Little is truly known about pre-Roman life in England, but the civilised Romans were horrified by the practices of the priestly Druids who engaged in human sacrifices. The Romans brought civilisation and prosperity to Britannia from 55BC until their abrupt departure in 410AD. England then divided into fiefdoms and fell on hard times. Vikings controlled the north, and Anglo Saxons the south east. In 1066 England fell to William the Conqueror, ushering in 300 years of French domination. England consolidated under Henry VIII who cut ties with the Pope; his daughter’s Elizabethan era is immortalised in Shakespeare’s writings. Parliament and King clashed in the Civil War resulting in England’s only republican period from 1664-1690. In 1707 the United Kingdom was formed and Britain embarked on world expansion on the back of trade. Britain defeated Napoleon in 1815, Russia in 1856 and Germany in 1918 and 1945. England peaked economically and culturally during Queen Victoria’s long reign.
For such a small country England’s contribution on the world stage is enormous. More people speak its language than any other, its sports (soccer, rugby, tennis, and cricket) are played the world over, its literature and philosophy are widely studied and enjoyed and England still makes a massive contribution to cinema, television and live music. Depite the spectacular financial disasters starting in 2008 largely caused by British deregulation the City of London remains one of Europe’s financial capitals. The 2012 Olympic Games gave London an excuse to jazz up its tired image. Its historical sites and nightlife attract millions of visitors annually.