History of Great Britain
Great Britain: General Facts. The History of Great Britain. Culture of Great Britain. The British Education. The Modern British Economy. The Modern British Industry. The Modern British Army. The Two Lessons. "Customs and Traditions of Great Britain".
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1. Great Britain: General Facts
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (UK) is located on the British Isles. The British Isles consist of two large islands, Great Britain and Ireland, and about five thousand small islands. Their total area is over 244 000 square kilometers. The United Kingdom is made up of four countries: England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Their capitals are, respectively, London, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast. Great Britain itself consists of England, Scotland and Wales and does not include Northern Ireland. The capital of UK is London.
London is political, economic, culture and commercial center of the country. It's one of the largest cities in the world and in Europe. The population of London is estimated to be over 8 million inhabitants.
The British isles are separated from the European continent by the North Sea and the English channel. The western coast of Great Britain is washed by the Atlantic Ocean and the Irish Sea.
The landscape of the British Isles varies from plains to mountains. The north of Scotland is mountainous and is called Highlands, while the south, which has beautiful valleys and plains, is called Lowlands. The north and west of England are mountainous, but all the rest - east, center and southeast - is a vast plain.
There are a lot of rivers in GB, but they are not very long. The Severn is the longest river, while the Thames is the deepest and - economically - the most important one.
The total population of the UK is over 57 million and about 80% of it is urban. The UK is highly developed country in both industrial and economical aspects. It's known as one of world's largest producers and exporters of machinery, electronics, textile, aircraft and navigation equipment.
Politically, the UK is a constitutional monarchy. In law, the Head of State is the Queen, but in practice, the Queen reigns but does not possess real power. The country is ruled by the elected government with the Primer Minister at the head, while the necessary legislative background is provided by the British Parliament which consists of two chambers : the House of Lords and the House of Commons.
2. The History of the Great Britain
Obviously, the history of the Great Britain is not framed within the period from 1558 to nowadays which is surveyed in this paper. Still, due to the limited volume, the author has to leave alone everything that happened by the sixteenth century, starting from the Roman invasion and ending with the pre-Elizabethan period, and describing only those events which seem to be essential for understanding of the general course of development of the country.
2.1. Britain in the reign of Elizabeth
Many researchers believe that there has been no greater period in English history than the reign of Elizabeth, who was proclaimed queen in 1558.
At this time the most critical question in England was that of religion. In 1558 a large proportion of English people were still indifferent in religious matters, and the power of the crown was very great. It was quite possible, therefore, for the ruler to control the form which the religious organisation of the people should take. Elizabeth chose her own ministers, and with then exerted so much pressure over Parliament that almost any laws that she wanted could be carried through.
She and her ministers settled upon a middle course going back in all matters of church government to the system of Henry VIII. To carry out this arrangement two important laws, known as the Act of Supremacy and the Act of Uniformity, were passed by Parliament. According to these laws, the regulation of the English Church in matters of doctrine and good order was put into the hands of the Queen, and she was authorized to appoint a minister or ministers to exercise these powers in her name.
Thus the Church of England was established in a form midway between the Church of Rome and the Protestant churches on the continent of Europe. It had rejected the leadership of the Pope, and was not Protestant like other reformed churches. From this time onward the organisation of the English church was strictly national.
The political situation in England was not simple by the time Elizabeth took the throne. England was in close alliance with Spain and at war with France. Elizabeth managed to make peace with France, which was vitally necessary for England: her navy was in bad condition, troops few and poorly equipped, and treasury empty.
One of the most significant internal problems of England during that period was pauperism, since the changes, rebellions and disorders of the reigns of Henry VIII, Edward VI and Mary I had left much distress and confusion among people. Many men were out of work, prices were high and wages low, trade irregular. In one field, however, there was a great success. The restoration of the coinage took place; the old debased currency had been recoined to the new standards. This was one of the most beneficial actions of the long reign of Elizabeth. Also, in 1563 a long act for the regulation of labor was passed. It was known as the Statute of Apprentices and settled, among others, an approximate twelve-hour day of labour.
The rivalry among Elizabeth and her cousin, Mary Queen of Scots became another chief political affair of sixteenth century, which finally led to Mary's long imprisonment and execution. In 1588 the war with Spain broke out. The most significant battle (and of historical meaning) of that conflict was the navy one. On July 30, 1588, the Invincible Armada of the Spanish was almost completely destroyed by much smaller fleet of the British under Lord Howard of Effingham command (although it's been assumed that the great deal of success in the battle was brought by the terrible storm that swept away the large part of the Spanish fleet).
