Famous people of United Kingdom
KING ALFRED THE GREAT
Alfred the Great, who is considered the first king of England, is remembered for two important things: saving his land from destruction by the invading Danes, and his dedication to education. He brought peace to his land and restored the centres of learning.
Alfred's interest in education was encouraged by his stepmother Judith and his teacher, and later by his biographer Asser, a bishop from Wales. Alfred learned to read and write Latin and English. He studied passages from the Bible and translated them into English.
The duties of the king constantly interrupted Alfred's education. His entire reign was spent in wars with the Danes.
He became king of Wessex in 871. By that time the Danes had been present in the British Isles for at least a hundred years, and the eastern lands of Britain were in their hands. They made constant raids to Wessex, and people had to pay tribute to them. During the first four years of his reign, until 875, Alfred bought peace for his people by paying tribute to the Danes. At first the invaders seemed satisfied, but in 875, after collecting their tribute they did not leave Wessex as they had done before. In a few years Alfred gathered a strong army. He defeated the invading Danes and forced them to leave Wessex.
However, the Danes still inhabited Britain: Northumbrian t East Anglia and parts of MerciaЃ were still in their hands, and they constantly threatened Wessex. Alfred built several new fortified cities, where great groups of people could gather for protection, and reorganized his army. Finally, in 886, Alfred took the initiative himself and attacked the Danish-held city of London. He forced the Danes out of London and captured the city. In the words of his biographer Asser, all the "Angles and Saxons turned willingly to King Alfred and submitted themselves to his lordship". At this point, in the historians' opinion, Alfred rightly earned the title "King of England", though in reality he governed perhaps a quarter of the land which is now known as England.
When he had brought peace to his land, Alfred began to introduce his reforms. He believed that the invaders represented punishment from God for the decay of education. So he actively supported education in the country. The ability to read was so important to Alfred, that he began to demand that other nobles of the land should learn to read. He opened schools for them and brought many Latin scholars from the continent to teach at these schools. He himself translated several works from Latin. He started the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, which was a record of events in his kingdom and may be called the first history of England. He also established a code of law based on the Bible.
The last years of Alfred's life were more peaceful and devoted to learning. When Alfred died in 899, he left a culture which would be remembered for centuries.
QUEEN ELIZABETH I
Queen Elizabeth I, the last of the Tudor monarchs, was the daughter of Henry VIII. She received an excellent classical education. She could read Latin and Greek and spoke French and Italian fluently.
People rejoiced when Elizabeth became queen after her elder sister Mary's death in 1558. Elizabeth was an intelligent, courageous and determined woman. People often called her Good Queen Bess,
Elizabeth made her first task the settlement of England's religious affairs. She was determined to stop religious struggle. She tried to gradually spread Protestant religion, without offending the Catholics too much. However, the struggle between Catholics and Protestants continued and endangered Elizabeth's position. Some Catholic nobles wished to remove Elizabeth and replace her with the queen of Scotland, Mary Stuart, who was a Catholic. Mary, usually called Queen of Scots, was the heir to the English throne because she was Elizabeth's closest relation. Mary had powerful enemies in Scotland and had to escape to England. Elizabeth kept her in the Tower of London as a prisoner for nearly twenty years. During that time several Catholic plots were discovered, which aimed at making Mary queen of England. Finally Elizabeth had to agree to Mary's execution in 1587.
During Elizabeth's reign England became a great sea power. English sailors, the most famous of which are Francis Drake and Walter Raleigh, challenged the Spaniards in the Atlantic Ocean. They made daring raids on the Spanish colonies in America and captured Spanish ships that carried treasure from the New World to Spain.
Elizabeth helped the Dutch Protestants. At that time the Netherlands was part of the Spanish empire, and King Philip II of Spain was trying to suppress the Protestant rebellion there. He sent his army to the Netherlands. Elizabeth did the same. So Philip had to fight with England. He built a huge fleet of ships, which became known as the Invincible Armada. England was in danger. Elizabeth spoke to the crews of the ships that were going to do battle with the Armada. She won their hearts by saying that she was ready "...to live or die amongst you... for my God, and for my kingdom, and for my people... I know I am a week woman, but I have the heart of a king Ч and a King of England too!"
The two fleets were fighting for six days, and on August 9, 1588, the Armada was defeated. Only half the ships of the Armada returned to Spain. It was a great victory for England.
The Elizabethan age was one of the greatest periods of English literature. Edmund Spenser, Christopher Marlowe and William Shakespeare were only a few of the many writers who created their great works at that time. Elizabeth's court became a centre of culture for English musicians, poets, scholars and artists. The English were proud of their country and their queen.
Francis Drake, one of the most famous of English sailors and pirates, was born in Plymouth, a seaport and the largest town in the south of England.
