A People's History of England

A complete social and political history of England. Originally published in 1938. Many of the earliest books, particular

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English Pages [585] Year 1976

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Table of contents :
Contents
Foreword
I Tribes and Legions
II The Growth of Feudalism
III Feudal England
IV The Decline of Feudalism
V The End of the Middle Ages
VI The New Monarchy and the Bourgeoisie
VII Origin of the English Revolution
VIII The English Revolution
IX Commonwealth and Compromise
X Whig England
XI The Industrial Revolution
XII The Triumph of Industrial Capitalism
XIII Liberal Ascendancy
XIV The Organisation of the Working Class
XV Colonial Expansion
XVI Origins of the First World War
XVII World War: World Crisis
A note About Books
Bibliography
Index
List of Maps
The Reading Generation [A note in Sindhi]
Recommend Papers

A People's History of England

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�. ABOUT THE'\ Briefl.

This is a history book which scholar and average reader alike will find absorbing, exciting and rich in content. It treats history not in terms of kings and dates and battles­ nor yet in terms of dry economics-but in terms of people, showing how the English people have shaped their own history and their social institutions from the time of the Norman Conquest. A work of unquestioned erudition, it not only describes and records­ as so many historians are content to do-but explains; in it history comes to life, and the reader understands why things happened and how the present grew out of the past­ and consequently understands too how the future can be shaped. First published in 1938, A People's History of England has remained in continuous demand, and has had eight printings. This first paper­ back edition has been revised throughout by the author.

LAWRENCE & WISHART LTD LONDON

A PEOPLE'S H ISTORY OF ENGL A ND BY A. L. MORTON

BY TIIE AUTHOR

1938 A

People's History of England 1945 Language of Men 1952 The English Utopia 1956

The British Labour Movement, 1770-1920 (in collaboration with George Tate) 1958 The Everlasting Gospel, A Study of William Blake 196.z The Life and Ideas of Robert Owen 196; Socialism in Britain

A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF ENGLAND by A. L. Morton With I s maps by ]. F. HORRABIN

Ill would Change be at Whiles, were it not /or the Change beyond the Change

William Morris

1976 LAWRENCE & WISHART LTD. LONDON

First published by Victor Gollancz May 1938 Second impression May 1938 First published by Lawrence & Wishart 1945 Second impression December 1945 Third impression February 1946 New Edition October 1948 Second impression May 1951 Third impression 1956 Fourth impression February 1957 First published as a paperback by Lawrence & Wishart, London, in association with Seven Seas Books Berlin, 1965 Second impression by Lawrence & Wishart, London, International Publishers, New York, and Seven Seas Books, Berlin, 1968 Third impression by Lawrence & Wishart, London, in association with Seven Seas Books, Berlin, 1971 Fourth impression by Lawrence & Wishart, London, International Publishers, New York, and Seven Seas Books, Berlin, 197 4 Fifth impression by Lawrence & Wishart, London, 1976 SBN 85315 137 7

To my Father who has helped more than he imagines

Copyright

©

A. L. Morton

Cover Design by Lothar Reher Printed in German Democratic Republic

CONTENTS FOREWORD

13

I TRIBES AKO LEGIONS

The Iberians 1 The Celtic Tribes Roman Britain 4 The Roman Twilight l

I)

18 2.3 17

II THE GROWTH OF FECDALI SM

1 The English Conquest The Township Christianity 4 The Northmen s The End of Saxon England 2.

31 37 40 46 52

III FECDAL ENGLAND

The Conquest 2. The Social Structure of Domesday England State: Baron: Church 4 Foreign Relations The Great Charter 1

59 64 70 76 83

IV THE DECLINE OF FEUDALISM

1 Trade and Towns Parliamentary Origins 3 Wales : Ireland: Scotland

2.

88 95

102.

