1. Great Britain: General Facts
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
(UK) is located on the British Isles. The British Isles consist of two
large islands, Great Britain and Ireland, and about five thousand small
islands. Their total area is over 244 000 square kilometers. The United
Kingdom is made up of four countries: England, Scotland, Wales and
Northern Ireland. Their capitals are, respectively, London, Edinburgh,
Cardiff and Belfast. Great Britain itself consists of England, Scotland
and Wales and does not include Northern Ireland. The capital of UK is
London is political, economic, culture and commercial
center of the country. It’s one of the largest cities in the world and
in Europe. The population of London is estimated to be over 8 million
The British isles are separated from the European continent
by the North Sea and the English channel. The western coast of Great
Britain is washed by the Atlantic Ocean and the Irish Sea.
The landscape of the British Isles varies from plains to
mountains. The north of Scotland is mountainous and is called Highlands,
while the south, which has beautiful valleys and plains, is called
Lowlands. The north and west of England are mountainous, but all the
rest – east, center and southeast – is a vast plain.
There are a lot of rivers in GB, but they are not very long.
The Severn is the longest river, while the Thames is the deepest and –
economically – the most important one.
The total population of the UK is over 57 million and about
80% of it is urban. The UK is highly developed country in both
industrial and economical aspects. It’s known as one of world’s largest
producers and exporters of machinery, electronics, textile, aircraft and
Politically, the UK is a constitutional monarchy. In law,
the Head of State is the Queen, but in practice, the Queen reigns but
does not possess real power. The country is ruled by the elected
government with the Primer Minister at the head, while the necessary
legislative background is provided by the British Parliament which
consists of two chambers : the House of Lords and the House of Commons.
2. The History of the Great Britain
Obviously, the history of the Great Britain is not framed
within the period from 1558 to nowadays which is surveyed in this paper.
Still, due to the limited volume, the author has to leave alone
everything that happened by the sixteenth century, starting from the
Roman invasion and ending with the pre-Elizabethan period, and
describing only those events which seem to be essential for
understanding of the general course of development of the country.
2.1. Britain in the reign of Elizabeth
Many researchers believe that there has been no greater
period in English history than the reign of Elizabeth, who was
proclaimed queen in 1558.
At this time the most critical question in England was that
of religion. In 1558 a large proportion of English people were still
indifferent in religious matters, and the power of the crown was very
great. It was quite possible, therefore, for the ruler to control the
form which the religious organisation of the people should take.
Elizabeth chose her own ministers, and with then exerted so much
pressure over Parliament that almost any laws that she wanted could be
She and her ministers settled upon a middle course going
back in all matters of church government to the system of Henry VIII. To
carry out this arrangement two important laws, known as the Act of
Supremacy and the Act of Uniformity, were passed by Parliament.
According to these laws, the regulation of the English Church in matters
of doctrine and good order was put into the hands of the Queen, and she
was authorized to appoint a minister or ministers to exercise these
powers in her name.
Thus the Church of England was established in a form midway
between the Church of Rome and the Protestant churches on the continent
of Europe. It had rejected the leadership of the Pope, and was not
Protestant like other reformed churches. From this time onward the
organisation of the English church was strictly national.
The political situation in England was not simple by the
time Elizabeth took the throne. England was in close alliance with Spain
and at war with France. Elizabeth managed to make peace with France,
which was vitally necessary for England: her navy was in bad condition,
troops few and poorly equipped, and treasury empty.
One of the most significant internal problems of England
during that period was pauperism, since the changes, rebellions and
disorders of the reigns of Henry VIII, Edward VI and Mary I had left
much distress and confusion among people. Many men were out of work,
prices were high and wages low, trade irregular. In one field, however,
there was a great success. The restoration of the coinage took place;
the old debased currency had been recoined to the new standards. This
was one of the most beneficial actions of the long reign of Elizabeth.
Also, in 1563 a long act for the regulation of labor was passed. It was
known as the Statute of Apprentices and settled, among others, an
approximate twelve-hour day of labour.
The rivalry among Elizabeth and her cousin, Mary Queen of
Scots became another chief political affair of sixteenth century, which
finally led to Mary’s long imprisonment and execution. In 1588 the war
with Spain broke out. The most significant battle (and of historical
meaning) of that conflict was the navy one. On July 30, 1588, the
Invincible Armada of the Spanish was almost completely destroyed by much
smaller fleet of the British under Lord Howard of Effingham command
(although it’s been assumed that the great deal of success in the battle
was brought by the terrible storm that swept away the large part of the
The last ten years of Elizabeth’s reign were a period of
more settled conditions and greater interest in the arts of peace, in
the progress of commerce, and in the production and enjoyment of works
of literature. The reign of Elizabeth revealed several quite gifted and
talanted English people who did a lot to widen the influence of England.
Probably the most famous of them was Sir Francis Drake. The first one,
nbeing a corsair and a sea captain in Elizabeth’s service, leaded a
number of sea expeditions, mainly in Atlantic and Pacific oceans,
bringing a lot of new knowledge of the world, and discovered a sound,
later named after him.
In cultural aspect, the real crown of the age was the
Elizabethan literature, with such bright writers as William Shakespeare,
Philipp Sidney and Edmund Spencer.
2.2. Britain in the seventeenth century
The period from 1603 to 1640 was the time of the personal
monarchy of the Early Stuarts in English history. It is said that James
I and Charles I had had to bear the burnt of the rising spirit of
independence characteristic of England in the seventeenth century. The
growing desire of Parliament for independence, for sharing in the
control of government was closely connected with the growth of
The greatest religious question of the sixteenth century had
changed from whether England should be Roman Catholic or not to whether
it should be Anglican or Puritan.
One of the most bright and well-known illustrations to the
fact that the Roman Catholics didn’t leave their attempts to gain back
their influence on the English church, was the so-called Gunpowder Plot,
a failed attempt to blow up the Parliament building and kill both the
king and all the members, and to set a Roman Catholic government. The
explosion was supposed to take place on 5 November, 1605, but had been
discovered on the same day. Since that time 5 November has been widely
celebrated in Britain as the Guy Fawkes Day (named so after the executed
leader of the Plot).
Along with the religious conflict between the Anglicans and
the Puritans, a great political conflict arose – a conflict between the
unrestricted powers of the king on the one hand and the equal or even
superior powers of the people represented by Parliament on the other.
The views of Parliament held by James didn’t allow to it much power.
Finally, the discord between James and the Parliament led to the disease
and the soon death of the king in 1625.
James I did a lot in order to unite Scotland and England
during his reign, but was unsuccessful. In foreign affairs James shoved
a tendency to establish peaceful relations with other countries. He
brought the long war with Spain to a close, and avoided a temptation to
take part in the Thirty Years’ War.
If the reign of Elizabeth had been the wonderful time of
exploration and sea expeditions, the reign of James became a period of
settlement, when Englishmen began to found colonies in America, West
India, and in the East Indies.
Charles I, the son of James I, started his reign with
launching a new war against Spain with no logical reason and mainly due
to the personal ambitions. Soon England drifted into the one more war
with France which brought no positive effect for any of the confronting
The middle of the seventeenth century was marked by the
formation of the political parties. The earliest parties were informal
groups supporting powerful members of Parliament. By the year 1640 there
were two parties in Parliament, known as the Cavaliers and the
Roundheads. The first one supported Charles I, and the Roundheads were
their principal political opponents. By the end of seventeenth century
these parties had evolved into two definite political formations, the
royalists and those supporting parliamentary supremacy. The Royalists
were called Tories by their opponents (it was a term of abuse for the
original Tories being Irish bandits), and the Tories called the
Parliamentarians Whigs after a group of Scottish cattle thieves. Much
later these parties became known as the Conservatives and the Liberals.
In 1689 James II landed in Ireland, where he had an army
ready to hand. In July 1690 William III defeated James at the battle of
Boyne. This event has been celebrated since by Orangemen, as Protestants
of Northern Ireland belonging to the Orange Order call themselves. In
October 1691 the Irish troops finally surrendered; as a condition of
surrender William promised religious toleration for the Irish Catholics,
but the promise was immediately broken by the passing of Penal Laws
which deprived the Catholics of all civil and religious rights.