The boy spent much of his time looking at the ships in Plymouth harbour and talking to the seamen. At fifteen he was taken on a small ship and worked there for some years. The boy learned the duties of a sailor very soon and did his work so well that people said that he was a born sailor. When Drake was twenty-five, he was made a captain's mate, and soon after the captain of a ship. Sea-battles between English and Spanish ships were common at that time. Once a small fleet of six English ships was attacked by Spanish ships in the Atlantic Ocean. Four of the English ships were burnt and only two, one of which was commanded by Drake, came back to England.
Drake demanded that the king of Spain should pay him for the lost ships. Of course, the king of Spain refused to pay. Drake was very angry and declared that he would take all he could from the king of Spain. And he fulfilled his threat. He crossed the Atlantic with two small ships and captured several Spanish ships loaded with gold and silver.
In November 1577 five ships with Francis Drake at the head sailed off from Plymouth. Drake crossed the Atlantic, passed through the Strait of Magellan and reached Cape Horn, the southernmost point of
After a short rest the ships sailed north all along the west coast of South, Central and North America. Leaving North America, Drake crossed the Pacific^ and visited the island of Java, in the south of Asia. After that he sailed across the Indian Ocean to the Cape of Good Hope, where he came in June 1580.
Sailing north along the west coast of Africa, Drake visited the Canary Islands^, then sailed on and in September 1580 he returned to England. The voyage lasted nearly three years. Drake was the first Englishman who sailed round the world.
In 1588 Francis Drake distinguished himself in the sea-battle against the Spanish Armada in the English Channel.
Seven years after the victory over the Spanish Armada, in 1595, Drake, at the head of a large fleet, sailed from Plymouth again to attack the Spaniards in America and the West Indies. The Atlantic was crossed in a month, but soon afterwards Drake fell ill. In January 1596 he died and was buried in the sea. There is a monument to Francis Drake in Plymouth.
William Shakespeare was born in 1564, in Strat-ford-upon-Avon. He attended Stratford's grammar school, which still stands. The grammar school's curriculum at that time was limited to teaching pupils Latin, both spoken and written. The classical writers studied in the classroom influenced Shakespeare's plays and poetry; some of his ideas for plots and characters came from Ovid's tales, the plays of Terence and Plautus, and Roman history. We do not know when or why Shakespeare left Stratford for London, or what he was doing before becoming a professional actor and dramatist in the capital. He probably arrived in London in 1586 or 1587.
Shakespeare's reputation was established in London by 1592, when his earliest plays were written: Henry VI, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, and Titus Andronicus.
In 1594 Shakespeare joined other actors in forming a new theatre company, with Richard Burbage as its leading actor. For almost twenty years Shakespeare was a regular dramatist of this company and wrote on the average two plays a year. Burbage played the main roles, such as Richard IIP, Hamlet, Othello and Lear.
In 1599 the company of actors with which Shakespeare worked built a new theatre, the Globe. It was built on the south bank of the Thames. The Globe theatre is most closely associated with Shakespeare's plays. Two of his plays, Henry V and Julius Caesar, were almost certainly written during" the year in which the Globe opened.
Some of Shakespeare's most famous tragedies were written in the early 1600s. They include Hamlet, Othello, King Lear and Macbeth. His late plays, often known as romances, written between 1608 and 1612, include Cymbeline, The Winter's Tale and The
Around 1611 Shakespeare left London and returned to Stratford. He died in Stratford at the age of fifty-two on April 23, 1616, and was buried in Holy Trinity Church.
Shakespeare's greatness lies in his humanism. He created a new epoch in world literature. For nearly four centuries Shakespeare has remained one of the best known playwrights and poets in the world. Every new generation of people finds in his works something important. As his contemporary Ben Jonson once said, Shakespeare "belongs not to the century, but to all times."
The centuries-long rivalry between the Crown and Parliament came to an open fight in the 17th century.
The king of England was Charles I, a young man who wanted to rule over England without Parliament. He needed money for wars, but Parliament refused to give it. In 1642 Charles I tried to arrest some members of Parliament, but could not do it. Then he left Parliament and never came back as a king. Members of Parliament decided to build up an army to fight against the king, and gave money to teach the soldiers. But they understood that courage alone was not enough to win battles. It was necessary to have a strong leader who would train the army and lead it. Such a leader was found. It was Oliver Cromwell. Cromwell was a member of Parliament. He was a country gentleman, a rough man, unskilful as a speaker, but known for his strength of character and his deep sincerety and religious feeling.
Cromwell trained his soldiers in complete obedience, filled them with the desire to fight for freedom, Parliament and religion. His famous order was: '[Trust in God and keep your powder dry."
Many thousands of soldiers were killed during the Civil War. In 1644 a Scottish army of 20,000 men came to help Cromwell. In the battle near the town of York the Parliamentary army won a victory and the king's army was defeated. Charles I was brought to trial in London and accused of having made war on his people and of being an enemy of his country. He was found guilty and sentenced to death. In January 1649 Charles was beheaded. In the same month the Parliamentary government came to power and proclaimed England a republic. Cromwell got the title of Lord Protector.
