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Who do the English think they are? For centuries, debate has raged about whether England's population is largely descended from German immigrants. Now, we have answers

Actors recreate King Harold's 1066 march south after his victory at Stamford Bridge. Photo by Ian Forsyth/Getty Images

Actors recreate King Harold's 1066 march south after his victory at Stamford Bridge. Photo by Ian Forsyth/Getty Images


August 25, 2020   7 mins

In the early 5th century the Roman legions abandoned Britain, and the sceptered isle fell off the pages of history. When it reemerges two centuries later Celtic Britain had become the seedbed for the nation-state of England. The Christian religion, newly-established on the island at the time, had given way once again to paganism. Brythonic Celtic speech was ascendant only on the fringes. A cacophony of German dialects spread out across the fertile south and east, radiating out of the “Saxon Shore”.

This ethno-religious transformation of the island occurred under the shadow of semi-history, allowing for the development of an imaginative romantic tradition exemplified by the Arthurian Cycle. But this Dark Age also became a bone of contention between the English who saw themselves as deeply rooted in the land, and those who declared that they were a German folk who had won their new home through conquest and blood. The dominant view at any given time reflected social and political events of the 20th century more than facts. The propaganda value of myth meant more than the conjectures of scholars.

While in the early 20th century the dominant position was that the English were a people akin to German Saxons, a race apart from the Welsh, by the early 21st century serious scholars assumed that the spread of Anglo-Saxon culture occurred through imitation rather than replacement.

Today we can say with some confidence that neither stark view is correct, and that the middle path between is far more interesting and complex. Large numbers of Saxons, Angles and Jutes did in fact cross the North Sea — but the preponderance of England’s heritage still draws from the Celtic-speaking peoples. It is not coincidence that the earliest rulers in Alfred the Great’s lineage bear Celtic names, not German ones.

Those who argued for the erasure of the Celtic people did not do so without any basis. St. Gildas, a 6th century British Celt, recounted in On the Ruin and Conquest of Britain the defeat and destruction of his people at the hands of the Saxons. More recently, 19th century philologists observed that the number of Brythonic Celtic loan words in English is extremely small; in fact, there may be more Celtic loan words from Gaulish, due to the later Norman French influence. Finally, the collapse of institutions like the Roman Christian Church and the total decay of urban life indicates incredible disruption of the social hierarchy which characterised post-Roman Britain.

A contrast here exists with Gaul, which absorbed a German-speaking elite but retained Roman language and religion. Some of the nobility of southern and western France even traced their descent from Romans, not Germans. On a more demotic level, British archaeologists have also observed that the arrival of the Saxons seems to have been associated with a transformation of the layout of rural farmsteads. In most societies, farmers have customs and traditions which they hew to, and they are often quite stubborn and set in their ways. Such a change indicates new people, not just practices.

But by the late 20th century such views of cultural and demographic disruption were in bad odour. The dominant ethos is that people did not move, their customs and traditions did. Hengist and Horsa may have existed, but rather than a folk migration the Anglo-Saxon conquest was one of a small number of German mercenaries who were engaged in elite capture of the post-Roman peasantry.

The Welsh historian Norman Davies observed in his 1999 book The Isles that “blood price” in 8th century Wessex differed between whether one was Saxon or British, the implication here being that there were many Celtic Britons living in the Anglo-Saxon lands, even if our documentary evidence is from the Saxon elite; this would tally with the 6th century ancestors of Alfred the Great having names such as Ceawlin, Cynegils and Cerdic, all of which have a distinctive Welsh flavor.

Genetics has untangled the Gordian knot of this semi-historical mystery, although illumination has not come at once, and only in fits and starts. One of the primary reasons is that the genetic difference between “Celtic” and “German” peoples is very small. Most Northern Europeans separated from each other very recently. Ancient DNA from between three and eight thousand years ago shows that Northern Europe underwent several mass migrations which transformed the genetic landscape.

First, the blue-eyed dark-skinned hunter-gatherers who descend from Ice Age Europeans disappeared and were absorbed by brown-eyed pale-skinned farmers who moved north out of the Near East. Then, these agriculturists were themselves overwhelmed by a people who migrated out of the Eurasian steppe into Europe 5,000 years ago. These pastoralist people probably brought Indo-European languages, and 4,500 years ago they arrived in Britain as the Bell Beaker culture. Within a few generations there was 90% genetic turnover, as the farmers who first erected Stonehenge disappeared, and were replaced by people who seem to have arrived from what is today northern Germany, possibly prefiguring the later Anglo-Saxon migration.

The problem from the perspective of genetics in understanding the proportion of Anglo-Saxon ancestry in the modern English goes back to the reality that Germans and Celts themselves had only been separated for 3,000 years, at most. These are genetically very close populations, and the technology of the early 21st century could not resolve the questions being asked.

UCL geneticist Steve Jones did attempt such a thing in his 2003 book Y: The Descent of Men. Jones observed that the distribution of two Y chromosomal lineages exhibits a sharp break at Offa’s Dyke. A far higher proportion of Welsh men are R1b, which is very common across the Atlantic facade of Europe, while more English men carry R1a, which is found in higher frequencies in Germany and Norway. In contrast, Professor Jones observed that there was no difference in the maternal heritage of the Welsh and English, suggesting that the ethnic change was due to the impact of men. Jones’s UCL colleague Mark Thomas later developed an “apartheid model” to explain why the genetic difference between the English and Welsh was so striking.

But the true understanding of the situation could only be obtained by looking across the whole genome, not simply the paternal and maternal lineages. This was done by the Peopling of the British Isles Project, which published a paper in 2015 that drew from analysis on hundreds of thousands of genetic markers from 2,000 British individuals who were sampled from all across the United Kingdom.