In Scotland the new regime faced no much opposition. The
expulsion of James was welcomed, and by 1692 William III’s sovereignty
was undisputed throughout the British Isles. After William of Orange and
Mary had been declared king and queen, Parliament added a number of new
acts to the laws of constitution. Among them were the Triennal Act of
1694, that obliged the king to summon Parliament at least every three
years, and the Septennial Act of 1715 which increased the normal term
of Parliament’s existence from thee to seven years.
Mary II and William III had no surviving children, and
William was succeeded by Queen Anne, Mary’s younger sister. The major
event of Queen Anne’s reign was the formation of the Kingdom of Great
Britain. The Kingdom of Great Britain was formed in 1707 by the Act of
Union between England and Scotland. London, the biggest city in Britain,
with a population of about half a million, became the capital of the
entire island. Great Britain from then on had a single Parliament and a
single system of national administration and taxation. The units of
weights and measures were unified.
Queen Anne had no surviving children. She was succeeded by
her nearest Protestant relative, the elector of Hannover, who came from
Germany in 1714 and was accepted as King George I of Great Britain.
The first years of George I’s reign were marked by the
Jacobite Rebellion of 1715 raised by followers of Queen Anne’s
half-brother, James Edward Stuart. In 1708 James had already attempted
to invade Scotland with the help of French troops, but the invasion
failed. In 1715 he wasn’t lucky again.
2.3. Britain in the eighteenth century
Britain under George I actually had two decades of relative
peace and stability. The most significant events of that period were the
internal political affairs. In fact, throughout those years a smooth
transition from limited monarchy to Parliamentary government took place
in Great Britain. One of the important events of that time became the
appointment of Robert Walpole, a member of Whig party, the first Prime
Minister in the British history.
In 1739 Britain declared war on Spain, and in 1742
parliamentary pressure forced Walpole to resign. The conflict between
Britain and Spain has been known as the War of Jenkins’s Ear
(1739-1748). Between 1739 and 1763, Great Britain was generally at war.
The War of Jenkin’s Ear merged with the war of the Austrian Succession
of 1740-1748, in which Great Britain allied with Austria against Prussia
, France, and Spain. The country being at war, the Scottish Jacobites
decided to take advantage of it and made their last major attempt to
recover the British throne for the Stuart dynasty in 1745. Prince
Charles Edward landed in Scotland with the army of highlanders and
Jacobites and captured Edinburgh, winning the battle of Prestonpans.
Still, Charles failed to attract many supporters in England and had to
retreat to Scotland, where he was defeated by the government army under
Duke of Cumberland’s command, and Charles had to flee to France. The War
of the Austrian Succession ended with the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle
signed in the October 1748 recognizing the Hanoverian succession in
A lot of problems remained unsolved, and eight years later
they resulted in a new war of 1756-1763 between Great Britain, Prussia,
and Hanover on one side and Austria, France, Spain, Saxony, Sweden and
Russia on the other.
The wars of the eighteenth century were almost all followed
by the acquisition of new colonies. The colonies already established
were growing rapidly both in wealth and population. By the middle of the
eighteenth century, the British colonies in America already had about
two hundred thousand inhabitants and lay in a long line from Maine to
In 1760 George II was succeeded by his grandson, George III.
The new king had a deep sense of moral duty and tried to play a direct
role in governing his country, though he had to face probably the worst
political problem in the whole British history. Long accustomed to a
considerable degree of self-government, and freed, after 1763, from the
French danger, British colonists in America resented any attempts to
make them pay a share of the cost of imperial defense in the form of
assorted taxes and duties. They also resented attempts to treat colonial
legislatures as secondary to the government in London. American
resistance led to the calling of the First Continental Congress in
1774, and in April 1775 war broke out at Lexington and concord in
America. The British felt the rebellious colonists had to be brought to
their senses, and king George III was firmly against giving in to them.
Though British governmental authority in the 13 colonies collapsed in
1775, forces were able to occupy first Boston and later New York City
and Philadelphia, but the Americans did not give up. France was brought
into the war on the American side in 1778, then the Spanish and the
Dutch also joined the anti-British side. In 1783 Britain had to
recognize American independence in the Treaty of Paris. The 13 British
colonies were recognized as independent states and were granted all
British territory south of Great Lakes; Florida and Minorca were ceded
to Spain, and some West Indian and African colonies to France.
2.4. Britain in the nineteenth century
The beginning of the nineteenth century was remarkable for Great
Britain for its union with Ireland. In Ireland, some of the Irish united
under the and began to demand independence, being affected by the French
Revolution. They formed the organization known as the United Irismen.
They quickly took the lead of the whole national movement, and attempted
to initiate a rebellion in 1796, with the help of the French troops
which were ready to land in Ireland. The landing failed, and the
English government began to eliminate its enemies. In 1798 it seized a
number of the Irish leaders, and placed the whole Ireland under the
military law. All the Irish uprising were suppressed, and finally the
rebellion and an attempt of the French invasion led to the Act of Union
with Ireland of 1801. The Dublin legislature was abolished, and one
hundred Irish representatives were allowed to become members of
Parliament in London. So in the very beginning of the nineteenth century
the United Kingdom took the political and geographical shape of the
country we know today. Still, the Act of Union caused great indignation
in Ireland, and another powerful insurrection took place in 1803.
In 1790’s, the wars of the French Revolution merged into the
Napoleonic Wars, as Napoleon Bonaparte took over the French
revolutionary government, and Britain was engaged into the conflicts.
Throughout the whole period of Napoleonic wars, Britain won two battles
of great importance, one of them against the combined French and Spanish
navy at Trafalgar, and another against the French army at Waterloo. The
naval battle of Trafalgar was fought on October 21, 1805. The battle
took place off Cape Trafalgar on the southern coast of Spain, where a
British fleet of 27 ships under the command of admiral Nelson faced a
slightly larger enemy fleet commanded by a French admiral. The goal of
the French was to land the reinforcements in southern Italy, but they
were intercepted by Nelson on October 21 and engaged in a battle.
Finally, some 20 French and Spanish ships were destroyed or captured,
while not a single British vessel was lost. The great victory is
recorded in the name of Trafalgar square in London, which is dominated
by the granite column supporting a large statue of Nelson, who was
mortally wounded and died in the course of battle.
The final victory over Napoleon after his defeat at Waterloo
in 1815 laid the foundations for a great extension of the British
Empire. As one of the members of anti-Napoleonic coalition, Britain got
a number of strategic key points, such as Malta, Mauritius, Ceylon,
Heligoland and the Cape. Yet the first result of the peace was a severe
political and economic crisis.
The British had assumed that the ending of war would open a
vast market for their goods and had piled up stocks accordingly.
Instead, there was an immediate fall in the demand for them because
Europe was still too disturbed and too poor to take any significant
quantity of British good. This post-war crisis was marked by a sudden
outburst of class conflict, as a series of disturbances began with the
introduction of the Corn Bill in 1815 and went on until 1816. The object
of the Corn Laws of 1815 was to keep the price of wheat at the famine
level it had reached during the Napoleonic Wars, when supplies from
Poland and France were prevented from reaching Britain. The Corn Laws
were repealed in 1846, a small, temporary tariff being retained till
1849. Still, there was no fall in prices, what could be explained by a
number of reasons: increasing population of Britain, greater demand due
to the revival of industry, bad harvests in a number of years and the
Crimean War which soon interrupted the import of wheat from Poland.
Another act of law that became the result of the economic
crisis was the Reform Bill of 1832, which had two sides. One regularised
the franchise, giving the vote to tenant farmers in the counties and to
the town middle class. Another swept away the rotten boroughs and
transferred their members to the industrial towns and the counties.