Cromwell ruled the country firmly, but he did not like to be contradicted, and finally dismissed Parliament. During the last years of his life he became a dictator who ruled the country without the council of the people. The English Republic, the first republic in Europe, did not justify the hopes of the people. In September 1658 Oliver Cromwell died. The political instability that followed his death led to the demand for the restoration of monarchy. In 1660 the newly elected Parliament invited Charles II, the son of the executed king, to occupy the English throne.
John Milton was born in a Puritan family in London. At the age of seventeen he went to Cambridge. After taking his degree, he returned home and spent six more years studying poetry, philosophy, music and languages. He mastered Greek and Latin literature, learned French, Italian and Spanish and studied the latest theories of science. Then he travelled in France and Italy. In 1639 he came back and joined the struggle for the Puritan cause.
In 1649 Charles I was executed, and Cromwell became ruler of England. Milton became Foreign Secretary to Cromwell. He worked day and night, writing, in Latin, countless letters to foreign rulers, reading and translating their replies.
At the age of forty-three Milton had a great misfortune: he became completely blind. Still further disasters came upon him: Cromwell died and in 1660 Charles II, son of the executed Charles I, was brought back from France to be King of England. Everything that the Puritans had fought for was overthrown. The Puritan leaders were imprisoned and put to death. Milton escaped death, but he left London and retired to a little cottage about twenty miles from London. And here, lonely and blind, and in disgrace, he wrote, or rather dictated to his daughters, his greatest work Ч the poem Paradise Lost. The subject of the poem is the fall of Lucifer (Satan) and the fall of man. It tells of Satan's revolt and of the war in Heaven that followed. Satan was defeated and cast down to Hell. Here, in darkness and pain, he formed, with the other fallen angels, a mighty empire and planned revenge. In the form of a serpent he came to Paradise to bring evil into the world. Adam and Eve were tempted and fell, and Paradise was lost.
The greatness of the poem lies not in the story, but
in the power of the language, in the music of the verse,
and in the noble spirit that inspires the whole work.
In 1671 two more great works followed Paradise
Lost; the long poem Paradise Regained and the drama Samson Agonistes. We feel that in the figure of Samson Milton sees himself, Samson is blind, lik" Milton; his cause, like Milton's, is defeated and t ; enemies are triumphant. But, like Milton, he is a rebel, proud and courageous, and although he is blind, disgraced and a slave, he can still serve God's purpose. In doing this he brings about his own death; but his death is his triumph.
Milton died in 1674, He is buried in London, not far from the street where he was born.
Sir Isaac Newton was born in a small village in Lincolnshire in the family of a poor farmer.
Since childhood the boy was fond of science. He began his first experiments at school. After school he studied at Cambridge University, where, still a student, he formulated the binomial theorem.
Newton devoted all his life to scientific experimentation. Among his discoveries was the law of decomposition of light. He proved that the white light of the sun is made up of rays of light of all the colours of the rainbow.
Newton's greatest discovery was certainly the Law of Universal Gravitation. It is described in his book Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy. The fundamental principle of the book is that "every particle of matter is attracted by every other particle of matter with a force inversely proportional to the square of their distances apart". Applying the principle of gravitation, Newton proved that the power which guides the moon around the earth and the planets around the sun is the force of gravity. The fact that the earth is flattened at the poles because of rotation was also explained by the law of universal gravitation.
Newton was highly honoured by his countrymen. In 1703 he was elected President of the Royal Society.
Much later, is the 20th century, another great scientist, Albert Einstein, who had a very high opinion of Newton's scientific achievements, wrote these words about him: "Nature to him was an open book, whose letters he could read without effort."
Sir Isaac Newton died in 1727 and was buried in Westminster Abbey.
Bonnie Prince Charlie
The story begins in 1688, when James II, the last of the Stuart kings, was driven off the throne of England. James went abroad and never returned to England. But he had many followers in England who sympathized with him and wanted him back on the English throne. In 1715, his son James Edward (whom the English called the Old Pretender) made an unsuccessful attempt to get back the throne. Another attempt was made by James II's grandson, the Young Pretender Charles Edward, whom the Scots called Bonnie Prince Charlie. It was in 1745. Charles was a real prince of romance: young (he was twenty-five when he landed in Scotland), handsome, tall and fair, brave and adventurous. He was coming, he said, to win the crown of England and place it at his father's feet. He wanted to invade England from Scotland. He was sure of support of the Scots, or at least the Highlanders. The Highlands was the wild home of the poor but courageous men to whom loyalty to their king was a passion. They were adventurous, romantic men who loved fighting and danger. The Stuarts had originally come from Scotland, and to the Highlanders the Stuarts were a symbol for which they were prepared to fight and die.
Charles sailed from France aboard a small French ship. With him was a big French warship, the Elizabeth, of sixty-eight guns, loaded with the weapons with which he hoped to defeat the English. In the sea they were met by a British warship, which opened fire on the Elizabeth. For five hours a battle went on and both ships were damaged. The English ship turned for England and the Elizabeth turned for France. Charles, with only six followers, determined to go on. He landed on the west coast of Scotland, where he was met by 800 Highlanders.
