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INTRODUCTION. Two thousand years ago Britain was a land of heath and marsh and forest. Beavers built in the streams, elks and wild cattle roamed over the open spaces, bears and wolves prowled through the woods. The islanders kept cows, hunted a great deal, and grew some patches of barley.
In the year 55 B.C. Julius Cæsar, then the Roman governor of Gaul, invaded Britain with a small army. He came, he saw, and then he went away. Next year he returned with a larger force and defeated the tribes living in the south-east. He did not make a lasting conquest, and after he left, things went on very much as they had done before.
Nearly a century after the invasion of Cæsar—in the year 43 A.D.—the Roman Emperor Claudius sent a general to subdue Britain. With much hard fighting the south was won ; even hard fighting for a while was lunavailing in the midlands, where the tribes held out under 2 Caradoc.
When the work of conquest had been going on for eighteen years, it seemed as though the invaders would be driven out of the island. The injured queen, Boadicea, destroyed 3 London, Colchester, and St. Alban's, slew all the Romans who fell into her hands, and defeated an army that came out against her.
Seventeen years later Julius Agricola became governor. Besides being a brave warrior and skilful general, he was a wise ruler and a good man. He conquered as far as the Firth of Forth, and he tried to make the people under his government better and happier than he found them.
In 410 the Roman soldiers were called home to defend the mother city against barbarians from beyond the Rhine and Danube. Some tribes akin to these barbarians soon began to conquer the unprotected island. In 449 a band of Jutes under Hengist and Horsa landed in Thanet, and after a struggle lasting eight years mastered Kent. Then, at different times, many separate bands of Angles and Saxons came. In one hundred and thirty years—years of almost constant fighting—the invaders had won about one-half of South Britain and had founded eight kingdoms.
The English were heathens till missionaries taught them the Christian religion. The first to come were Augustine and his companions, who had been sent by Pope Gregory Ethelbert, King of Kent, was soon converted, and the new belief spread in time all over the country.