In the first half of the nineteenth century a protest
organisation called the Chartist Movement gained power. The Chartist
Movement urged the immediate adoption of the so-called People’s Charter,
which would have transformed Britain into a political democracy, and
also was expected to improve living standards. Drafted in 1838, it was
at the heart of a radical campaign for Parliamentary reform of the
inequities remaining after the Reform Bill of 1832. Some of the main
demands were universal male suffrage, equal electoral districts, annual
general elections and the secret ballot. There were three unsuccessful
attempts to present the Charter to the House of Commons were made in
1839, 1842 and 1848, and the rejection of the last one brought an end to
The years between 1829 and 1839 were the time of foundation of
the modern police force in Great Britain. This development became the
direct result of the upsurge of a militant working class movement in the
first decades of the nineteenth century. The Chartist Movement with its
demonstrations and riots played the major role in initiation of the
reorganisation of the police. One more reason for it were the multiple
problems of factory workers.
By the beginning of the nineteenth century, Britain had
become an industrial nation. In the earliest stages of the Industrial
Revolution, when machinery was crude and unreliable, factory owners were
determined to get the fullest possible use out of this machinery in the
shortest possible time. Hours of work rose to sixteen and even eighteen
a day, and in this way the greatest output could be obtained with the
least outlay of capital. The terrible conditions of labour caused a
number of legislation acts to ease the burden of factory workers. The
first legislation, passed in 1802, was a very mild act to prevent some
of the worst abuses connected with the employment of children. It was
followed by the Cotton Factories Regulation Act of 1819 which forbade
the employment of children under nine and cut their hour down to
thirteen and a half a day. One more effective act was passed in 1833,
which provided a number of regular inspections to control the labor
conditions. In 1847 the Ten Hour’s Bill limited the hours of women and
young people and secured a ten hour day for most of the men.
The years 1837 – 1901 are remarkable in the British history
for what is called the Victorian period. King William IV died in June
1837, yielding the throne to his niece, Victoria, and so the great
Victorian epoch started. 1837 to 1848 is considered as the early
Victorian period, which was not that much different from the beginning
of the nineteenth century as the following years. The time between 1848
and 1866 is known as the years of Mid-Victorian prosperity. Rapid and
efficient development of manufactures and commerce took place mainly due
to the removal of protective duties on food (such as he Corn Laws of
1815) and raw materials. Also, the British industry and the
technological development began to experience a steep rise in those
years. The first half of the nineteenth century is widely known among
historians as the Railway Age. The idea of railway emerged as a result
of the development of steam locomotives, but building locomotives and
rail systems was so expensive that railroads were not widely used in
Britain until the late 1830’s, when the increase in economics began.
The striking feature of the Victorian time was the growing
urbanization of Britain, which is commonly explained as the result of
the development of industry. In 1801, 20 per cent of Britain’s people
lived in towns, and by the end of the nineteenth century, it was 75 per
cent. The inflow of people in towns was caused by the increasing demand
for new workers at factories and plants.
The middle of the century was marked by the Crimean War
which lasted for three years (1853-1856). In 1853, Russia attempted to
gain territories in the Balkans from the declining Ottoman Empire. Great
Britain, France and Austria joined the Ottomans in a coalition against
Russia to stop the expansion. Britain entered this war because Russia
was seeking to control the Dardanells and thus threatened England’s
Mediterranean sea routes. Although the coalition won the war, bad
planning and incompetent leadership on all sides, including the British,
characterized the war, leading to the large number of casualities. The
exposure of the weaknesses of the British army lead to its reformation.
Among the internal problems, Britain experienced much
disturbance in its relations with Ireland. A set of conflicts, based on
both the political and religious grounds, followed the British attempts
to suppress the Irish struggle for independence throughout the whole
2.5. Britain in the twentieth century
Queen Victoria died in January 1901, and Edward VII, the son
of Queen Victoria ascended the throne. Edwardian Britain was a powerful
and rich country, much of its wealth coming from business abroad. By
that time, British money had been invested in many countries, and
British banks and insurance companies had customers and did business all
over the world, and, as the result, much of the policy and affairs
concerning the Edwardian Britain at that time were the international
In 1902, when Germany, supported by the Triple Alliance,
became extremely powerful and the ambitions of the Kaiser became
evident, Britain entered the Anglo-Japanese alliance to avoid political
isolation. The war of 1904-1905 between Russia and Japan made the first
one and Britain nearly enemies, with the end of the war political
situation changed. In 1907 the Triple Entente of Great Britain, Russia
and France was achieved as a countermeasure to the expansion of the
Triple Alliance of Germany, Austria and Italy in Balkans.
Still, while the reign of King Edward VII was taking place,
many of the British were concerned with domestic matters. Some important
changes in the way that people lived and were governed happened.
In 1900 the Labour Representation Committee, which soon
became the Labour Party, was formed. Its aim was to see working people
represented in Parliament, with the powerful support of trade unions.
The Education Act of 1902 met the demand for national system
of secondary education. The government began providing such kind of
education, although only a small number of schoolchildren could pay for
the secondary school, and the rest had to be clever enough to pass the
The general election of 1906 gave the Liberal Party an
overwhelming majority in Parliament, with the programme including
old-age pensions, government employment offices, such as Employment
Exchanges, unemployment insurance, a contributory programme of national
medical insurance for most workers, and a board to fix minimum wages for
miners and others; but women still were not given the right to vote.
The years 1911 to 1914 were marked with strikes by miners,
dock workers, and transport workers, as wages scarcely kept up with
rising prices; suffragists carried out numerous demonstrations in favour
of the enfranchisement of women, and while the Britain was in the midst
of these domestic problems and disputes, World War I broke out.
The first large operation in which the British expeditionary
force took part was the battle of Marne in 1915, which also happened to
become the turning point of the whole war in the West front. The German
advance across the French territory was halted, and it made the quick
victory of the Germans impossible and gave time for great but slowly
mobilized material resources of the British Empire to have their effect.
In the course of the following years the war turned into the stalemate
with mostly positional fighting and no significant advances of any of
the combatants; the peace among Germany and Britain was signed in 1918.
World War I had both positive effect on the British industry
and negative effect on the internal political situation. The Irish
problems drew to the 1916 Easter Rebellion. If necessary, the Irish
nationalists were ready to seek German aid and support in fighting the
British government. The rebellion led to some several hundred
casualities and imprisonment and execution of most of the Irish
political leaders. The civil war in Ireland began and lasted until the
peace treaty of 1921. Most of the Ireland became the Irish Free State,
independent of British rule in all but name. One more result of the
disturbances in Ireland was the development of the new Irish Sinn Fein
World War I created more opportunities for women to work
outside domestic service. Women aged 30 and over were granted the vote
by the Reform Act of 1918, and the same Act granted the vote to all men
over the age of 21. In 1928 women were given voting rights that were
equal to those of men.
The immediate post-war years were marked by economic boom,
rapid demobilization, and much labour strife. By 1921, however, the
number of people without work had reached one million. Between 1929 and
1932, the depression more than doubled an already high rate of
unemployment. Unemployment rose to more than 2 million in the 1930’s. In
the course of several years, both the levels of industrial activity and
of prices dipped by a quarter, and industries such as shipbuilding
collapsed almost entirely.
Between 1933 and 1937, the economy recovered steadily, with
the construction, automobile, and electrical industries leading the way.
Unemployment remained high, however, especially in Wales, Scotland, and
northern parts of England.
In 1936 King Edward VIII ascended the throne, and a
remarkable occasion took place. Edward preferred to be happy in private
life rather than to dedicate himself to the royal duties and discharged
his duty as a king and emperor in favour of a love affair. Edward VIII
was succeeded by his brother, George VI.
In 1939 World War II broke out. After the surrender of
France in 1940, Britain remained the only resisting country in the West
front. In 1940, also, one of the greatest aerial battles in history took
place. The so-called Battle of Britain was the British answer to the
permanent attempts of Germany to ruin the industry of United Kingdom and
to suppress the spirit of the British people by heavy air bombardments.