They marched to Edinburgh. More Highlanders joined Charles's army as it marched southwards. News of the approaching forces caused terror in Edinburgh. The English soldiers who were there withdrew in panic. Edinburgh surrendered, and Charles entered in triumph.
Then the invasion of England began. Charles was quickly moving to the south. There was panic in London. A ship was prepared to take King George II to Hanover, But suddenly Charles's army stopped. His wild Highlanders, finding themselves in the heart of England, missed their families and decided to go home.
For months Charles was hunted through the Highlands. A huge reward was offered to anyone who would capture him dead or alive, but the Highlanders did not betray him. Finally they managed to get him to the. coast, where a ship was waiting to take him to France and safety.
James Cook was born in Yorkshire on October 27, 1728. At the age of^eighteen he took his first voyage as an apprentice on board a ship. In 1755 he enlisted in the Royal Navy as an able seaman and was sent to the American coast. While charting the tioast of Newfoundland, Cook mastered the skills of a mapmaker.
Cook's first round-the-world voyage took place in 1768-1771. Onboard the Endeavour he sailed round Cape Horn and explored the South Pacific. He discovered several islands in the South Pacific, sailed around both islands of New Zealand and explored the eastern coast of Australia.
The second voyage (1772-1775) was undertaken in search of the Southern Continent. There were two ships: the Resolution^ commanded by James Cook, and the AdventureЃ commanded by Tobias Furneaux. The second voyage demonstrated the outstanding skills and experience of Cook as a seaman and a captain. Cook did more than any other man of his time to promote the health of his crew. In those times lots of sailors on long voyages died of scurvy because of the lack of vitamins in food and bad hygiene. Cook made his men wash every day and air their beds; he tried to get as much fresh food as he could; he made his men eat sauerkraut. His second voyage lasted three years and eighteen days, they sailed into the stormiest seas on earth, through uncharted southern seas filled with ice. Out of 112 men Cook lost four, among whom only one died of an illness.
The purpose of Cook's third voyage (1776-1779) was to look for the Northwest Passage (between the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans) from the Pacific side. Cook set out from England on the Resolution, in company with Captain Clerke on the Discovery. They sailed around Africa and across the Indian Ocean into the Pacific, then turned north to find the passage. They sailed round the tip of the Alaska Peninsula, through the Bering Strait and into the Arctic Ocean, where they were stopped by thick ice. After spending there as much time as he could, Cook turned south to reload and repair the ships for the next year.
But he never returned to the Bering Strait. Captain Cook met his death on. the Hawaiian Islands where he and his crew were attacked by the natives on February 14, 1779.
James Watt was born in Scotland. He moved to Glasgow in 1754, where he learned the trade of instrument maker, and also studied steam technology.
A primitive steam-engine already existed in Watt's time. It had been invented by Thomas Newcomen at the beginning of the 18th century. But the Newcomen engine was not universal: it could work only as a pump.
In 1763, while repairing a Newcomen engine, James Watt found that he could greatly improve the machine. His invention of the separate condenser and the introduction of crank movements made steam engines more efficient. He also made some other improvements, and the new steam engine was manufactured at Birmingham in 1774. Several other inventions followed, including the double-acting engine, the centrifugal governor for automatic speed control, and the pressure gauge.
With his inventions James Watt provided some most important components of early industrial revolution.
James Watt introduced the term "horse power". The power unit, the watt, is named in his honour.
The great Scottish poet Robert Burns was born in the family of a poor farmer. He was the eldest of seven children. He spent his youth working on his father's farm, but in spite of his poverty he was extremely well-read: his father employed a tutor for Robert and his younger brother Gilbert. At 15 Robert wrote his first verse, My Handsome Nell.
When his father died in 1784, Robert and his brother became partners in the farm. However, Robert was more interested in the romantic nature of poetry than in the hard work of ploughing. He was thinking of leaving his farm and going away to the warmer and sunnier climate of the West Indies. At the same time he continued writing poetry.
But he did not go to the West Indies. His first book Poems Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect (a set of poems essentially based on a broken love affair) was published and was highly praised by the critics. This made him stay in Scotland. He moved to Edinburgh. The artists and writers of Scotland's capital enthusiastically received the "Ploughman Poet". In a few weeks he was transformed from a local hero to a national celebrity.
Robert Burns travelled much about Scotland collecting popular songs. He discovered long forgotten songs and wrote his own verses. Robert Burns's poetry was inspired by his deep love for his motherland, for its history and folklore. His beautiful poem My Heart's In The Highlands, full of colourful descriptions, is a hymn to the beauty of Scotland's nature and to its glorious past.
