Front Matter Early Times The Druids The Britons Caesar in Britain Queen Boadicea The Great Walls The Great Irish Saint The Anglo-Saxons Brave King Arthur The Laws of the Saxons The Story of St Augustine Three Great Men The Danish Pirates King Alfred and the Cakes Alfred conquers the Danes A King's Narrow Escape The King and the Outlaw The Monasteries An Unlucky Couple St Dunstan King Canute and the Waves A Saxon Nobleman Lady Godiva's Ride The Battle of Hastings The Conquest Lords and Vassals Death of William The Brothers' Quarrels Arms and Armour The "White Ship" Matilda's Narrow Escapes Story of Fair Rosamond Thomas a Becket Murder of Thomas a Becket Richard's Adventures Richard and the Saracens The Faithful Minstrel Death of Richard The Murder of Arthur The Great Charter The Rule of Henry III A Race Persecution of the Jews The Conquest of Wales A Quarrel with France The Coronation Stone The Insolent Favourite Bruce and the Spider Death of Edward II The Murderers punished The Battle of Crecy The Siege of Calais The Age of Chivalry The Battle of Poitiers The Peasants' Revolt Richard's Presence of Mind A Tiny Queen Henry's Troubles Madcap Harry A Glorious Reign The Maid of Orleans The War of the Roses The Queen and the Brigand The Triumph of the Yorks The Princes in the Tower Richard's Punishment Two Pretenders A Grasping King Field of the Cloth of Gold The New Opinions Death of Wolsey Henry's Wives The King and the Painter A Boy King Lady Jane Grey The Death of Cranmer A Clever Queen Elizabeth's Lovers Mary, Queen of Scots Captivity of Mary Stuart Wreck of the Spanish Armada The Elizabethan Age Death of Elizabeth A Scotch King The Gunpowder Plot Sir Walter Raleigh King and Parliament Cavaliers and Roundheads "Remember" The Royal Oak The Commonwealth The Restoration Plague and Fire The Merry Monarch James driven out of England A Terrible Massacre William's Wars The Duke of Marlborough The Taking of Gibraltar The South Sea Bubble Bonny Prince Charlie Black Hole of Calcutta Loss of the Colonies The Battle of the Nile Nelson's Last Signal The Battle of Waterloo First Gentleman of Europe Childhood of Queen Victoria The Queen's Marriage Wars in Victoria's Reign The Jubilee

Story of the English - Helene Guerber

Early Times

If you look at a map of Europe, you will notice two large islands and many small ones at a short distance west of the mainland. It is the story of the people who have lived upon these islands that you are now going to hear. As you can see, the islands are so small that no matter how far inland you travel, you are never more than one hundred miles away from the water which hems them in on all sides. On the north and west there is the Atlantic Ocean, on the south the English Channel, and on the east the North Sea.

These islands are now called the United Kingdom of Great. Britain and Ireland, and they form one of the foremost countries of the world. Great Britain includes England, Scotland, and Wales, besides the many little islands near by; and as the language, laws, and customs of Great Britain are mostly English, you will find that you will hear more about England than about the other parts of the realm.

Nobody knows just when the history of England really begins, because it commenced long before people learned how to read or write, or keep any kind of record of passing events. Many, many years before Christ, these islands were inhabited by a rude race, who hunted and fished, lived in caves, dressed in the skins of the beasts they had slain, and often made war against one another. We know this because, from time to time, farmers have dug up stone arrowheads and spears, knives and axes made of flint, and have found the bones of these ancient men and women. Among the ashes of their fires there have also been found the bones of the animals whose flesh they ate, or the shells of oysters and clams.

As these early inhabitants used stone weapons, their time is generally known as the Stone Age. In the course of time the people grew more civilized, discovered metals, and learned how to make better weapons. Some of these weapons have also been dug up: they belong to the second period, which is called the Bronze Age. Such stone and bronze weapons are carefully kept in museums, where you can see them to-day, although the people who once used them have been dead for thousands of years.

The British Isles are far out in the ocean, and since the ships which ancient people used were as clumsy as their knives and spears, the early inhabitants of this country could not leave their homes to visit the mainland. They did not need to do so, for these islands are very fertile, owing principally to the mist which rises from the sea, and which keeps the grass in England green nearly all the year round.

On bright, clear days, when there is no mist at all, people standing on the coast of France, at the spot where the English Channel is narrowest, can just see the tall white chalk cliffs on the southern coast of England. These cliffs are so dazzlingly white that the people who lived in France used to call England the White Land. This name was translated into Latin by the Romans, who called the country Albion, a name which you will still sometimes find in poetry, but rarely in prose.

The white cliffs of Great Britain roused the curiosity of the early inhabitants of France, the Gaels, to such a point that some of them at last went out to sea in their little boats, which were fashioned of roughly woven willow, and covered with skins so as to be water-tight.

In such rude craft the Gaels, after a time, either paddled or drifted to England; and when they found what a beautiful country it was, and saw that game was plentiful, they settled down there. These Gaels, however, were only one tribe of a very large nation which is known as the Celtic race. They talked a language of their own, of which there are many traces in the Gaelic, a tongue which is still spoken in some parts of Ireland and Scotland, but which is very unlike our English.