BLTC Press Titles

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Novalis Including Hymns to the Night

Novalis, George MacDonald, Thomas Carlyle

Vanity Fair

William Thackery

Knowledge of Higher Worlds and its Attainment

Rudolf Steiner

The Diplomatic Background of the War

Charles Seymour

A short history of England

by Edward Potts Cheyney


In the few instances in which successful invasions and settlements have taken place they have been more gradual in their progress than they would have been if the invaders had come by land. The country has had time to absorb Saxon, Dane, and

1 "The narrow seas," or "the British seas," is an expression applied to the English Channel and that part of the North Sea which lies between England and Holland. England formerly claimed to have control over these waters.

Norman, and transform them into its own island race. The same is true of more peaceful influences. Many customs lying in the realms of language, law, trade, agriculture, and manufactures have been borrowed or learned by the English from foreigners. But they have received all these things slowly and gradually, and have thus assimilated them to their own national customs.

Yet this isolation of England and its detachment from the continent must not be exaggerated. The width of the intervening waters is not great. The Strait of Dover where it is narrowest is but twenty-one miles wide; the Channel but one hundred and twenty and the North Sea but three hundred miles where they are broadest. From a point about half way along the southern coast of England to another more than one third of the way along the eastern coast there is a stretch in which the British and the continental shores are so near to one another that in all but the most unfavorable weather a few hours' sailing will bring a boat from one coast to the other.

From a geological point of view it is only in recent ages that the British Isles have been separated by water from the continent of Europe. The ancient edge of the continent lay far to the westward of the present coast, and the seas around Great Britain and Ireland are comparatively shallow waters which have in a late geological period overspread the lower-lying lands. The earliest inhabitants of Britain came in all probability by land, not by water. It is scarcely more than an accident that the coasts of France, Belgium, and Holland are separated from those of England by a shallow sea rather than by a level plain. Both coasts are comparatively low and provided with numerous harbors. Hence the countries on the two sides of the narrow seas have always been easily accessible to one another. They are natural neighbors, much alike in the character of their coast, surface, productions, and even population.

There has been much besides these geographical features through all the later centuries of history to bring about intercourse between England and the mainland. Scarcely any great influence that affected the continental countries failed to make at least some impression on England. As its history is studied it will be found that along with its distinctiveness and marked national peculiarities it has had much in common with the other countries of Europe and has been constantly influenced by them.

Within the group of the British Isles the geographical formation tends to separate Scotland, Ireland, and Wales from England and from one another. The long, narrow shape of the principal island made union of all its inhabitants into one nation difficult. The English and Scotch at its two ends naturally grew up into two separate peoples, and the mountains of Wales long kept the race which inhabited that region separate. The Irish Sea and St. George's Channel separated Ireland and its inhabitants from all of these.

Of these four principal divisions of the islands England is marked out by nature to be the most important. Its territory is a continuous, unbroken stretch, filling far the largest part of the larger island; it is provided with a greater variety of natural resources; and it is nearer to the continent of Europe. England has therefore always been in advance of the other divisions of the British Isles, and their history has been largely dependent on hers.

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