Burns's poetry is closely connected with the national struggle of the Scottish people for their liberation from English oppression, the struggle that had been going on in Scotland for many centuries. His favourite heroes were William Wallace, the leader of the uprising against the English oppressors, and Robert Bruce, who defeated the English army and later became king of Scotland. Robert Burns died at the age of 37 of heart disease caused by the hard work he had done when he was young. On the day of his burial more than 10,000 people came to pay their respect to the great bard. On the anniversary of his birth, January 25, Scots both at home and abroad celebrate Robert Burns. And not only Scots. Robert Burns's birthday is celebrated annually by the lovers of poetry in many countries of the world.
Horatio Nelson entered the Royal Naval College in January 1771 at the age of twelve. He studied excellently and passed his lieutenant's examination more than a year under the official age in 1111.
Nelson's bravery as a naval commander was never doubted by his contemporaries. He always led his men by his own example. He first made his name at the battle of St. Vincent in February 1797, during which he captured two enemy ships. During the wars against France in the 1790s he took part in many sea battles and lost his right arm and the sight in his right eye. Besides his personal bravery, Nelson was a skilful commander enjoying great love and devotion of the men who served under him: they were ready to die for him. Nelson took daring but calculated risks. He openly disobeyed his superiors when he thought it necessary. At the battle of Copenhagen in 1801 the Com-mander-in-Chief- Admiral Sir Hyde Parker, thought that the British were losing, and he hoisted the signal on his flagship: "Stop fighting". Nelson, on his ship, put the telescope to his blind eye and exclaimed: "/ really do not see the signal!" He continued fighting until the Danish surrendered.
Nelson sailed from England for the last time in 1805, as Commander-in-Chief of the British fleet to meet France and Spain at Cape Trafalgar, the most south-westerly point of Spain.
At Nelson's instruction, the famous signal was hoisted on the flagship: "England expects that every man will do his duty".
As the battle raged around, Nelson was on deck. A musket ball fired from a French ship struck him in the left shoulder and pierced one of his lungs. The wound was mortal. He died a few hours after that. But before he died he learned that he had won a great victory.
Admiral Nelson is Britain's national hero. A tall column crowned with his statue stands in Trafalgar Square in London, in memory of this great man.
George Gordon Byron
George Gordon Byron, one of the greatest poets of England, was born in London in an old aristocratic but poor family. After the death of his father in 1791, his mother took him to Aberdeen in Scotland, where the boy spent his childhood. At the age of ten he inherited the title of Lord and returned to England. He lived in the family castle which was situated near Nottingham close to the famous Sherwood Forest. He studied at Harrow, then at Cambridge University. When he was 21, he became a member of the House of Lords. In 1809 he travelled abroad and visited Portugal, Spain, Albania, Greece and Turkey. He returned home in 1811.
His speeches in the House of Lords in defence of the Luddites and the oppressed Irish people caused universal irritation. When he and his wife parted after an unhappy marriage, his enemies seized this opportunity and began to persecute him. The poet was accused of immorality and had to leave his native country.
In May 1816 Byron went to Switzerland, where he made friends with his great contemporary, the poet Percy B. Shelley. At the end of 1816 he went to Italy, where he became actively engaged in the movement for the liberation of Italy from Austrian rule. In the summer of 1823 he went to Greece to fight for the liberation of that country from Turkish oppression.
Byron's creative work is usually divided into four periods.
During the London period (1812-1816) he wrote the first two cantos of Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, his famous lyrics Hebrew Melodies, and Oriental poems. In the Swiss period (1816 May ~ October) Byron wrote the third canto of Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, The Prisoner of Chillon, and the philosophic drama Manfred.
During the Italian period (1816-1823), which is considered to be the most important and mature one, he wrote the last canto of Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, and the novel in verse Don Juan, in which he gave a great satirical panorama of the European social life of his time.
During the short months of the Greek period (1823-1824) Byron wrote little: just some lyrical poems, one of which is On this Day I Complete my Thirty-sixth Year. The poet's thirty-sixth year was to be his last: he fell seriously ill and died on April 19, 1824. Deeply mourned all over Greece, he became a symbol of liberation struggle and a Greek national hero.
Sir Walter Scott, a Scottish writer, a born storyteller and master of dialogue, one of the greatest historical novelists, was born in Edinburgh. His father was a lawyer and his mother Ч the daughter of a professor of medicine.
In his childhood he heard from his grandparents many stories and legends of the past. The boy had a great interest for these stories. He also learned many songs and legends of the Highlands. Some of his ancestors had fought on the side of Prince Charles Edward Stuart (Bonnie Prince Charlie) when he was trying to seize the throne. This gave the young boy that life-long love for the Highlanders and their country which is evident in much of his writing. Scott himself said, "I had a very strong prejudice in favour of the Stuart family, which I had originally got from the songs and tales of the Highlanders".
In 1778, at the age of seven, the boy went to the famous Royal High School of Edinburgh, where he became very good at Latin. In 1783, when he was twelve, he entered Edinburgh University, where he remained for two years. During this time he learned Italian, Spanish and French. Later, in 1789-1792, he studied arts and law.
Scott made himself famous as a poet and Ч to a much greater extent Ч as the author of numerous historical novels.
