BRITAIN AND ITS HISTORICAL RELATIONSHIP WITH THE EUROPEAN CONTINENT
• Has isolationism always existed?
• When and how did isolationism come about?
• Has isolationism been the main reason for the difficulties of British integration into EU?
By studying the past, it will be easier to understand British identity.
It will be clearthat British identity has always been intertwined with continental Europe.
Part I : The Historical Background
Chap 1 : The original links
For most of prehistory, what we call now the British islands were attached to the continental landmass.
British Isles = England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland (= GB) + Ireland.
Britain became separated from mainland shortly before6 000 BC.
Significant settlement had begun earlier (from 10 000 to 6 000 BC). All the European people intermingled.
Despite the disappearance of the land link, communication between pp of Europe and pp of British Isles continued and even flourished.
During the Mesolithic period, people were mostly hunter-gatherer.
They were definitively changed by the Neolithic revolution. It involves thespread of the concept of farming from the Syria to continental Europe between 11 000 and 9 000 BC.
Brought by the revolution, the agriculture advances lead to the establishment of permanent settled communities. Their capacities for production were the origins of regular trade and commerce.
During the Neolithic period in the British Isles (5 000 to 2 000 BC), there was increased trade and commercewith the European continent. Copper, gold and tin were exported from the British isles. There were commercial proximity between the continent and the isles, but there was also cultural proximity, as examples: the megaliths (Stonehenge >> 3 000 BC: winter and summer solstice). Megaliths were strong signs of the Neolithic culture. Their aim was to unite the social structures of the human society withthe natural power.
Culture proximity continued during the Bronze Age (1 800 to 6 000 BC). During the Bronze Age, advanced continental tribes moved to the isles and integrated with the local population. After this, the next major migration move was the migration of the Celts from continental Europe.
II/ The Celts
Who were the Celts? The first reference to the Celts was made around 3 000 BCby the Greeks who wrote about a barbarian tribe called the Celtoi which means stranger or outsider.
Since the 17th Century, the term has been most commonly used to describe the Welsh, Irish and Scotts.
The true Celts originated from Europe, in particular from Switzerland, central France and parts of Spain.
Celtic migration from central Europe to the isles between 500 and 300 BC.
The Celts werenot one pp, but a group of different warrior peoples loosely tied by a similar language (indo-European), religion (a form of paganism), and cultural expression (oral tradition).
The Latin culture which was characterised by its intricate (compliqués) metal work flourished in the iron age and then spread throughout Europe, emerging in northern France and the isles around 500 and 300 BC.
It isthought that their culture superiority enable them to permeate (infiltrer, pénétrer) and dominate the local population. The Celts took over (prendre le pouvoir) without major violence. Importantly, political and economic ties between the Celts of the isles and the Celts of Gaule intensified in the first century BC, providing yet further evidence that British isolationism has not been a long-termtrend.
The Picts of Scotland are often considered to be a Celtic pp, although some historians have suggested that they were an ancient tribe native to Scotland present even before the arrival of the Celts. They were a warrior race which dominated northern Scotland for over 1 000 years. Unlike the celtic pp living further South, the managed to fight off (to resist) roman invasion, forcing the...