggest and fastest Battleships with the biggest guns. Those involved were England and France, who couldn't afford it together with the US and for the first time Japan. The Germans were not allowed to build Battleships so they cheated and built smaller ships but armed like a Battleship. They became known as Pocket Battleships. With both economic considerations and the fact that Battleships were vulnerable to Submarines the Americans tried to bring about an arms(Battleship) limitation treaty. Unfortunately after apparently agreeing the Germans and the Japanese ignored it. (No wonder we have spy planes these days)
150 Years Ago
England the most powerful nation on earth both in military might and economic wealth. Morals highly questionable. Inventions, Inventions, Inventions. The Victorian PeriodThe bright side
150 years ago the English Queen, Victoria was ruling over the biggest empire that has ever existed150 years ago London was the biggest city in the world.150 years ago England was the biggest trading nation in the world150 years ago England had the largest navy in the world.150 years ago England produced more steel than the rest of the world put together.150 years ago cars had not been invented, the main form of transport was still the horse although steam engine driven trains running on steel rails (invented in England) were rapidly taking over long distance travel.
The dark side
150 years ago Charles Dickens wrote about the scenes of the day, perhaps a long way from the vision of England and the British Empire as portrayed in the image of the "Victorian period". His famous book Oliver Twist was in part autobiographical.150 years ago Queen Victoria fled from London (Buckingham Palace) for safety in her home in the Isle of Wight (Osborne) due to a republican uprising (Chartists), quelled by parliament.150 years ago the life expectancy of a Londoner was only 20 years. (London was so dirty diseases were rampant particularly cholera.)150 years ago the English who also ruled Ireland, deliberately caused the death by starvation of some one million people in Ireland and caused another 1 million Irish to emigrate to America. (The potato famine).150 years ago the English were sending men who were in overfull London jails (Convicts) as far away as possible notably to the state of Virginia in America and to Australia.150 years ago Divorce (the legal cessation of marriage) was permitted for the first time largely due to the tireless work of the female writer George Elliot (Mary Ann Evans (1819-1880) who was married but lived with her lover and as such was a social outcast.150 years ago a Puritan Christian evangelical movement started as a result of the free sexual behaviour of some of the middle classes who indulged in wife swapping parties and group sex.150 years ago the Camera was invented and was soon used in this period for the production of pornographic pictures for which there was a great demand.
150 years ago many current US state capitals did not exist. Example, Des Moines capital city of the US state of Iowa did not exist indeed it was an Army Fort trying to keep Native Americans (Red Indians) away from the white man's farms. (Certainly taken from the poor Red Indian in the first place)150 years ago notorious gangsters like "Billy the Kid" were on a killing trails. (Billy the Kid in New Mexico USA.) His and other "gun slingers" used the Colt six shooting revolver (actually 5 shot) invented in the US by Samuel Colt (1835)150 years ago was the American Civil War (1861-1865). North versus South. The North won and abolished slavery in the South.
The industrial revolution and scientific inventions
150 years ago the Industrial Revolution, which started in England, and had been going about 100 years and was spreading to Europe and the USA. The industrial Revolution was the name given to the first factory automation initially in the manufacture of Textiles. This brought people from cottage industries in villages into the squalor, filth and disease generated by big cities.
150 years ago the "Steam Train" was invented by Stevenson in the north of England. (1829)
150 years ago the forerunner of the petrol engine was invented. (Germans; Herr Otto and Herr Daimler) (1875)
150 years ago saw a prolific range of inventions around electricity, culminating in the inventions of the electric light bulb and the electric motor.
Inventors in this field at this time were; Frenchmen Volta (1800 the Volt) and then Ampere (the Amp) followed by Oersted, Faraday and Maxwell. (All well known names to Physics pupils at school age.) These inventors in Europe were followed by the American Edison probably the most prolific inventor of all time (1847-1931) who produced the electric light bulb, the first public supply of electricity, the gramophone, the movies and the thermionic valve-later the triode. (The latter was made obsolete by the transistor and the silicon chip).
English physicist Sir Joseph Wilson Swan also independently invented the electric light bulb (1860). He also invented Bromide paper (1879) still used today for photographic prints.
150 years ago telephone technology was invented. Initially the transmission of coded text messages (long on, short on and off) over copper wire between England and France by Morse Code and then in the US Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone to carry voice over the same wires (1875).
