How a K Became the UK


Hi, I’m an American. But I do know some things about Not-America. So today on Knowing Better we’re going international
and talking about the history of the United Kingdom. Since the history of Britain is like, five
times longer than that of America, I’m going to have to skate over some stuff, but mostly
just everything that happened before 1066. Just to set the scene for you, before the
Romans showed up, the island was inhabited by the Celts, which came to the islands between
500 and 400 BC. There’s actually some dispute over whether
these people were actually Celts or whether the Romans just called them that in a situation
similar to American Indians, because they had just conquered the Celts in Gaul, but
if you ask anyone from their whether they’re Celtic or not, they will say yes… so for
our purposes they were Celts. 800 years ish later, the Angles from the Jutland
Peninsula, in what we call Denmark now, and the Saxons from… Saxony in modern day northern Germany came… The Angles are where the name – look I shouldn’t
have to spell everything out for you right? Like you can figure it out… Anglish… English. It’s not that far of a jump. Anyway, the two together are the Anglo-Saxons
and they’re usually what we think of when we think of white English people. They landed on the eastern half of Britannia,
which would later become England. And around the same time, the Britons from
Brittany, in France, landed on the western half, which would later become Wales and still
strongly identifies as Celtic. There were some small kingdoms here and there
blah blah, that doesn’t matter. What does matter is how many there were, but
I’ll get back to that, remind me. Anyway, our story begins when William the
Conqueror, a Norman, from Normandy, in France, did the thing that he’s named for. He conquered all of the kingdoms and created
the Kingdom of England. Somewhat fun fact, he was the Duke of Normandy
when he did this, so for a brief moment the King of England was a vassal of the King of
France… but let’s not overcomplicate things. But this is where our story begins. Map of the world. England. Side note, England and France are like the
Real Housewives of Europe. They hate each other, talk smack about each
other, and even get in the occasional fight which can last up to 100 years. But if any outsider comes around looking to
start something, they become BFFs so fast it’ll make your head spin. England and France have a crazy complicated
and intertangled history, but there’s one bit that’s always annoyed me so let’s
clear that up right now. How do you say this? If you said Ye, you’re wrong, and you should
backhand yourself in the face. The English didn’t have the letter Y. All of the typesets were manufactured in France,
which did have the letter y. The th sound in Old English was represented
by a letter known as thorn. The French typesets didn’t have that letter,
so the English substituted this weird character that had no use to them. So how do you pronounce this? The olde inn. The letter was used everywhere, including
the King James bible… as in, thou shalt not mispronounce the word ye any longer. There are other fun crossovers though. Like this, what is this animal called? Good job, it’s a chicken, ten points. What is its meat called? This… this isn’t a trick question, it’s
also chicken. That’s how it should be, there’s the animal,
and you kill it and eat it, and it’s still that animal. But since the English and French invaded each
other so many times, English is confused. What is this animal? Yeah, and it’s meat is beef, which is a
French word. Or this? Pork, another French word. And mutton, the list goes on. Anyway, sorry, you know how I get with tangents. Wales was brought into the picture pretty
quickly. William the Conqueror established a frontier
with several lordships surrounding the principality of Wales. Wales didn’t have a King, it had a Prince,
and it kind of still… I’m getting ahead of myself. That lasted around 500 years and Wales was
officially brought into the fold in 1536. It was given everything equal to England,
representation in parliament, lordships, everything was equal. Which is why England and Wales are like this
son *cross fingers*. I mean look at this map of the Brexit vote
and try to tell me you can see the difference between England and Wales. Wales really didn’t start their identity
thing until the 1950s and 60s, when they thought that their language and culture might die
out so they started to try and preserve it. The Welsh are very much still Celtic and you
can definitely see it in their language. This is a very common Welsh first name, Llewellyn,
it’s not that difficult to pronounce, it’s actually kind of cool, but then there’s
also towns like this. Just up the road from …..
C’mon man I mean… there’s four L’s in a row there you can’t do that. Anyway Wales didn’t get their own parliament
until 1998. So while people always say that Wales is a
country… c’mon. Anyway under those same Acts of Union in 1536,
the Prince of Wales became a title given to the heir apparent to the King or Queen of
England. They have almost no power there and it’s