They estimated that 10-40% of the ancestry in central and southern England was Anglo-Saxon — that is, DNA segments more similar to the Germans than the Welsh. Another paper from 2016, utilising ancient as well as contemporary DNA, estimated that 38% of the ancestry in the “East English” — people from East Anglia and the East Midlands — is derived from the Anglo-Saxons. These researchers actually found DNA from Dark Age-era graves identified as Anglo-Saxon, and some of these individuals were far more like the Germans in their DNA than the modern English; they differed from earlier Iron Age samples, proving beyond a doubt that a significant number of Germans did cross the North Sea in the 6th century.

Where does this leave us in relation to the question of whether the transformation of Dark Age Britain to early medieval England was one of genes or memes? The clear answer seems to be both. The emergence of a new style of farming, pottery and the collapse of urban Roman civilization and Christianity in eastern Britain was not simply due to the prestige and power of a small number of German warlords. Whole villages must have transplanted themselves across the North Sea, creating the nucleus of a new people, and absorbed the remaining British Celts. The lack of Celtic loanwords and the adoption of Saxon peasant culture may indicate the self-confidence of the newcomers. If St. Gildas is correct, the British elites moved to the west of the island, leaving the common people to their own devices.

But though the southern and eastern fringe of England has a substantial Anglo-Saxon demographic imprint, that fades out as one moves to the west, including to the lands that once comprised the kingdom of Wessex. There is far less German genetic influence in Hampshire, Berkshire or Wiltshire, let alone Devon. We know from early medieval records that Celtic language speakers did exist as late as the 8th century in these domains (and much later in Devon) but by then Old English, which is for all purposes a purely Germanic language, was dominant.

The genealogy of the House of Wessex may offer a clue as to what occurred in broad swaths of western England. In the 6th century Celtic names imply that this elite lineage was identified with British culture, and looked west, but by the 7th German names became common, and the kings were pagan. Though the Saxons may have imposed their way of life through sheer numbers in the east, explaining the light impact of British Celtic culture upon their folkways and language, their expansion beyond the Saxon Shore seems to have been due to the adoption of the German identity by native British. The killing of a Celtic-speaking individual under the Saxon system of blood price was far cheaper than for a German speaker, serving as a clear inducement to assimilate.

What science makes clear then is that both extreme scenarios presented in the 19th and 20th centuries were wrong. The English are not a race apart from the Welsh. The modern English are genetically closest to the Celtic peoples of the British Isles, but the modern English are not simply Celts who speak a German language. A large number of Germans migrated to Britain in the 6th century, and there are parts of England where nearly half the ancestry is Germanic.

These folk served as the focus of a cultural revolution that transformed the British Isles. It was not a passive affair: the cities, churches, and hamlets of the previous inhabitants were blotted out, and what had been one of the provinces of the Roman Empire became a backwater pagan land. Though the original Romano-British elites had some knowledge of Latin, and patronised the Christian Church, the patina of civilization was clearly thin upon them, and the loosely Christian Celtic warlords of Dark Age western Britain transformed seamlessly into the pagan kings of Anglo-Saxon England.

The initial founding of the Saxon Shore was surely based on a level of brutality that Christian priests, if any had lived to tell the tale, would have recorded with foreboding. But the transformation of vast swaths of western Britain into the core of what had become England by the Viking Age occurred consensually, so seductive had the Saxon society become to the Celts, highborn and low.

The lesson that history and genetics teach us that cultural change is a complex phenomenon, and a single factor does not explain the whole story. Today we live in an age of migration, and native peoples fear being replaced, while immigrant communities fear being assimilated. Numbers matter, but the Saxons tell us that numbers are not everything.


Razib Khan is a geneticist. He has written for The New York Times, India Today and Quillette, and runs two weblogs, Gene Expression and Brown Pundits. His newsletter is Razib Khan’s Unsupervised Learning


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chrisjwmartin
chrisjwmartin
3 years ago

Today we live in an age of migration, and native peoples fear being replaced, while immigrant communities fear being assimilated. Numbers matter, but the Saxons tell us that numbers are not everything.

When faced with the usual sorts telling me, “White people’s ancestors were immigrants! The Anglo-Saxons were immigrants to Britain! And the English were immigrants to America!”, I always return to two key questions:

How do you think those examples, and countless more down the ages, went for the native populations of Celtic Britain and Pre-Columbian America, and their cultures? And why do you think that history will make a special exception for the mass immigration currently replacing native bodies and native culture in our ancestral homelands?

They never have any answer. Most have obviously never even considered the matter.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  chrisjwmartin

You can argue that china has been able to “sinocize” different people.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

Most of them were Han Chinese from the start weren’t they?

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

As I remember Chinese history (not sure btw) is that many tribes were turn into Han Chinese – through culture and intermarrying.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

Rather like what is going, on in what we used to call Tibet?

Benjamin Jones
Benjamin Jones
3 years ago
Reply to  chrisjwmartin

Exactly, and had the native Americans been able to see the fate that awaited them, they may well have let the pilgrims starve.

chrisjwmartin
chrisjwmartin
3 years ago
Reply to  Benjamin Jones

On such pathological altruism rests the fate of entire peoples.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago

I was wondering when somebody would broach this wonderfully toxic subject. Well done!

Firstly the word Celtic will crop up a lot, either as a linguistic term or a spurious genetic one. In short, its real meaning is “looser”. In other words those peripheral people, the Scotch, Irish and Welsh who had good fortune or alternatively, misfortune to be conquered by the English. Nothing can change that, so it is time to move on.

Currently we are facing an invidious invasion of “others”, year on year, by air, land, sea and water wings. It is an invasion or perhaps migration, not dissimilar to the one in the 5th and 6th centuries that brought boat loads of Germanic thugs to this country to fill the vacuum left by Imperial Rome. These thugs off course have now been sanitised with that evocative name, Anglo Saxon.

