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U.K. kids: who are the British?

What if you lived in the United Kingdom (U.K.)? How would your life be different?

People in both the U.S. and the U.K. speak English--although some of the words they use are different (see box, p. 10). Both countries are democracies; but one country is led by a President, and the symbolic leader of the other is a monarch.

Another difference is their history. U.S. students sometimes groan about having to study a written history that goes back to Christopher Columbus's first exploration of the New World in 1492. That's nothing compared with British students, who must begin with the Roman invasion of 43 A.D. or earlier.

JS talked with Hayley Sensicle and her mother, Melanie, about the U.K. They live in Southwick, near the southern coast of England, where the Romans first came ashore.

"Julius Caesar and loads of Romans came here and took over Britain," says Hayley, 12.

The Romans, led by Julius Caesar, first invaded Britain in 55 B.C. But the more serious invasion came almost a century later. In 43 A.D., Emperor Claudius sent an army of 40,000 men, and even some elephants, to invade England. The local people were terrified--they had never seen such animals. "The Romans stayed for ages," says Hayley.

"For ages" was actually about 400 years. The Romans took over most of Britain--as far north as Hadrian's Wall, which they erected as a defense against invaders (see map, p. 11).

"The Romans built roads and houses, but only ruins and mosaics are left," says Hayley. Melanie adds: "A lot of people became Romanized. They acquired a taste for wines and grapes. They built villas and became like Romans themselves."

Russell Watts, 13, who also lives in southern England, had the chance to visit one of the best preserved Roman ruins near Chichester. "We went to Fishbourne Roman Palace and saw the statues and the mosaics. It's incredible how many things remain."

More Invaders

After the Romans left around 400 A.D., many other invaders followed. They included the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes--people from modern-day Germany and Denmark. These people, who intermarried and came to be known as Anglo-Saxons, settled on the southern and eastern coasts of what is now England.

Then, in the 800s, Vikings invaded from the north. They came from what are now Norway, Sweden, and Denmark, and ransacked much of England.

"Next came the Norman invasion of 1066," says Hayley. These invaders were descendants of other Vikings who had settled in France. They were led by William, Duke of Normandy--also known as William the Conqueror. He won the Battle of Hastings against the defending Saxons, which changed the course of English history.

"William made a list of everyone, and where they lived, and all their animals, and how much land they had," says Hayley. "This census was recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086. It was not good for the people because they had to pay tax on the land."

"The Normans took over, and the English were tied to the [Norman] lords of the manor," says Melanie. "The English were [no longer allowed to run] their own country. French became the language of books, the courts, and the clergy. The English language almost disappeared!"

New Arrivals

Today, new waves of people are coming to Britain. But this has resulted from immigration, not invasion. From the 1840s to about 1900, the U.K. ruled the world's largest empire. But after World War II (1939-1945), most British colonies won their independence. Many people from these former colonies in Africa and Asia have since come to England in search of a better life.

"At my school, a lot of people are from foreign countries," notes Hayley. "A boy from Iran came over with his family when he was 5. A Russian girl came with her morn because they didn't like it in Russia. And my friend Charlotte is from Korea; her parents thought she would have a better childhood in England."

Joining the European Union (EU) has helped the ailing U.K. economy. But membership in the EU means that a country's citizens can move freely between other EU nations. Many Britons fear that these open borders could become a problem.

According to a national survey released in December 2004, about 75 percent of Britons believe the government should limit the number of immigrants entering the U.K. In response, Prime Minister Tony Blair has announced tougher immigration measures.

At the same time, however, Blair and other Britons recognize the country's desperate need for skilled workers. "There are no tradesmen left in this country," says Gary Dawson, an electrician from Hampshire. "All the young people want to work in computers or become DVD video producers. Or they want to be hip-hop stars--they don't want to be electricians or carpenters. We [tradespeople] can literally charge what we want. At 120 pounds [U.S. $230] an hour, I earn more than a doctor or lawyer."

The Monarchy

Another costly burden, according to some Britons, is the cost of maintaining the monarchy. In the U.S., the President is both head of government and head of state. But the U.K. has a monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, who performs the ceremonial duties of a head of state, while, the elected government does all the real work. Is royalty needed?

"I think it's an outdated and outmoded concept," says Melanie.

Hayley agrees. "I don't think there should be a royal family to have so much money and palaces and stuff," she says. "No one should be so special. People should be all the same."

Russell is not so sure. "Some people can't think what it would be like without the monarchy," he says. "It's just a tradition."