almost entirely symbolic, but still, even though Wales was more or less conquered by
the King of England, they still have a Prince. Which if you watch… since you watch Game
of Thrones, this should remind you of somewhere. Dorne. In fact, Westeros is very much modeled after
the British Isles. Here’s the British Isles, Great Britain
and Ireland. And here’s Westeros. Take Ireland, flip it around and enlarge it. Then take Great Britain, flip it, *bop it,
twist it*… and there you go, Westeros. The similarities don’t end there though. Aside from the fact that there is a Prince
of Wales and a Prince of Dorne – you already forgot to remind me didn’t you? Guess how many kingdoms were in England before
William the Conqueror came along. I’ll give you a hint, it was called the
Heptarcy. Seven, there were seven kingdoms. Northumbria, Mercia, East Anglia, Wessex,
Essex, Sussex, and Kent. But wait, there’s more. In Westeros, the northern border of the Seven
Kingdoms is known as the Wall. And it separates the civilized realm from
the wildlings and grumpkins and snarks. In the real world, it was called Hadrian’s
Wall, and it likewise separates the civilized realm from the wildlings, grumpkins, and snarks. Although, while The Wall looks like this,
Hadrian’s Wall looks like this. I’m pretty sure even Wheatley could scale
that wall but hey, I’m not judging. It was built in 122 AD they probably did the
best they could. Hadrian’s Wall isn’t actually the border
between England and Scotland, it’s pretty close, in some places it’s only half a mile
off, and in others it’s 60 or 70. But still it’s pretty close alright? So Scotland. How Scotland came to be part of the UK is…
complicated. James VI, the King of Scotland, inherited
the throne of England (1603) by being the second cousin of- Look like Westeros, all
the lords and dukes and kings and queens married each other and they’re all related to each
other somehow. The family tree looks like an overly complicated
web, CGP Grey has a video where he does his best explaining all of this, link in the description. Anyway so he became James I, King of England,
while also being James VI, King of Scotland. They weren’t united, so he was king of two
separate places and had two different numbers after his name. Scotland then tried to start a few colonies
in the New World that didn’t go so well so they ended up in a lot of debt. England offered to forgive and assume that
debt if they united, which they did, forming the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707. So their flag went from looking like this,
to looking like this. Like Wales, it got its own parliament in 1998,
but unlike Wales, Scotland has always been pretty independent… and may be again if
the UK goes through with Brexit. Again, look at this map, it should be pretty
obvious where Scotland is. But while we’re looking at this map, see
that bit in Northern Ireland? How did that get there? Ireland is its own country with its own crazy
history and will likely get its own video at some point, just like many of the others
I will be talking about, so forgive me if I skate over a few things for now. The Irish call their island this… which
if you’re like me, your first inclination is to pronounce it like – My life for Aiur
– but really, their language is also Celtic, so they pronounce it like this… So that’s kind of a buzzkill… Anyway, in 1542, the Kingdom of Ireland was
established and King Henry VIII of England was named the King of Ireland. Much like the situation with Scotland, he
was King of both places but not one united kingdom. That happened in 1800, when the Kingdoms of
England, Scotland, and Ireland were all joined together to form the United Kingdom of Great
Britain and Ireland. Ireland is famously hyper-Catholic and England
is…. Not. So there were a lot of wars and fights between
the native Irish and the British settlers on the island. In 1920 they divided Ireland up unto Northern
and Southern Ireland, which was renamed the Irish Free State in 1922 when it broke away
from the UK but was still part of the commonwealth. Thus renaming the UK to the United Kingdom
of Great Britain and (just) Northern Ireland. Again, glossing over some things, in 1949
Ireland also broke away from the British Commonwealth and became its own independent republic. So what is this commonwealth thing? You’ve heard me say it a few times in this
video and in previous videos. It’s the much nicer, more modern term for
the former British Empire. The first bits of the British Empire were
on islands in the Caribbean, but more famously, in America. In 1607 Jamestown, Virginia was established
and later became the colony of Virginia. Just to shatter the American myth that the
first colonists were Pilgrims fleeing religious persecution… no. The first Americans were here looking for
profit. Shortly afterwards though, various religious
groups like the Pilgrims came to America forming the colonies of Plymouth, Maryland, Rhode
Island, and Connecticut. The English and the Dutch were in a lot of
fights with each other over establishing overseas territories, they butted heads quite a few
times, but the first was in 1664, when the English captured New Netherlands and its main