The last ten years of Elizabeth's reign were a period of more settled conditions and greater interest in the arts of peace, in the progress of commerce, and in the production and enjoyment of works of literature. The reign of Elizabeth revealed several quite gifted and talanted English people who did a lot to widen the influence of England. Probably the most famous of them was Sir Francis Drake. The first one, n\being a corsair and a sea captain in Elizabeth's service, leaded a number of sea expeditions, mainly in Atlantic and Pacific oceans, bringing a lot of new knowledge of the world, and discovered a sound, later named after him.
In cultural aspect, the real crown of the age was the Elizabethan literature, with such bright writers as William Shakespeare, Philipp Sidney and Edmund Spencer.
2.2. Britain in the seventeenth century
The period from 1603 to 1640 was the time of the personal monarchy of the Early Stuarts in English history. It is said that James I and Charles I had had to bear the burnt of the rising spirit of independence characteristic of England in the seventeenth century. The growing desire of Parliament for independence, for sharing in the control of government was closely connected with the growth of Puritanism.
The greatest religious question of the sixteenth century had changed from whether England should be Roman Catholic or not to whether it should be Anglican or Puritan.
One of the most bright and well-known illustrations to the fact that the Roman Catholics didn't leave their attempts to gain back their influence on the English church, was the so-called Gunpowder Plot, a failed attempt to blow up the Parliament building and kill both the king and all the members, and to set a Roman Catholic government. The explosion was supposed to take place on 5 November, 1605, but had been discovered on the same day. Since that time 5 November has been widely celebrated in Britain as the Guy Fawkes Day (named so after the executed leader of the Plot).
Along with the religious conflict between the Anglicans and the Puritans, a great political conflict arose - a conflict between the unrestricted powers of the king on the one hand and the equal or even superior powers of the people represented by Parliament on the other. The views of Parliament held by James didn't allow to it much power. Finally, the discord between James and the Parliament led to the disease and the soon death of the king in 1625.
James I did a lot in order to unite Scotland and England during his reign, but was unsuccessful. In foreign affairs James shoved a tendency to establish peaceful relations with other countries. He brought the long war with Spain to a close, and avoided a temptation to take part in the Thirty Years' War.
If the reign of Elizabeth had been the wonderful time of exploration and sea expeditions, the reign of James became a period of settlement, when Englishmen began to found colonies in America, West India, and in the East Indies.
Charles I, the son of James I, started his reign with launching a new war against Spain with no logical reason and mainly due to the personal ambitions. Soon England drifted into the one more war with France which brought no positive effect for any of the confronting parts.
The middle of the seventeenth century was marked by the formation of the political parties. The earliest parties were informal groups supporting powerful members of Parliament. By the year 1640 there were two parties in Parliament, known as the Cavaliers and the Roundheads. The first one supported Charles I, and the Roundheads were their principal political opponents. By the end of seventeenth century these parties had evolved into two definite political formations, the royalists and those supporting parliamentary supremacy. The Royalists were called Tories by their opponents (it was a term of abuse for the original Tories being Irish bandits), and the Tories called the Parliamentarians Whigs after a group of Scottish cattle thieves. Much later these parties became known as the Conservatives and the Liberals.
In 1689 James II landed in Ireland, where he had an army ready to hand. In July 1690 William III defeated James at the battle of Boyne. This event has been celebrated since by Orangemen, as Protestants of Northern Ireland belonging to the Orange Order call themselves. In October 1691 the Irish troops finally surrendered; as a condition of surrender William promised religious toleration for the Irish Catholics, but the promise was immediately broken by the passing of Penal Laws which deprived the Catholics of all civil and religious rights.
In Scotland the new regime faced no much opposition. The expulsion of James was welcomed, and by 1692 William III's sovereignty was undisputed throughout the British Isles. After William of Orange and Mary had been declared king and queen, Parliament added a number of new acts to the laws of constitution. Among them were the Triennal Act of 1694, that obliged the king to summon Parliament at least every three years, and the Septennial Act of 1715 which increased the normal term of Parliament's existence from thee to seven years.
Mary II and William III had no surviving children, and William was succeeded by Queen Anne, Mary's younger sister. The major event of Queen Anne's reign was the formation of the Kingdom of Great Britain. The Kingdom of Great Britain was formed in 1707 by the Act of Union between England and Scotland. London, the biggest city in Britain, with a population of about half a million, became the capital of the entire island. Great Britain from then on had a single Parliament and a single system of national administration and taxation. The units of weights and measures were unified.
Queen Anne had no surviving children. She was succeeded by her nearest Protestant relative, the elector of Hannover, who came from Germany in 1714 and was accepted as King George I of Great Britain.
The first years of George I's reign were marked by the Jacobite Rebellion of 1715 raised by followers of Queen Anne's half-brother, James Edward Stuart. In 1708 James had already attempted to invade Scotland with the help of French troops, but the invasion failed. In 1715 he wasn't lucky again.