The question that must be asked is, do we want these people? Is there even room for them in this overcrowded little island, or as ‘you know who’ would have it ” this precious stone set in the silver sea”. Unlike our Romano-British ancestors, we have a clear and simple choice, that will ultimately dictate where we go in the next few centuries.

D Glover
D Glover
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

One in three of the babies born in the UK has a foreign-born mother.
I’m afraid that the time for the question you’re posing has passed. We should have debated it in about 1950, and now it is far too late.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  D Glover

You mean when the SS Windrush docked at Tilbury?

Liam O Conlochs
Liam O Conlochs
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

The consequences of a colonising state living up to its responsibilities. You wouldn’t want to find them guilty of not taking responsibility, can you sing those great pieces of musical propaganda and be hypocritical at the same time? Isn’t the brainwashing process amazingly successful in having people believe in all this man made nonsense.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago

There’s a bit of hypocrisy in all of us I think you will find. “You can’t put in what God left out”.

Jacquie
J
Jacquie
3 years ago

Who says a colonising state has any responsibilities? They certainly seem to think that they have none when it comes to the White South Africans left behind in the old colony and now in peril. Who more deserving than them of the ‘responsibilities of a colonising state”?

I can sing any of those great musical pieces without even a hint of hypocricy. Where is it written that a conqueror has any responsibility to the locals? Make that claim and we come back around to the rights of White British people not to have immigration imposed upon them.

Giulia Khawaja
Giulia Khawaja
3 years ago
Reply to  Jacquie

Agreed

Giulia Khawaja
GK
Giulia Khawaja
3 years ago

It isn’t “musical propaganda ” nobody believes it, it’s sung as a piece of history with a great tune.

Albert Kensington
Albert Kensington
3 years ago

Eleven Labour MPs sent a letter to Clement Atlee after the Windrush docked arguing that an “an influx
of coloured people” would “impair the harmony, strength and cohesion of
our public and social life and cause discord and unhappiness among all
concerned”.

Quite prescient really

Anjela Kewell
Anjela Kewell
3 years ago
Reply to  D Glover

We should have listened to Enoch. But as always with politics no one is interested in the very important issues that affect their every day lives until it affects their every day lives

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Anjela Kewell

People can vote.

D Glover
D Glover
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

People can vote Lib, Lab or Con. They couldn’t vote against mass immigration, because that wasn’t on the ballot.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  D Glover

The “stab in the back”, but hasn’t somebody else already used that particular expression?

Perhaps the Great Betrayal?

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  D Glover

UKIP?
Has been around since 2010 GE Election

Alex Katovsky
Alex Katovsky
3 years ago
Reply to  D Glover

Heseltine has said he believed that if Heath had lost the 1970 election and Enoch Powell had became leader of the Tories, they would have won the next election in a landslide. He said he was very relieved therefore that this didn’t happen. Whatever one thinks of it, the demographic transformation of the UK has been extraordinarily undemocratic.

Chris Waghorn
Chris Waghorn
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

People do vote – in very large numbers – and it changes little if anything about the inexorable march towards our decline. Even when there is a clear majority for something (continued membership of the EU, for example) all those people who voted are ignored.

So merely to remark ‘people can vote’ is either a little simplistic at best or wilfully cynical at worst.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris Waghorn

Not at all – election are messy and we do not know what people voted for. How many of those voters read party programs?
And I don’t know what you mean by decline?
UK is one of the richest countries in the world. Other countries (very few) are richer(and I would argue better run. You can call it decline or you can call it reverse to the mean/average.
P.S. In GE 2005 the people ignore the result of the Iraq War (no WMD) and voted for 2 parties (Lab+Con) that institutionally supported the war.
The only political party, the LD, that institutionally opposed the war didn’t win the election.

Leti Bermejo
Leti Bermejo
3 years ago
Reply to  Anjela Kewell

My god-you people. I suppose this is a kind of tory racist echo chamber? How the hell did I stumble into here?

Rick Hart
Rick Hart
1 year ago
Reply to  Leti Bermejo

That isnt much of an argument.

Last edited 1 year ago by Rick Hart
Robert Malcolm
Robert Malcolm
3 years ago
Reply to  D Glover

Yes, my mother was a German war bride, so I guess I am included in those statistics, even though I am culturally 100% British.
To me its obvious that the numerically dominant culture of Britain will always be able to absorb very large numbers of immigrants very successfully, often taking three or four generations and intermarriage to do so fully: a mere 60 years or less. Meaning that the 1950’s Windrush generation’s grandchildren are now culturally as British as any of the traditional inhabitants of these isles and there has been substantial mixing through marriage or co-habitation, resulting in a greatly enriched gene-pool.

Eugene Norman
Eugene Norman
3 years ago
Reply to  Robert Malcolm

Intermarriage is key but continuous immigration can thwart that, as can religious differences. See Northern Ireland or Rochdale. At most a country can take in 10% a generation.

Even worse is the rise of Americanised identity politics. “Decolonising” the literature isn’t fitting, in, far from it.

Giulia Khawaja
Giulia Khawaja
3 years ago
Reply to  Robert Malcolm

Many of the ” three or four generations ” show very little sign of being culturally British. The recent a Muslim fashion for the burqa and hijab now visually and culturally separates women from this culture far more than it did in the 60’s when few Muslims wore it.
The young black men often show little sign of assimilation and BLM is making the situation worse by the day.

dcockayne
dcockayne
3 years ago
Reply to  Robert Malcolm

There are two options, either humans obey all the same genetic laws as all other life on earth or there is some magical divine force that makes us different.
Your maximum IQ is 100% determined by your genes, when you import a huge amount of intellectually inferior genetics into your genepool, your IQ plummets and never recovers.
That is not enrichment, it is dysgenic vandalism of the human race.
When you have a stable of race horses you never let the pony in to breed with your race horses because that bloodline will never produce a quality race horse again.

