In this accessible history volume, Charles Dickens turns his talents to the saga of the United Kingdom. With characteristic wit and perspicacity, he brings the kings, soldiers, and civilians who shaped England, Scotland, and Ireland to vivid life. Beginning in 50 B.C.E. and extending through the reign of James II in 1688, this immensely readable book offers readers a complete and engaging look at England’s past.
Originally appearing in serial form, A Child’s History of England provides rare snapshots of Britain throughout the ages as rendered by an unparalleled master.
This ebook has been professionally proofread to ensure accuracy and readability on all devices.
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About the Author
An international celebrity during his lifetime, Charles Dickens (1812–1870) is widely regarded as the greatest novelist of the Victorian era. His classic works include A Christmas Carol, Oliver Twist, David Copperfield, Great Expectations, and A Tale of Two Cities, one of the bestselling novels of all time. When Dickens was twelve years old, his father was sent to debtors’ prison, and the boy was forced to work in a boot-blacking factory to support his family. The experience greatly shaped both his fiction and his tireless advocacy for children’s rights and social reform.
Date of Birth:February 7, 1812
Date of Death:June 18, 1870
Place of Birth:Portsmouth, England
Place of Death:Gad's Hill, Kent, England
Education:Home-schooling; attended Dame School at Chatham briefly and Wellington
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A Child's History of England
By Charles Dickens
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 2015 Charles Dickens
All rights reserved.
ANCIENT ENGLAND AND THE ROMANS
IF YOU LOOK AT a Map of the World, you will see, in the left-hand upper corner of the Eastern Hemisphere, two Islands lying in the sea. They are England and Scotland, and Ireland. England and Scotland form the greater part of these Islands. Ireland is the next in size. The little neighbouring islands, which are so small upon the Map as to be mere dots, are chiefly little bits of Scotland — broken off, I dare say, in the course of a great length of time, by the power of the restless water.
In the old days, a long, long while ago, before Our Saviour was born on earth and lay asleep in a manger, these Islands were in the same place, and the stormy sea roared round them, just as it roars now. But the sea was not alive, then, with great ships and brave sailors, sailing to and from all parts of the world. It was very lonely. The Islands lay solitary, in the great expanse of water. The foaming waves dashed against their cliffs, and the bleak winds blew over their forests; but the winds and waves brought no adventurers to land upon the Islands, and the savage Islanders knew nothing of the rest of the world, and the rest of the world knew nothing of them.
It is supposed that the Phnicians, who were an ancient people, famous for carrying on trade, came in ships to these Islands, and found that they produced tin and lead; both very useful things, as you know, and both produced to this very hour upon the sea-coast. The most celebrated tin mines in Cornwall are, still, close to the sea. One of them, which I have seen, is so close to it that it is hollowed out underneath the ocean; and the miners say, that in stormy weather, when they are at work down in that deep place, they can hear the noise of the waves thundering above their heads. So, the Phnicians, coasting about the Islands, would come, without much difficulty, to where the tin and lead were.
The Phnicians traded with the Islanders for these metals, and gave the Islanders some other useful things in exchange. The Islanders were, at first, poor savages, going almost naked, or only dressed in the rough skins of beasts, and staining their bodies, as other savages do, with coloured earths and the juices of plants. But the Phnicians, sailing over to the opposite coasts of France and Belgium, and saying to the people there, 'We have been to those white cliffs across the water, which you can see in fine weather, and from that country, which is called BRITAIN, we bring this tin and lead,' tempted some of the French and Belgians to come over also. These people settled themselves on the south coast of England, which is now called Kent; and, although they were a rough people too, they taught the savage Britons some useful arts, and improved that part of the Islands. It is probable that other people came over from Spain to Ireland, and settled there.
Thus, by little and little, strangers became mixed with the Islanders, and the savage Britons grew into a wild, bold people; almost savage, still, especially in the interior of the country away from the sea where the foreign settlers seldom went; but hardy, brave, and strong.
The whole country was covered with forests, and swamps. The greater part of it was very misty and cold. There were no roads, no bridges, no streets, no houses that you would think deserving of the name. A town was nothing but a collection of straw-covered huts, hidden in a thick wood, with a ditch all round, and a low wall, made of mud, or the trunks of trees placed one upon another. The people planted little or no corn, but lived upon the flesh of their flocks and cattle. They made no coins, but used metal rings for money. They were clever in basket-work, as savage people often are; and they could make a coarse kind of cloth, and some very bad earthenware. But in building fortresses they were much more clever.