2.3. Britain in the eighteenth century
Britain under George I actually had two decades of relative peace and stability. The most significant events of that period were the internal political affairs. In fact, throughout those years a smooth transition from limited monarchy to Parliamentary government took place in Great Britain. One of the important events of that time became the appointment of Robert Walpole, a member of Whig party, the first Prime Minister in the British history.
In 1739 Britain declared war on Spain, and in 1742 parliamentary pressure forced Walpole to resign. The conflict between Britain and Spain has been known as the War of Jenkins's Ear (1739-1748). Between 1739 and 1763, Great Britain was generally at war. The War of Jenkin's Ear merged with the war of the Austrian Succession of 1740-1748, in which Great Britain allied with Austria against Prussia , France, and Spain. The country being at war, the Scottish Jacobites decided to take advantage of it and made their last major attempt to recover the British throne for the Stuart dynasty in 1745. Prince Charles Edward landed in Scotland with the army of highlanders and Jacobites and captured Edinburgh, winning the battle of Prestonpans. Still, Charles failed to attract many supporters in England and had to retreat to Scotland, where he was defeated by the government army under Duke of Cumberland's command, and Charles had to flee to France. The War of the Austrian Succession ended with the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle signed in the October 1748 recognizing the Hanoverian succession in Britain.
A lot of problems remained unsolved, and eight years later they resulted in a new war of 1756-1763 between Great Britain, Prussia, and Hanover on one side and Austria, France, Spain, Saxony, Sweden and Russia on the other.
The wars of the eighteenth century were almost all followed by the acquisition of new colonies. The colonies already established were growing rapidly both in wealth and population. By the middle of the eighteenth century, the British colonies in America already had about two hundred thousand inhabitants and lay in a long line from Maine to Florida.
In 1760 George II was succeeded by his grandson, George III. The new king had a deep sense of moral duty and tried to play a direct role in governing his country, though he had to face probably the worst political problem in the whole British history. Long accustomed to a considerable degree of self-government, and freed, after 1763, from the French danger, British colonists in America resented any attempts to make them pay a share of the cost of imperial defense in the form of assorted taxes and duties. They also resented attempts to treat colonial legislatures as secondary to the government in London. American resistance led to the calling of the First Continental Congress in 1774, and in April 1775 war broke out at Lexington and concord in America. The British felt the rebellious colonists had to be brought to their senses, and king George III was firmly against giving in to them. Though British governmental authority in the 13 colonies collapsed in 1775, forces were able to occupy first Boston and later New York City and Philadelphia, but the Americans did not give up. France was brought into the war on the American side in 1778, then the Spanish and the Dutch also joined the anti-British side. In 1783 Britain had to recognize American independence in the Treaty of Paris. The 13 British colonies were recognized as independent states and were granted all British territory south of Great Lakes; Florida and Minorca were ceded to Spain, and some West Indian and African colonies to France.
2.4. Britain in the nineteenth century
The beginning of the nineteenth century was remarkable for Great Britain for its union with Ireland. In Ireland, some of the Irish united under the and began to demand independence, being affected by the French Revolution. They formed the organization known as the United Irismen. They quickly took the lead of the whole national movement, and attempted to initiate a rebellion in 1796, with the help of the French troops which were ready to land in Ireland. The landing failed, and the English government began to eliminate its enemies. In 1798 it seized a number of the Irish leaders, and placed the whole Ireland under the military law. All the Irish uprising were suppressed, and finally the rebellion and an attempt of the French invasion led to the Act of Union with Ireland of 1801. The Dublin legislature was abolished, and one hundred Irish representatives were allowed to become members of Parliament in London. So in the very beginning of the nineteenth century the United Kingdom took the political and geographical shape of the country we know today. Still, the Act of Union caused great indignation in Ireland, and another powerful insurrection took place in 1803.
In 1790's, the wars of the French Revolution merged into the Napoleonic Wars, as Napoleon Bonaparte took over the French revolutionary government, and Britain was engaged into the conflicts. Throughout the whole period of Napoleonic wars, Britain won two battles of great importance, one of them against the combined French and Spanish navy at Trafalgar, and another against the French army at Waterloo. The naval battle of Trafalgar was fought on October 21, 1805. The battle took place off Cape Trafalgar on the southern coast of Spain, where a British fleet of 27 ships under the command of admiral Nelson faced a slightly larger enemy fleet commanded by a French admiral. The goal of the French was to land the reinforcements in southern Italy, but they were intercepted by Nelson on October 21 and engaged in a battle. Finally, some 20 French and Spanish ships were destroyed or captured, while not a single British vessel was lost. The great victory is recorded in the name of Trafalgar square in London, which is dominated by the granite column supporting a large statue of Nelson, who was mortally wounded and died in the course of battle.