city, New Amsterdam… Which if you ever watched Animaniacs, you
should know what they renamed it to… Even Old New York was once new Amsterdam,
why they changed it I can’t say, people just liked it better that way. I should probably do a video on the rest of
that song… it’s actually a pretty interesting story. I wonder if it has anything to do with why
Oklahoma has a panhandle? Anyway, that’s enough about the thirteen
colonies, it’s not like anyone lives there anyway right? So in the North, in 1670, they established
the Hudson’s Bay Company in Rupert’s Land. This is important because it, along with the
thirteen colonies, became a flashpoint between Britain and France in the Seven Years’ War. When France lost, they gave up their colony
of New France… which was made up of Quebec and Ontario. In 1867, most of the British territories in
North America were united to form the Dominion of Canada. Except Newfoundland, which was its own country
all the way up until 1949 when it joined Canada. During World War 2, there were still Newfoundland
regiments in the British Army. Anyway, since Quebec and Ontario used to be
New France, that’s why Canada’s official languages are both English and French… and
why every once in a while Quebec toys around with the idea of secession. Canada didn’t become a fully independent
country until 1982, though it remains part of the Commonwealth, with the Queen as its
head of state. In 1606, the Dutch found a new continent in
the southern hemisphere and named it New Holland, a few years later they found some islands
to the east of it and named them New Zealand. Holland and Zealand are both provinces of
the Netherlands, so like the British, they didn’t really venture too outside of the
box when it came to coming up with creative names for things. Anyway, in 1783 the British lost their penal
colonies in North America and wanted to make up for it by establishing new colonies for
prisoners elsewhere. So that very same year, they established the
colony of New South Wales on the continent of New Holland…. Which they mistakenly renamed Australia. *Would you like to know more?* I made a video
about that a while back. They also just sort of took New Zealand from
the Dutch at the same time with little resistance. Australia is still part of the Commonwealth,
and like Canada, became fully independent in 1986, again with the Queen still being
the head of state. New Zealand on the other hand is not fully
independent, but is a self-governing Dominion, still recognizing the Queen as head of state. But that wasn’t the last time those troublesome
American colonies forced the British to look elsewhere. America was by far the largest exporter of
cotton, especially to the British. In 1861, most of America’s cotton-growing
states went into rebellion and the subsequent blockade stopped any American cotton from
reaching Britain. So they were forced to look elsewhere. Namely India… and later Egypt, but… India. The British already controlled a good portion
of India under the East India Company, but their control greatly expanded once… cotton
happened. In 1876, the Queen of England was declared
the Empress of India… and since slavery had been illegal in the British Empire since
1833, they just brutalized the Indians instead. Here’s a throwback to your elementary school
history class… what was the British colonial trade system
that said that all raw goods had to be shipped to England for manufacturing, and then sold
back to the colonies that it came from? Mercantilism. If you got that wrong you have to hit the
like button or something I dunno, saying that stuff usually works for other youtubers right? So all of the raw cotton was exported from
India, manufactured in England, and then sent back to India as finished textiles. Which is why Gandhi, during India’s independence
movement, said, “Machinery in the past has made us dependent on England, and the only
way we can rid ourselves of the dependence is to boycott all goods made by machinery. This is why we have made it the patriotic
duty of every Indian to spin his own cotton and weave his own cloth.” Gandhi’s movement successfully got India
its independence in 1947, along with Pakistan – and everything has been peaceful ever
since. Neither country has any tie to Britain, not
even with the Queen being head of state. They are as fully independent as the United
States. So there you have it, a very very brief history
of how the United Kingdom came to be and how losing America forced them to form the British
Empire… At one point governing over a quarter of the
world’s population with territory on every continent. Sorry world… our bad. But hey it all worked out in the end right? So the next time someone tells you that Wales
is its own country or that the sun never sets on the British empire, hopefully now, you’ll
know better. Oi mate, that was well wicked. Do you think we’ll ever see the likes of
the British Empire again? Let me know down in the comments. And don’t forget to colonize that subscribe
button… by clicking it. I know a lot of you have been asking about
the return of Psychology videos, and if you followed me on facebook, twitter, or reddit,
you would know what’s coming up next so… do that.