Sue Sims
Sue Sims
3 years ago
Reply to  dcockayne

No, there’s no ‘maximum IQ’, though realistically the scale peters out as one approaches 200. The 100 figure you quote is the median IQ as estimated by the original
Binet”“Simon scale – in fact, I think (without checking) that the current median is slightly higher than that.

Eugene Norman
Eugene Norman
3 years ago
Reply to  Sue Sims

IQ is always renormalised to 100.

watsongd
watsongd
3 years ago
Reply to  dcockayne

Following your argument we should encourage as many Chinese(Hong Kong) and Indian sub continent immigrants as possible as Chinese and Indian students out-perform white students by up to 3 times in “A” levels and GCSE’s.

jorjuntech
jorjuntech
3 years ago
Reply to  watsongd

Exam success of immigrants may be due to poverty-motivated hard work, & abnormal (to English) parental pressure than a natural IQ advantage.

dcockayne
dcockayne
3 years ago
Reply to  watsongd

Nope, what you see in immigrant populations is the elite, not the chavs. The median IQ is a lot lower in India that that of the Brahmin caste with a doctorate who live in Britain or the US. You can check how badly India did in the PISA competition to see that.
The same is true for a lot of China, they never publish any results from poor areas, preferring to only allow city results, the chav class are not allowed to bring their kids to Shenzhen to work so you are only sampling the top of society, not the bottom.
Now add into the mix that the left likes to play games with the stats. They compare the immigrant population with the white natives and put a tiny footnote mentioning that the white population they are comparing against are whites in receipt of free school meals. You get to leave out most of the white population and compare against the poorest white students.
It means that the Guardian can publish it’s article on racial smugness and nobody will bother to track down the data.
Another trick is the male/female performance they deliberately obfuscate the breakdown and weight the performances to award points to subjects that girls do good at. When you look at the raw data for a subject like pure maths, physics or chemistry in reality there is a massive male performance advantage but psychology and social sciences are reported as being equivalent in difficulty despite being much easier, the girly subjects flood the results to create an apparent female advantage.

Albert Kensington
Albert Kensington
3 years ago
Reply to  Robert Malcolm

I’d suggest that there is a big difference between a German war bride and an imported first cousin spouse from Mirpur

Ever been to Sparkbrook, Alum Rock, Small Heath in Birmingham? The last thing these areas are is culturally British, unless we are defining culturally British as whatever goes on the island

Are fast breeding Kashmiris, Somalis, Eritreans really enriching the gene pool?

Is the criminality – drug dealing/knife crime – within the Afro-Caribbean community not an issue?

Does Rotherham and BLM argue for a nation at ease with itself?

Historically we managed rather well without such enrichment.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago

The answers to your questions, in chronological order are:
No,Yes,No.
To your final paragraph, yes, despite the caveat,” self praise is no recommendation “, we did rather well.

D Glover
D Glover
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

The word you mean is Old English ‘wealh,’ meaning “foreigner, stranger, Celt.’ It gives the modern word ‘welsh’

The word Celt was known to Caesar when he wrote his Gallic Wars

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  D Glover

I think you will find that Celt goes far back to the Keltoi of Ancient Greece.
However, now it is really an anti-English catch all word don’t you think?

Liam O Conlochs
Liam O Conlochs
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

There are no Keltoi of Ancient Greece, there are Greeks who gave the Celts the name through the sound of striking that they made in battle.

Mark Corby
CS
Mark Corby
3 years ago

I was referring to “Celts of the Classical World” by David Rankin, who the states the exact origins of the word are unclear.

Eugene Norman
Eugene Norman
3 years ago

he did say the word went back to the Greeks, which is correct.

titan0
titan0
3 years ago
Reply to  D Glover

And while reading old English proposed by Sir Walter Scott in Ivanhoe, there are clear links even to pronunciation of common Bulgarian words but they never invaded until recently. Zherny Bog= Black God, for example.
The article is good but is not an excuse for modern invasion, if
you want to call the current economic migration that.
It is annoying if not actually hurting many in the UK because it is unnecessary.

Liam O Conlochs
Liam O Conlochs
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

Well that is haystack of a mind you have there dude, the English defeated the Celts? Dreaming does not make it reality. English? The original Angle folk were Germanic probably also thugs, and so my dear benighted friend you seem to have a major chink in your chain, go take a nap like a good fellow. It will blow over.

Leti Bermejo
Leti Bermejo
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

Ah, so you’re implying we have to batten down the hatches in case any more earthlings that aren’t deemed ‘english’ enough try to get in? Get over yerself mon, this is the history of mankind. We are ALL the product of hominids walking all over the planet, whether you like it or not.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  Leti Bermejo

History doesn’t agree. Why do you think we have incessant wars?
Darwinian selection is the order of the day, as the Romans would say
” Vae victis” It was ever thus, would you not agree?

Mark Melvin
Mark Melvin
3 years ago

Thanks for this Razib. Many years ago when I was at school (1960s) out PE teacher for some reason decided to divide the class between Saxon and Norman. It worked out around 50/50 as I recall but he chose Saxon for me which made me chuckle as my dad is from Poland and was born in Siberia. Genghis Khan runs deeper in me than anything else! He didn’t believe me. “Saxon, boy.” Glad things have moved on a bit.

enquiries
enquiries
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Melvin

Ancient Siberians were always part Caucasian.

