THE story of the English is the story of our forefathers. Most of us in America, if we try to learn something of our grandfathers, and of their grandfathers before them, find that the story takes us back to some town or county in England. We find ourselves descended from some smith, or weaver, or tailor, or some other honest man of that "tight little isle." And when, in addition, we ask where we got our government, our church organization, and our ways of living, we are again led back by many a path to the island of Great Britain.
So, if we wish truly to know how we came to be what we are, we must first ask who the English are,—where they came from, what their country is like, and what their history has been. We must see how they began with a very simple life. How, little by little, through many long wars, they changed from heathens to Christians, and built great and beautiful churches. How they have become industrious and energetic, building great ships and railways, warehouses and factories, helping to make the powers of nature bow to the will of man. And how, from living in wild and scattered tribes, they came to have one strong and free government; and how its area spread until now their power is felt in many lands, and millions of men are proud to say that they are of English or British race.
The English began their story at a time when the story of the Romans was coming to a close.
 The Romans were great conquerors for some time before the birth of Christ, and they ruled the lands about the Mediterranean Sea, and beyond, for hundreds of years. But at last they were obliged to give up that task. Their empire was broken into many parts, which were taken by barbarous but stronger peoples. That part of it which the Romans knew as the island of Britain was given up when Rome's troubles came thick upon her. The English then came over from the Continent of Europe and took possession. And it is from them that we now give the name "England" to the greater part of the island.
We begin our story first with an account of the island itself, and then of the different peoples who lived there before the English came. Afterward we will trace the story of the English, as they grow from small beginnings to their present great strength.