By the end of 1940 almost all aircraft factories in England were
destroyed, and a few British fighter squadrons remained operational, but
the ability of Luftwaffe to carry out offensive operations in the West
was almost zeroed due to very heavy losses. The real help in struggle
against Germany was that beginning early in 1941, the still-neutral
United States granted lend-lease aid to Britain.
Luckily, the British Isles experienced no ground fighting
throughout the whole war, and no British troops were engaged in ground
operations until the Allies landing in France in 1944. Before that date,
British took part in the coordinated Anglo-American operations in North
Africa, fighting against German troops there, the most significant
battle being that at El Alamein, where the Allies managed to defeat one
of the best German commanders-in-chief Rommel. After the landing in
Normandy, which didn’t play the big role in the course of war, but
helped to bring it to closure sooner than it was expected, it took only
ten month to make Germany to surrender on 8 May, 1945.
When World War II ended, the British government launched a
number of important programmes in an effort to restore the county’s
economy. The National Insurance Act of 1946 was a consolidation of
benefit laws involving maternity, disability, old age, and death, as
well as assistance if unemployed. In 1948 the National Health Service
was set up. The general election of 1945 gave the Labour party the
majority in Parliament, and the party launched a programme of
nationalization of private industries to improve the economical
In 1949 Britain joined other Western powers in the North
Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), which was created as a
counterweight to the Warsaw Block countries, leaded by USSR. Also, the
late 1940’s in the British Empire were marked with the beginning of
In 1953, Queen Elizabeth II inherited the throne from George
VI. The early 1950’s brought economic recovery with flourishing of
trade and the boom of housing construction, and since that time Britain
has been steadily developing in economical, political, social and
scientific aspects, becoming one of the leading countries in the world.
3. Culture of Great Britain
3.1. Cultural Life in Great Britain
Artistic and cultural life in Britain is rather rich, like in most of
the European countries. It has passed several main stages in its
The Saxon King Alfred encouraged the arts and culture. The chief debt
owed to him by English literature is for his translations of and
commentaries on Latin works. Art, culture and literature flourished
during the Elizabethan age, during the reign of Elizabeth I; it was the
period of English domination of the oceans and colonies, and, due to the
strong political and economic position of the country, there were few
obstacles in the way of the cultural development. This time is also
famous for the fact that William Shakespeare lived and worked then.
The empire, which was very powerful under Queen Victoria, saw another
cultural and artistic hey-day as a result of industrialisation and the
expansion of international trade during the so-called industrial age.
However, German air raids caused much damage during the First World War
and then during the Second World War. The madness of the wars briefly
inhibited the development of British culture.
Immigrants who have arrived from all parts of the Commonwealth since
1945 have not only created a mixture of nations, but have also brought
their cultures and habits with them. Monuments and traces of past
greatness are everywhere. There are buildings of all styles and periods.
A great number of museums and galleries display precious and interesting
finds from all parts of the world and from all stage in the development
of nature, man and art. London is one of the leading world centres for
music, drama, opera and dance. Festivals held in towns and cities
throughout the country attract much interest. Many British playwrights,
composers, sculptors, painters, writers, actors, singers and dancers are
known all over the world.
3.2. Musical culture of Great Britain
The people living in the British Isles are very fond of music, and it is
quite natural that concerts of the leading symphony orchestras, numerous
folk groups and pop music are very popular.
The Promenade concerts are probably the most famous. They were first
held in 1840 in the Queen’s Hall, and later were directed by Sir Henry
Wood. They still continue today in the Royal Albert Hall. They take
place every night for about three months in the summer, and the
programmes include new and contemporary works, as well as classics.
Among them are symphonies and other pieces of music composed by Benjamin
Britten, the famous English musician.
Usually, there is a short winter season lasting for about a fortnight.
The audience may either listen to the music from a seat or from the
‘promenade’, where they can stand or stroll about, or, if there is room,
sit down on the floor.
Concerts are rarely given out-of-doors today except for concerts by
brass bands and military bands that play in the parks and at seaside
resorts during the summer.
Folk music is still very much alive. There are many folk groups. Their
harmony singing and good humour win them friends everywhere.
Rock and pop music is extremely popular, especially among younger
people. In the 60s and 70s groups such as the Beatles, the Rolling
Stones, the Who, Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd became very popular and
The Beatles, with their style of singing new and exciting, their
wonderful sense of humour became the most successful pop group the world
has ever known. Many of the famous songs written by John Lennon and Paul
McCartney are still popular. Some of the more recent rock groups are
Eurhythmics, Dire Straits, and Black Sabbath.
British groups often set new trends in music. New staff and styles
continue to appear. One of the most popular contemporary musicians and
composers is Andrew Lloyd Webber. The musicals and rock operas by A. L.
Webber have been a great success both in Britain and overseas.
The famous English composer of the 19th century was Arthur Sullivan.
Together with William Gilbert, the writer of the texts, he created
fourteen operettas of which eleven are regularly performed today. In
these operettas the English so successfully laugh at themselves and at
what they now call the Establishment that W. S. Gilbert and A. Sullivan
will always be remembered.
3.3. Art Galleries
Britain is probably one of the most rich European countries
when cultural inheritance is considered. Along with Italy and Germany,
it’s a home for many famous art galleries and museums.
If you stand in Trafalgar Square in London with your back to Nelson’s
Column, you will see a wide horizontal front in a classical style. It is
the National Gallery. It has been in this building since 1838 which was
built as the National Gallery to house the collection of Old Masters
Paintings (38 paintings) offered to the nation by an English Private
collector, Sir George Beamount.
Today the picture galleries of the National Gallery of Art exhibit works
of all the European schools of painting, which existed between the 13th
and 19th centuries. The most famous works among them are ‘Venus and
Cupid’ by Diego Velazquez, ‘Adoration of the Shepherds’ by Nicolas
Poussin, ‘A Woman Bathing’ by Harmensz van Rijn Rembrandt, ‘Lord
Heathfield’ by Joshua Reynolds, ‘Mrs Siddons’ by Thomas Gainsborough and
In 1897 the Tate Gallery was opened to house the more modern British
paintings. Most of the National Gallery collections of British paintings
were transferred to the Tate, and only a small collection of a few
masterpieces is now exhibited at Trafalgar Square. Thus, the Tate
Gallery exhibits a number of interesting collections of British and
foreign modern painting and also modern sculpture.
The collection of Turner’s paintings at the Tate includes about 300 oils
and 19,000 watercolours and drawings. He was the most traditional artist
of his time as well as the most original: traditional in his devotion to
the Old Masters and original in his creation of new styles. It is
sometimes said that he prepared the way for the Impressionists.
The modern collection includes the paintings of Henri Matisse and Pablo
Picasso, Marc Chagall and Salvador Dali, Francis Bacon and Graham
Sutherland, Peter Blake and Richard Hamilton, the chief pioneers of pop
art in Great Britain. Henry Moore is a famous British sculptor whose
works are exhibited at the Tate too. One of the sculptor’s masterpieces
– the ‘Reclining Figure’ – is at fees Headquarters of UNESCO in Paris.
3.4. The British Theatre
Britain is now one of the world’s major theatres centres. Many British
actors and actresses are known all over the world: Dame Peggy Ashcroft,
Glenda Jackson, Laurence Olivier, John Gielgud and others.
Drama is so popular with the British people of all ages that there are
several thousand amateur dramatic societies. Now Britain has about 300
professional theatres. Some of them are privately owned. The tickets are
not hard to get, but they are very expensive. Regular seasons of opera
and ballet are given at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden in London.
The National Theatre stages modern and classical plays, the Royal
Shakespeare Company produces plays mainly by Shakespeare and his
contemporaries when it performs in Stratford-on-Avon, and modern plays
in its two auditoria in the City’s Barbican Centre. Shakespeare’s Globe
Playhouse, about which you have probably read, was reconstructed on its
original site. Many other cities and large towns have at least one
There are many theatres and theatre companies for young people: the
National Youth Theatre and the Young Vic Company in London, the Scottish
Youth Theatre in Edinburgh. The National Youth Theatre, which stages
classical plays mainly by Shakespeare and modern plays about youth, was
on tour in Russian in 1989. The theatre-goers warmly received the
production of Thomas Stearns Eliot’s play ‘Murder in the Cathedral’.
