The Primitive Communal System

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The Primitive Communal System

For some hundreds of thousands of years people lived under the primitive communal system. Labour gradually changed the life of man. The Iberians knew only stone tools and weapons; the Celts produced tools of metal – first, of bronse, that is, a mixture of copper and tin, and, later, of much harder metal, iron.

The improved tools of labour brought about important changes in the living conditions of primitive man. The Iberians had gathered or hunted their food, but the Celts began to tame and breed animals, to till the soil. Iron ploughs could cut the soil deeper, and so they could cultivate not only the light soil of the chalk downs but also the rich heavy soil in the valleys. They grew more and more corn. They began to build dwellings and make clothing. They learned the art of pottery.

The life of the Celts differed greatly from that of the Iberians. But both the Iberians and the Celts lived under the primitive system. At all stages of its development primitive society had very much in common; the primitive people worked collectively in clans or family communities; they owned common property and were all equal.

The related members of the clan jointly owned their hunting-grounds, tillable lands, rivers and lakes. They worked together and shared the products of their labour. All food was divided equally among the members of the clan.

Their tools were primitive and the labour productivity was low. A man could not produce any surplus over and above his immediate needs.

All the tribesmen became warriors in war-time, but in time of peace they hunted, tamed and bred animals and tilled the soil. A tribe was governed by a council of elders. The council distributed hunting- and fishing – grounds and tillable lands among the family communities and settled all disputes. The elders acted in the interests of the whole tribe. They were obeyed and trusted by all. They called meeting of all the tribesmen to discuss the most important problems.

In primitive society there was no private property; therefore there were no classes and no exploitation – that is, appropriation by the rich of the fruits of other men’s labour. Since there were no classes there was no state system, that is, no armed forces, no prisons, no overseers, no government bodies.

In the last centuries B.C. and in the first centuries A.D. the Celts were in a period of transition from primitive communal society to class society. The elders, military leaders and their warriors made up the tribal nobility. They were beginning to seize much land for themselves and they had more cattle than the other members of the clan. But still the communal way of life predominated among them.


Word Check


Ex. 1. Match the words in column A with their definitions in column B.

1) inhabitant a) not suddenly, slowly but surely
2) sacrifice b) to take hold of smth.
3) dwelling c) to have part or portion of a larger amount which is divided among people
4) smooth d) regarded with great respect or reverence
5) to penetrate e) a person living in a place
6) to be acquainted with f) a person who can tell correctly about the future events or predict
7) to worship g) to form, compose or constitute
8) sacred h) to be familiar with, to know
9) prophet i) having an even surface, not rough
10) gradually j) to make a way into or through smth.
11) plough k) offering of smth. valuable, often a slaughtered animal to a god
12) to share the products of labour l) a place of residence, house
13) to make up m) to show reverence, respect or love for smb. or smth.
14) to seize n) an implement used for digging furrows in the soil, esp. before seeds are planted


Ex. 2. Complete the sentences, use the words and expressions from the text.

1. When the people living in Britain were only at the first stage of social development, the ancient civilizations of Greece and Rome were already …

2. Stonehenge is still …

3. We can learn something about the ancient people from their weapons and …

4. Celtic tribes called the Picts …

5. Julius Caesar was one of the earliest writers from whom we have learned much about the country …

6. The Celts … the use of copper, tin and iron.

7. They also cultivated crops and they used …

8. The Celts believed in many spirits and they …

9. They … not only animals, but also human beings to their gods.

10. The Celts were taught by priests called druids and they lived …


Words for reference: the remains of their dwellings; and its inhabitants; sacrificed; sacred places; in existence; a mystery to scholars; were acquainted with; penetrated into the mountains on the North; light ploughs as well as hoes; worshipped Nature.

Ex. 3. Fill in the following prepositions: at, against, among, by, after, in, on, from, from … to, with.

1. … the dawn of their history the peoples … this planet lived … primitive societies.

2. The primitive peoples began their log path … progress … stone tools.

3. The earliest men could make smooth objects … stone … sharp edges and points.

4. Julius Caesar describes the island and the Celts … whom he fought.

5. Britons’ clothing was made … wool, woven … many colours while the other Celts wore skins.

6. The Celts believed … another life … death.

7. The life of the Celts differed greatly … that … the Iberians.

8. The elders were obeyed and trusted … all.

9. In the first centuries A.D. the Celts were in a period of transition … primitive communal society … class society.

10. But still the communal way of life predominated … them.



Ex. 1. Complete the sentences, use the information from the text.

1. We don’t know much about the Iberians because …

2. Today the words “Briton” and “British” refer to …

3. We know more about the earlier inhabitants of the islands, because …

4. They Celts worshipped Nature. They imagined the sky …

5. The Iberians had gathered or hunted their food, but the Celts …

6. The labour productivity was low, because …

7. In primitive society there was no private property, therefore …

8. The transition from primitive communal society to class society gradually began when …

Ex. 2. Say if the statements are true or false.

1. Very little is known about the Iberians who lived on the British Isles about three thousand year B.C.

2. The Romans were the first to mention the British Isles.

3. Powerful Celtic tribes, the Britons, held most of the country, and the southern half of the island was named Briton after them.

4. The pagan gods the Celts worshipped were called by the same names in various places.

5. The Celtic priests, druids, were not so important and powerful as the Celtic chiefs.

6. In the primitive society of the Celts there was no private property.


Ex. 3. Answer the following questions.

