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Cultural Development in the Middle Ages

Through the Middle Ages monasteries became centres of learning. More schools were established with theology and philosophy added to the curricula. The development of schools caused the establishment and development of universities. If before English students had to go to Paris and other centres of university learning, now the university of Oxford established in 1167 was equipped with a curriculum similar to Paris University. In 1209, Cambridge was established. For a long period Oxford remained a leading English University, the well-known rivalry between these centres of learning started in the 15* century.

In the 13th century, Roger Bacon at Oxford gave start to the development of English philosophy and natural sciences. Scholars began to use their own language instead of Latin, which led to the fixation of the form of a literary English.

Geoffrey Chaucer's "The Canterbury Tales" and "Piers Plowman" by William Langland represented the literature of the period. Besides famous writers, a great number of folk poets contributed English literature ballads, religious and love songs, carols. From the 12th to 15th century English Catholic architecture developed, the new style is known as the Early English. The best examples of it are Wells Cathedral, Salisbury Cathedral, the chapel of King's College, Cambridge and others.

Cultural Focus: Oxford + Cambridge = Oxbridge

Before the 12th century, monasteries were the only centres of learning in England, but in the 12* century, the fust universities were founded to develop different sciences. The first English University, Oxford, was founded in 1168, nearly half a century later a second university — Cambridge was formed. These first educational establishments had four faculties: Theology (the study of religion), Canon Law (church laws), Medicine and Art, which included Latin grammar, rhetoric, logic, arithmetic, geometry, astronomy and music.

Both Universities have long histories, every item of which is preserved and remembered today, their histories have much in common. By the end of the 13th century they already had some colleges and the system of residential colleges has been preserved till today. Each college is run by a Master and a body of Fellows. Fellows maintain the buildings and provide service for students. All colleges of the University are united into a federation.

The Fellows teach students either one to one or in very small groups — the system comes from medieval times.

Both universities have been associated with the state religion — until the 19th century only members of the Church of England could enter them.


Task 11.Compare your or any other modern University to Oxbridge, where the medieval system is still preserved.


In Oxbridge In other universities
Students live and study in colleges  
Colleges are united into a federation  
Colleges are run by a Master and Fellows  
Fellows teach students one-to-one  
If the Master dies or retires, Fellows elect a new one  
Students may make free copies of any book published in Britain  

Cultural Focus: English History in Geographical Names

Geographical names in Britain reflect the history of the nation. They originated from different languages the peoples of Britain spoke. By the end of the Middle Ages you could find the signs of earlier borrowings on the map of Great Britain. Many of these names are preserved today.

The Celtic language can be found in modern English in the names of rivers, forests and hills. There are rivers called Avon, which in Celtic means "a river" and Dervent, which means "clear water". Such Celtic elements as tor "a hill", comb — "a valley", carr "a rock" appear in place-names far back in the lowland zone.

The Latin language, brought to the isles by the Romans, can be found in the names of many modern English towns. As the Roman towns were fortified, they were called castra "camps". In various forms this word is preserved in such names as Chester, Doncaster etc. The town-name Lincoln comes from colonia — "a colony" and Colchester means both colonia and castra.

The language of the Anglo-Saxons,who made the bulk of the population in Britain, became the basis of the present-day English. Since that time it has undergone various changes but many words are stile alive. They are preserved in the names of places. The word ton was the Saxon for "hedge" or a place surrounded by the hedge. Burgh or bury meant "to hide", many town-names like Canterbury, Edinburgh derived from them.

The stem ham "home" can be found in such names as Nottingham, Birmingham etc. The meaning of the word field— "open country" survived in the names Sheffield, Chesterfield, Mansfield.


The Danesgave their names to many towns they built in England. The words byor toftmeat "Danish settlements", they can be found in Derby, Wrytby, Ashby, Lowestoft etc. The kingdoms they formed were divided into shires with market towns as their centres. Today nearly all mid-lane countries are named after their couatry towns (as Lincolnshire, Yorshire etc.).

The language of the Normansbrought names to the local districts — shires {shiremeans "county"). Today a big number of English counties has the names with the stem "shire' — Nottinghamshire, Oxfordshire, Berkshire, Hampshire etc.

Task 12. On the geographical map of Great Britain find the place names containing Celtic, Latin, Anglo-Saxon and Scandinavian roots. Divide them into groups and explain the meaning of these place-names.

The beginning of the modern era in Europe

(1350 – 1650)




Taskl. Brainstorming. Study the scheme (see page 56) and speak about the events that marked the beginning of the modern era. Try to answer the following questions:

1. What were the main trends that marked the beginning of the modern era?

2.In what European countries did Renaissance and Reformation originate?

3.How did these main trends spread in Europe and in the world?

Henry VII

Henry VII heralded a new age in English history as the Tudor monarchy was based on the new relations in society. The Tudor monarchy had support of all layers of the society which were weakened economically and politically after the dynastic wars.

Henry saw two important tasks to accomplish — to destroy the power of the nobility and get an independent position. Thus Henry re-established and strengthened the court system, created new nobility from the upper middle classes and broke down the anarchy of the preceding decades. The revival of new laws let the Parliament introduce new taxes, the greater part of which went to strengthening royal power and developing English shipping.

Henry's wise foreign policy led to establishing of important alliances through the marriages of his children. Henry's eldest son Arthur was married to Catherine of Aragon, his daughter Margaret was married to James IV of Scotland.

The freedom of commerce was renewed. The unrestricted power of barons was limited by a number of laws. Due to these innovations the period of Henry VH's reign and the beginning of Henry VIII's reign was marked by rapid economic development of the country — England passed from being a producer of wool to being a manufacturer of cloth.

New manufactures were constantly in need of raw materials, so the peasants were removed from the lands and the lands were enclosed to make pasture for sheep. The clothing industry became the leading branch of the economy and woollen goods made up 80 % of English exports at that time. Land trading companies made huge profits on overseas trade. These profits were reinvested into the expanding clothing industry. Metallurgy, coalmining and shipbuilding were making steady progress.

The reign of Henry VII brought much change in judicial system, but little changed in the life of ordinary people. In 1509, the accession of King Henry VIII changed the general atmosphere in the country.

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