Russ Littler
Russ Littler
3 years ago

I hate this pseudo-scientific waffle and gobblygook. It really isn’t rocket science. It’s not as if the British isles was an uninhabited island off the coast of Europe, because there was no coast of Europe and no British Isles. The whole continent was under ice, and there were nomadic hunter/gathers/fishermen, continually moving along the fringes of that ice pack, from what is now southern France and Spain right across to Canada. When the Ice receded some 12-15 thousand years ago, these nomadic tribes were simply cut off from mainland Europe, and simply thrived off the new found land at their feet. They are all pretty much of the same DNA, but over time, specific tribal traits and cultures developed in isolation. The whole of Britain spoke an early form of Celtic language, and this didn’t change until the Romans, Vikings, and Anglo-Saxons invaded England’s Eastern and Southern shores. If we look today at how similar Gealic, Welsh, and Cornish are, it’s easy to see that Britain had one common language, (with local nuances) but this changed with the invading influence. You will notice, that the Celtic languages only survived at the extremities of the UK, simply because the invading forces weren’t able to colonize the more remote areas to the same degree as England’s flatlands. The other trait I have noticed, is that any European DNA influence around Britain, has a direct correlation to wind and tidal currents, as seafarers from Europe used these trade winds and currents to navigate Britain. It’s no accident that Shetlanders, and the Hebrides, Dublin, and even the Isles of Man have much viking DNA

Eugene Norman
Eugene Norman
3 years ago
Reply to  Russ Littler

No, thats not what the record shows. You missed an invasion, which is both clear from the genetic records and mentioned in the article.

Then, these agriculturists were themselves overwhelmed by a people who migrated out of the Eurasian steppe into Europe 5,000 years ago. These pastoralist people probably brought Indo-European languages, and 4,500 years ago they arrived in Britain as the Bell Beaker culture. Within a few generations there was 90% genetic turnover, as the farmers who first erected Stonehenge disappeared, and were replaced by people who seem to have arrived from what is today northern Germany, possibly prefiguring the later Anglo-Saxon migration.

Nick Whitehouse
Nick Whitehouse
3 years ago

The modern historian seems desperate to deny that the Anglo Saxons invaded England.
They won the battles and took over the country. That, they did not kill everybody, is not a surprise. The invaders would be quite happy for the peasants/slaves to continue doing the work. No doubt, there was assimilation over time, but only on the terms of the invaders.
Everybody accepts that the Normans invaded in 1066, and yet that invasion did not change the language of the country.
So why is it accepted that one invasion ( Norman) did not change the language of the country, is it assumed that there was no invasion by the Anglo Saxons who did change the language?

Claire D
Claire D
3 years ago

The Norman invasion did change the language though. Norman French became the language at court from then on, land across Britain was parcelled out to Normans, from barons to tenants in chief, and while they used Latin for documents and the Church, they would have spoken Norman French. Middle English developed out of a blend of these and Old English.

Robert Malcolm
Robert Malcolm
3 years ago
Reply to  Claire D

After the Norman conquest, we ended up with two versions of English, one for posh people, and the other for the peasants. This is why we have two words for everything important, a fancy French one and a plain Old English one.

Eugene Norman
Eugene Norman
3 years ago
Reply to  Robert Malcolm

Yeh. Its why what the peasants ate ( chicken, for instance) had the same name on the hoof as on the plate but the food eaten by the Normans is French influenced on the plate, beef and venison for cow and deer.

Philip Watson
Philip Watson
3 years ago
Reply to  Robert Malcolm

Indeed. If one should compare examples of formal and informal writing in English, the formal will be found to have a higher proportion of words of Graeco / Roman or French derivation, while the informal will have a higher proportion of Northern European origin (Germanic, Scandinavian, Norse, Old Fresian, Celtic).

Claire D
Claire D
3 years ago

Who are these modern historians who deny the Anglo-Saxon invasion of Britain ? Post-Modernists perhaps. We have plenty of documentary and archaeological evidence (and genetic now) that they did.
Mind you, they were invited over to begin with to keep the Picts out, because the Celts could’nt cope on the Borders after the Romans left. The AS were paid for their efforts and went away, but then came back again because they’d liked what they’d seen and realised that the Celts would’nt put up much of a fight.
There’s a lesson in there somewhere.

D Glover
D Glover
3 years ago
Reply to  Claire D

Modern archaeological thought, propounded on TV by Alice Roberts, is that Anglo-Saxon swords are status symbols. They were worn as emblems of power, not used for chopping limbs off. They cite the lack of battlefield cemeteries.
I find it odd that the Welsh retreated if that’s all the Anglos did.
I wonder why everyone speaks English?

Claire D
Claire D
3 years ago
Reply to  D Glover

Alice Roberts . . .groan, not in fact an historian at all.
Mind you, I think that’s right about AS swords being status symbols and emblems of power, that does not mean they were not used on the battlefield though.

Liam O Conlochs
Liam O Conlochs
3 years ago
Reply to  D Glover

The Battle of Maldon had never actually happened, what about Hastings? I think Miss Roberts didn’t do her homework.

D Glover
D Glover
3 years ago

The battle of Brunanburh happened. Athelstan defeated the Scots, the Strathclyde Britons, and the Dublin Norse.
Even you will concede that one, because it is confirmed in the Annals of Clonmacnoise

Claire D
Claire D
3 years ago
Reply to  D Glover

The Battle of Maldon happened too, I think your sources may be suspect Liam.

Claire D
Claire D
3 years ago
Reply to  D Glover

The English language contains plenty of words of French origin,
eg, “plenty” – from Old French ‘plentet’, from the Latin ‘plentas’ = full; and “language” – from Old French ‘langage’, from the Latin ‘lingua’ = tongue.
And “origin” – from French ‘origine’, from the Latin ‘oriri’ = rise.