1. What people inhabited the British Isles in ancient times?

2. What do we know about the Iberians?

3. Whose written accounts help us learn more about the way of life of the Celts?

4. Why did the primitive people have to live collectively?

5. Why was labour productivity very low in primitive society?

6. What did the primitive people own jointly?

7. How was a tribe governed?


Text 2. The British Empire

Read the text and do the tasks that follow:

The growth of the British Empire was due in large part to the ongoing competition for resources and markets which existed over a period of centuries between England and other European countries – Spain, France, and Holland. During the reign of Elizabeth I, England set up trading companies in Turkey, Russia, and the East Indies, explored the coast of North America, and established colonies there. In the early seventeenth century those colonies were expanded and the systematic colonization of Ulster in Ireland got underway.

Until the early nineteenth century, the primary purpose of Imperialist policies was to facilitate the acquisition of as much foreign territory as possible, both as a source of raw materials and in order to provide markets for British manufactured goods. Britain imported food and raw materials for her factories from all over the Empire, while selling back manufactured goods. A profitable balance of trade, it was believed, would provide the wealth necessary to maintain and expand the Empire.

After ultimately successful wars with the Dutch, the French, and the Spanish in the seventeenth century, Britain managed to acquire most of the eastern coast of North America, the St. Lawrence basin in Canada, territories in the Caribbean, stations in Africa for the acquisition of slaves, and important interests in India. The loss in the late eighteenth century of the American colonies influenced the so-called “swing to the East” (the acquisition of trading and strategic bases along the trade routes between India and the Far East).

In 1773 the British government was obliged to take over for the financially troubled East India Company, which had been in India since 1600, and by the end of the century Britain’s control over India extended into neighbouring Afghanistan and Burma.

Australia was the last continent to be discovered and developed, and its development was very slow until it had become of sufficient importance in itself to be the terminus of regular trade roads to and from the Old World.

The discovery of gold in Australia in 1851 attracted thousands of diggers from all over Europe. The powerful Australian aristocracy who saw in these immigrants a menace to their vast holdings of land, and found that the rush to the gold-fields made in hard to obtain shepherds and sheep shearers used their influence with the British government to have heavy taxes and all kinds of irksome police restrictions placed upon them.

The gold deposits gave out after a few years, but the population continued to increase. Sheep farming and mining continued to be important, but with the growth of railways considerable industries developed in Australia.

With the end, in 1815, of the Napoleonic Wars, the last of the great imperial wars which had dominated the eighteenth century, Britain found itself in an extraordinarily powerful position, though a complicated one. It acquired Dutch South Africa, for example, but found its interests threatened in India by the southern and eastern expansion of the Russians. (The protection of India from the Russians, both by land and by sea, would be a major concern of Victorian foreign policy). At this time, however, the empires of Britain’s traditional rivals had been lost or severely diminished in size, and its imperial position was unchallenged. In addition, Britain had become the leading industrial nation of Europe, and more and more of the world came under the domination of British commercial, financial, and naval power.

This state of affairs, however, was complex and far from stable. The old mercantile Empire was weakened during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries by a number of factors: by the abolition in 1807 of slavery in Britain itself, and by adoption of Free Trade, which minimized the influence of the oligarchies and monopolistic trading corporation, and by various colonial movements for greater political and commercial independence.

During the Victorian Age, however, the acquisition of territory and of further trading concessions continued (promoted by strategic considerations and aided or justified by philanthropic motivations), reaching its peak when Victoria had been crowned Empress of India. Advocates of the imperialist foreign policies justified them by invoking a paternalistic and racist theory which saw Imperialism as a manifestation of “the white man’s burden”. The implication, of course, was that the Empire existed not for the benefit – economic or strategic or otherwise – of Britain itself, but in order that primitive peoples, incapable of self-government, could, with British guidance, eventually become civilized. The truth of this doctrine was accepted naively by some, and hypocritically by others, but it served in any case to legitimize Britain’s acquisition of portions of central Africa and her domination, in concert with other European powers, of China.

At the height of the Empire, however, growing nationalist movements in various colonies presaged its dissolution. The process accelerated after World War I, although in the immediate post-was period the Empire actually increased in size as Britain became the “trustee” of former German and Turkish territories (Egypt, for example) in Africa and the Middle East. The English-speaking colonies, Canada and Australia, had already acquired dominion status in 1907, and in 1931 Britain and the self-governing dominions – Canada, Australia, New Zeland, South Africa, and the Irish Free State – agreed to form the “Commonwealth of Nations”. The Dominions came to the aid of Britain during World War II, but Britain’s losses to the Japanese in the Far East made it clear that it no longer possessed the resources to maintain the old order of things. The Americans were in any case ready, indeed anxious, to replace British influence in many areas of the world.

Britain’s hold on India had gradually loosened. India achieved qualified self-government in 1935 and independence in 1947. Ireland, which had at last won dominion status in 1921 after a brutal guerrilla war, achieved independence in 1949, although the northern province of Ulster remained a part of Great Britain. The process of decolonization in Africa and Asia accelerated during the late 1950’s. Today, any affinities which remain between former portions of the Empire are primarily linguistic or cultural rather than political.


Ex. 1. Answer the questions.

1. What was the growth of the British Empire due to?

2. When were the first English trading companies set up? Where did they establish colonies? What was the primary purpose of Imperialist policies until the early nineteenth century?

3. What caused the “swing” to the East in British colonial policy?

4. When did Australia become Britain’s colony? How did it develop?

5. What was Britain’s position in the world with the end of the Napoleonic Wars?

6. What factors weakened the British Empire?

7. What doctrine was the British Empire guided by during the Victorian Age to ligitimize Britain’s acquisition of portions of Central Africa and its domination of China?

8. What presaged the Empire’s dissolution?

9. What happened when Britain’s hold on her colonies had loosened?

Speak on the biggest British colonies and what they provided Britain with.


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