The final victory over Napoleon after his defeat at Waterloo in 1815 laid the foundations for a great extension of the British Empire. As one of the members of anti-Napoleonic coalition, Britain got a number of strategic key points, such as Malta, Mauritius, Ceylon, Heligoland and the Cape. Yet the first result of the peace was a severe political and economic crisis.
The British had assumed that the ending of war would open a vast market for their goods and had piled up stocks accordingly. Instead, there was an immediate fall in the demand for them because Europe was still too disturbed and too poor to take any significant quantity of British good. This post-war crisis was marked by a sudden outburst of class conflict, as a series of disturbances began with the introduction of the Corn Bill in 1815 and went on until 1816. The object of the Corn Laws of 1815 was to keep the price of wheat at the famine level it had reached during the Napoleonic Wars, when supplies from Poland and France were prevented from reaching Britain. The Corn Laws were repealed in 1846, a small, temporary tariff being retained till 1849. Still, there was no fall in prices, what could be explained by a number of reasons: increasing population of Britain, greater demand due to the revival of industry, bad harvests in a number of years and the Crimean War which soon interrupted the import of wheat from Poland.
Another act of law that became the result of the economic crisis was the Reform Bill of 1832, which had two sides. One regularised the franchise, giving the vote to tenant farmers in the counties and to the town middle class. Another swept away the rotten boroughs and transferred their members to the industrial towns and the counties.
In the first half of the nineteenth century a protest organisation called the Chartist Movement gained power. The Chartist Movement urged the immediate adoption of the so-called People's Charter, which would have transformed Britain into a political democracy, and also was expected to improve living standards. Drafted in 1838, it was at the heart of a radical campaign for Parliamentary reform of the inequities remaining after the Reform Bill of 1832. Some of the main demands were universal male suffrage, equal electoral districts, annual general elections and the secret ballot. There were three unsuccessful attempts to present the Charter to the House of Commons were made in 1839, 1842 and 1848, and the rejection of the last one brought an end to the movement.
The years between 1829 and 1839 were the time of foundation of the modern police force in Great Britain. This development became the direct result of the upsurge of a militant working class movement in the first decades of the nineteenth century. The Chartist Movement with its demonstrations and riots played the major role in initiation of the reorganisation of the police. One more reason for it were the multiple problems of factory workers.
By the beginning of the nineteenth century, Britain had become an industrial nation. In the earliest stages of the Industrial Revolution, when machinery was crude and unreliable, factory owners were determined to get the fullest possible use out of this machinery in the shortest possible time. Hours of work rose to sixteen and even eighteen a day, and in this way the greatest output could be obtained with the least outlay of capital. The terrible conditions of labour caused a number of legislation acts to ease the burden of factory workers. The first legislation, passed in 1802, was a very mild act to prevent some of the worst abuses connected with the employment of children. It was followed by the Cotton Factories Regulation Act of 1819 which forbade the employment of children under nine and cut their hour down to thirteen and a half a day. One more effective act was passed in 1833, which provided a number of regular inspections to control the labor conditions. In 1847 the Ten Hour's Bill limited the hours of women and young people and secured a ten hour day for most of the men.
The years 1837 - 1901 are remarkable in the British history for what is called the Victorian period. King William IV died in June 1837, yielding the throne to his niece, Victoria, and so the great Victorian epoch started. 1837 to 1848 is considered as the early Victorian period, which was not that much different from the beginning of the nineteenth century as the following years. The time between 1848 and 1866 is known as the years of Mid-Victorian prosperity. Rapid and efficient development of manufactures and commerce took place mainly due to the removal of protective duties on food (such as he Corn Laws of 1815) and raw materials. Also, the British industry and the technological development began to experience a steep rise in those years. The first half of the nineteenth century is widely known among historians as the Railway Age. The idea of railway emerged as a result of the development of steam locomotives, but building locomotives and rail systems was so expensive that railroads were not widely used in Britain until the late 1830's, when the increase in economics began.
The striking feature of the Victorian time was the growing urbanization of Britain, which is commonly explained as the result of the development of industry. In 1801, 20 per cent of Britain's people lived in towns, and by the end of the nineteenth century, it was 75 per cent. The inflow of people in towns was caused by the increasing demand for new workers at factories and plants.
The middle of the century was marked by the Crimean War which lasted for three years (1853-1856). In 1853, Russia attempted to gain territories in the Balkans from the declining Ottoman Empire. Great Britain, France and Austria joined the Ottomans in a coalition against Russia to stop the expansion. Britain entered this war because Russia was seeking to control the Dardanells and thus threatened England's Mediterranean sea routes. Although the coalition won the war, bad planning and incompetent leadership on all sides, including the British, characterized the war, leading to the large number of casualities. The exposure of the weaknesses of the British army lead to its reformation.
