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This was followed by bronze, a copper-tin alloy that was harder and therefore better for tools and weapons. Britain was a source of copper, gold and tin. The Bronze Age was followed by iron-working which reached Britain by the end of the eighth century Be. The ethnic history of the first millennium Be is complex, but it is apparent that from a heartland in France, Germany and the Alpine lands, Celts spread into Britain. The population rose and agriculture improved. Britain was far from stagnant on the eve of the Roman conquest.

THE END OF ROMAN BRITAIN Like other parts of the Roman empire, Britain suffered increasing attack from 'barbarians', from the third century onwards. Picts attacked from Scotland, Scots from Ireland and Angles, Jutes and Saxons from northern Germany and Denmark. Such assaults played a major role in the decline of trade and urban stagnation that affected Britain in the fourth century. At Verulamium (St Albans), for example, urban decay led to the use of the theatre as a rubbish dump. The ability of the empire to resist these attacks was progressively eroded, and links with Rome were further wea- 6 A HISTORY OF THE BRITISH ISLES kened by Roman usurpers based in Britain, such as Magnus Maximus in 383-8 and Constantine III in 407-9.

Cnut did not purge the Church, was the benefactor of a number of prominent English SAXONS, VIKINGS AND CELTS, AD 400-1066 25 monasteries and was not culturally alienated from the Angio-S::~xon world. He made London his military and governmental centre in England. Cnut's empire fell apart after his death. His son Harthacnut, who succeeded to Denmark and had a claim to England, was challenged for the latter by his half-brother, Harold Harefoot. Powerful «upport from the earls of Mercia and Wessex led Harold to gain control of the entire kingdom in 1037.

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