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BBC History of Britain

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Simon Michael Schama, CBE* (Commander of the Order of the British Empire) was born 13 February 1945 in London. Simon Schama is a British historian and art historian. He is a University Professor of History and Art History at Columbia University. He is best known for writing and hosting the 15-part BBC documentary series A History of Britain. Other works on history and art include The Embarrassment of Riches, Landscape and Memory,Dead Certainties, Rembrandt's Eyes, and his history of the French Revolution, Citizens. Schama is an art and cultural critic for The New Yorker. He worked for short periods as a lecturer in history at Cambridge, where he became a Fellow and Director of Studies in History, and at Oxford, where he was made a Fellow of Brasenose College in 1976, specialising in the French Revolution. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simon_Schama In 1980 Schama took up a chair at Harvard University. The year 2000 saw Schama return to the UK, having been commissioned by the BBC to produce a series of television documentary programmes on British history as part of their Millennium celebrations, under the title A History of Britain. Schama wrote and presented the episodes himself, in a friendly and often jocular style with his highly characteristic delivery, and was rewarded with excellent reviews and unexpectedly high ratings.Three series were made, totalling 15 episodes covering the complete span of British history up until 1965; it went on to become one of the BBC's best-selling documentary series on DVD. (www.imdb.com/name/nm0769988/)

* CBE is a special honour given to some British people for things they have done for their country.

I. "Beginnings"

3100 BC – 1000 AD. Stone age. Village of Skara Brae, Orkney. Over the next four thousand years Romans, Anglo-Saxons, Vikings, Danes, and Christian missionaries arrive, fight, settle and leave their mark on what will become the nations of Britain.

Task 1.Before watching the first part of the film, look through the brief timeline of the period.

250,000–300,000 Earliest pre-human and human archaeological finds.

ca. 25,000 BC9,000 BC - Northern Europe was plunged into a deep Ice Age

8,500 BC - British Isles separate from Continent. Thanks to higher sea levels, Ireland and Britain become separate islands divided by the Irish Sea. A warmer climate led to the growth of forests all over Britain.

c.a. 6,000 b.c.e. Beginning of Neolithic (Stone) Age in Britain. The cultivation of previously wild plants encouraged the growth of permanent farming settlements. Animals were domesticated.

ca. 3000 b.c.e. Start of Stonehenge construction.

ca. 2300 b.c.e.Beginning of Bronze Age in Europe.

ca. 2000 b.c.e. Use of Stonehenge declines.

ca. 1500 b.c.e. Change in climate leads to sharp decline in population.

sixth century b.c.e. Beginning of Iron Age and Celtic culture in Britain.

ca. 325 b.c.e. Greek traveler Pytheas of Massilia circumnavigates Britain.

55 b.c.e. First Roman invasion of Britain, under Julius Caesar.

43ADRoman invasion under Claudius followed by conquest of most of Britain.

306 Constantine is proclaimed emperor at York.

410 The end of Roman rule in Britain.

(William E. Burns A Brief History of Great Britain

Copyright © 2010 by William E. Burns); (Richard Dargie A History of Britain, Arctus Publishing Ltd., London, 2007)


Task 2. Listen to the introduction and fill in the gaps in the text.

From its earliest days 1)……… was an object of desire. Tacitus, a Roman writer and historian, 2)…….. it worth a conquest. Britannia was thought to be rich in 3)…., 4)……., 5)……. As far as the Romans were concerned Britannia was the 6) …. of the world, but it was the edge of their world. If the Romans had traveled to the northernmost part of the islands (Orkney), they would have seen unmistakable signs of a 7)………… thousands of years older than the Rome.

Task 3. Find answers to the following questions and write a short summary of Part 1:

  • Where are the remains of Stone Age life most abundant?

Abundant –обильны, многочисленны

  • What is the name of the Neolithic village that is circa 5000 years old and was discovered in 1850?