  1. "…which if you watch," [beep], "since you watch Game of Thrones…"

    I still haven't seen a single episode of Game of Thrones, and this is despite the fact that I am currently in the midst of getting up to date on approximately 15 shows, a number that has stayed roughly constant for a few years now as certain programs are cancelled after so many seasons and others that I become interested in start airing. I totally have access to Game of Thrones if I wanted to see what it was about, but I'm just not interested enough to watch it yet.

  2. Scotland is a big part of the world and the government is expected in a statement in which a new always is an economic development in its national independence

  3. Is there anything correct in this video? William the Conqueror didn't create England, this is like saying George Washington discovered America. England had been around in one form or another for more than a Hundred years. William the Bastard (he wouldn't be known as conqueror until after 1066) invaded because he thought he had a claim to the English throne, if it wasn't already a kingdom how could he have a claim to it. Alfred and his sons combined the Saxon and Angle kingdoms into one, Aethelstan was the first King of England in 927. 

    A real shame I liked you other videos, but now I have to doubt if you've even read Wikipedia. This is late Victorian primary school history. The parson's record that perpetuates the convenient myths. I thought you were aiming to dispel the myths.  I half expected you to break into Mary Poppins.  

    Also Britain and Catholicism, almost every major city has two cathedrals – one Church of England, one Roman Catholic. The fight between us was never about religion, it was about control. The first Irish republicans to try and overthrow London rule in Ireland were Protestants inspired by your own revolution. Among the instigators of the Easter Rebellion in 1916 was a Lesbian contingent arguing for recognition of Homosexuality. That got kicked into touch and wiped from history real quick when the Catholic Nationalists (who are not the same as Roman Catholics) took office.

  4. By the way, there's a word for when two or more nations that are separate but share a monarch, that's called a personal union.

  5. In GoT, the heir to the throne is given the title "Prince of Dragonstone", which is the more fitting analogy to "Prince of Wales". Dorne is based more on Cornwall/Spain, depending on whether you're comparing westeros to Britain or Europe as a whole.

  6. the Britons were already there when the Anglo-Saxons arrived and were pushed to the west coast. at this time many but not all they left for France, not from France.

  7. Kudos to that Weather Guy for not stuttering or blinking or smirking once for nailing that Welsh town name! Not bad

  8. Britons from Brittany landed on the Western half…WTF!!!????

    That should be Britons from Britain landed in Brittany!!! i.e. the other way around!!

  9. Saxons did that come from Saxony. That part of Germany was named after Saxons that migrated there. Saxons, Angles and Jutes (whom you forgot) all basically came from mostly what is now Denmark. You forgot the Frisians, too (they came from the lowlands, now Netherlands.)

  10. I loved the way you kept a straight face when you talked about everything being peaceful between India and Pakistan. And I think you might have slipped the Vikings in there. They were kind of important. Half our place names are down to them.

  11. You may need to do an update or a series regarding British history. The Celts came to the British Isles as the Glaciers retreated around 10,000 to 15,000 years ago from Iberia. The Romans came around 50 BC with Caesar but fully occupied at the time of Caligula around 40 AD. The Germanic tribes: Angles, Saxons, Jutes and Frisians came around the 6th century as the Romans army left the Britons to fend for themselves. Contrary to popular belief, the Germanic tribes did not slaughter their way across what would become England. They mixed and bred with the native Britons as evidenced by the fact that the majority of English DNA is still derived from these Iberian Celts. Even where these tribes landed the highest concentration is around 40%. The Vikings came in the 9th century with the Norwegians mainly in Scotland and the Danes in the North of England.

  12. I can only hope also technically the sun still hasn’t set on the British Empire since we still control islands across the world preventing the sun from setting

  13. sigh British Isles is an offensive term with no geographic basis. Just political basis to assert ownership.

    Also, no Irish person says Eire. We say Ireland.

  14. I was expecting a bit more on the British Empire, there was no mention of the scramble for Africa, Britain's role in the Caribbean, the expansion of the empire after the First World War, the end of empire starting in the 1960s and essentially concluding most recently with the hand over of Hong Kong in 1997. Still a very interesting video, I just expected a bit more from it.

  15. 1:10 . Let me stop you right there my friend. Western Britain was NOT ,repeat NOT repeat NOT populated by people from Brittany. It was the COMPLETE OPPOSITE. A quite entertaining and enjoyable vid , but in the nature of entertainment it’s mostly fiction.

  16. You didn't just "skate over" several of the details. A lot of the information you present is either too simplified to make sense or is simply wrong.

  17. Okay, loads of inaccuracies straight from the off. Aethelstan first united Anglo-Saxons and his brother Edward did it permanently, in the 10th century AD. Wales was conquered by Edward I in the late thirteenth century, although South Wales had been largely conquered earlier as a way to get to Ireland.

  18. England emerges from several kingdoms. England and Scotland unite, then conquer the world as one United Kingdom. Then WWI and WWII happened and it all went to shit.

  19. Not united for much longer. They're finished. NI will leave and poof, no more UK
    Oh and your facts are appalling. Go read a book.

