History of Kent

See also article on Kent

County of Kent
- Total
- % Water
Ranked 9th
995,344 acres
? %
County town Maidstone
Chapman code KEN

Kent is a county in South East England with a long history of human occupation.

Prehistoric Kent

Kent has been occupied since the Lower Palaeolithic as finds from the quarries at Swanscombe attest. During the Neolithic the Medway megaliths were built and there is a rich sequence of Bronze Age occupation indicated by finds and features such as the Ringlemere gold cup.

Iron Age Kent

The modern name Kent is derived from the Brythonic word 'Cantus' meaning a rim or border, being applied as a name to the eastern part of the modern county, and meaning 'border land' or 'coastal district.' Julius Caesar described it as Cantium, although he did not record the inhabitants' name for themselves, in 51 BC. His writings suggest localised groups of people whose chieftains were flattered by his description of them as 'kings'. Pottery studies indicate the county east of the River Medway was inhabited by Belgic peoples who were part of an economic and cultural region embracing south east England and the lands across the English Channel.

The extreme west of the modern county was occupied by other Iron Age tribes; the Regnenses and possibly another ethnic group occupying The Weald known today as the Wealden People. During the late pre-Roman Iron Age the names of a few Kentish kings are known, such as Dumnovellaunus and Adminius.

Roman Kent

Early Medieval Kent

East Kent became one of the kingdoms of the Jutes during the fifth century AD and the area was later known as Cantia in around AD 730 and Cent in AD 835. The early Mediaeval inhabitants of the county were known as the Cantwara or Kent people, whose capital was at Canterbury.

Canterbury is the religious centre of the Anglican faith, and see of Saint Augustine of Canterbury. Augustine is traditionally credited with bringing Christianity to the county and thus to England in 597.

Medieval Kent

Following the invasion of William the Conqueror the people of Kent adopted the motto Invicta meaning undefeated and claiming (quite wrongly) that they had frightened the Normans away, presumably in an attempt to defame the people of Hastings in neighbouring Sussex.

During the medieval period, Kent produced several rebellions including the Peasants' Revolt led by Wat Tyler and later, Jack Cade's rebellion of 1450. Thomas Wyatt led an army into London from Kent in 1553, against Mary I. Canterbury became a great pilgrimage site following the martyrdom of Thomas à Becket. Canterbury's religious role also gave rise to Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, a key development in the rise of the written English language and ostensibly set in the countryside of Kent.

Early Modern Kent

By the seventeenth century, tensions between Britain and the continental powers of the Netherlands and France led to increasing military build-up in the county. Forts were built all along the coast following a daring raid by the Dutch navy on the shipyards of the Medway Towns in 1667.

Modern Kent

During the Second World War, airfields in Kent became well known playing a major part in the Battle of Britain whilst civilian settlements were often the recipients of bombardment and bombing from the continent.

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