Many famous English actors started their careers in the National Youth
Theatre. Among them Timothy Dalton, the actor who did the part of
Rochester in ‘ Jane Eyre’ shown on TV in our country
4. The British Education
The British educational system incorporates a system of
school education, higher education and a number of other less important
particular subsystems. Here we will consider the basics of the British
4.1. The British Schools
Schooling in Great Britain is voluntary under the age of 5 but there is
some free nursery school education before that age. Primary education
takes place in infant schools for pupils ages from 5 to 7 years old and
junior schools (from 8 to 11 years). Some areas have different systems
in which middle schools replace junior schools and take pupils ages from
9 to 11 years. Secondary education has been available in Britain since
1944. It is compulsory up to the age of 16, and pupils can stay at
school voluntarily up to three years longer.
In 1965 non-selective comprehensive schools were introduced. Most local
education authorities were have now completely changed over to
At the age of 16 pupils take school-leaving examinations in several
subjects at the Ordinary level. The exam used to be conducted by eight
independent examining boards, most of them connected with the
university. This examination could also be taken by candidates at a
further education establishment. This exam was called the General
Certificate of Education (GCE). Pupils of comprehensive school had taken
the examination called the Certificate of Secondary Education either
with or instead of the GCE.
A GCE of Advanced (“A”) level was taken two years after the Ordinary
level exam. It was the standard for entrance to university and to many
forms of professional training. In 1988 both examinations were replaced
by the more or less uniform General Certificate of Secondary Education.
The private sector is running parallel to the state system of education.
There are over 2500 fee-charging independent schools in GB. Most private
schools are single-sex until the age of 16. More and more parents seem
prepared to take on the formidable extra cost of the education. The
reason is the believe that social advantages are gained from attending a
certain school. The most expansive day or boarding schools in Britain
are exclusive public schools like Eton college for boys and St. James’
school for girls.
4.2. Universities and Colleges in Great Britain
There are over 90 universities in Great Britain. They are divided into
three types: the old universities (Oxford, Cambridge and Edinburgh
Universities), the 19th century universities, such as London and
Manchester universities, and the new universities. Some years ago there
were also polytechnics. After graduating from polytechnic a student got
a degree, but it was not a university degree. 31 formers polytechnics
were given university status in 1992.
Full courses of study offer the degree of Bachelor of Art or Science.
Most degree courses at universities last three years, language courses 4
years (including year spent aboard). Medicine and dentistry courses are
longer (5-7 years).
Students may receive grants from the Local Education Authority to help
pay for books, accommodation, transport, and food. This grant depends on
the income of their parents.
Most students live away from home, in flats of halls of residence.
Students don’t usually have a job during term time because the lessons
called lectures, seminars, classes of tutorials (small groups), are full
time. However, many students now have to work in the evenings.
University life is considered «an experience». The exams are competitive
but the social life and living away from home are also important. The
social life is excellent with a lot of clubs, parties, concerts, bars.
There are not only universities in Britain but also colleges. Colleges
offer courses in teacher training, courses in technology and some
professions connected with medicine.
5. The Modern British Economy
From 1981 to 1989 the British economy experienced eight years of
sustained growth at the annual average rate over 3%. However,
subsequently Britain and other major industrialized nations were
severely affected by recession. In Britain growth slowed to 0.6% in
1990, and in 1991 gross domestic product (GDP) fell by 2.3%. GDP fell in
1992 as a whole by 0.4%, but it rose slightly in the second half of the
year. The recovery strengthened during the first part of 1993; with GDP
in the second quarter being 2% higher than a year earlier; the European
Commission expected Britain to be the fastest growing of all major
European economies in 1993 and1994.
Recent indications that the recovery is under may include:
· an increase in manufacturing output;
· a steady upward trend in retail sales;
· increases in new car registrations;
· record levels of exports;
· increased business and consumer confidence; and
· signs of greater activity in the housing market.
The Government’s policy is to ensure sustainable economic growth through
low inflation and sound public finances. The Government’s economic
policy is set in the context of a medium-term financial strategy, which
is revived each year. Within this strategy, monetary and fiscal policies
are designed to defeat inflation. Short-term interest rates remain the
essential instrument of monetary policy.
Macroeconomic policy is directed towards keeping down the rate of
inflation as the basis for sustainable growth, while micro-economic
policies seek to improve the working of markets and encourage
enterprise, efficiency and flexibility through measures such as
privatization, deregulation and tax reforms.
The economy is now benefiting from substantially lower interest rates.
In September 1993 base interest rates were at 6%. They had been cut by 9
percentage points since October 1990, and were at their lowest since
6. The Modern British Industry
Private enterprises in the Great Britain generate over
three-quarters of total domestic income. Since 1979 the Government has
privatized 46 major businesses and reduced the state-owned sector of
industry by about two-thirds. The Government is taking measures to cut
unnecessary regulations imposed on business, and runs a number of
schemes which provide direct assistance or advice to small and
In some sectors a small number of large companies and their
subsidiaries are responsible for a substantial proportion of total
production, notably in the vehicle, aerospace and transport equipment
industries. Private enterprises account for the greater part of activity
in the agricultural, manufacturing, construction, distributive,
financial and miscellaneous service sectors. The private sector
contributed 75% of total domestic final expenditure in 1992, general
government 24 % and public corporations 1%.
About 250 British industrial companies in the latest
reporting period each had an annual turnover of more than Ј500 million.
The annual turnover of the biggest company, British Petroleum’, makes it
the llth largest industrial grouping in the world and the second largest
in Europe. Five British firms are among the top 25 European Community
7. The Modern British Army
The strength of the regular armed forces, all volunteers,
was nearly 271,000 in mid-1993 — 133,000 in the Army, 79,300 in the
Royal Air Force (RAF) and 58,500 in the Royal Navy and Royal Marines.
There were 18,800 women personnel — 7,500 in the Army, 6,800 in the RAF,
and 4,400 in the Royal Navy.
British forces’ main military roles are to:
· ensure the protection and security of Britain and its dependent
· ensure against any major external threat to Britain and its allies;
· contribute towards promoting Britain’s wider security interests
through the maintenance of international peace and security.
Most of Britain’s nuclear and conventional forces are
committed to NATO and about 95% of defence expenditure to meeting its
NATO responsibilities. In recognition of the changed European security
situation, Britain’s armed forces are being restructured in consultation
with other NATO allies.
Under these plans, the strength of the armed forces is being
cut by 22%, leaving by the mid-1990s some 119,000 in the Army, 70,000 in
the RAF and 52,500 in the Royal Navy and the Royal Marines. This
involves reductions in main equipment of:
· three Tornado GR1 squadrons, four Phantom squadrons, two Buccaneer
squadrons and part of a squadron of Nimrod maritime patrol aircraft;
· 12 submarines, nine destroyers and frigates and 13 mine
· countermeasures ships; and
· 327 main battle tanks.
Civilian staff employed by the Ministry of Defence will be
reduced from 169,100 in 1991 to 135,000.
As a member of NATO, Britain fully supports the Alliance’s current
strategic concept, under which its tasks are to:
· help to provide a stable security environment, in which no country is
able to intimidate or dominate any European country through the threat
or use of force;
· serve as a transatlantic forum for Allied consultations affecting
member states’ vital interests; deter from aggression and defend member
states against military attack; and
· preserve the strategic balance within Europe.
8. The Two Lessons
This section of the paper is dedicated to the development of
two lessons for the “Regional Geography of Great Britain” course to be
taught in schools. The chosen topics are “Customs and Traditions of
Great Britain” and “American English”.
