The histories of Britain and France are closely coupled because Britain was once part of Europe. Understanding their histories requires an appreciation of when Britain separated from Europe.
The North European Basin
Britain separating from Europe triggered the draining of the North European Basin inland sea.
The separation of Scotland from Europe opened the Norwegian Trench drainage channel.
Raised beaches in Scotland indicate the draining of the North European Basin occurred in stages.
The separation of England from Europe opened the English Channel drainage channel.
Geologists Reveal Ancient Connection Between England and France
University of Plymouth – EurekAlert! – 14-Sep-2018
The Paris Basin
The sedimentary history of the Paris Basin [area 4040 outlined in red – below] tells the same story as it was a component part of the [larger] North European Basin inland sea that drained away into the Atlantic Basin when Britain separated from Europe.
The Paris Basin highlights several points that are avoided in geology class.
● Sedimentary deposits are horizontally and vertically sequenced.
● Sedimentary deposits can accumulate simultaneously
e.g. Jurassic land deposits could be contemporaneous with Cretaceous sea deposits.
● France and Britain only separated geologically in the Quaternary.
● Uplands and lowlands can simultaneously sustain very different flora and fauna.
Raised beaches in England indicate the draining of the Paris Basin also occurred in stages.
Camborne School of Mines Virtual Museum – University of Exeter
Evidence of higher sea-levels in the past can be seen at Marazion where the town is built on a raised beach.
Marazion is a civil parish and town, on the shore of Mount’s Bay in Cornwall, United Kingdom.
The channels etched into the floor of the English Channel and the edge of the Continental Shelf indicate the draining of the Paris Basin caused the local sea level to drop by [at least] 100 metres.
Discoveries from La Manche – Pope et al – Archaeology International – 18 – 2015
Mapping Roman Britain
Matching the current coastline of Northern France with Ptolemy’s rather strange looking map of Britain provides two very intriguing insights.
Firstly, Ptolemy’s scale needs adjusting to “make the comparison more exact”.
More specifically: the horizontal scale should [definitely] be increased by 20%.
Secondly, it appears there were [at least] three physical land bridges that connected Britain to France before the separation.
These land bridges didn’t include a connection between Dover and Calais i.e. the deep [70 metres plus] drainage channels only begin in the vicinity of the Isle of Wight.
But Dover did have a lighthouse [or signal station] similar to the Nimes Magna Tower.
The notorious Notitia Dignitatum perhaps contains a grain of truth when it limits it’s highly suspect “Saxon Shore” storyline to coastal locations [red squares] between the Solent and the Wash.
The Notitia Dignitatum is a “unique” and truly remarkable “central source” document because “no absolute date can be given, and there are omissions and problems”.
The Notitia Dignitatum is also a “unique” and truly extraordinary “central source” document because it “contains the earliest known depictions of the diagram which later came to be known as yin and yang symbol” which “predate the earliest Taoist versions by almost seven hundred years”.
One inference from Ptolemy’s map is that Roman Colchester was originally on the coast.
Colchester is a city found in England, The United Kingdom.
It is located 51.89 latitude and 0.90 longitude and it is situated at elevation 29 meters above sea level.
Camulodunum, the Ancient Roman name for what is now Colchester in Essex, was an important town in Roman Britain, and the first capital of the province.
Similarly, Roman Chichester was on the coast.
Noviomagus Reginorum was the Roman town which is today called Chichester, situated in the modern English county of West Sussex.
Dating The Separation of France and Britain
Dating the physical separation of France and Britain is an interesting challenge.
The evidence suggests the separation was associated with a drop in the local sea level so that [after the initial surge] the English Channel only contained rivers flowing to the Atlantic Basin.
Therefore, determining when the English Channel filled with sea water is also an interesting challenge.
The shallow nature of the English Channel [mainly less that 100 metres] suggests it would have started to refill with sea water a lot later than [say] the Mediterranean Sea because the depth of the Strait of Gibraltar ranges between 300 and 900 metres.
The Strait of Gibraltar is a narrow strait that connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea and separates Gibraltar and Peninsular Spain in Europe from Morocco and Ceuta (Spain) in Africa.
The Strait’s depth ranges between 300 and 900 metres (160 and 490 fathoms; 980 and 2,950 ft) which possibly interacted with the lower mean sea level of the last major glaciation 20,000 years ago when the level of the sea is believed to have been lower by 110–120 m (60–66 fathoms; 360–390 ft).
The delayed return of the sea to the English Channel would help explain many legends.
