Early Britain eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 175 pages of information about Early Britain.

Wherever the Anglo-Saxons came, their first work was to stamp out with fire and sword every trace of the Roman civilisation.  Modern investigations amongst pagan Anglo-Saxon barrows in Britain show the Low German race as pure barbarians, great at destruction, but incapable of constructive work.  Professor Rolleston, who has opened several of these early heathen tombs of our Teutonic ancestors, finds in them everywhere abundant evidence of “their great aptness at destroying, and their great slowness in elaborating, material civilisation.”  Until the Anglo-Saxon received from the Continent the Christian religion and the Roman culture, he was a mere average Aryan barbarian, with a strong taste for war and plunder, but with small love for any of the arts of peace.  Wherever else, in Gaul, Spain, or Italy, the Teutonic barbarians came in contact with the Roman civilisation, they received the religion of Christ, and the arts of the conquered people, during or before their conquest of the country.  But in Britain the Teutonic invaders remained pagans long after their settlement in the island; and they utterly destroyed, in the south-eastern tract, almost every relic of the Roman rule and of the Christian faith.  Hence we have here the curious fact that, during the fifth and sixth centuries, a belt of intrusive and aggressive heathendom intervenes between the Christians of the Continent and the Christian Welsh and Irish of western Britain.  The Church of the Celtic Welsh was cut off for more than a hundred years from the Churches of the Roman world by a hostile and impassable barrier of heathen English, Jutes, and Saxons.  Their separation produced many momentous effects on the after history both of the Welsh themselves and of their English conquerors.

CHAPTER IV.

THE COLONISATION OF THE COAST.

Though the myths which surround the arrival of the English in Britain have little historical value, they are yet interesting for the light which they throw incidentally upon the habits and modes of thought of the colonists.  They have one character in common with all other legends, that they grow fuller and more circumstantial the further they proceed from the original time.  Baeda, who wrote about A.D. 700, gives them in a very meagre form:  the English Chronicle, compiled at the court of AElfred, about A.D. 900, adds several important traditional particulars:  while with the romantic Geoffrey of Monmouth, A.D. 1152, they assume the character of full and circumstantial tales.  The less men knew about the conquest, the more they had to tell about it.

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Early Britain from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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