E E
E E
3 years ago
Reply to  Claire D

Thats due to 1066’s fiasco.

Mark Corby
CS
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  D Glover

Why would one waste time and considerable effort to dig a “battlefield cemetery” and thus deprive the local carrion of their due rations?
There are plenty of examples of the dead being left to rot and finally disintegrating after years on the battlefield.

Claire D
Claire D
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

Absolutely + the swords would either have been buried with their high ranking owners in another place, as they were at Sutton Hoo, or carried off as booty.

Colin Elliott
Colin Elliott
3 years ago
Reply to  Claire D

And remember that metals were harder to obtain than they became after the industrial revolution, so recycling was probably more extensive then than it is now. ‘Swords into ploughshares’ was more economy than philosophy.

Eugene Norman
Eugene Norman
3 years ago
Reply to  D Glover

The idea of cultural transmission replacing a people is nonsense, particularly in that era. I wonder why people are not engaging with the evidence as presented in this article. Razib is way up to date, the field has moved on. As he says

They estimated that 10-40% of the ancestry in central and southern England was Anglo-Saxon ” that is, DNA segments more similar to the Germans than the Welsh. Another paper from 2016, utilising ancient as well as contemporary DNA, estimated that 38% of the ancestry in the “East English” ” people from East Anglia and the East Midlands ” is derived from the Anglo-Saxons.

Anjela Kewell
Anjela Kewell
3 years ago

Wales was and to intents still is a principality of England because the Welsh and English are very closely connected from ancient time. Wales has an Assembly which seems to have morphed into Wales becoming seen as an independent Country.

A very large nationwide DNA test was done by Julian Richards back in the 1990s to see if we had indeed been violently invaded. The results very clearly showed we had not. That those who came here were in small numbers to settle and farm. The Celtic DNA was still very strong all over the country with two exceptions. York and London. But Yorkshire showed mixed numbers of Viking DNA and Celtic DNA. London just couldn’t be determined due to transient populations over the ages.

Eugene Norman
EN
Eugene Norman
3 years ago
Reply to  Anjela Kewell

Did anybody read the article?

J A Thompson
J A Thompson
3 years ago
Reply to  Eugene Norman

No!

E E
E E
3 years ago
Reply to  Anjela Kewell

Fully agree. Was 1066 and its consequence ever mentioned in the article? (I’m going to suffer reading through it again).

Colin Elliott
Colin Elliott
3 years ago
Reply to  Anjela Kewell

I think you’re skipping the activities of the Normans, who became the elite in England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland, but to varying degrees, and who competed bloodily with each other. The ‘other ranks’ were conscripted.

E E
E E
3 years ago
Reply to  Anjela Kewell

Wales is an independent nation full of independent thinking people. The fact it’s had self governance denied for so long makes it a principality to English eye’s only. Will ‘you’ ever move on from being colonialists.

rodwellm
rodwellm
3 years ago

In John McWhorter’s “Our Magnificent b*****d Tongue”, it is made clear that while English derives much of the diction (words) from Anglo-Saxon – making it a Germanic Language, From Middle English onwards, it does NOT have German grammar. English has grammar that is much more Celtic (similar to Welsh), including things like the conjugation and use of verbs. The English people, both genetically and linguistically, are clearly a blend of German and Celtic peoples.

Janice Mermikli
Janice Mermikli
3 years ago

“Hengist and his wife (or horse?) Horsa.”
1066 and All That, by Sellar and Yeatman.

Geoffrey Simon Hicking
Geoffrey Simon Hicking
3 years ago

“Who do the English think they are?”

Superior.

Alan Girling
Alan Girling
3 years ago

Who do the Japanese think they are? Superior. Who do the French think they are? Superior. Who do the Americans think they are? Superior. Who do the Chinese think they are? Superior. Who do the Swedes think they are? Superior. Who do the Germans think they are? Superior. Who do the Koreans think they are? Superior. Who do the Saudis think they are? Superior. Who do the Canadians think they are? Superior. Etc. But really, who’s right? Why, the Canadians, of course!

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  Alan Girling

Nonsense, by comparative analysis the English are. I would have thought that it was self evident, Common Law, the Industrial Revolution, the Empire, Literature, and the whole concept of sport. “Our cup brimmeth over” as the Bible might say.
Not since the great days of Ancient Rome have there been such a dynamic people, whose influence has reached into every remote corner of the globe. Who can, in all seriousness deny this? England leads where others follow.

Alan Girling
Alan Girling
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

Well, just as I now must acknowledge in every public utterance my presence on the land my English ancestors stole from the Indigenous peoples generations ago, I will likewise acknowledge being the beneficiary of English awesomeness, Empire and privilege, including Common Law, the Industrial Revolution and Literature from Beowulf to Larkin and beyond (Sport, however, is another story). But comparative analysis and Reason aside, a healthy dose of irrational nationalism leads me to prefer Canada. I just can’t help it. 😉

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  Alan Girling

Fair enough.

Giulia Khawaja
Giulia Khawaja
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

But don’t tell the Wokerati or other groups currently castigating everything the English ever did.

titan0
titan0
3 years ago
Reply to  Giulia Khawaja

I call them Wokeys. It sounds nice. But I can’t get over the similarity with a large furry unintelligible Starwars character. When a wokey’s on the go all I can hear is that strangled roar.

watsongd
watsongd
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

I think the Scots, Irish and Welsh also contributed.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  watsongd

Yes they certainly did, but in a subsidiary role I would maintain,
After all, they were/are conquered/subject people’s at the end of the day, would you not agree?

J A Thompson
J A Thompson
3 years ago
Reply to  Alan Girling

But they only THINK they are!

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago

Off course, as you no doubt recall, ‘self praise is no recommendation’, but in this case you are perfectly correct.