Englishman Charles Darwin publishes his theory of "Origin of Species by means of natural selection" (Now of course supported by genetics. Then dangerous and revolutionary thinking flying in the face of the accepted "Creation" in the Bible.)
200 Years Ago
England has lost it's colonies in the USA but develops anew in India Burma and Malaysia.
The English stop trading in slaves, started in earnest some 500 years ago.During this period England was endlessly at war with France as the French perused their concept of European domination and at the same time tried to stop the English with their mission to extent their empire globally. The two French leaders who built up the French army into a European dominating fighting machine were; firstly King Louis the 14th, The Sun King (1638 -1715) and after the French revolution and the guillotine for Louis 16th and his wife Marie Antoinette (1793), Emperor Napoleon (1769-1821). Both were for the expansion of France across Europe. Both were highly successful particularly Napoleon who at one time virtually ruled the whole of continental Europe all the way to the walls of Moscow in Russia.
Napoleon determined to invade the English territories of Egypt and India. He was stopped by the famous English fleet commander Admiral Nelson who first completely destroyed the French fleet in the Battle of the Nile (1798) and then the combined French and Spanish fleets at the Battle of Trafalgar at the gateway to the Mediterranean (1805). Napoleon was finally defeated on land by the English Duke of Wellington in Belgium at the Battle of Waterloo.
This was a European movement starting in England and France following the new discoveries of the physicists (particularly Sir Isaac Newton) and Chemists of the day who were using logical thought to explain life as opposed to the rigid dogmas of the Church. This movement had started some 150 years previously with Englishman John Locke (1632- 1704). He wrote on subjects like "Essay Concerning the Human Understanding" (1689) and "Some Thoughts Concerning Education".
Other influential papers were; Frenchman Voltaire, Philosophical Letters, Englishman Jeremy Bentham, Introduction to the principles of Morals and Legislation.(1789) Englishman Thomas Paine "The Rights of Man" (1791).
- In 1807 the English Parliament banished Slavery in England following the tireless campaigning of the member of parliament for Hull (a slave port), Mr William Wilberforce and his friend the Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger.
- The adoption of the Union Jack flag across the whole of the British Isles which included Ireland
- Income tax was levied for the first time (1799)
England rule in India including present day Pakistan in the west through Bangladesh and Malaya and Burma in the east. England's focus in India and further east was always for trade and raw materials. The vehicle formed (in 1600) to protect England's trade, then political interests in this area was the East India Company based in Bengal now Bangladesh.
The English had to overpower the French trying to establish themselves in the same area for the same purpose. This was achieved some 200 years later as the superior power of the English Navy sank the French ships as they tried to feed the French garrison with food and arms. Plus the fact that France were more focussed on European than World domination.
The English also had to persuade the local Indian rulers and people (more than 30 million people compared with 8 in England) that English rule was best. This was slightly more difficult than walking into North America or Australia because the Indian peoples were numerous and had a sophisticated culture with considerable wealth generated from minerals, farming, manufacture and trade.
The Indus river valley in present day Pakistan rivalled the Nile in Egypt and the Tigris and Euphrates in present day Iraq (then Babylon) as one of the origins of civilisation (About 8000 years ago).
There followed invasions and rule by Aryans 3500 years ago who established the Hindu religion. The Mauryan Empire followed 2500 years ago until the arrival of the Muslims 1500 years ago and then an invasion via Afghanistan by a relation of Genghis Khan (Babur) culminating in the highly successful Muslim Mughal Empire in 1526.
Babur's grandson Akbar set up the golden age for India with agricultural prosperity and a buoyant export trade.
The English arrived at this time and a little later the Persians by land, they took Delhi and created the Maratha confederation covering whole of the north and central areas of India.
A Muslim area Mysore became an equally formidable power in the south. The old Mughal Emperor was no more than a Maratha puppet.
The English therefore had three battles to win. The French to eliminate from their settlement in Bengal (Bangladesh), the Maratha in the north and the Mysore in the south.
The English smartly persuaded the weak Mughal emperor to "give" them the whole of prosperous Bengal and then could sustain a local army of over 100,000 men. Military victories followed over both the Maratha and the Mysore and the Mughal emperor then rapidly accepted the protection of the English in 1803. English rule was then widely accepted across the whole of India. By 1843 the English were ruling from Pakistan (then called Sind) in the west to Burma in the east.