They made boats of basket-work, covered with the skins of animals, but seldom, if ever, ventured far from the shore. They made swords, of copper mixed with tin; but, these swords were of an awkward shape, and so soft that a heavy blow would bend one. They made light shields, short pointed daggers, and spears — which they jerked back after they had thrown them at an enemy, by a long strip of leather fastened to the stem. The butt-end was a rattle, to frighten an enemy's horse. The ancient Britons, being divided into as many as thirty or forty tribes, each commanded by its own little king, were constantly fighting with one another, as savage people usually do; and they always fought with these weapons.
They were very fond of horses. The standard of Kent was the picture of a white horse. They could break them in and manage them wonderfully well. Indeed, the horses (of which they had an abundance, though they were rather small) were so well taught in those days, that they can scarcely be said to have improved since; though the men are so much wiser. They understood, and obeyed, every word of command; and would stand still by themselves, in all the din and noise of battle, while their masters went to fight on foot. The Britons could not have succeeded in their most remarkable art, without the aid of these sensible and trusty animals. The art I mean, is the construction and management of war-chariots or cars, for which they have ever been celebrated in history. Each of the best sort of these chariots, not quite breast high in front, and open at the back, contained one man to drive, and two or three others to fight — all standing up. The horses who drew them were so well trained, that they would tear, at full gallop, over the most stony ways, and even through the woods; dashing down their masters' enemies beneath their hoofs, and cutting them to pieces with the blades of swords, or scythes, which were fastened to the wheels, and stretched out beyond the car on each side, for that cruel purpose. In a moment, while at full speed, the horses would stop, at the driver's command. The men within would leap out, deal blows about them with their swords like hail, leap on the horses, on the pole, spring back into the chariots anyhow; and, as soon as they were safe, the horses tore away again.
The Britons had a strange and terrible religion, called the Religion of the Druids. It seems to have been brought over, in very early times indeed, from the opposite country of France, anciently called Gaul, and to have mixed up the worship of the Serpent, and of the Sun and Moon, with the worship of some of the Heathen Gods and Goddesses. Most of its ceremonies were kept secret by the priests, the Druids, who pretended to be enchanters, and who carried magicians' wands, and wore, each of them, about his neck, what he told the ignorant people was a Serpent's egg in a golden case. But it is certain that the Druidical ceremonies included the sacrifice of human victims, the torture of some suspected criminals, and, on particular occasions, even the burning alive, in immense wicker cages, of a number of men and animals together. The Druid Priests had some kind of veneration for the Oak, and for the mistletoe — the same plant that we hang up in houses at Christmas Time now — when its white berries grew upon the Oak. They met together in dark woods, which they called Sacred Groves; and there they instructed, in their mysterious arts, young men who came to them as pupils, and who sometimes stayed with them as long as twenty years.
These Druids built great Temples and altars, open to the sky, fragments of some of which are yet remaining. Stonehenge, on Salisbury Plain, in Wiltshire, is the most extraordinary of these. Three curious stones, called Kits Coty House, on Bluebell Hill, near Maidstone, in Kent, form another. We know, from examination of the great blocks of which such buildings are made, that they could not have been raised without the aid of some ingenious machines, which are common now, but which the ancient Britons certainly did not use in making their own uncomfortable houses. I should not wonder if the Druids, and their pupils who stayed with them twenty years, knowing more than the rest of the Britons, kept the people out of sight while they made these buildings, and then pretended that they built them by magic. Perhaps they had a hand in the fortresses too; at all events, as they were very powerful, and very much believed in, and as they made and executed the laws, and paid no taxes, I don't wonder that they liked their trade. And, as they persuaded the people the more Druids there were, the better off the people would be, I don't wonder that there were a good many of them. But it is pleasant to think that there are no Druids, now, who go on in that way, and pretend to carry Enchanters' Wands and Serpents' Eggs — and of course there is nothing of the kind, anywhere.
Such was the improved condition of the ancient Britons, fifty-five years before the birth of Our Saviour, when the Romans, under their great General, Julius Cæsar, were masters of all the rest of the known world. Julius Cæsar had then just conquered Gaul; and hearing, in Gaul, a good deal about the opposite Island with the white cliffs, and about the bravery of the Britons who inhabited it — some of whom had been fetched over to help the Gauls in the war against him — he resolved, as he was so near, to come and conquer Britain next.
So, Julius Cæsar came sailing over to this Island of ours, with eighty vessels and twelve thousand men. And he came from the French coast between Calais and Boulogne, 'because thence was the shortest passage into Britain;' just for the same reason as our steam-boats now take the same track, every day. He expected to conquer Britain easily: but it was not such easy work as he supposed — for the bold Britons fought most bravely; and, what with not having his horse-soldiers with him (for they had been driven back by a storm), and what with having some of his vessels dashed to pieces by a high tide after they were drawn ashore, he ran great risk of being totally defeated. However, for once that the bold Britons beat him, he beat them twice; though not so soundly but that he was very glad to accept their proposals of peace, and go away.