Among the internal problems, Britain experienced much disturbance in its relations with Ireland. A set of conflicts, based on both the political and religious grounds, followed the British attempts to suppress the Irish struggle for independence throughout the whole nineteenth century.
2.5. Britain in the twentieth century
Queen Victoria died in January 1901, and Edward VII, the son of Queen Victoria ascended the throne. Edwardian Britain was a powerful and rich country, much of its wealth coming from business abroad. By that time, British money had been invested in many countries, and British banks and insurance companies had customers and did business all over the world, and, as the result, much of the policy and affairs concerning the Edwardian Britain at that time were the international ones.
In 1902, when Germany, supported by the Triple Alliance, became extremely powerful and the ambitions of the Kaiser became evident, Britain entered the Anglo-Japanese alliance to avoid political isolation. The war of 1904-1905 between Russia and Japan made the first one and Britain nearly enemies, with the end of the war political situation changed. In 1907 the Triple Entente of Great Britain, Russia and France was achieved as a countermeasure to the expansion of the Triple Alliance of Germany, Austria and Italy in Balkans.
Still, while the reign of King Edward VII was taking place, many of the British were concerned with domestic matters. Some important changes in the way that people lived and were governed happened.
In 1900 the Labour Representation Committee, which soon became the Labour Party, was formed. Its aim was to see working people represented in Parliament, with the powerful support of trade unions.
The Education Act of 1902 met the demand for national system of secondary education. The government began providing such kind of education, although only a small number of schoolchildren could pay for the secondary school, and the rest had to be clever enough to pass the scholarship exams.
The general election of 1906 gave the Liberal Party an overwhelming majority in Parliament, with the programme including old-age pensions, government employment offices, such as Employment Exchanges, unemployment insurance, a contributory programme of national medical insurance for most workers, and a board to fix minimum wages for miners and others; but women still were not given the right to vote.
The years 1911 to 1914 were marked with strikes by miners, dock workers, and transport workers, as wages scarcely kept up with rising prices; suffragists carried out numerous demonstrations in favour of the enfranchisement of women, and while the Britain was in the midst of these domestic problems and disputes, World War I broke out.
The first large operation in which the British expeditionary force took part was the battle of Marne in 1915, which also happened to become the turning point of the whole war in the West front. The German advance across the French territory was halted, and it made the quick victory of the Germans impossible and gave time for great but slowly mobilized material resources of the British Empire to have their effect. In the course of the following years the war turned into the stalemate with mostly positional fighting and no significant advances of any of the combatants; the peace among Germany and Britain was signed in 1918.
World War I had both positive effect on the British industry and negative effect on the internal political situation. The Irish problems drew to the 1916 Easter Rebellion. If necessary, the Irish nationalists were ready to seek German aid and support in fighting the British government. The rebellion led to some several hundred casualities and imprisonment and execution of most of the Irish political leaders. The civil war in Ireland began and lasted until the peace treaty of 1921. Most of the Ireland became the Irish Free State, independent of British rule in all but name. One more result of the disturbances in Ireland was the development of the new Irish Sinn Fein political party.
World War I created more opportunities for women to work outside domestic service. Women aged 30 and over were granted the vote by the Reform Act of 1918, and the same Act granted the vote to all men over the age of 21. In 1928 women were given voting rights that were equal to those of men.
The immediate post-war years were marked by economic boom, rapid demobilization, and much labour strife. By 1921, however, the number of people without work had reached one million. Between 1929 and 1932, the depression more than doubled an already high rate of unemployment. Unemployment rose to more than 2 million in the 1930's. In the course of several years, both the levels of industrial activity and of prices dipped by a quarter, and industries such as shipbuilding collapsed almost entirely.
Between 1933 and 1937, the economy recovered steadily, with the construction, automobile, and electrical industries leading the way. Unemployment remained high, however, especially in Wales, Scotland, and northern parts of England.
In 1936 King Edward VIII ascended the throne, and a remarkable occasion took place. Edward preferred to be happy in private life rather than to dedicate himself to the royal duties and discharged his duty as a king and emperor in favour of a love affair. Edward VIII was succeeded by his brother, George VI.
In 1939 World War II broke out. After the surrender of France in 1940, Britain remained the only resisting country in the West front. In 1940, also, one of the greatest aerial battles in history took place. The so-called Battle of Britain was the British answer to the permanent attempts of Germany to ruin the industry of United Kingdom and to suppress the spirit of the British people by heavy air bombardments. By the end of 1940 almost all aircraft factories in England were destroyed, and a few British fighter squadrons remained operational, but the ability of Luftwaffe to carry out offensive operations in the West was almost zeroed due to very heavy losses. The real help in struggle against Germany was that beginning early in 1941, the still-neutral United States granted lend-lease aid to Britain.