250 Years Ago
Other than loosing most of their colonies in North America, England dominated all other countries competing for new land and new trade notably countries in the rest of Europe. Japan and China were not in the race. England led the world with the start of mass production. (The Industrial Revolution)The British Empire
250 years ago must rival 50 years ago which was our "Finest Hour" a phrase coined at the time of the defence of the Empire. Around 250 years ago the English finally saw off their European colonial competitors, the French, Spanish, Portuguese and Dutch, and commenced the consolidation of the greatest empire the world had ever seen.
Although the exploration of the globe started some 250 years previously it took this amount of time to develop the English fleet and the naval armies so that the powerful and hated French could be dominated and eventually eliminated as a sea power. The other pieces of the jig saw required to launch England into this position of world domination were the world acceptance of the English Pound (Sterling) as a universal trading currency and England's leading position in the Industrial Revolution.
The industrial revolution and steam powered engines.
250 years ago also saw the start of the Industrial Revolution following from inventions made by early English engineers to automate textile production (wool from English sheep, cotton from America and India) all driven by steam engines designed in England (Watt) powered by English mined coal. The mining process made safer by Watts steam engine driven water extracting pumps. (Circa 1775). Coal was initially moved round the country by canal barge (Bridgewater 1761) then almost 100 years later by steam railway. (Richard Trevithick built the steam locomotive-1804 enabling Stevenson's Stockton to Darlington railway in 1825). By 1885 Britain had 16,000 miles of railway and up to 1860 all railways in the world were British, including those in the US.
This period also saw breakthroughs in road building bridges
Roads were improved so much that the stage coach journey from London to Edinburgh was reduced from 2 weeks in 1745 to 2 days in 1795.
Contributors in this field were;
- Britisher John Macadam the inventor of Tarmac, still used today
- Thomas Telford designer of roads with firm bases (like the Romans), canals, bridges, lighthouses and tunnels. His best known road is the A5 from London to Ireland via Anglesey (1826)
The worlds first cast iron bridge built in 1779 can still be walked across at Coalbrookdale over the river Seven.
Lets start this period 150 years before this.
In 1607 England had only one area in America as a colony, called Virginia on the beautiful and fertile south east Atlantic coast. This was about a 100th of the total land mass. The main benefit was trade, Tobacco.
In 1732 almost the whole of the east coast was under English rule from beautiful Georgia in the south to New Hampshire in the north. At about the same time thanks to the skill and power of the English Navy, the French were ousted from of the massive open lands west of the Mississippi river, ousted from Quebec, so England ruled Canada and about 2/3 of what now is the US.
In the East the English also ousted the French out of India. See the war with France over who was going to be king of Spain. (War of Spanish succession). Also the 7 year war with France, the blockading of all the French Atlantic ports by the English Navy and the famous battles in India ousting the French from the strategically important Bay of Bengal (Bangladesh) in the east.
In 1763 England was now established as the worlds leading colonial power. HOWEVER
By 1776 the English had lost about 50% of the land mass in North America following the American war of independence (1775-83) and the independent United States of America was established. In this battle the French, who particularly hated the English at that time for losing so many key conflicts particularly those resulting in the loss of Louisiana and Quebec, were on the side of the American seperatists under George Washington.
Back again 100 years to Oliver Cromwell
What set the political scene or the climate for such a domination of the world by such a small country? Some of the factors must have been:-
Oliver Cromwell (1650) was a fervent and extreme Protestant, his religious sect were called Puritans who were formed as a result of his disgust of the debaucheries of both the Church of England and the Church of Rome. Oliver Cromwell who is still remembered in Ireland (and Scotland) for ruthlessly quelling the local Roman Catholic (Religious) uprisings involving the mass extermination of local Catholics.
Cromwell became ruler of the English via a military Coup d'Etat. He was the only ruler of England for 1000 years who did not want to be a King. He closed all pubs on Sundays, he made Christmas Day a day of fasting. However he was keen on education of the people and law and order. He proposed that capital punishment (hanging or worse) should only be for crimes as serious as murder. Surprisingly he permitted religious tolerance and even allowed Jews back into England for the first time for 400 years. One of his most important accomplishments was the reform of parliament which after Cromwell "ruled" the country rather than the Kings or Queens.