Scott's work shows the influence of the 18th century Enlightenment. He believed that every human was basically decent, regardless of class, religion, politics or ancestry. Tolerance is a major theme in his historical works. His novels express the belief of the author in the need for social progress that does not reject the traditions of the past. He was the first novelist to portray peasant characters sympathetically and realistically, and was equally just to merchants, soldiers, and even kings.
Scott often wrote about the conflicts between different cultures. Ivanhoe (1791) deals with the struggle between Normans and Saxons, and The Talisman describes the conflict between Christians and Muslims. The novels devoted to Scottish history deal with clashes between the new commercial English culture and the older Scottish culture.
Scott's knowledge of history is remarkable, and his descriptions of historical events are very talented. His works are translated into many languages of the world.
Queen Victoria is the longest-reigning monarch in English history. She came to the throne as a young woman in 1837 and reigned until her death in 1901.
Victoria married her German cousin, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg but he died at the age
of forty-two in 1861. She could not get over her sorrow at his death, and for a long time refused to be seen in public.
This was a dangerous thing to do. Newspapers began to criticize her, and sojne people even doubted the value of the monarchy. Many radicals believed that as a result of developing democracy it was time for monarchy to die.
The Queen's advisers persuaded her to take more interest in the life of the kingdom. She did so, and she soon became extraordinary popular. At the time when monarchy was losing its place as an integral part of the British governing system, Victoria managed to establish it as a respected and popular institution. One important step back to popularity was thekpub-lication in 1868 of the Queen's book Our Life ih_ the Highlands. The book was the Queen's own diary of her life with Prince Albert and her family in her castle in the Scottish Highlands. It delighted the public, in particular the growing middle class. They had never before known anything of the private life of the monarch, and they enjoyed reading about it. They were impressed by the fact that the Queen wrote about her servants as if they were members of her family.
The democratic British liked and respected the example of family life which the Queen had given them; they saw that the Queen and her family shared their own moral and religious values. By her book Victoria touched people's hearts. She succeeded in showing the newly industrialized nation that the monarchy was a connection with the glorious history of the country. Quite suddenly, the monarchy was out of danger. It had never been safer than now, when it had lost most of its political power. "We have come to believe that it is natural to have a virtuous sovereign," wrote one of the critics.
Queen Victoria was also popular in Europe. She became known as the Grandmother of Europe after marrying members of her family into many royal houses of Europe. Among her grandchildren were Emperor William II of Germany, and Alexandra, wife of Tsar Nicholas II of Russia.
Charles Dickens was born in 1812, in the family of a clerk. He got his primary education at a small school in Chatham, and from his mother who was a well-educated woman.
In the 1821 the Dickens family moved to London. Mr. Dickens was heavily in debt and finally was taken to a debtors' prison. Charles got a job at a blacking factory in the East End of London. This was the most unhappy time of all his life. Later he learned shorthand and did some reporting in the House of Commons for newspapers. Being a reporter, he went all over the country, getting news, writing stories and meeting people.
In 1833 Dickens wrote a number of sketches, which were published under the title Sketches by Boz. And in 1836 he suddenly became famous. It happened like this. A firm of publishers had a number of pictures by a humorous artist. They wanted to get some short texts to illustrate them, so that the pictures and articles could ppear together in a magazine in fortnightly parts. ? веопе suggested giving the job to the young newspape reporter Charles Dickens. Dickens liked the job and 1 ok it, and that is how the book Pickwick Papers came into being- The book is about Mr. Pickwick and his three friends, who decide to travel about England and send to the Pickwick club in London an account of their journeys and their observations of the people they meet on these journeys. The humour of the book consists in the absurd situations which Mr. Pickwick and his friends get into. The book was a great success with the reading public, and Dickens at once became the most popular novelist of his time.
The rest of the writer's life is a story of work without rest. He wrote novel after novel. At the same time he was editing newspapers and magazines, visiting America, Italy, Switzerland, France; giving readings from his books to huge crowds of people. In Dickens's novels we find a sharp criticism of social injustice. He had seen so much evil as a child, that he burned with the desire to fight it. So, in Oliver Twist he attacks the cruel workhouse treatment of children, in Nicholas Nickleby the evils of badly-run schools, in Little Dorrit the tragedy of the debtors' prison, in Bleak House the slowness of the law.
Critics often say that Dickens made his characters unreal, strange, non-true to life. However, thanks to the writer's great talent, these characters become alive in his pages. They were real enough for Dickens. And so we believe in his characters because he believed in them himself. He shows us a great moving picture of everyday life and everyday people.
The strain of the writer's continual work brought about his sudden death in 1870. He lies buried in Westminster Abbey, but as he wished it, with nothing on the stone except his name "Charles Dickens."