Luckily, the British Isles experienced no ground fighting throughout the whole war, and no British troops were engaged in ground operations until the Allies landing in France in 1944. Before that date, British took part in the coordinated Anglo-American operations in North Africa, fighting against German troops there, the most significant battle being that at El Alamein, where the Allies managed to defeat one of the best German commanders-in-chief Rommel. After the landing in Normandy, which didn't play the big role in the course of war, but helped to bring it to closure sooner than it was expected, it took only ten month to make Germany to surrender on 8 May, 1945.
When World War II ended, the British government launched a number of important programmes in an effort to restore the county's economy. The National Insurance Act of 1946 was a consolidation of benefit laws involving maternity, disability, old age, and death, as well as assistance if unemployed. In 1948 the National Health Service was set up. The general election of 1945 gave the Labour party the majority in Parliament, and the party launched a programme of nationalization of private industries to improve the economical situation.
In 1949 Britain joined other Western powers in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), which was created as a counterweight to the Warsaw Block countries, leaded by USSR. Also, the late 1940's in the British Empire were marked with the beginning of decolonization.
In 1953, Queen Elizabeth II inherited the throne from George VI. The early 1950's brought economic recovery with flourishing of trade and the boom of housing construction, and since that time Britain has been steadily developing in economical, political, social and scientific aspects, becoming one of the leading countries in the world.
3. Culture of Great Britain
3.1. Cultural Life in Great Britain
Artistic and cultural life in Britain is rather rich, like in most of the European countries. It has passed several main stages in its development.
The Saxon King Alfred encouraged the arts and culture. The chief debt owed to him by English literature is for his translations of and commentaries on Latin works. Art, culture and literature flourished during the Elizabethan age, during the reign of Elizabeth I; it was the period of English domination of the oceans and colonies, and, due to the strong political and economic position of the country, there were few obstacles in the way of the cultural development. This time is also famous for the fact that William Shakespeare lived and worked then.
The empire, which was very powerful under Queen Victoria, saw another cultural and artistic hey-day as a result of industrialisation and the expansion of international trade during the so-called industrial age.
However, German air raids caused much damage during the First World War and then during the Second World War. The madness of the wars briefly inhibited the development of British culture.
Immigrants who have arrived from all parts of the Commonwealth since 1945 have not only created a mixture of nations, but have also brought their cultures and habits with them. Monuments and traces of past greatness are everywhere. There are buildings of all styles and periods. A great number of museums and galleries display precious and interesting finds from all parts of the world and from all stage in the development of nature, man and art. London is one of the leading world centres for music, drama, opera and dance. Festivals held in towns and cities throughout the country attract much interest. Many British playwrights, composers, sculptors, painters, writers, actors, singers and dancers are known all over the world.
3.2. Musical culture of Great Britain
The people living in the British Isles are very fond of music, and it is quite natural that concerts of the leading symphony orchestras, numerous folk groups and pop music are very popular.
The Promenade concerts are probably the most famous. They were first held in 1840 in the Queen's Hall, and later were directed by Sir Henry Wood. They still con-tinue today in the Royal Albert Hall. They take place ev-ery night for about three months in the summer, and the programmes include new and contemporary works, as well as classics. Among them are symphonies and other pieces of music composed by Benjamin Britten, the famous English musician.
Usually, there is a short winter season lasting for about a fortnight. The audience may either listen to the music from a seat or from the `promenade', where they can stand or stroll about, or, if there is room, sit down on the floor.
Concerts are rarely given out-of-doors today except for concerts by brass bands and military bands that play in the parks and at seaside resorts during the summer.
Folk music is still very much alive. There are many folk groups. Their harmony singing and good humour win them friends everywhere.
Rock and pop music is extremely popular, especially among younger people. In the 60s and 70s groups such as the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Who, Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd became very popular and successful.
The Beatles, with their style of singing new and excit-ing, their wonderful sense of humour became the most successful pop group the world has ever known. Many of the famous songs written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney are still popular. Some of the more recent rock groups are Eurhythmics, Dire Straits, and Black Sabbath.
British groups often set new trends in music. New staff and styles continue to appear. One of the most popular contemporary musicians and composers is Andrew Lloyd Webber. The musicals and rock operas by A. L. Webber have been a great success both in Britain and overseas.
The famous English composer of the 19th century was Arthur Sullivan. Together with William Gilbert, the writer of the texts, he created fourteen operettas of which eleven are regularly performed today. In these operettas the English so successfully laugh at themselves and at what they now call the Establishment that W. S. Gilbert and A. Sullivan will always be remembered.
3.3. Art Galleries
Britain is probably one of the most rich European countries when cultural inheritance is considered. Along with Italy and Germany, it's a home for many famous art galleries and museums.