IV

(continued)

4 The Hundred Years' War and the Revolution in Military Technique

1o8

5 The Black Death

114

6 The Peasants' Rising

120

7 The Political Significance of the I..ollard Heresy

127

V TH E END O F THE MIDDL E AG E S

1 A Century o f Paradox 2 Parliament and the House of Lancaster 138 3 The Hundred Years' War-II

143

4 The Wars of the Roses

147

VI TH E N EW MONAR CHY AND TH E BOU RGEOI S I E

1 The Clothing Industry

153

2 The Discoveries

159

� The Agrarian Revolution

165

4 The Tudor Monarchy

174

5 The Reformation in England

182

6 The Counter-Reformation and the Elizabethan Settlement

188

VII O RIGIN OF TH E ENGLISH R EVO LUTION I z

The Struggle with Spain

195

The Chartered Companies

203

Crown and Parliament

210

4 The Puritans

219

s Fundamental Issues in the English

Revolution

225

VIII THE ENGLISH REVOLUT I ON

1 The Long Parliament: Classes and Parties 2 The Civil War 3 Regicide 4 The Levellers

IX C O M M ONWEALTH AND C O M P R OMISE

1 Ireland: Scotland

260

2 The Commonwealth

266

3 The Compromise of 1660

272

4 The Compromise of 1688

280

X WHIG ENGLAND

1 War Finance 2 Party Politics 3 Colonial War 4 The American Revolution s War and Industry XI THE INDUST RIAL REV OLUTION

1 Agriculture 2 Fuel, Iron and Transport 3 Textiles: the Speenhamland

Experiment 4 The French Revolution

m 344

s The Napoleonic Wars

352

XII THE T R I U MPH OF INDUST RIAL CAPITALI S M

1 England After Waterloo 2 The War in the Villages

XII

(continued)

3 Factory Legislation 4 The Roots of Liberalism 5 The Reform Bill X I I I L I BE R A L A S CEN DAN C Y

1 The New Poor Law and the Railway Age 2 The Corn Laws

394 401

3 Foreign Politics: Palmerston to Disraeli

4 The Second Reform Bill XIV THE O R GANISATION OF THE W O RK IN G C LA S S

1 Revolutionary Trade Unionism 2 The Chartists 3 The New Model

423 430 440

4 Socialism and the Organisation of the Unskilled

447

The War for the Land and the National Struggle in Ireland

454

XV C O LONIAL EXPAN S I ON

I India

2 Canada and Australia

3 Egypt 4 Tropical and South Africa XVI O R I G IN S OF TH E F I R ST W O R LD WAR

1 Imperialism 2 Triple Alliance, Triple Entente

491 498

XVI

(continued)

Internal Crisis, 19o6-1914 4 The Road to Sarajevo XVII W O R LD WAR: W O R LD C R IS I S

1 The First World War 2 The Home Front A N OTE A B OUT B O OK S B I B LI OG RAPHY INDEX LIST OF MAPS

F O REWO R D

One

of the problems of wriung history is to know

where to stop, since history goes on continuously while a book has got to end somewhere. When I was writing this book twenty-seven years ago I solved the problem by stopping at the point we had then actually reached-with civil war still raging in Spain and the world under the menace of Fascism and of a new war even more terrible than that of 1914. This does not seem a suitable or even a possible stop­ ping point in 1964. And in any case the events between 1918 and 1937 were necessarily only summarised in a brief Epilogue which has now become quite inadequate as an account of those momentous years. Two possible courses seemed open to me. One was to bring my story up to date, or at least to find a new and more satisfactory stopping point some­ where

between 1937 and the present time. The advantages

of this are obvious. The disadvantages are that to deal with this period at all adequately it would have to be treated in considerable detail, which would destroy the present balance of the book and add very considerably to its already formidable length. In any case I do not feel myself competent to deal with the very difficult prob­ lems of a period quite outside my own field of study and for which a really gigantic bulk of material would have to be mastered. A good popular history of Britain in the Twentieth Century is certainly needed, but I am not the person to write it. The other course, which I have adopted, was to cut

out the Epilogue, thus ending with the close of the First World War and the establishment of the first socialis·t state in the Soviet Union. With these events, history takes a new direction and the world enters a new historic epoch. Apart from this, I have taken the opportunity offered by this new edition to make a number of minor changes and some additions to the bibliography.