But, in the spring of the next year, he came back; this time, with eight hundred vessels and thirty thousand men. The British tribes chose, as their general-in-chief, a Briton, whom the Romans in their Latin language called CASSIVELLAUNUS, but whose British name is supposed to have been CASWALLON. A brave general he was, and well he and his soldiers fought the Roman army! So well, that whenever in that war the Roman soldiers saw a great cloud of dust, and heard the rattle of the rapid British chariots, they trembled in their hearts. Besides a number of smaller battles, there was a battle fought near Canterbury, in Kent; there was a battle fought near Chertsey, in Surrey; there was a battle fought near a marshy little town in a wood, the capital of that part of Britain which belonged to CASSIVELLAUNUS, and which was probably near what is now Saint Albans, in Hertfordshire. However, brave CASSIVELLAUNUS had the worst of it, on the whole; though he and his men always fought like lions. As the other British chiefs were jealous of him, and were always quarrelling with him, and with one another, he gave up, and proposed peace. Julius Cæsar was very glad to grant peace easily, and to go away again with all his remaining ships and men. He had expected to find pearls in Britain, and he may have found a few for anything I know; but, at all events, he found delicious oysters, and I am sure he found tough Britons — of whom, I dare say, he made the same complaint as Napoleon Bonaparte the great French General did, eighteen hundred years afterwards, when he said they were such unreasonable fellows that they never knew when they were beaten. They never did know, I believe, and never will.
Nearly a hundred years passed on, and all that time, there was peace in Britain. The Britons improved their towns and mode of life: became more civilised, travelled, and learnt a great deal from the Gauls and Romans. At last, the Roman Emperor, Claudius, sent AULUS PLAUTIUS, a skilful general, with a mighty force, to subdue the Island, and shortly afterwards arrived himself. They did little; and OSTORIUS SCAPULA, another general, came. Some of the British Chiefs of Tribes submitted. Others resolved to fight to the death. Of these brave men, the bravest was CARACTACUS, or CARADOC, who gave battle to the Romans, with his army, among the mountains of North Wales. 'This day,' said he to his soldiers, 'decides the fate of Britain! Your liberty, or your eternal slavery, dates from this hour. Remember your brave ancestors, who drove the great Cæsar himself across the sea!' On hearing these words, his men, with a great shout, rushed upon the Romans. But the strong Roman swords and armour were too much for the weaker British weapons in close conflict. The Britons lost the day. The wife and daughter of the brave CARACTACUS were taken prisoners; his brothers delivered themselves up; he himself was betrayed into the hands of the Romans by his false and base stepmother: and they carried him, and all his family, in triumph to Rome.
But a great man will be great in misfortune, great in prison, great in chains. His noble air, and dignified endurance of distress, so touched the Roman people who thronged the streets to see him, that he and his family were restored to freedom. No one knows whether his great heart broke, and he died in Rome, or whether he ever returned to his own dear country. English oaks have grown up from acorns, and withered away, when they were hundreds of years old — and other oaks have sprung up in their places, and died too, very aged — since the rest of the history of the brave CARACTACUS was forgotten.
Still, the Britons would not yield. They rose again and again, and died by thousands, sword in hand. They rose, on every possible occasion. SUETONIUS, another Roman general, came, and stormed the Island of Anglesey (then called MONA), which was supposed to be sacred, and he burnt the Druids in their own wicker cages, by their own fires. But, even while he was in Britain, with his victorious troops, the BRITONS rose. Because BOADICEA, a British queen, the widow of the King of the Norfolk and Suffolk people, resisted the plundering of her property by the Romans who were settled in England, she was scourged, by order of CATUS a Roman officer; and her two daughters were shamefully insulted in her presence, and her husband's relations were made slaves. To avenge this injury, the Britons rose, with all their might and rage. They drove CATUS into Gaul; they laid the Roman possessions waste; they forced the Romans out of London, then a poor little town, but a trading place; they hanged, burnt, crucified, and slew by the sword, seventy thousand Romans in a few days. SUETONIUS strengthened his army, and advanced to give them battle. They strengthened their army, and desperately attacked his, on the field where it was strongly posted. Before the first charge of the Britons was made, BOADICEA, in a war-chariot, with her fair hair streaming in the wind, and her injured daughters lying at her feet, drove among the troops, and cried to them for vengeance on their oppressors, the licentious Romans. The Britons fought to the last; but they were vanquished with great slaughter, and the unhappy queen took poison.
