The British never achieved anything of value in their entire history before 1500

Oct 2016
692
On a magic carpet
#1
A recent visit to the museum got me thinking about British history. Walking through the ancient pre-Roman section, there was material about the distant past, the Pleistocene era and the Ice Age, which consisted mostly of a few animal bones as well as a few primitive artifacts of such as stone axes, a few things from the Celts made from Bronze, and depictions of primitive wooden huts where people lived.

Then there was the Roman section, which seemed like a sudden explosion of life, civilisation, art and culture. There was a large collection of artefacts and luxury items, artistic works and signs of a lively culture with a big population.

And then we hit the Dark Ages. Walking out of the Roman section and into the medieval, I was struck by how stark the change was. For the next several hundred years, there is virtually NOTHING at all. Barely even one or two items for whole centuries, and what few items there were, all seemed to be weapons. A few swords and other weapons and a few fragments of armour are all that remains from the Dark Ages. Not a single item of art among them. Nothing whatsoever that gives any indication of any sort of civilisation.

In fact, even once a few civilian items finally start to appear in the late 12th century and only really gets going in the 13th century, the pots, jars and other items are very plain, dull and utilitarian looking objects. There's still nothing resembling art until the 1200s - and even then, the very first item that has some crude artistic merit turns out to be a French import. It is a yellow vase with a blue floral pattern on it, somewhat rustic but at least a semblance of beauty for the first time in over 800 years.

Looking around at the other items in the collection, there is a Syrian bowl with some beauty to it, and a few items of Byzantine jewellery. But even these are imports, made by other cultures and brought to Britain. In fact, looking through the collection, there is not a single item of any artistic value prior to 1500 that was made in Britain. And even when significant numbers of beautiful items finally emerge in the late 1400s and the early 1500s, the time of Henry VIII, these turn out to be Italian, German and Spanish imports!

I propose therefore that, on the basis of the items in the museum collection, Britain had no civilisation at all prior to 1500. The British isles seem to have been a primitive and barbaric backwater, lacking in population and culture and such limited wealth as there was after 1200 seems to have been used to buy in culture from elsewhere, strongly suggesting there wasn't any native culture. Only after 1500 did Britain begin to emerge as a culture of its own and start to make its mark on the world for the first time. In other words, Britain as a distinct culture has only existed for about the last 500 years.

Thoughts?
 
Jun 2015
5,499
UK
#3
then youl're not as educated as you've often stated.

What you're saying is nonsense, if one excludes:

- Beowulf
- A continuous historical chronicle from 880-1160AD/CE (Anglo-Saxon Chronicle) unrivalled in other countries
- Magna Carta
- the basis of modern legal systems around the world (common law)

Moreover, Britain didn't exist in 1500. Don't be annoyed that your country/culture was colonised, since it's widely accepted that the countries of what is now the UK have contributed a lot long before the British Empire existed. Anglo-Saxon England alone had an administrative system unrivalled in Europe at the time, and laid the basis of modern English common law. Not bad for "uncivilised" people.
 
Jun 2017
2,512
Connecticut
#5
I do understand your sentiment(although the British community on here is going to go crazy) even though I disagree to an extent. Prior to the Tudor's most of the important events in England fit into one of two criteria. 1)important because England became important later on in history or 2)important because of their impact on France leading up to the Hundred Years War. The biggest exception would be Richard being the most important Western figure of the famous Third Crusade.

The Magna Carta and Commonlaw as cited in notgivenaway's post both seem to fit in number 1. Although the US uses Commonlaw today(and I hate it with the passion of a thousand burning suns) most of the world doesn't and uses Civil Law and again the US wouldn't exist if not for English activty after 1500.

So I largely agree that England was not the most important of places especially in the first millennium(after Hastings the second criteria I laid out is a pretty important exception) and largely became important later on but it will be pretty easy to dismantle your argument because instead of using words like "overrated" or "little/few" you used "never achieved anything of value" and this is an argument that is going to get obliterated on here by the Patriotic Brits.

Note:Hadrian's Wall should probably count as a Roman achievement to all those citing it.
 

Nemowork

Ad Honorem
Jan 2011
8,213
South of the barcodes
#8
And then we hit the Dark Ages. Walking out of the Roman section and into the medieval, I was struck by how stark the change was. For the next several hundred years, there is virtually NOTHING at all. Barely even one or two items for whole centuries, and what few items there were, all seemed to be weapons. A few swords and other weapons and a few fragments of armour are all that remains from the Dark Ages. Not a single item of art among them. Nothing whatsoever that gives any indication of any sort of civilisation.

In fact, even once a few civilian items finally start to appear in the late 12th century and only really gets going in the 13th century, the pots, jars and other items are very plain, dull and utilitarian looking objects. There's still nothing resembling art until the 1200s - and even then, the very first item that has some crude artistic merit turns out to be a French import. It is a yellow vase with a blue floral pattern on it, somewhat rustic but at least a semblance of beauty for the first time in over 800 years.

Thoughts?
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lindisfarne_Gospels

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Insular_art

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sutton_Hoo

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anglo-Saxon_art

Even the most famous French import is by English/Saxon artists

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bayeux_Tapestry

You must be going to some second rate museums :D
 
Jun 2016
1,589
England, 200 yards from Wales
#9
then youl're not as educated as you've often stated.

What you're saying is nonsense, if one excludes:

- Beowulf
- A continuous historical chronicle from 880-1160AD/CE (Anglo-Saxon Chronicle) unrivalled in other countries
- Magna Carta
- the basis of modern legal systems around the world (common law)

Moreover, Britain didn't exist in 1500. Don't be annoyed that your country/culture was colonised, since it's widely accepted that the countries of what is now the UK have contributed a lot long before the British Empire existed. Anglo-Saxon England alone had an administrative system unrivalled in Europe at the time, and laid the basis of modern English common law. Not bad for "uncivilised" people.
One could add - Geoffrey Chaucer,
John Dunstable (music of European-wide influence)
Stonehenge isn't bad either.
All those cathedrals - The early ones Norman yes, but mostly those Normans were the ones who stayed and became Brits.

Certainly it is true that Rome and Greece and others are more impressive culturally than Britain at the same time, but nothing at all before 1500 seems a bit overstated.
 

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