Hence a new and fairer political basis for running a country as opposed to a dictatorship (a King)
(Note the French revolution was not until some 100 years later Circa 1790)
London is cleaned up and England takes a look at the Arts and Sciences
Following the death of Cromwell, Charles the 2nd was enthusiastically made king (1661 by the army). Parliament however still ran the country. With the recent memories of Cromwell he had to be a good King. He was, he found a new role;-
The new King put money into areas where the nation was weak, the arts and the sciences.
Arts; many buildings result from his patronage. He was lucky in this field as it was in the time of Christopher Wren (Famous for St Paul's Cathedral) Note also the Sheldonian Theatre in Oxford, two theatre companies in Covent Garden, The Royal Hospital Chelsea plus some 60 London churches. He extended the Royal Aviary, now Bird Cage Walk and he made Constitution Hill as it is now. He improved Windsor Castle (State Apartments painted in the elaborate Baroque style of the day) He gave land in London for the development of fashionable buildings in Soho and St James.Sciences: He formed the Royal Society for the advancement of Natural Sciences and was again lucky enough to have the likes of Isaac Newton, the greatest scientist of the age and Robert Boyle (Boyle's Law!) the great Physicist and Chemist as two of his founder members.
He was however not a devout religious man and could regularly be seen in church "fondling" one of his many mistresses the most famous one being the Covent Garden orange seller Nell GwynnImprovements at home
During this time the country was being run well by Parliament. At home food markets were organised into the now well known names of Smithfield (Meat) Billingsgate (Fish) and Covent Garden (Fruit and Vegetables).
Roads to get the produce to these and similar regional markets were so appalling it eventually led to the birth of the canal systems and then the railways. Parliament also saw to the building of the navy to become the biggest in the world. These perhaps were some of the key elements in the creation of the most powerful nation in the world.
Another round of Bubonic Plague and the Great Fire of London
Also in the reign of Charles 2nd London saw it's second most serious outbreak of the bubonic plague this time being "burnt out" by the Great Fire of London (1666) which destroyed 4/5s of London and left 100,000 people homeless. King Charles decreed that London should be rebuilt from houses made from bricks and stone rather than wood the preferred material up to that date.
Unfortunately the magnificent plans for a new London drawn up by Christopher Wren were not adopted and hence we still have the narrow streets we see in London today. (This can be compared with other cities which were burnt to the ground like Madrid in Spain and Chicago in the US where the opportunity was taken to build wide grand boulevards. So most of the buildings we see in London now are less than 350 years old. A notable exception being of course the Tower of London.
William of Orange (King William 3rd)
King Charles 2nd produced no children so when he died in 1685 he was succeeded by his brother James 2nd who became a Roman Catholic ( the religion of his wife). Parliament and people having got used to the economic and other benefits of the Protestant version of Christianity (under Elisabeth 1st) devised a scheme for getting rid of him and replacing him with Dutch Protestant King William 3rd who was married to Mary daughter of James 2nd.
James could not believe that his own daughter and son in law would attack him but they did and in a final battle in Ireland over the river Boyne, James fled to Roman Catholic France and William and Mary ruled a Protestant England (plus Ireland and Scotland). The so called Protestant Orangemen in Ireland have retained the Dutch Orange title and colours ever since.
Wars with France and Napoleon
From 1713 to 1815 England was continuously at war with French forces in one part of the world or another as both nations fought for world domination. Following the French Revolution in 1789 the French declared war on England (1793). Napoleon become commander of the French army in 1796. 1798 Napoleon invaded Egypt and threatens the English quick sea route to the East via the Suez Canal (Built 1869). The English naval fleet under Nelson sinks the French fleet outside the Egyptian port of Alexandria.
Nelson again beats the combined French and Spanish fleets at the Atlantic gateway to the Mediterranean at the battle of Trafalgar.(1805)
1812 Napoleon is defeated by the Russians and the Russian winter and his Empire which at one time stretched from Moscow to the English channel started to collapse. (Hitler obviously did not learn from this)
1815 Napoleon finally defeated by the English army under Wellington at Waterloo in modern day Belgium.
500 Years Ago
- Developments in European culture fuelled by the Renaissance.
- Changes in the Christian religion fuelled by German Martin Luther.
- The race begins between Christian Europeans to find new trade routes to China for silk and Indonesia for spices as the Muslim Ottomans block the Mediterranean sea to all Christian shipping.English and other European Explorers.