Florence Nightingale was born in a very rich family. She got a very good education. She knew music, art, literature, Latin and Greek. She fluently spoke Italian, French and German. But ever since she was a child, she had nursed the villagers and the sick dogs and cats and horses round her home and wanted to be a professional nurse. She read books on nursing, reports of medical societies, histories of hospitals. She spent some time working as a nurse in hospitals in France and Germany. Finally she became superintendent of an Establishment for Gentlewomen during Illness in Harley Street, the fashionable street of London's most famous doctors. During the Crimean War (1853-1856) disturbing reports began to come to England of the terrible conditions in the hospitals where wounded soldiers were being treated. The chief hospital, at Scutari in Turkey, was an old, half broken building with a lot of rats and mice. But even this horrible place was overcrowded. There were not enough beds, and men were lying on the floor. There were no clean shirts or bedclothes.
In that terrible situation Sidney Herbert, the Minister for War", wrote to Florence Nightingale, asking her to go to the Crimea with a group of nurses. It took Florence Nightingale a week to get ready, and with thirty-eight nurses she sailed for Scutari.
When she arrived at Scutari, she found the conditions even worse than the reports had stated. She found that everything was lacking: furniture, clothes, towels, soap, knives, plates. There were no bandages, very few medicines, and almost no food. Luckily, she had brought with her large quantities of food and medical supplies. Everywhere she met with inefficiency and confusion; the officials in charge could not, or did not want to help her. She often worked for twenty-four hours on end, dressing wounds, helping surgeons in their operations. She and her nurses got down on their knees and scrubbed the floors and walls. She organized the cooking of the men's food and the washing of their clothes.
In 1855 she was made inspector of all the hospitals in the Crimea. It meant long, uncomfortable journeys in snow, rain and cold. She ruined her health, but refused to go home until the last soldier went. Only when peace was declared in 1856, she returned home Ч an invalid for life.
But she lived fifty-four years longer. Though she could not leave her house, she worked as much as she had done at Scutari. She changed the whole system of hospital organization of the army. She wrote books on nursing. She started the Nightingale Training School for Nurses at St. Thomas's Hospital, now one of the finest in the world.
Florence Nightingale lived a long and glorious life. She died in 1910 at the age of 90.
Captain Robert Scott
In June 1910 Captain Robert Scott set sail on board the Terra Nova and started for the south. He wanted to reach the South Pole. When the ship got to Australia, Scott received the news that the Norwegian explorer Amundsen was also on the way south to reach the South Pole.
Arriving at the place in the Antarctic called Cape Evans, Captain Scott and his crew started for the Pole. First they had to cross the Barrier, a great plain of ice of nearly 500 miles, and climb a huge glacier. When they reached the foot of the glacier, the dogs and some of the men went back, but three sledges, each pulled by four men, went on.
It was a terrible journey. It was bitterly cold, the snow was so soft that they sank to their knees in it, and the heavy sledges were very difficult to pull.
Scott watched the men carefully. He had decided that the final part of the journey Ч 150 miles Ч would be made by four men and himself. These were the men he chose: Doctor E. Wilson, Lieutenant Bowers, Captain L. Oates and Edgar Evans.
On January 3, 1912, when the South Pole was 150 miles away, the five heroes said good-bye to their friends and went on, five brave men who would never again see living faces except one another's. For thirteen months nothing was heard of them, but from Scott's diaries we know all about their last days.
On January 18 they reached the Pole, frost-bitten, hungry and weak. And at the Pole they saw a tent with the Norwegian flag flying above it. Amundsen had been there a month before.
Bitterly disappointed, Scott and his companions set out on the return journey. It was 950 miles to the ship. Their strength was going and the food was running short. Their sleeping bags were covered with ice. Evans was the first to lose his strength. When he could no longer walk, the group stopped. They did not leave Evans till his death. Without Evans the party moved a little quicker, but the weather grew worse. Oates was the second man who lost his strength. He knew that he was slowing the progress of his friends. He said to them, "/ am going outside and may be some time". He never came back.
At last they came to a spot only eleven miles from the place where they had left a store of food and fuel, but the storm was so violent that they could not go on. Scott and his companions died there in their tent.
Eight months later a search party found that silent tent. They were lying in their sleeping bags as they had died. On the sledges near the tent there were rocks for scientific study, which they had brought back from the Pole. In that last painful march they had not forgotten that they were scientists.
Ernest Rutherford was born in South Island, New Zealand, in the family of English settlers. He was sent to primary school when he was five. During his studies in the secondary school, he dist;nguished himself in physics. Later he went to Cambridge, where he continued scientific research. After graduation he occupied a research chair in physics at Montreal University in Canada and lectured at leading universities in the United States and Britain. Later on lie worked at Manchester University. Rutherford's famous work is The Scattering of Alpha and Beta Particles of Matter and the Structure of the Atom.
The atoms had always been regarded as the smallest indivisible units of which matter was composed. Rutherford's research showed that the atom is made up of smaller parts and that its structure is very complex. The structure of the atom resembles the solar system, with a central nucleus and a number of electrons revolving around it. Rutherford showed that the atom can be bombarded by neutrons so that the electrons can be thrown off and the nucleus itself can be broken, or "split." In the process of splitting the nucleus, matter is converted into energy.