Still, the spirit of the Britons was not broken. When SUETONIUS left the country, they fell upon his troops, and retook the Island of Anglesey. AGRICOLA came, fifteen or twenty years afterwards, and retook it once more, and devoted seven years to subduing the country, especially that part of it which is now called SCOTLAND; but, its people, the Caledonians, resisted him at every inch of ground. They fought the bloodiest battles with him; they killed their very wives and children, to prevent his making prisoners of them; they fell, fighting, in such great numbers that certain hills in Scotland are yet supposed to be vast heaps of stones piled up above their graves. HADRIAN came, thirty years afterwards, and still they resisted him. SEVERUS came, nearly a hundred years afterwards, and they worried his great army like dogs, and rejoiced to see them die, by thousands, in the bogs and swamps. CARACALLA, the son and successor of SEVERUS, did the most to conquer them, for a time; but not by force of arms. He knew how little that would do. He yielded up a quantity of land to the Caledonians, and gave the Britons the same privileges as the Romans possessed. There was peace, after this, for seventy years.
Excerpted from A Child's History of England by Charles Dickens. Copyright © 2015 Charles Dickens. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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Table of Contents
Chapter I Ancient England and the Romans 1
Chapter II Ancient England Under the Early Saxons 8
Chapter III England Under the Good Saxon, Alfred 12
Chapter IV England Under Athelstan and the Six Boy-Kings 17
Chapter V England Under Canute the Dane 26
Chapter VI England Under Harold Harefoot, Hardicanute, and Edward the Confessor 28
Chapter VII England Under Harold the Second, and Conquered By the Normans 34
Chapter VIII England Under William the First, The Norman Conqueror 38
Chapter IX England Under William the Second, Called Rufus 44
Chapter X England Under Henry the First, Called Fine-Scholar 50
Chapter XI England Under Matilda and Stephen 58
Chapter XII England Under Henry the Second 61
Part the First 61
Part the Second 70
Chapter XIII England Under Richard the First, Called the Lion-Heart 76
Chapter XIV England Under King John, Called Lackland 84
Chapter XV England Under Henry the Third, Called, Of Winchester 94
Chapter XVI England Under Edward the First, Called Longshanks 104
Chapter XVII England Under Edward the Second 117
Chapter XVIII England Under Edward the Third 125
Chapter XIX England Under Richard the Second 135
Chapter XX England Under Henry the Fourth, Called Bolingbroke 144
Chapter XXI England Under Henry the Fifth 149
First Part 149
Second Part 155
Chapter XXII England Under Henry the Sixth 158
Part the First 158
Part the Second: The Story of Joan of Arc 160
Part the Third 167
Chapter XXIII England Under Edward the Fourth 175
Chapter XXIV England Under Edward the Fifth 182
Chapter XXV England Under Richard the Third 186
Chapter XXVI England Under Henry the Seventh 190
Chapter XXVII England Under Henry the Eighth, Called Bluff King Hal and Burly King Harry. Part the First 199
Chapter XXVIII England Under Henry the Eighth. Part the Second 208
Chapter XXIX England Under Edward the Sixth 216
Chapter XXX England Under Mary 222
Chapter XXXI England Under Elizabeth 232
First Part 232
Second Part 239
Third Part 247
Chapter XXXII England Under James the First 252
First Part 252
Second Part 259
Chapter XXXIII England Under Charles the First 265
First Part 265
Second Part 272
Third Part 279
Fourth Part 282
Chapter XXXIV England Under Oliver Cromwell 289
First Part 289
Second Part 296
Chapter XXXV England Under Charles the Second, Called the Merry Monarch 303
First Part 303
Second Part 310
Chapter XXXVI England Under James the Second 321
Chapter XXXVII 331
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I read this book many years ago before I bought a NOOK. I intend to buy it for my NOOK soon. This book is a synopsis of all the Kings of England and a description of what happened in their reign. I was surprised to learn of all the foreigners who came to England over the centuries and took over for a time. Romans, Danes and Normans and others all came there and at times took command over much of the country. It is certainly worth reading for adults even though the title makes one think it is only for young readers.
This book is a great book for learing about England.
Im a kid and this is pretty good
He doesn't stay on one topic,it's hard to read
Google books version of a defaced copy, withdrawn from the public library. Very poor text recognition, so that the text is garbled and unreadable.
Looked interesting, but unable to download.
i couldn't download this book. it sounds good but i didn't get a chance to read it.
I love this book
Good book #lol
No offense, but Charles Dickens is one of the most famous writers the world has known so far. If you think this book is boring, you most likely aren't intelligent enough to comprehend it. Do you even know why he's important? I advise you to Google him.
My kids love it
When I finished the preview, I bought the whole book it was so good!!!
Very detaled and to belive it or not you have reading it if you like history that is
i think it should be more intresting