Circa - около

· Who robbed the tombs in Scara Brae but left there their own legacy in the form of graffiti? (the Vikings)

Tombs –гробницы, захоронения

· What were the most distinctive features of life of Stone Age people in Britain?

Describe their settlements, houses, burials, everyday activities, eating habits, tools, art

Oysters- устрицы;

thriving; bustling communities – процветающие поселения с активным населением;

hearth -очаг;

dressers –кухонные шкафы;

ivory necklaces –бусы из слоновой кости;

rudimentary tools – примитивные инструменты;

Solstice – равноденствие;

hoi polloi- обычные люди;

game –дичь, дикие животные;

shield –щит.

· Was Britain really an unbroken forest kingdom stretching from Cornwall to Inverness?

· How did the life in Britain change in Iron Age (tools, settlements, social life, art and craftsmanship, cults)?

Grisly brutality of the Druids –ужасная жестокость Друидов;

decapitated heads– отделенные от тел головы;

· Why were hill forts, towers and walls built in the Iron Age?

· How and when did Romans conquer Britain (Caesar’s campaigns, Claudius’s campaign, Boadicea’s revolt, Colchester burnt, Hadrian’s wall)?

The lure of treasure - соблазн сокровищ;

seductive- соблазнительный;

what Roman generals craved the most- чего особенно жаждали римские генералы; perennial secret British weapon, the weather– извечное секретное оружие британцев, погода;

carrot and stick- кнут и пряник (морковь и палка);

oppida – укрепленная группа жилищ;

ally –союзник, сподвижник;

to realise on which side their bread was buttered –понимать, где выгода;

public flogging - публичная порка;

Her great insurrection ended in a gory, chaotic slaughter –Ее великое восстание закончилось кровавым, хаотичным побоищем.

· What innovations did the Romans introduce to Britain? Describe the main features of life in Roman Britain. How did the Roman rule end?

Genuine fusion –истинное слияние;

vulnerability- уязвимость;

· Describe the political and social situation in Britain after the withdrawal of Romans. What is meant by “the vacuum of power” in 5th c. Britain? What were the main stages and the aftermath of the Anglo-Saxon invasion? Describe the relationship between the British and Anglo-Saxons during the period.

… seemed a boon not a curse –казались благом, а не проклятием;

blunder- серьезная ошибка;

· What were the principal features of Anglo-Saxon society and way of life?

· How did the conversion of Britain to Christianity take place? (St. Patrick, Augustine, Venerable Bede)

Conversion –обращение в христианство;

gospel –евангелие;

pagan –языческий;

· Describe the arrival of Vikings in Britain (raids, plunder, slavery). How did the unification of England in the face of Viking threat take place? What was the role of Alfred the Great in this process?

Heathen men– язычники;

plunder– грабеж, грабить ;

priests- священники;

a common foe- общий враг;

onslaught– наступление;

a startling and illuminating story – удивительная и поучительная история;

warrior –воин;

consumption –употребление;

conceivable and even desirable – возможно и даже желательно;


Task 4. In Part 1 there are a lot of proper nouns: Orkney, Skara Brae, Tacitus, Cornwall, Bath, Inverness, Colchester, Alfred, Ethelwulf, Boadicea, Caesar, Claudius, Hadrian, Aran, Dover, Porchester, Vortigan, Bernicia, Northumbria, Hibernia, Caledonia, Jarrow.

Classify them into two groups: names of peopleand names of places. Try to explain what they are.

E.g. Hibernia – the name of a place. That is how the Romans called Ireland.

Boadicea –the name of a person. She was a Celtic Queen who revolted against the Romans.


Task 5.Unscramble the names of some famous people mentioned in this part of the film.



Task 6. Supplementary reading.Read the following information and say what facts were not mentioned in the film.

Who were the Celts?

From around 750 BC to 12 BC, the Celts were the most powerful people in central and northern Europe. There were many groups (tribes) of Celts, speaking a vaguely common language. The word Celt comes from the Greek word, Keltoi, which means barbarians and is properly pronounced as "Kelt".

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