  20. American's view of the world
    US and Not US
    Briton's view of the world (I copypasted it btw and I know he wouldn't of listed all of these)





    Antigua and Barbuda















    Bosnia and Herzegovina





    Burkina Faso

    Cabo Verde




    Central African Republic (CAR)






    Congo, Democratic Republic of the

    Congo, Republic of the

    Costa Rica

    Cote d'Ivoire







    Dominican Republic


    El Salvador

    Equatorial Guinea













































    Marshall Islands















    New Zealand




    North Korea

    North Macedonia




    Papua New Guinea






    Saint Kitts and Nevis

    Saint Lucia

    Saint Vincent and the Grenadines


    San Marino

    Sao Tome and Principe

    Saudi Arabia




    Sierra Leone




    Solomon Islands


    South Africa

    South Korea

    South Sudan


    Sri Lanka













    Trinidad and Tobago






    United Arab Emirates
    United Kingdom
    United States of America



    Vatican City


  21. Man you need to brush up on a bunch of your history. I like your vids but you went to Australia/New Zealand you got it 100% wrong

  22. Sorry but your grasp of this is wrong. The Briton did NOT comes from Britanny! The celts who had been under Roman rule were called the Romano-Britons… but the term Britons was applied by the Romans before they even invaded! The peoples the Roman called Britons didn't call themselves that… nor did they call themselves celts either, that a Victorian concept. They called themselves by their tribal names such as the Iceni for example. So, the Britons were there BEFORE the Anglo-Saxon and Jutes invasions. The reason they ended up in southern Scotland (west part) and Wales and Cornwall was they were (or at least their rulers were) pushed by the saxons et al westwards…

  23. First minute of the video is an EXTREMELY condensed version of how the modern British Isles were inhabited. Just saying…

  24. And it was as simple as that😂
    All you fools complaining need to make your own video and we'll see. So far all those I've checked don't have any videos on the subject. Or any videos at all.

  25. You don't understand the meaning of the word international. International means "among nations" it doesn't mean outside of my nation.

  26. Don’t say that Wales isn’t a country. It is. And if you say it isn’t Russel Take Over The World Davies will come kick your ass. Hail the Welsh Empire.

  27. 2:10 Most English people would say "Ye" in any case. Yes I know it's wrong but most of my country thinks it won the Second World War by itself.
    4:03 That's just the name of the railway station and yes it was done for publicity purposes.

  28. The US is the new British Empire.. It has been since the end of WW2.. Except we didnt do land grabs, we just interfere in everyones politics and if we dont like a particular government, we set up a new one for them…

  29. "How did Britain vote for Brexit?" (Shows a video of an American who knows nothing about American or British history.) Oh.

  30. The American (commercial) Empire bares a shocking similarity to the once mighty British Empire. The acquisition of goods in various nations around the world, importing these goods, processing them within the US and selling in countries all around the world sounds kind of ….

  31. lol losing usa never forced it to form the empire it was the empire then lost usa , setup usa some rouge units started it ! .

  32. Can you make an entire video about why Newfoundland is named that way? I just don't have a clue as to why they named it that.

  33. I like your American content but I stopped watching at "the Britons came from britanny".

    The Britons were the natives of Britannia, whose land was colonised by the anglo-saxons. Over time they were pushed into Strathclyde, Wales, Cornwall and Brittany. People from Brittany are called Bretons.

  34. There is one thing that the video doesn't actually clear up. Since 1707, the official name of the nation this video talked about is "The United Kingdom of Great Britain and [Northern] Ireland" which is a mouthful. But in the 18th and 19th Century, the British would normally say their country was "Great Britain." Now since WWII, they've emphasized "United Kingdom" more. I thought it was because they were emphasizes their ties to America—"Hey, look! Our names are almost the same!"—–but were they just worried about keeping Scotland from breaking away?

  35. "The Irish pronouce Éire like "Asia"!"
    No we fucking don't
    It's "Air-a", with the "Air" syllable being a bit long
    Although to be fair there are somehow four different dialects of Irish.

  36. Not really relevant, but the Union naval blockade of the South took four years to perfect, until just after Appomattox in 1865. Meantime, England had already begun looking elsewhere than the slaveholding Southern states for cotton, which is one reason for their failure to force an alliance with England by means of a cotton embargo.

  37. French has the same rules with meat, cows are vaches, and beef is boeaf or whatever, and chicken animal is poulet and chicken meat is poulet,


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