I hope that in

its present form my book will continue to be useful to the student as well as to the general reader. A.L. M.

December, 1964

C H A PTE R I

Tribes and Legions 1. The Iberians

E arly maps show a world in which Britain is a remote

outpost, a shapeless cluster of islands thrust out into the encircling ocean. But in some of these maps a significant tilt brings their South-western coast close to the North of Spain, reminding us that earlier still, centuries before the making of any maps that have survived, Britain lay not outside the world but on a regular and frequented trade route which linked Mediterranean civilisation with the amber-bearing North. It was by this long sea route and not across the Dover Straits or the Channel that civilisation first reached these shores. In Cornwall, in Ireland and along the coast of Wales and Scotland cluster the monuments left by Iberian or Megalithic men who reached and peopled Britain between 3000 and 2000 B.C. A final group of such monuments in

Sutherland, the last point at which their ships touched land before pushing across the North Sea to Scandinavia, makes the route and its objective abundantly clear. At this

time the land subsidence which had begun a thousand or so years earlier was still going on, and the apparently shorter and

safer route up

Channel and along the

European coast was closed, if not by a land bridge joining Britain to the continent, then by straits that were narrow, shifting, shoaling and swept by rapid tides. This is perhaps the first reason for the settlement of Iberian man in Britain. Though little is certainly known about these Iberians of the New Stone Age, a good deal may be inferred with reasonable safety, since they have left their mark clearly

upon the face of the land. Further, their stock is one of the main contributors to the present population of the British Isles, especially in Ireland, Wales and the West of Eng­ land. A small, dark, long-headed race, they settled espe­ cially on the chalk downs that radiate from Salisbury Plain. Below the ridges of these hills run their trackways, like the Icknield Way and the Pilgrim's Way, which are our oldest and most historic roads. On the downs and along the trackways lie the long barrows, the great earth­ works such as crown Cissbury and Dolebury,1 and the stone circles of which Avebury is the grandest and Stone­ henge the best known. It is from these monuments and from the downland terraces formed by their agriculture that we can guess what manner of people these were. The size and splendour of their monuments speak of a numerous and well-organised people. Thousands must have worked together to raise the great earthworks, and the trackways link settlement to settlement in an orderly fashion. So, the Icknield Way joins the industrial centre of Grimes Graves, site of a large scale flint knapping on the Brecklands of Norfolk, with the religious centre at Avebury. The downland terraces indicate an intensive agriculture carried on with hoe and spade. The whole lay-out of Iberian civilisation points to a certain specialisa­ tion and division of labour which enabled the Norfolk people, for example, to mine and work flints that were traded all over the country. More direct evidence of the social structure of the Iberians is the long barrow. Often over

2.00

feet in length,

these barrows were burial places and prove the existence of sharply marked class divisions. On the one hand there must have been chiefs or nobles, people important enough to demand such elaborate funeral arrangements, and on the other, an abundance of the men whose cheap, possibly servile labour, was available for such works. If it could 1 The earthworks in their present form are of considerably later, mainly Iron Age, origin, but often have a Neolithic substratum.

16

be definitely established that the huge pyramidal mounds at Silbury and Marlborough were also barrows it would be reasonable to infer also the existence of something in the nature of kingship. Finally, there is some evidence that Iberian culture was mainly unwarlike. Few finds that can be classed as weapons have been unearthed of an earlier date than the first Celtic invasions in the Late Bronze Age, and there is little reason to think that the Downland earthworks were built as fortresses. The diffusion of certain types of implements and utensils shows that a considerable trade went on along the track­ ways and by sea between Britain and Spain and even to the Mediterranean. Whether metals, other

than gold

which was mined in Ireland, were known is uncertain, since it is becoming increasingly difficult to draw any clear line between New Stone and Early Bronze Ages. Soon after 2000 B.C. a new race of Alpine stock entered the country, this time from the South-east and East. From their characteristic pottery they are known as the Beaker Folk. This race was certainly familiar with the use an