Early Britain eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 210 pages of information about Early Britain.
a most vigorous priest, appealed to the authority of St. Peter for the canonical circle.  “I will never offend the saint who holds the keys of heaven,” said Oswiu, with the frank, half-heathendom of a recent convert; and the meeting shortly decided as the king would have it.  The Irish party acquiesced or else returned to Scotland; and thenceforth the new English Church remained in close communion with Rome and the Continent.  Whatever may be our ecclesiastical judgment of this decision, there can be little doubt that its material effects were most excellent.  By bringing England into connection with Rome, it brought her into connection with the centre of all then-existing civilisation, and endowed her with arts and manufactures which she could never otherwise have attained.  The connection with Ireland and the north would have been as fatal, from a purely secular point of view, to early English culture as was the later connection with half-barbaric Scandinavia.  Rome gave England the Roman letters, arts, and organisation:  Ireland could only have given her a more insular form of Celtic civilisation.



The change wrought in England by the introduction of the new faith was immense and sudden at the moment, as well as deep-reaching in its after consequences.  The isolated heathen barbaric communities became at once an integral part of the great Roman and Christian civilisation.  Even before the arrival of Augustine, some slight tincture of Roman influence had filtered through into the English world.  The Welsh serfs had preserved some traditional knowledge of Roman agriculture; Kent had kept up some intercourse with the Continent; and even in York, Eadwine affected a certain imitation of Roman pomp.  But after the introduction of Christianity, Roman civilisation began to produce marked results over the whole country.  Writing, before almost unknown, or confined to the engraving of runic characters on metal objects, grew rapidly into a common art.  The Latin language was introduced, and with it the key to the Latin literature and Latin science, the heirlooms of Greece and the East.  Roman influences affected the little courts of the English kings; and the customary laws began to be written down in regular codes.  Before the conversion we have not a single written document upon which to base our history; from the moment of Augustine’s landing we have the invaluable works of Baeda, and a host of lesser writings (chiefly lives of saints), besides an immense number of charters or royal grants of land to monasteries and private persons.  These grants, written at first in Latin, but afterwards in Anglo-Saxon, were preserved in the monasteries down to the date of their dissolution, and then became the property of various collectors.  They have been transcribed and published by Mr. Kemble and Mr. Thorpe, and they form some of our most useful materials for the early history of Christian England.

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Early Britain from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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