500 years ago the English started exploring the world in sailing ships. (This was the first step to England creating a world wide empire.) The catalyst to explore at this time was the blockade of the Mediterranean sea in 1448 by the Islamic Ottoman (Turks) thus closing access to the only known trade route to the east (India and China.)
500 years ago English, Spanish and Portuguese sailing ships reached North and South America for the first time. They rightly thought by sailing west and the world being round that they would come to China in the east, by-passing the Ottomans. Maps at this time did not show the Americas. The milestones in finding these trade routes were as follows:
1487 Vasco de Gamma (Portuguese) was the first to sail down the west coast of Africa and right round the Cape of Good Hope. (In search of another new route to India avoiding the Mediterranean. Actually he came in contact with the Ottomans in the Indian Ocean but being in awe of his large ship they did not attack)1492 The Italian Christopher Columbus,(from Genoa) financed by the Spanish royal family, was the first to sail due west across the Atlantic(from Lisbon in Portugal.) Columbus found the Caribbean islands instead, which he called the West Indies.John Cabot an English sailor also sailed west a few years later (1497)on a similar mission. He found "Newfoundland" No Spices there but lots of fish (Cod), furs and new building timbers.1498 Vasco de Gamma proved to all Europeans that silk and spices could be brought back to Europe with out paying blood money to the Muslim Ottomans. Gamma sailed west across the Atlantic, south to the bottom of South America, round the treacherous Cape Horn, across the Pacific to China, Java (Indonesia) as far as India. He returned the same way with a ship load of silk and spices. Europe had beaten the Ottoman trade blockade.
500 years ago the English invented the Theodolite which is a key navigational instrument allowing sailors to position themselves by latitude in the middle of the ocean.
500 years ago saw the effects of the "Renaissance" come to England. Renaissance, a French word meaning Re-Birth, started in Italy in 1452, following the fall of Christian Constantinople to the Muslim Ottomans. Many intellectuals fled to Venice, Milan and Florence bringing with them long forgotten books of Greek and Roman culture and art. Henry 7th (1485-1509) invited Italian artists and scholars to England to debate and study these long forgotten ideas. This heralded the end of the "Middle Ages".Elizabeth 1st, her pirates and slave traders.
A few years later (1577) in the reign of Elizabeth 1st Englishman Drake sailed right round the world. Drake became very rich and popular with the queen, mainly from pirating the Spanish ships carrying gold and silver from South America to Spain. In one pirating voyage Drake could net more income for the Queen than a full years tax from her subjects. The Queen "Knighted" Drake for this dubious activity!
English Naval captain "Hawkings" also became rich (1562) from pirating also from buying West African people as slaves and selling them in the Caribbean islands to work in the sugar plantations. (Called the triangular trade. England, Africa, Caribbean) The Spanish and Portuguese were doing the same thing to get cheap slave workers into their sugar plantations particularly the Portuguese in Brazil for their sugar plantations and the Spanish to a lesser extent for their gold and silver mines in Mexico and Peru.
Englishman, Sir Walter Raleigh set up a colony (settlement for English people) on the east coast of America and called it Virginia. 1585 ( After Queen Elizabeth 1st "the virgin queen" ) Sir Walter became very rich from growing Tobacco in the warm climate of Virginia and selling it in England and growing potatoes originally from the same area in his estates in Ireland. Note potatoes were not grown or eaten in England until some 200 years later.
At the same time as the English were making their first steps in North America they were doing the same thing in India setting up the East India company, a private trading company designed to manage the trade between England and India and the Far East. The Dutch where the first into the area, followed by the French, both were doing the same thing at the same time as the English. The Portuguese set up their trading post on the other side of India (Goa) 100 years before this.
Shakespeare, the English Language, Printing and Books
500 years ago the English playwright and actor William Shakespeare wrote plays and poems so beautifully that the Rulers of England saw English as a real alternative to the educated man to the then more cultural but descriptively restrictive Latin and French.
500 years ago printing (books and posters) was started in England by William Caxton allowing religious books now translated from Latin to English and the plays and poems of Shakespeare to be read country wide. (Not too many could read at this time.) The printing process was not available to Chaucer who was the first to write extensively in English some 200 years previously.
Some quality English Kings and Queens
500 years ago England had a succession of good Kings and Queens notably King Henry the 7th , and his son Henry the 8th. Soon after, Queen Elisabeth 1st Henry 8th 's daughter.
