During last year most of you will have studied “The Making of the UK”, which involved the
religious struggle between Catholics & Protestants and within Protestantism, the struggle
between the Anglicans (C of E) and the Puritans. This was also tied in with the question of
whether the king should reign as an absolute monarch or whether he had to share power
with Parliament. At the beginning of the period (c1500) the authority of the king was
limited to that of England though he claimed control over Wales and Ireland; Scotland
was an independent country often at war with England. By the end of the Seventeenth
the religious arguments had been won by the Protestants;
the king of England and Wales was also king of Scotland and Ireland;
the king could only rule with the consent of the Parliament (after 1707 the Scottish &
English Parliaments became united).

Although there were religious differences between Ireland (mainly Catholic) and Great
Britain and there were two Scottish Rebellions (1715 & 1745) the questions of religion and
who ruled who had really been settled. From 1700 (and certainly by 1750), the major
concerns were wealth building and developing an overseas empire. Wealth building
involved the Industrial Revolution (from c1760 -c1860) when Britain became the world’s
first industrial country, mass producing goods in factories for the first time. Population
and towns grew and overseas Britain started to build up an empire based on trade. The
Industrial Revolution was helped by the growth in the Triangular Trade, which involved
selling British manufactured goods in West Africa in exchange for slaves, who were then
transported to the Carribean and the Americas where they grew plantation crops (sugar,
cotton & tabacco). These products were sold in Britain & Europe and were processed in
the new British factories. Cotton in particular became a great British source of wealth;
Liverpool and Manchester developed in the late Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries
because of cotton. Other areas especially Birmingham and the Black Country developed
because of coal, iron and various industries based on these materials.

In the Eighteenth Century wars were fought with France over imperial rivalry overseas
and because of the French Revolution (1789-1799), this developed into the Napoleonic
Wars that ended in 1815 at the Battle of Waterloo. In these wars Britain successfully
coordinated a European alliance against the French emperor and soldier Napoleon. In the
process Britain had become the unchallenged naval power in the world (following the
Battle of Trafalgar –1805) and was able to further develop its world-wide empire. In the
Nineteenth Century Britain’s wealth and prestige was at its height. At home the
businessmen and managers who were creating Britain’s wealth (the middle class)
demanded Parliamentary Reform so they could share in the government and national
decision-making. Meanwhile their employees, the workers in the mines and factories (the
working class) were beginning to demand their rights. Towards the end of the Nineteenth
Century and in the early Twentieth Century the working classes obtained the vote (which
made Britain a democratic country); their living and working conditions also started to

By 1900 Britain was being challenged by Germany, no longer could Britain assume an
unchallenged world-wide supremacy. In particular the German emperor (or Kaiser)
William II was jealous of Britain’s empire and naval power. Germany was also on bad
terms with France and Russia; by a complicated series of events and alliances Britain
found itself fighting alongside France and Russia against Germany, Austria-Hungary and
Turkey. This war (The 1st World War or Great War) started in 1914 and by 1918 had
caused revolution in Russia, Germany, Austria-Hungary and Turkey. British and French
victory had been aided by USA joining the war in 1917. The war had weakened Britain
and the USA had become the world’s greatest economic power and therefore potentially
the world’s strongest military power.

Europe was exhausted and virtually bankrupted by the 1914-18 War. In particular the
Russian Empire had collapsed and two revolutions in 1917 had led to the setting up of the
world’s first communist state. Russian communism proved to be harsh and brutal
especially under the dictatorship of Stalin (who may have been responsible for the deaths
of 20 million Russians) he did however modernise Russia (which became known as the
USSR) industrially and make it into a great and feared world power. Meanwhile Germany
resenting its defeat in 1918 suffered from economic collapse (1918-23) and massive
unemployment (1929-32). These events led to the rise of Adolf Hitler and his Nazi party.
Hitler promised to restore Germany’s prosperity and power; in particular he blamed
communists and Jews for Germany’s defeat and weakness. He became dictator of
Germany and soon began to persecute communists, Jews and anyone who criticised him.
During the nineteen thirties he built up the size of the German armed forces and grabbed
territory from neighbouring countries. Eventually when he invaded Poland in September
1939 Britain & France (who had turned a blind eye for many years) declared war on
Germany. However by June of 1940 Hitler had over-run most of western & northern
Europe and had defeated France. Between the summer of 1940 and that of 1941, Britain
fought on alone fearing a German invasion. Then Germany attacked Russia and almost
succeded in defeating her; however eventually Russia’s sheer size and its vast resources
led to Germany’s defeat. Germany had been joined by Italy (June 1940) and Japan
(December 1941); the Japanese had also declared war on USA. At first it looked as if
Germany and her allies would win but gradually the immense resources of Russia and the
USA overwhelmed the Axis powers. During the 2nd World War (1939-45) casualties were
massive especially amongst civilians who were bombed (largely by Britain & USA),
enslaved or exterminated (by Germany & Russia). At the end Germany had been
defeated and occupied and Hitler was dead.

For the second time in a generation Europe had been ravaged and bankrupted by war.
Although Britain had survived the war she was also impoverished (though respected);
Russia and America had become the world superpowers with the capability to destroy
eachother (and the world) with atomic weapons. In 1945 the boundaries of European
countries changed (as they had done after the 1st World War) and Europe became a
divided continent with the communist USSR dominating eastern Europe and being
opposed by its old allies (USA & Britain) and the countries of western Europe. This Cold
War continued until the beginning of the 1990ies when the Russian communist system