Both lessons are intended for 45-50 minutes duration and are
of so-called “combined” type, according to the generally accepted
terminology in Russia. The principal scheme of such a lesson can be
represented in the following way:
1) Lesson organization (2-3 minutes)
2) Review of the previous studies (5-7 minutes)
3) New studies (approx. 15-20 minutes)
4) Systematization of the new knowledge and training for it’s
application in practice (15-
5) Homework (1-2 minutes)
Lesson organization and review of previous studies are not
thoroughly considered here since they depend upon the composition and
structure of the whole course, and their development would require
knowledge of the previous and the following lessons. We concentrate our
attention on the “New studies” and “Systematization of the new knowledge
and training for it’s application in practice”. The main goal of both
lessons is to introduce new information and expand student’s vocabulary
by learning some specific words and expressions related to the
8.1. “Customs and Traditions of Great Britain”
The studies of the customs and traditions of Great Britain
here are supposed to be carried out in calendar order, which means that
introduction of customs and traditions should begin with winter events
and go on throughout the whole year, from December until November.
Lesson topic: “Customs and Traditions of Great Britain”
Lesson goal: general study of the British customs and traditions
1) Lesson organization (2-3 minutes)
2) Particular review of the previous studies (4-5 minutes)
(We accept) that the previous lesson was dealt with the
civic customs of GB.
A student reports a result of his work done on the material
of the previous topic that was studied in class. He/she is supposed to
talk fluently by memory and speak about one-two civic customs that
he’she founds to be remarkable. The report is followed by a brief
discussion (3-4 minutes) Approximate variant of the report is as
“Some historical and colorful customs belong essentially to
a particular town or community because they sprang, originally, from
some part of the local history, or from some deep-seated local
tradition. No doubt, such customs, along with various religious customs
and traditions, attached to certain calendar dated, constitute the soul
of British social culture and are of great interest for a researcher.
At Lichfield, a festival commonly called the Greenhill Bower
and Court of Array takes place annually in late May or June. This is
really two customs, of which the first – the Bower – is said to run back
to the time of King Oswy of Northumbria, who founded Lichfield in A.D.
656. In the Middle Ages, the city guilds used to meet at Greenhill,
carrying flower garlands and emblems of their trades. Now the Bower
ceremonies have become a sort of carnival, wherein lorries carrying
tableaux, trade floats, decorated carts, and bands pass cheerfully
through streets profusely adorned with flowers and greenery.
The second part of the custom is the meeting of the Court of
Array and the inspection of the ancient suits of armour which the city
was once obliged by law to provide. By Act passed in 1176, every freeman
between the ages of 15 and 60 had to keep a sufficiency of arms and
armour, and maintain them in good condition and ready for use. He had
also to be able to handle them efficiently himself. Every county had to
have its Court of Array whose duty was to see that these regulations
were duly carried out by the freemen, and to hold periodical inspections
of the weapons and suits of armour provided by them”.
3) New studies (approximately 20 minutes)
This part of the lesson is dedicated to the present topic:
the Winter holidays. It basic part represents a text which must be read
and immediately translated by paragraphs, one paragraph by every
student, one by one. The text is approximately following:
“The Christmas Day in the United Kingdom is celebrated on 25
December, as well as in the most of European countries. Pope Julius I
(A.D. 337-352), after much inquiry, came to the conclusion that a very
old tradition giving 25 December as the right date of the Birth of the
Lord was very probably true. This date already had a sacred significance
for thousands of people throughout the Roman Empire because it was the
Birthday of the Unconquered Sun, and also the chief festival of the
Phrygian god, Attis, and of Mithras, the soldier’s god, whose cult was
carried to Britain and many other countries by the Roman army. In the
barbarian North, also, the long celebration of Yule was held at this
period. The Christian Church, therefore, following its ancient practice
of giving Christian meaning to pagan rituals, eventually adopted 2
December for the Christmas Day.
Many of the British modern Christmas customs and traditions
are directly derived from pagan ceremonies belonging to ancient
midwinter feasts. One of the oldest is probably the decoration of houses
with greenery. Evergreens, which are symbols of undying life, were
commonly used to adorn the dwellings of forefathers, and their sacred
buildings, at the time of the winter solstice, and they have been so
used ever since.
The curious custom of kissing under the mistletoe seems to
be altogether English in origin, and to appear in other European
countries only when Englishmen have taken it there. It has almost
vanished nowdays, but can still be met in the northern regions of
England. The kissing bough, the lovely garland that used to hang from
the ceiling of the living room in so many houses before the coming of
the Christmas tree, had a bunch of mistletoe attached to its base. It
was a crown, or a globe, of greenery, adorned with lighted candles, red
apples, rosettes and ribbons, with the mistletoe hanging below.
Sometimes small presents were suspended from it. The Christmas tree
surepceeded it in many homes in the middle of the nineteenth century,
but it never faded away altogether.
The Christmas tree came originally from Germany and went to
America with German settlers before it reached the British Isles in the
first half of nineteenth century. The first Christmas tree in Britain is
believed to be set up at a children party in 1821. By 1840 the custom
became quite well-known in Manchester, but what really established the
Christmas tree and made it one of the British cherished Christmas
customs was the setting-up by Prince Albert of a Christmas tree at
Windsor castle in 1841. With little more than twenty years, the
Christmas trees were to be seen in countless British homes, and
thousands were annually on sale at Covent Garden Market. A century later
the tradition has overflowed from the houses into the streets and
squares. Churches of every denomination have their lighted and decorated
trees, and since 1947 Oslo had made an annual gift to the people of
London, in the form of an immense tree which stands in Trafalgar Square,
close to Nelson’s Monument.
The giving of presents and the exchange of Christmas cards
are almost equally essential parts of the Christmas festival in Britain
today. The first one has its roots in the pre-Christian times, and the
latter is little more than a century old. Presents were given to
kinsfolk and to the poor at the feast of the Saturnalia in pagan Rome,
and so they were at the three-day Kalends of January, when the New Year
was celebrated. The Christmas cards began life in the late eighteenth
century as the “Christmas piece”, a decorated sheet of paper on which
schoolchildren wrote polite greetings for the season in their best
handwriting, to be presented to their parents at the end of the winter
term. Sometimes, also, adults wrote complimentary verses for their
friends. It is now usually supposed that the artist J.C.Horsley designed
the first genuine pictorial Christmas card at the instigation of Sir
Henry Cole in 1843.
Father Christmas is the traditional gift-bringer in the
United Kingdom. Originally he was Odin, one of the pagan gods that were
brought to the British Isles from the ancient Scandinavia. When
Christianity swept away the old gods, Odin’s role was overtaken by St.
Nicholas, who was the Bishop of Myra during the fourth century, and who
now appears in some European countries (such as Germany, Austria,
Switzerland and others) wearing episcopal robes and a mitre, being
accompanied by a servant carrying a sack of gifts.
Still one should note that the pure British Father Christmas
seems to have been more a personification of the joys of Christmas than
just a gift-bringer. He was first mentioned in a fifteen-century carol,
then abolished by Parliament in 1644 (along with everything else
connected with the Feast of Christmas), came back after Restoration, and
is nowdays one of the British living traditions. In the nineteenth
century he acquired some of the attributes of the Teutonic Santa Claus,
and now is being thought of as the essential gift-bringer, coming by
night from the Far North in a reindeer-drawn sleigh, and entering the
houses he visits by way of the chimney.
Christmas food has always been largely a matter of
tradition, but its nature has changed a great deal with passage of time.
The turkey which is now the most usual dish on Christmas Day didn’t
appear in Britain until about 1542. Its predecessors were goose, or
pork, or beef, or a huge pie made up of a variety of birds. In the
grater houses venison, swans, bustards, or peacocks in their feathers
were eaten. The ancestor of another traditional British food, the
Christmas pudding, was plum porridge (until 1670).
Another feature of the Christmas time in Britain is
represented by carols, which are the popular and happy songs of the
Christian religion which came into being after the religious revival of
the thirteenth century, and flourished more strongly in the three
centuries that followed. Carols were swept away by Puritanism during the
Commonwealth, and they didn’t come back into general favor for about 200
years afterwards, but never vanished altogether. Now, nearly all British
churches have their carol service. In many towns, the people gather
round the communal Christmas tree, or in the town hall, to sing carols
under the leadership of the local clergy, or of the mayor.