- Henry 7th 1485-1509 finished the long civil war in England the "Wars of the Roses" and brought a period of peace and economic stability.
- Henry 8th 1509-1547 is well remembered for his 6 wives, married in a desperate attempt to produce a son to succeed him. Effectively they all failed. Henry's first wife, Catherine of Aragon (Barcelona area in Spain) was the widow of his elder brother who died young. Princess Catherine was the daughter of the Spanish rulers Ferdinand and Isabella who financed the voyage of Christopher Columbus. Henry 8th should also be remembered for questioning the "official" Roman Christian religion of England where any major changes had to be authorised by the Pope in Rome. Eventually while still remaining Catholic he separated the English Church from Rome.
Christian religious upheaval
The Roman Catholic Church at this time, in Europe and also in England, had become decadent but was very rich. Henry (initially with the approval of the Pope) closed down many of the Catholic monasteries and took their riches for himself and England.
Henry then appointed himself head of the Church of England and separated the Church of England from the Church of Rome. This gave him many huge benefits including.
He could divorce his wife to find a woman who would hopefully bear him a son.He did not have to pay any "taxes" to the Pope in RomeHe did not have to obey orders from Rome telling him for example to fight a particular (and expensive) battle on be half of the Church of Rome.
And very importantly he permitted the business of money lending (early banking) which was forbidden by the Roman Catholic Church. Banking had not been seen in England since Roman times and English Kings who needed this service would have to travel to the Jewish ghettos in Amsterdam or Venice or Genoa. In addition he commenced taking the Church of England towards the Protestant version of Christianity aided by his Archbishop Thomas Cramner.On the death of Henry 8th his only son, Edward 6th (by Jane Seymour who died having produced him) became King at the age of only nine. It was during his reign (mainly under his uncle's official guidance, another Edward, Duke of Somerset and Lord Protector and aided by Thomas Cramner) that the Church moved further towards the Protestant version of Christianity as preached at that time by Martin Luther in Germany. The "Reformation".
This period also saw the introduction of the "common prayer book" in English rather than Latin which enabled more folk to follow the service. Priests were also no longer forbidden to marry. Edward died when he was only 15 years old and was eventually succeeded by the next in line Mary, daughter of Henry 8th and Catherine of Aragon of Spain. For five years there was a blood bath as the devout Catholic Mary tried to reverse England back to Catholicism. Some 300 Protestants were burnt at the stake (that is burnt alive) including many of Henry the 8th 's right hand men, notably including Thomas Cramner. Mary (nicknamed Bloody Mary) wedded King Philip 2nd of Catholic Spain in Winchester Cathedral to gain a Catholic ally and a sire for a son and heir. She died at 42 years old of cancer of the ovaries. (No connection!)
Elisabeth the 1st 1558- 1603 (Henry 8th daughter by Anne Boleyn) then comes to the throne and finally settles this religious see saw ruthlessly sealing England as a Protestant country.
England's exploration abroad culminating in the British Empire plus this fundamental change of religion owed much to the support of Elisabeth 1st. Elizabeth had a tough and risky reign as the first fully Protestant Monarch. Ireland remained Catholic to the west and Spain and France the then most powerful countries in Europe also remained staunchly Catholic on England's east side. The Pope in Rome placed a death order on Elizabeth which in 1588 was taken up by King Philip 2nd of Spain who sent a huge fleet (130) of huge ships full of solders to England to execute her (The Spanish Armada). One of the most famous stories in English history describes how ex pirates Sir Frances Drake and Sir John Hawkins in charge of a smaller English fleet with smaller but more manoeuvrable ships routed the Spanish fleet in the English Channel.
About this time, 500 years ago with the interest in education fuelled by the Renaissance, schools were beginning to appear generally financed by local benefactors. For example, Oundle school on the west of Peterborough was formed and started teaching Latin and Greek to local boys. It however took another 350 years before schools started teaching science and engineering. Oundle was the first under visionary headmaster Sanderson.
The two most famous schools in England Eton and Harrow were founded in 1440 by King Henry 6th and 1571 respectively. Winchester is England's oldest public school, was founded in 1382 by William of Wykeham.
Emigration commences to North America
During this period the English began the arduous journey across the Atlantic to the new colonies in North America. Some driven by Religious persecution and some by starvation as harvests were poor due to the on set of a mini ice age.