If you stand in Trafalgar Square in London with your back to Nelson's Column, you will see a wide horizontal front in a classical style. It is the National Gallery. It has been in this building since 1838 which was built as the National Gallery to house the collection of Old Masters Paintings (38 paintings) offered to the nation by an English Private collector, Sir George Beamount.
Today the picture galleries of the National Gallery of Art exhibit works of all the Euro-pean schools of painting, which existed between the 13th and 19th centuries. The most famous works among them are `Venus and Cupid' by Diego Velazquez, `Adoration of the Shepherds' by Nicolas Poussin, `A Woman Bathing' by Harmensz van Rijn Rembrandt, `Lord Heathfield' by Joshua Reynolds, `Mrs Siddons' by Thomas Gainsborough and many others.
In 1897 the Tate Gallery was opened to house the more modern British paintings. Most of the National Gallery collections of British paintings were transferred to the Tate, and only a small collection of a few masterpieces is now exhib-ited at Trafalgar Square. Thus, the Tate Gallery exhibits a number of interesting collections of British and foreign modern painting and also modern sculpture.
The collection of Turner's paintings at the Tate includes about 300 oils and 19,000 watercolours and drawings. He was the most traditional artist of his time as well as the most original: traditional in his devotion to the Old Masters and original in his creation of new styles. It is some-times said that he prepared the way for the Impressionists.
The modern collection includes the paintings of Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso, Marc Chagall and Salvador Dali, Francis Bacon and Graham Sutherland, Peter Blake and Richard Hamilton, the chief pioneers of pop art in Great Britain. Henry Moore is a famous British sculptor whose works are exhibited at the Tate too. One of the sculptor's masterpieces - the `Reclining Figure' - is at fees Headquarters of UNESCO in Paris.
3.4. The British Theatre
Britain is now one of the world's major theatres centres. Many British actors and actresses are known all over the world: Dame Peggy Ashcroft, Glenda Jackson, Laurence Olivier, John Gielgud and others.
Drama is so popular with the British people of all ages that there are several thousand amateur dramatic societies. Now Britain has about 300 professional theatres. Some of them are privately owned. The tickets are not hard to get, but they are very expensive. Regular seasons of opera and ballet are given at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden in London. The National Theatre stages modern and classi-cal plays, the Royal Shakespeare Company produces plays mainly by Shakespeare and his contemporaries when it performs in Stratford-on-Avon, and modern plays in its two auditoria in the City's Barbican Centre. Shakespeare's Globe Playhouse, about which you have probably read, was reconstructed on its original site. Many other cities and large towns have at least one theatre.
There are many theatres and theatre companies for young people: the National Youth Theatre and the Young Vic Company in London, the Scottish Youth Theatre in Edinburgh. The National Youth Theatre, which stages classical plays mainly by Shakespeare and modern plays about youth, was on tour in Russian in 1989. The theatre-goers warmly received the production of Thomas Stearns Eliot's play `Murder in the Cathedral'. Many famous English actors started their careers in the National Youth Theatre. Among them Timothy Dalton, the actor who did the part of Rochester in ` Jane Eyre' shown on TV in our country
4. The British Education
The British educational system incorporates a system of school education, higher education and a number of other less important particular subsystems. Here we will consider the basics of the British educational system.
4.1. The British Schools
Schooling in Great Britain is voluntary under the age of 5 but there is some free nursery school education before that age. Primary education takes place in infant schools for pupils ages from 5 to 7 years old and junior schools (from 8 to 11 years). Some areas have different systems in which middle schools replace junior schools and take pupils ages from 9 to 11 years. Secondary education has been available in Britain since 1944. It is compulsory up to the age of 16, and pupils can stay at school voluntarily up to three years longer.
In 1965 non-selective comprehensive schools were introduced. Most local education authorities were have now completely changed over to comprehensive schooling.
At the age of 16 pupils take school-leaving examinations in several subjects at the Ordinary level. The exam used to be conducted by eight independent examining boards, most of them connected with the university. This examination could also be taken by candidates at a further education establishment. This exam was called the General Certificate of Education (GCE). Pupils of comprehensive school had taken the examination called the Certificate of Secondary Education either with or instead of the GCE.
A GCE of Advanced (“A”) level was taken two years after the Ordinary level exam. It was the standard for entrance to university and to many forms of professional training. In 1988 both examinations were replaced by the more or less uniform General Certificate of Secondary Education.
The private sector is running parallel to the state system of education. There are over 2500 fee-charging independent schools in GB. Most private schools are single-sex until the age of 16. More and more parents seem prepared to take on the formidable extra cost of the education. The reason is the believe that social advantages are gained from attending a certain school. The most expansive day or boarding schools in Britain are exclusive public schools like Eton college for boys and St. James' school for girls.