Hugh Clark
Hugh Clark
3 years ago

‘Tis the others who recognise and speak of our superiority. They can’t help themselves; inferiority is incurable. We, the English, just know.

Mind you, there have been some quite smart foreigners. Doncha know.

Sue Sims
Sue Sims
3 years ago
Reply to  Hugh Clark

The English, the English, the English are best,
I wouldn’t give tuppence for all of the rest.

Chris Clark
CC
Chris Clark
3 years ago
Reply to  Sue Sims

Thanks for the laugh and the trip down memory lane. My mum used to sing this all the time back in the 60s and 70s! Flanders and Swann…don’t think this would go down very well today…

Colin Elliott
Colin Elliott
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris Clark

I think it would, but no one’s going to confess to that.

Leti Bermejo
Leti Bermejo
3 years ago
Reply to  Colin Elliott

Amongst small-minded, petty fools, but we needn’t emphasise that.

J A Thompson
J A Thompson
3 years ago
Reply to  Leti Bermejo

Humour failure!

Colin Elliott
Colin Elliott
3 years ago

Lucky.

enquiries
enquiries
3 years ago

A very very good article except one point. The notion that ancient British had “blue eyes and dark skin,” has been debunked several times eg https://www.newscientist.co

The preponderance of this myth seems largely motivated by politically correct “woke” culture pushing the Great Replacement, globalism, multiculturalism, mass immigration and a post-racial consciousness.

Oh and before I’m falsely accused of racism I’m multi-racial myself with both West African and East Asian admixture as well as European and Middle Eastern genetics.

Stephen J
Stephen J
3 years ago

The Saxon brought new forms of warfare to Britain and was therefore quickly adopted by the more heroic form of war practised by the Celts.

I remember a film made by Evelyn Glennie, the percussionist who was sure that the country was Norman and Saxon, but genetic tests told a different story, 75% of the people that live on these islands are of Celtic origin.

She herself assumed that she was a Celt, but it turned out that she was more Norman (Viking) than anything.

D Glover
D Glover
3 years ago
Reply to  Stephen J

As you go back in time your number of ancestors rises exponentially. It is 2 to power n, where n is the number of generations back.
Thus; 2 parents; 4 grandparents; 8 great grandparents etc.
Go back 1000 years (about 30-40 generations) and your number of ancestors is so huge that it is everyone who was alive and breeding.
An Englishman can’t be Saxon, Celt, or Norman because he must be all those things.

Stephen J
Stephen J
3 years ago
Reply to  D Glover

Tell Evelyn Glennie.

D Glover
D Glover
3 years ago
Reply to  Stephen J

No-one, prince or percussionist, can be Norman unless their family kept marrying other Normans for a thousand years.
Human nature ensures that that doesn’t happen.

Stephen J
Stephen J
3 years ago
Reply to  D Glover

So very unusually, the BBC was wrong?

You seem to be making a mountain out of my generalisation?

A friend of mine was given a similar genetic test as a birthday present.

This lady hails from Sunderland, but it turned out that 1% of her DNA was from Nigeria.

… which was my point, the presence of DNA from all over the world was noted, but it was found that she was more Viking (aka Norman) than anything else… I expect there was a little Celtic DNA there too. i.e. despite all that you say, the bedrock DNA of these islands is Celtic.

Oh, and BTW, my wife is from a very remote Gaelic speaking part of Ireland, where cousins regularly consorted, and in that area the percentage of Celt is probably nearer to 100% than it is to 1%.

D Glover
D Glover
3 years ago
Reply to  Stephen J

I recommend ‘Who we are and how we got here’ by David Reich.
Also, ‘The origins of the Anglo-Saxons’ by Jean Manco.

chrisjwmartin
chrisjwmartin
3 years ago
Reply to  Stephen J

This lady hails from Sunderland, but it turned out that 1% of her DNA was from Nigeria.

Not that I’m ruling it out, but those DNA tests are notoriously poor quality, and mean next to nothing.

Claire D
CD
Claire D
3 years ago
Reply to  Stephen J

The Normans were certainly of Viking origin, but that does not necessarily mean the lady from Sunderland’s DNA was Norman, Vikings swarmed across the North of England in the 9th century, settled and became the Danelaw long before the arrival of the Normans.

chrisjwmartin
chrisjwmartin
3 years ago
Reply to  D Glover

You’re assuming a lack of in-breeding.

D Glover
D Glover
3 years ago
Reply to  chrisjwmartin

No. Everyone is inbred. Two to the power 40 is far more than the number of people who ever lived.
We all have multiple lines of descent from the rather small group of people who were alive and breeding one thousand years ago.

chrisjwmartin
CM
chrisjwmartin
3 years ago
Reply to  D Glover

But even that is far too inclusive. I do not have multiple lines of descent to a Japanese or Zimbabwean or Mayan peasant from 1020 AD.

D Glover
D Glover
3 years ago
Reply to  chrisjwmartin

True, but you have multiple lines of descent from everyone who was breeding in western Europe, and a few lines from out-of-area.
Lots of Saxons, Britons, Gauls. A few errant Moors.

Liam O Conlochs
Liam O Conlochs
3 years ago
Reply to  chrisjwmartin

No but if you put 15000 people into a room and test all their DNA, you will find that there is just a 1/400th pc difference, and so D.G. Is spot on in his piece.

chrisjwmartin
chrisjwmartin
3 years ago

But that is also true to nearly the same extent of humans and chimpanzees. The absolute similarity of genetic code is not what is meant by lineage.

Eugene Norman
Eugene Norman
3 years ago

that is meaningless gibberish.

Janice Mermikli
Janice Mermikli
3 years ago
Reply to  chrisjwmartin

Indeed. Gimme six!