Lyonesse is a country in Arthurian legend, particularly in the story of Tristan and Iseult. Said to border Cornwall, it is most notable as the home of the hero Tristan, whose father was king.
The legend of a sunken kingdom appears in both Cornish and Breton mythology.
Ys, also spelled Is or Kêr-Is in Breton, and Ville d’Ys in French, is a mythical city that was built on the coast of Brittany and later swallowed by the ocean.
Mount’s Bay is a large, sweeping bay on the English Channel coast of Cornwall, United Kingdom, stretching from the Lizard Point to Gwennap Head.
Either side of Penzance, on the beaches at Ponsandane and Wherrytown, evidence of a ′submerged forest′ can be seen at low tide in the form of several partially fossilised tree trunks.
Divers and trawlers also find submerged tree trunks across Mount’s Bay and the forest may have covered a coastal plain 2 to 5 kilometres further south than today.
It’s possible sea water didn’t fill the English Channel until the 14th century as England and France only began their long fight “over the right to rule the Kingdom of France” in 1337 AD.
The Hundred Years’ War was a series of conflicts waged from 1337 to 1453 by the House of Plantagenet, rulers of the Kingdom of England, against the French House of Valois, over the right to rule the Kingdom of France.
Second peace: 1389–1415
The war became increasingly unpopular with the English public largely due to the high taxes needed to sustain it.
These taxes were seen as one of the reasons for the Peasants’ revolt.
Although the will was there, the funds to pay the troops was lacking, so in the autumn of 1388 the Council agreed to resume negotiations with the French crown, beginning on 18 June 1389 with the signing of a three-year truce at Leulinghen.
This view is supported by a World map – attributed to William Rogers – which clearly identifies a land bridge and a residual body of water in the Paris Basin [Hat Tip: Yry].
If this was the case then earlier events begin to make a lot more sense.
William the Conqueror could have simply strolled across the non-existent English Channel.
The Battle of Hastings was fought on 14 October 1066 between the Norman-French army of William, the Duke of Normandy, and an English army under the Anglo-Saxon King Harold Godwinson, beginning the Norman conquest of England.
William landed his invasion forces in the south of England at Pevensey on 28 September 1066 and established a beachhead for his conquest of the kingdom.
Sources differ on the exact site that the English fought on: some sources state the site of the abbey, but some newer sources suggest it was Caldbec Hill.
Similarly, the Britannic Empire that encompassed Britain and Northern Gaul would have represented a common culture that was still very much physically connected.
The Carausian Revolt (AD 286–296) was an episode in Roman history, during which a Roman naval commander, Carausius, declared himself emperor over Britain and northern Gaul.
It also explains why Caesar encountered this common culture when he strolled across to Britain.
Winchester is a city and the county town of Hampshire, England.
After the Roman conquest of Britain, the settlement served as the capital of the Belgae and was distinguished as Venta Belgarum, “Venta of the Belgae”.
The Belgae were a large Gallic-Germanic confederation of tribes living in northern Gaul, between the English Channel, the west bank of the Rhine, and northern bank of the river Seine, from at least the third century BC.
The Belgae had made their way across the English Channel into southern Britain in Caesar’s time.
Caesar asserts they had first crossed the channel as raiders, only later establishing themselves on the island.
The precise extent of their conquests is unknown.
And it would explain how the Brittonic language spread across the Britain Isles from Europe.
Common Brittonic was an ancient Celtic language spoken in Britain.
It is also variously known as Old Brittonic, British, and Common or Old Brythonic.
By the sixth century AD, this language of the Celtic Britons had split into the various Neo-Brittonic languages: Welsh, Cumbric, Cornish, Breton and probably the Pictish language.
The Brittonic languages derive from the Common Brittonic language, spoken throughout Great Britain south of the Firth of Forth during the Iron Age and Roman period.
In addition, North of the Forth, the Pictish language is considered to be related; it is possible it was a Brittonic language, but it may have been a sister language.
Gaelic is an adjective that means “pertaining to the Gaels”.
As a noun, it refers to the group of languages spoken by the Gaels, or to any one of the languages individually.
Celtic languages are spoken in both Ireland and Scotland, in Scotland it is very often referred to just as “Gaelic”, but in Ireland it is referred to as “Irish”.
As usual, the academic linguists have their history upside-down and back to front.
In the 5th and 6th centuries emigrating Britons also took Brittonic speech to the continent, most significantly in Brittany and Britonia.
Their ability to get it wrong seems to be a constant…