4.2. Universities and Colleges in Great Britain
There are over 90 universities in Great Britain. They are divided into three types: the old universities (Oxford, Cambridge and Edinburgh Universities), the 19th century universities, such as London and Manchester universities, and the new universities. Some years ago there were also polytechnics. After graduating from polytechnic a student got a degree, but it was not a university degree. 31 formers polytechnics were given university status in 1992.
Full courses of study offer the degree of Bachelor of Art or Science. Most degree courses at universities last three years, language courses 4 years (including year spent aboard). Medicine and dentistry courses are longer (5-7 years).
Students may receive grants from the Local Education Authority to help pay for books, accommodation, transport, and food. This grant depends on the income of their parents.
Most students live away from home, in flats of halls of residence.
Students don't usually have a job during term time because the lessons called lectures, seminars, classes of tutorials (small groups), are full time. However, many students now have to work in the evenings.
University life is considered «an experience». The exams are competitive but the social life and living away from home are also important. The social life is excellent with a lot of clubs, parties, concerts, bars.
There are not only universities in Britain but also colleges. Colleges offer courses in teacher training, courses in technology and some professions connected with medicine.
5. The Modern British Economy
From 1981 to 1989 the British economy experienced eight years of sustained growth at the annual average rate over 3%. However, subsequently Britain and other major industrialized nations were severely affected by recession. In Britain growth slowed to 0.6% in 1990, and in 1991 gross domestic product (GDP) fell by 2.3%. GDP fell in 1992 as a whole by 0.4%, but it rose slightly in the second half of the year. The recovery strengthened during the first part of 1993; with GDP in the second quarter being 2% higher than a year earlier; the European Commission expected Britain to be the fastest growing of all major European economies in 1993 and1994.
Recent indications that the recovery is under may include:
an increase in manufacturing output;
a steady upward trend in retail sales;
increases in new car registrations;
record levels of exports;
increased business and consumer confidence; and
signs of greater activity in the housing market.
The Government's policy is to ensure sustainable economic growth through low inflation and sound public finances. The Gov-ernment's economic policy is set in the context of a medium-term financial strategy, which is revived each year. Within this strat-egy, monetary and fiscal policies are designed to defeat inflation. Short-term interest rates remain the essential instrument of monetary policy.
Macroeconomic policy is directed towards keeping down the rate of inflation as the basis for sustainable growth, while micro-economic policies seek to improve the working of markets and encourage enterprise, efficiency and flexibility through measures such as privatization, deregulation and tax reforms.
The economy is now benefiting from substantially lower in-terest rates. In September 1993 base interest rates were at 6%. They had been cut by 9 percentage points since October 1990, and were at their lowest since 1977.
6. The Modern British Industry
Private enterprises in the Great Britain generate over three-quarters of total do-mestic income. Since 1979 the Government has privatized 46 major businesses and reduced the state-owned sector of industry by about two-thirds. The Government is taking measures to cut unnecessary regulations imposed on business, and runs a number of schemes which provide direct assistance or advice to small and medium-sized businesses.
In some sectors a small number of large companies and their subsidiaries are responsible for a substantial proportion of total production, notably in the vehicle, aerospace and transport equipment industries. Private enterprises account for the greater part of activity in the agricultural, manufacturing, construction, distributive, financial and miscellaneous service sectors. The pri-vate sector contributed 75% of total domestic final expenditure in 1992, general government 24 % and public corporations 1%.
About 250 British industrial companies in the latest reporting period each had an annual turnover of more than Ј500 million. The annual turnover of the biggest company, British Petroleum', makes it the llth largest industrial grouping in the world and the second largest in Europe. Five British firms are among the top 25 European Community companies.
7. The Modern British Army
The strength of the regular armed forces, all volunteers, was nearly 271,000 in mid-1993 -- 133,000 in the Army, 79,300 in the Royal Air Force (RAF) and 58,500 in the Royal Navy and Royal Marines. There were 18,800 women personnel -- 7,500 in the Army, 6,800 in the RAF, and 4,400 in the Royal Navy.
British forces' main military roles are to:
ensure the protection and security of Britain and its de-pendent territories;
ensure against any major external threat to Britain and its allies; and
contribute towards promoting Britain's wider security in-terests through the maintenance of international peace and security.
Most of Britain's nuclear and conventional forces are commit-ted to NATO and about 95% of defence expenditure to meeting its NATO responsibilities. In recognition of the changed European security situation, Britain's armed forces are being restructured in consultation with other NATO allies.
Under these plans, the strength of the armed forces is being cut by 22%, leaving by the mid-1990s some 119,000 in the Army, 70,000 in the RAF and 52,500 in the Royal Navy and the Royal Marines. This involves reductions in main equipment of:
three Tornado GR1 squadrons, four Phantom squadrons, two Buccaneer squadrons and part of a squadron of Nimrod maritime patrol aircraft;
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