Part I. Pre-Historic Period
Though the scribes that accompanied the Roman invaders of Britain gave us the first written history
of the land that came to be known as England, its history had already been writ large in its ancient monuments and archeological
findings. Present-day Britain is riddled with evidence of its long past, of the past that the Roman writers did not record,
but which is etched in the landscape. Looking out on the green and cultivated land, where it is not disfigured by the inevitable
cities and towns and villages of later civilizations -- those dark Satanic mills so loathed by William Blake -- he can see
what seem to be anomalies on the hillsides -- strange bumps and mounds; remains of terraced or plowed fields; irregular slopes
that bespeak ancient hill forts; strangely carved designs in the chalk; jagged teeth of upstanding megaliths; stone circles
of immense breadth and height and ancient, mysterious wells and springs.
Man lived in what we now call the British Isles long
before it broke away from the continent of Europe, long before the great seas covered the land bridge that is now known as
the English Channel, that body of water that protected this island for so long, and that by its very nature, was to keep it
out of the maelstrom that became medieval Europe. Thus England's peculiar character as an island nation came about through
its very isolation. Early man came, settled, farmed and built. His remains tell us much about his lifestyle and his habits.
Of course, the land was not then known as England, nor would it be until long after the Romans had departed.
We know of the island's early inhabitants from what
they left behind on such sites as Clacton-on-Sea in Essex, and Swanscombe in Kent, gravel pits, the exploration of which opened
up a whole new way of seeing our ancient ancestors dating back to the lower Paleolithic (early Stone Age). Here were deposited
not only fine tools made of flint, including hand-axes, but also a fossilized skull of a young woman as well as bones of elephants,
rhinoceroses, cave-bears, lions, horses, deer, giant oxen, wolves and hares. From the remains, we can assume that man lived
at the same time as these animals which have long disappeared from the English landscape.
So we know that a thriving culture existed around
8,000 years ago in the misty, westward islands the Romans were to call Britannia, though some have suggested the occupation
was only seasonal, due to the still-cold climate of the glacial period which was slowly coming to an end. As the climate improved,
there seems to have been an increase in the number of people moving into Britain from the Continent. They were attracted by
its forests, its wild game, abundant rivers and fertile southern plains. An added attraction was its relative isolation, giving
protection against the fierce nomadic tribesmen that kept appearing out of the east, forever searching for new hunting grounds
and perhaps, people to subjugate and enslave.