From Empire to the Present – Landmarks in British History


This page wants to give you a survey of British History from the heights of the  Empire to the present day. Please remember that we are not a history course at university. Still the official demand for your examination expects you to know about the “landmarks of American and English History”. This – of course – is completely open for interpretation …

So if we keep in mind that we can’t know everything about English and American history, we still can try to gain some basic knowledge for orientation. Additionally, if you look into the material  and in the links offered here more than just once you will find your knowledge deepening automatically.

Please refer to the list of recommended books and links at the bottom of this page  for further and more in-depth studies (e.g. for a presentation or a homework assignment).

Documents as Landmarks of History

Landmarks give us orientation and certain landmarks we can perceive as connected so that they form a path or a route, here a pathway through time. The documents I think of as landmarks for bothe English and American history are:

Magna Carta (England,  1215)

– the English Bill of Rights (1689)

– the Declaration of Independence (1776)

– the American Bill of Rights (the collective name for the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution, 1789)

– the Charter of the United Nations of 1945

– the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948

We might go back in time until the second millennia before Christ to the code of law by king Hammurabi and find for the first time the idea  of the  presumption of innocence and that the accuser and the accused have the opportunity to provide evidence. But when we look for a starting point in the European world we will do well with Magna Carta of King John in England. By the way. a somewhat smaller but very interesting example of these documents is the Miranda Warning, a phrase you might not have heard so far, but you will have heard its text spoken out a lot of times in the movies.

to be continued…


British History


The Imperial Century (1815–1914)

This period of English history is usually called the Victorian era after Queen Victoria who ruled Britain from 1837, and who was Empress of India from 1876 until her death in 1901. It was a time of huge industrial and political changes and development.

Let’s take the start for our tour through history here. Britain at that time had become the world’s “superpower”, after the victory over Napoleonic France only rivaled by Russia and that not on the seas but in Asia. (By the way: you can find some origin of the world’s troubles and conflicts of today, especially Afghanistan, here, if you don’t want to go back all the way to Alexander the Great, that is).

Remember also that once before England had won the status of a “superpower”, having destroyed – with some help by Mother Nature – the Spanish Armada in 1588.

Britain’s Empire of the “Imperial Century” really was of an unrivaled scale covering a territory of 25,899,881 km2 and a population of  400 million people. In comparison Russia – the world’s largest country today – has 17,075,400 km2 of territory. Its predecessor, the Sovjet Union until 1991, had 22,402,200 km2.

Britain in the Imperial Century

the British Empire 1897

The British Empire at 1897 (click for a larger version)


to be continued …

recommended books:

Simon Schama: A History of Britain 3. 1776 – 2000. The Fate of the Empire. London 2003

recommended links:

Of course you can always rely on Wikipedia to give a detailed acount on almost anything. So here is the link to Wikipedia’s article on the British Empire and another one for the article on Queen Victoria.

Almost anything about British history can be found at the “Spartacus Educational Website”. The name of the site would suggest a certain ideological perspective, but so far I find it quite reliable. The people who run the site also give a lot of recommendations for books.

The Victorian Web is another very detailed and immensely useful source for further reading.