The 26 December is the St. Stephen’s Day, the first Christmas
martyr, far better known in England as Boxing Day. A name is derived
either from the alms boxes in churches, which were opened, and their
contents distributed to the poor on that day, or from the earthenware
boxes that apprentices used to carry round with them when they were
collecting money gifts from their master’s customers. Until very
recently it was usual for the postman, the dustman and a few other
servants of the public to call at all the houses they have served during
the year, and to receive small gifts from the householders on Boxing
Then follows a set (3-4) of brief reports by students on the
holidays that follow the Christmas season (that time which is called the
Opening Year in GB). Reports are supposed to be prepared at home. The
approximate variants of 3 reports are:
– “The New Year comes in very merrily in most parts of
Britain, with the pealing of bells and the blowing of ships’ sirens and
train whistles, and singing of the traditional “Auld Lang Syne”,
although the majority know only some of the words. Great crowds assemble
outside St. Paul’s Cathedral in London to see the Old Year out and
welcome in the New. Private parties are held everywhere, and good wishes
are exchanged. Some celebrate the occasion more quietly and see a Watch
Night service in some Anglican or Nonconformist church.
In the north of United Kingdom, especially in Scotland, the
custom of First-footing has been flourishing for centuries. The First
Foot is the first visitor to any house in the morning hours of 1
January. He is considered to be a luck-bringer. He is welcomed with food
and drink (especially the last one), and brings with him symbolic gifts,
which are most usually a piece of bread, a lump of coal, salt, and a
little money, all of which together ensure that his hosts will have food
and warmth and prosperity all throughout the year.
In Northumberland the New Year is welcomed by a fire
ceremony, followed by First-footing. A great bonfire is built in the
main square of a town or village, and left unlit. As the midnight
approaches, The so-called Guisers in various gay costumes form a
procession, each man carrying a blazing tar barrel on his head. Thus
crowned with flames and preceded by the band, they march to the bonfire,
circulate it and throw their burning barrels on it, setting it on fire.
The spectators cheer and sing, and the Guisers go off First-footing all
round the perish.”
– “Another New Year custom is Burning the Bush, not very
widely spread now but of great fame in the days gone, especially in the
rural England. In former years, almost every home and farm had its own
Bush, or howthorn globe which, together with a bunch of mistletoe, hung
in the farm kitchen all through the year. At about five o’clock in the
morning on 1 January it was taken down, carried out to the first-sown
wheatfield, and there burnt on a large straw fire. Then all the men
concerned in the affair made a ring round the fire and cried
“Auld-Ci-der”. Afterwards there was cheering, and the drinking of the
farmer’s health, and feasting upon cider and plum cake. Meanwhile, a new
Bush was being made at home and hung up in the place of the old. All
this was supposed to bring good luck to the crops.
The Twelfth Night and Twelfth Day – 5 and 6 January – are
popularly so called because the mark the end of the Twelve Days of
Christmas. Over the last two centuries, the twelve-day period had
steadily shrunk, and now only three days – Christmas Day, Boxing Day and
the New Year’s Day – remain as official holidays. Bonfires are lit on
Twelfth Night in many parts of the British Midlands, often 12 in number,
with one made larger than the rest, to represent Lord and his Apostles.
Sometimes there are 13 bonfires, one standing for Judas Iscariot, which
is stamped out soon after it is lit.”
– “The Monday after Twelfth Day is Plough Monday, a day of
rural festivity, especially in the northern counties and the Midlands.
Theoretically, work starts again then on the farm, after the end of the
Twelve Days of Christmas, and the spring ploughing begins, but in fact,
very little work is done.
On 2 February, the double feast of the Presentation of
Christ in the Temple and the Purification of Our Lady is celebrated in
Britain. It is popularly known as Candlemas Day because candles are
blessed in the churches then, distributed to the congregations, and
carried in procession. This custom has existed on the British Isles
since the fifth century, as well as in the continental Europe under the
Roman Catholic Church influence.
The day after Candlemas is the Feast of St. Blaise, who is
the patron saint of wool-combers, and of all who suffer from diseases of
the throat. The beautiful ceremony of Blessing the Throat takes place on
this day in many English churches.
Another famous and well-known February celebration is St.
Valentines Day, on 14 February. The word “Valentine” has a double
meaning. It means the person concerned, the chosen sweetheart, but it is
also applied to the Valentine gift or to the Valentine card, which
replaced the traditional gift in the nineteenth century as it (the gift)
went out of fashion. “
4) Systematization of the new knowledge and training for it’s
application in practice (
The basis for practical training can be listening to a
record of native speaker’s narration or any other kind of listening
comprehension exercise with following wide discussion on the spoken
subject. The whole idea of the lesson is to minimize the amount of time
that students spend working with textbook material and maximize the
communicative aspect of the lesson. Each exercise should be spoken over
by students upon the completion. In course of all conversation, students
should tend to apply new words and expressions that they learn while
studying the given topic.
5) Homework (2-3 minutes)
The homework, on the contrary, should engage as much
textbook/written exercises as possible. It can include writing a short
essays on the passed material, preparing reports and dialogs etc. Also
there’d be a text on the topic of the following lesson which might
undergo analysis at home for further discussion in class. The example of
the text is as follows:
“ Shrovetide and
Shrove Tuesday is the eve of Lent, the last day of Shraft,
the end of the short festival season which includes Egg Saturday,
Quinquagesima Sunday, and shrove, or Collop, Monday. The English name
“Shrove” is derived from the pre-Reformation practice of going to be
shriven on that day in preparation for the once severe fast of Lent.
What the British now call the Pancake Bell is supposed to be a signal to
start making pancakes. Originally it was rung to call the faithful to
church to make their confessions. But though the religious side of
Shrovetide was always important, it is also a time of high festivity,
renowened everywhere for the playing of traditional games,
cock-fighting, wrestling, dancing, feasting upon pancakes and other good
things that the coming forty-day fast forbids.
One of the traditional sports of Shrovetide is football –
not the organized game we know today, but the old wild type of game
without proper rules or set teams, played in the streets and
churchyards, and strongly disliked by the authorities. Hurling takes
place of football in Cornwall. In this extremely popular Cornish game,
the ball is about the size of cricket ball, made of light wood or cork,
and thinly coated with silver, and it can be carried, tossed, hurled by
the players, but never kicked.
Shrove Tuesday is the one of the traditional days on which
in some old-established English schools, the custom of barring-out the
schoolmaster can be observed. The children lock the master out of the
school, and bargain with him for a holiday that day, or sometimes for a
series of holidays in the coming terms. If the master manages to force
the entry, the victory is his, and no holiday is granted. But if the
children can hold out for the day (or, for three days, in the past), the
schoolmaster makes an agreement with them and grants at least some of
On Ash Wednesday, Lent begins, and from then on there is no
true festival date until Mid-Lent Sunday, the fourth in Lent, also known
in Britain as Mothering Sunday. On that day, which is a welcome
relaxation in the midst of the long, harsh fast, simnel cakes are
customarily baked and eaten. The custom can be traced back to the year
1042, and the name “simnel” is believed to come from the cakes made by
Lambert Simnel’s father and nicknamed after his son when the latter’s
rebellion failed. Another version is that the word is derived from the
Latin, simila, meaning fine wheaten flour. There are three principal
types of simnel cakes, named after the towns which first made them:
Shrewsbury, Devizes and the most famous Bury simnel.
On Palm Sunday, a fortnight later, palms are carried in
procession in the churches in memory of Christ’s entry into Jerusalem.
On Maundy Thursday, the Queen, or in her absence, the Lord
High Almoner acting for her, presents the Royal Maundy gifts to as many
poor men and as many poor women as there are years in her age. This
distribution usually takes place in Westminster Abbey when the date of
the year is even, and in some other great cathedral when it is odd.