The splitting of the atom has opened to man a new and enormous source of energy. At the same time, however, it has brought about a threat of a destructive nuclear war, during which humanity can kill itself and destroy the planet. That is why it is so important for the people of the world to concentrate their efforts on establishing good understanding and lasting peace on earth.
Sir Winston Churchill, the eldest son of aristocrat Lord Randolph Churchill, was born on November 30, 1874. He is best known for his courageous leadership as Prime Minister for Great Britain when he led the British people from the danger of defeat to victory during the Second World War.
He graduated from the Royal Military College in Sandhurst. As a war correspondent he was captured during the Boer War in South Africa. After his escape he joined the Conservative Party. Since then he was taking an active part in Britain's political life, occupying a number of important posts in the government. Churchill succeeded Chamberlain as Prime Minister in 1940, and during the Second World War he successfully secured military aid and moral support from the United States. He travelled endlessly during the war, establishing close ties with the leaders of other nations and co-ordinated a military strategy which finally brought about Hitler's defeat.
His tireless efforts gained admiration from all over the world. Yet during the 1945 elections he was defeated by the Labour Party, which ruled until 1951. Churchill regained his power in 1951 and led Britain once again until 1955, when ill health forced him to resign.
He spent most of his last years writing (The History of the English-speaking People) and painting. In recognition of his historical studies he was given the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1953. In 1963 the US Congress made Winston Churchill an honorary American citizen.
Sir Winston Churchill died in 1965 at the age of 90. His death marked the end of an era in British history.
In St. Mary's Churchyard, Cholsey, Berkshire, forty-seven miles west of London, lies Lady Mal-lowan Ч Dame Agatha Christie. She was, and is, known to millions of people throughout the world as the Queen of Crime or, as she preferred, the Duchess of Death.
Agatha Christie was born in 1890 in Torquay in England. Her father was called Frederick Miller, so she was born as Agatha Miller. In 1914 she married Archie Christie. During the First World War Agatha worked at a hospital, and that experience was useful later on when she started writing detective stories. Her first book was published in 1920. It was The Mysterious Affair at Styles, and was met by the reading public with interest. But Agatha's really great popularity came in 1926, when she published her masterpiece, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd.
In the same year, 1926, Agatha surprised the public by suddenly disappearing for a few days after her husband wanted a divorce. She was soon found to be staying in a hotel under an assumed name. Her disappearance is still a mystery!
After the divorce she married a British archaeologist, Max Mallowan. This marriage proved to be a happy one. Agatha wanted to stop using her former husband's name. But her publishers said that it would not be wise because the name of Agatha Christie had already become well known to the public. So she remained Agatha Christie to her readers for the rest of her life.
Agatha Christie wrote Ђearly seventy novels in her career, and more than a hundred short stories. Her most famous characters are Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple.
Hercule Poirot first appeared in 1920, Poirot has become a legend all over the world: the huge moustache, the egg-shaped head, his high opinion of himself, and his great ability to solve complicated mysteries thanks to his knowledge of human psychology.
Miss Marple is an English spinster and lives in the English village of St. Mary Mead. She does not look like a detective at all, but always succeeds where the police have failed. Instead of using a magnifying glass looking for clues, she uses her instinct and knowledge of human nature. As Miss Marple herself once said, "Human Nature is the same everywhere".
In March 1962 a UNESCO report stated that Agatha Christie was now the most widely read British author in the world, with Shakespeare coming second.
Margaret Thatcher is the second daughter of a grocer and a dressmaker, who became the first woman in European history to be elected Prime Minister. Then she became the first British Prime Minister in the twentieth century who won three consecutive terms. At the time of her resignation in 1990, she was the longest-serving Prime Minister of Britain since 1827, Some people consider her a true political revolutionary because she broadened the base of the Conservative Party, including the middle class along with the wealthy aristocracy.
Margaret Thatcher was born on October 13, 1925, in Lincolnshire, England. She was a clever child. Early in life she decided to become a member of Parliament. She was educated at Somerville College and at Oxford University. She earned a master of arts degree from Oxford in 1950 and worked for a short time as a research chemist. In 1950 she married Denis Thatcher, a director of a paint firm. After her marriage she specialized in tax law.
In the 1959 elections Thatcher won a seat in Parliament. Because of her debating skills she soon became prominent among other politicians. In 1974 she became the leader of the Conservative Party.
When the Conservatives won a decisive victory in the 1979 general elections, Thatcher became Prime Minister. As Prime Minister she limited government control, giving individuals greater independence from the state and ending government interference in the economy. Thatcher became known as the Iron Lady because of her strict control over her cabinet and the country's economic policies.
During her third term Thatcher continued the "Thatcher revolution" by returning education, health care and housing to private control.
. Margaret Thatcher resigned from office in 1990. Margaret Thatcher is certainly an outstanding figure in Britain's political life. According to political observers, she brought long-needed changes to British government and society.
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