Whatever happens, some traditions will probably always remain--like having tea. Hayley drinks the popular beverage when she gets home from school. "If I feel like a drink, I have tea," she says. "When we go to my grandma's house, we have tea and scones--round cakes you can put jam or cream on. They're delicious."

Words to Know

* European Union: an organization of 25 European countries that promotes political and economic cooperation among its members.

* manor: a grand estate.

* monarch: a king or queen who rules a state or territory.

What's the word for it?

In the U.S. apartment cookie elevator french fries garbageman hood (car) mail potato chips restroom sausages talk show

In Britain flat biscuit lift chips dustman bonnet post crisps water closet bangers chat show

WORLD U.K. Kids--Who Are the British?,


Students should understand

* the United Kingdom is a country that includes Great Britain, Northern Ireland, and other small, mostly island, possessions


Tell students that most of the United Kingdom's immigrant population originally comes from its former colonies in Africa and Asia. Discuss how immigrants might affect a nation's government, economy, and culture.


The British Parliament is planning to issue national identity cards. The cards will help the government keep track of terrorists, illegal immigrants, and criminals. Critics cite the enormous cost of the project, estimated at 3 billion pounds (U.S. $5.6 billion), as well as the potential threat to civil liberties. The ID cards, which will feature biometric details such as fingerprint and iris scans, will be distributed to British citizens and residents beginning in 2007.


CAUSE AND EFFECT: What changes did the United Kingdom experience after World War lip (Countries that were still British colonies began winning their national independence. Many people from those colonies began immigrating to the U.K. to pursue greater economic opportunities.)

COMPREHENSION: What is the public perception of the monarchy in the U.K. ? (Many Britons view the monarchy, currently led by Queen Elizabeth II, as an outdated and costly institution. Others, however, view the royal family and its ongoing ceremonial role to be an essential part of the country's history and tradition.)



Instruct students to write a report that compares the achievements of the Roman and British empires. Students should offer views on which has had the most influence on world history.



* Culture: How the United Kingdom's immigrant population contributes to the national culture.

* Time, continuity, and change: How Britain's past as a colonizing nation continues to affect the nation's politics, economy, and culture today.



* Allport, Alan, England(Chelsea House Pub., 2002). Grades 5-8.

* Campbell, Kumari, United Kingdom in Pictures (Lerner Pub., 2004). Grades 5-8.


* Virtual Journey of the United Kingdom

* British Government (kids' site)


How much do you know about the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland? The U.K. once ruled a worldwide empire, but today, it consists mainly of a few islands, including the island of Great Britain (England, Scotland, and Wales) plus Northern Ireland (see map).

The U.S. and U.K. have close ties. They share a common language, democratic forms of government, and similar systems of law. The two countries were close allies in World War I, World War II, and today's war in Iraq.


AREA: 94,548 sq. mi., almost as large as Oregon.

POPULATION: 59,700,000; 89% urban.

GOVERNMENT: Parliamentary democracy. Queen Elizabeth II is head of state, but has little power. Prime Minister Tony Blair, leader of the Labour Party, is the head of government. He is expected to call parliamentary elections this spring.

ECONOMY: Free-market economy. The U.K. imports one-third of its food and many raw materials. It exports machinery and electronic equipment, and is a major producer of petroleum, coal, and natural gas.

MONETARY UNIT: British pound, worth about $1.92 in U.S. currency. PER CAPITA GDP: $27,700*.

RELIGION: Protestant, 40 million; Roman Catholic, 5.5 million; Muslim, 1.5 million; Sikh, 500,000; Jewish, 350,000.

LITERACY: Men, 99%; women, 99%.

LIFE EXPECTANCY: Males, 76 years; females, 80 years.


1. The official name of the U.K. is the United Kingdom of Great Britain and

2. What is the capital of the U.K.?

3. The capital of the U.K. is located on what important line of longitude?

4. The island of Great Britain includes England, Wales, and

5. The English Channel separates England and what other country?

6. Which famous historic site is located at 55[degrees]N latitude?

7. What is the alternative (Gaelic) name for Ireland?

8. The U.K. has many oil wells located in which body of water?

9. The Channel Tunnel connects which two countries? and

10. Edinburgh is about how many miles northwest of London?

U.K. Map

1. Northern Ireland

2. London

3. Prime Meridian or 0[degrees] longitude

4. Scotland

5. France

6. Hadrian's Wall

7. Eire

8. North Sea

9. United Kingdom and France

10. 350 miles
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:World
Author:Bishop, Randa
Publication:Junior Scholastic
Article Type:Cover Story
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 24, 2005
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