Originally, Maundy Thursday was the day on which the Last Supper eaten
by Christ and his Apostles is commemorated. The modern ceremony consists
of a lovely and colorful procession, prayers, hymns and anthems, the
distribution of Maundy Money, and the final Blessing and singing of the
On Good Friday, countrymen plant potatoes and sow parsley,
Sussex people skip, the children in Liverpool “burn Judas” (a
straw-stuffed effigys), and everyone eats Hot Cross buns, which are
small, round, spiced cakes marked with a cross. They appear to be the
Christian descendants of the cross-marked wheaten cakes which the pagan
Greeks and Romans ate at the Springtime festival of Diana.
Many popular superstitions are associated with Good Friday.
Blacksmiths do not shoe horses because of the use to which nails had
been put, long ago, on Calvary. Miners do not go down the pit, believing
that some disaster occurs if they do. Housewives do not sweep their
houses because to do so is to sweep away the life of one of the family”.
8.2. “American English”
The basic idea of this lesson is to introduce main lexical and
grammatical differences between the British English language and its
Lesson topic: “American English”
Lesson goal: study of the basic distinctions between the English
language and it’s
American dialect, try to apply the knowledge in
1) Lesson organization (2-3 minutes)
2) Particular review of the previous studies (4-5 minutes)
We accept that the there was a homework related to the given
topic; it was based on the analysis of the following text:
“ American English
In the early part of the seventeenth century English settlers began to
bring their language to America, and another series of changes began to
take place. The settlers borrowed words from Indian languages for such
strange trees as the hickory and persimmon, such unfamiliar animals as
raccoons and woodchucks. Later they borrowed other words from settlers
from other countries – for instance, chowder and prairie from the
French, scow and sleigh from the Dutch. They made new combinations of
English words, such as backwoods and bullfrog, or gave old English words
entirely new meanings, such as lumber ( which in British English means
approximately junk ) and corn ( which in British means any grain,
especially wheat ). Some of the new terms were needed, because there
were new and un-English things to talk about. Others can be explained
only on the general theory that languages are always changing, and
American English is no exception.
Aside from the new vocabulary, differences in pronunciation, in
grammatical construction, and especially in intonation developed. If the
colonization had taken place a few centuries earlier, American might
have become as different from English as French is from Italian. But the
settlement occurred after the invention of printing, and continued
through a period when the idea of educating everybody was making rapid
progress. For a long time most of the books read in America came from
England, and a surprising number of Americans read those books, in or
out of school. Moreover, most of the colonists seem to have felt strong
ties with England. In this they were unlike their Anglo-Saxon ancestors,
who apparently made a clean break with their continental homes.
A good many Englishmen and some Americans used to condemn every
difference that did develop, and as recently as a generation ago it was
not unusual to hear all “Americanisms” condemned, even in America. It is
now generally recognized in this country that we are not bound to the
Queen’s English, but have a full right to work out our own habits. Even
a good many of the English now concede this, though some of them object
strongly to the fact that Americanisms are now having an influence on
There are thousands of differences in detail between British and
American English, and occasionally they crowd together enough to make
some difficulty. If you read that a man, having trouble with his lorry,
got out his spanner and lifted the bonnet to see what was the matter,
you might not realize that the driver of the truck had taken out his
wrench and lifted the hood. It is amusing to play with such differences,
but the theory that the American language is now essentially different
from English does not hold up. It is often very difficult to decide
whether a book was written by an American or an English man. Even in
speech it would be hard to prove that national differences are greater
than some local differences in either country. On the whole, it now
seems probable that the language habits of the two countries will grow
more, rather than less, alike, although some differences will
undoubtedly remain and others may develop.
It also seems probable that there will be narrow-minded and snobbish
people in both countries for some time to come. But generally speaking,
anybody who learnsto speak and write the standard English of his own
country, and to regard that of the other country as a legitimate variety
with certain interesting differences, will have little trouble wherever
Students should translate and discuss this text in class, expressing
their understanding of differences between two dialects, and to tell
examples of such from their personal experience (if they have any).
3) New studies (approximately 20 minutes)
This section will be very useful if built upon listening
comprehension and discussion exercises mainly. Thus students will be
given both listening and oral experience of distinguishing between
dialects and using their knowledge in practice.
The approximate volume of information for the first (but not
the only one!) lesson on this topic is given below, for both lexical and
3.1.) Lexical difference
Lexical differences of American variant highly extensive on the strength
of multiple borrowing from Spanish and Indian languages, what was not in
the movies the cinema
Also claim attention differences in writing some words in American and
British variants of language.
For instance, following:
American variant British variant
3.2.) Grammatical difference
Grammatical differences of American variant consist in following:
1. In that events, when British use Present Perfect, in Staffs can be
used and Present Perfect, and Past Simple.
2. Take a shower/a bath instead of have a shower/a bath.
3. Shall is not used. In all persons is used by will.
4. Needn’t (do) usually is not used. Accustomed form -don’t need to
5. After demand, insist, require etc should usually is NOT used. I
demanded that he apologize (instead of I demanded that he should
apologise in British variant).
6. to/in THE hospital instead of to/in hospital in BrE.
7. on the weekend/on weekend instead of at the weekend/at weekend.
8. on a street instead of in a street.
9. Different from or than instead of different to/from
10. Write is used with to or without the pretext.
11. Past participle of “got” is “gotten”
12. To burn, to spoil and other verbs, which can be regular or
irregular in the British variant, in the American variant ALWAYS
13. Past Perfect, as a rule, is not used completely.
4) The training of practical application of the new knowledge should be
given mainly in the form of listening/spoken exercises.
5) Homework (2-3 minutes)
A good kind of a homework for this particular lesson would
be a task to compose a free-style topic in the British English language
(about an A4 page in size) and then rewrite it in the American English;
then discuss the lexical and grammatical differences between topics in
1. Hole, Christina. English traditional customs. London – Sydney,
2. Hogg, Garry. Customs and traditions of England. Newton Abbot, David &
3. Baker, Margaret. Folklore and customs of rural England. Newton Abbot,
David & Charles, 1974.
4. Rabley, Stephen. Customs and traditions in Britain. Harlow (Essex),
5. Murphy Raymond. English Grammar in Use. – Cambridge University
6. Швейцер А.Д. Американский вариант литературного английского языка:
пути формирования и современный статус.//Вопросы языкознания,1995,
7. Подласый И.П. Педагогика. т.1. Москва, Владос, 2001.
8. Bowle, John. England: A portrait. London, Benn, 1966.
9. Bryant, Arthur. A history of Britain and the British people. London,
10. Clark, George. English history: A survey. London, Oxford univ.
1. Great Britain: General Facts ……………………………………………..…… 1
2. The History of Great Britain ……………………………………………………1
2.1. Britain in the reign of Elizabeth …………………………………………..… 2
2.2. Britain in the seventeenth century ……………………………………….….. 3
2.3. Britain in the eighteenth century ……………………………………………. 5
2.4. Britain in the nineteenth century ……………………………………….…… 6
2.5. Britain in the twentieth century ……………………………………………… 9
3. Culture of Great Britain ……………………………………………………… 12
3.1. Cultural Life in Great Britain ……………………………………………… 12
3.2. Musical culture of Great Britain …………………………………….….…. 13
3.3. Art Galleries ……………………………………………………………….. 14
3.4. The British Theatre ………………………………………………………… 15
4. The British Education …………………………………………………….…. 15
4.1. The British Schools ………………………………………………………… 16
4.2. Universities and Colleges in Great Britain ………………………………… 16
5.The Modern British Economy ………………………………………………… 17
6. The Modern British Industry ………………………………………………….18
7. The Modern British Army ……………………………………………………. 18
8. The Two Lessons ……………………………………………………..……… 20
8.1. “Customs and Traditions of Great Britain” ………………………………… 20
8.2. “American English” …………………………………………………..……. 27
Bibliography …………………………………………………………………….. 32
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