Ben Hazard
Ben Hazard
3 years ago
Reply to  D Glover

I have a really dumb question that has been bugging me for the last few weeks when I had what for me was a revelation. It’s genealogy but not directly related to this discussion. It seems obvious, but also impossible, that everyone alive today is descended from a direct line of male ancestors for hundreds of years to the person who first adopted their surname. That was poorly written, but a concrete example, the first Hazard in England appears around the 14th century. So doesn’t that mean that all Hazards alive today (assuming only one person took the surname originally) are descended from six hundred years of unbroken father to son transmission of the name? Not one female intervening in that chain? That seems almost impossible, but also ubiquitous, since it must be the case for everyone with a surname, no?

D Glover
DG
D Glover
3 years ago
Reply to  Ben Hazard

In the case of surnames, they go father to son, just like y chromosomes. A mother doesn’t ‘intervene’ because she gives neither surname nor y chromosome.
I won’t insert links here because they get lost in moderation, but look up the congruence between ‘Cohen’ and a haplotype. It’s in wiki.
Another one; look up how many men in Mongolia have their own shared y; it’s the Gengis Khan effect.

Eugene Norman
Eugene Norman
3 years ago
Reply to  Ben Hazard

As well as what D G suggested it looks like a lot of people with the surname O’Neill, are fact descendants of the first O’Neil, somewhere in the 10th C IIRC

Judy Englander
Judy Englander
3 years ago
Reply to  Ben Hazard

It wouldn’t apply to occupational surnames such as ‘Smith’. There would be more than one smith living in England. Also other widespread surnames such as Jones and Johnson which derive from the very popular name, John. Both mean ‘son of John’: apparently just ‘s’ is the southern iteration of ‘son’. Hence, ‘Peters’ or ‘Peterson’, etc etc.

Ben Hazard
Ben Hazard
3 years ago
Reply to  Judy Englander

I totally get that, I should have clarified further. But the “shock” for me is that as far as I can figure out, every man currently in existence is descended from an unbroken line of just men for many centuries, which seems impossible. But apparently true.

Frederick B
Frederick B
3 years ago
Reply to  Ben Hazard

You are probably largely right, but not necessarily in every case. Adoptions may have introduced unrelated male lines, and so might bastardies where a Miss Hazard had a son out of wedlock who took her surname.

Colin Elliott
Colin Elliott
3 years ago
Reply to  Ben Hazard

But surely all that you are saying is that you find the impossibility of immaculate conception surprising?

Eugene Norman
Eugene Norman
3 years ago
Reply to  D Glover

Thats not true in practice because people hugely inbreed. Most people historically rarely leave their locality.

If one hundred people of both sexes arrive on an isolated island and interbreed, after thirty generations how many ancestors does any one individual have?

According to your calculations he or she has 1 billion ancestors.

In reality he has a maximum of 100. Of all the 1 billion branches in his ancestral tree there are 100 uniques at most ( Assuming that everybody has children all the way down).

(This is known as the ancestor paradox although it isn’t really a paradox.)

watsongd
watsongd
3 years ago
Reply to  Eugene Norman

Surely they share the DNA of the ancestors of the 100 who arrived on the island?

Colin Elliott
Colin Elliott
3 years ago
Reply to  Eugene Norman

The lack of mobility of people was certainly almost the rule, until the coming of the bicycle and train. Things are different today, of course, when almost anyone can use an aeroplane, or even a rubber boat.

Liam O Conlochs
Liam O Conlochs
3 years ago
Reply to  Stephen J

Well done, Stephen, yes quite right, a price was paid to the victors but mostly they were not interested in settling the land, and so, most of the Isles are Celtic, tribes of which spread throughout Europe and into Asia.

sammyisaac107
SA
sammyisaac107
3 years ago

Unherd made the right choice picking Razib Khan to write on this topic. He combines knowledge from archaeology, history, and genetics very well.

Obviously, Celtic British contributed more ancestry to modern English than the Anglo, Saxon, invaders from Germany. But, England’s identity should be with Anglo Saxons. This is because the Anglo Saxons were the ones who created England.

Historians use the word “Anglo Saxon” to refer to an extinct/dead people, but in reality they were just Early English. Anglo Saxons never used the term Anglo Saxon. They used a proto-type of the modern word English to refer to themselves collectively which comes from Anglo.

I have heard people mark 1066 when the Norman’s took over as the beginning of England. It wasn’t. England was already unified by that time held under rule of an English king, then a Danish king, then a Norman king who stayed.

But, if the Normans never came, England would have still have become a unified country. Besides even if England wasn’t united under one king they had had a unified English identity from the beginning even if they lived in different kingdoms. “English identity’ goes back to 6th century not 1066.

Colin Elliott
Colin Elliott
3 years ago
Reply to  sammyisaac107

When I was young, my school started history at 1066 (hence ‘1066 and All That’), so I felt misled when as an adult I discovered that England started before then. I now attribute the start date to Alfred the Great, although unification wasn’t complete until Athelstan.
By the by, my school history ended at 1914, but my children seem only to have been taught about World War 2, and not very well at that, leaving them in ignorance about 1215 and 1688, for example.

Fred Atkinstalk
Fred Atkinstalk
3 years ago

The English might not be sure of (or particularly concerned about) who they are, but they are absolutely certain of who, and what, they are not.

nicebitofcarpet
nicebitofcarpet
3 years ago

The Vikings arrived in their hundreds, the Romans a few thousand, around a few hundred Norman soldiers. You claim numbers don’t matter but from what I have read around 700,000 incomers arrived last year gross – just one year out of many. With a welfare welcome and no real inconvenience to them once here. Your selective omissions of key facts and circumstances create a very different narrative.

Barrie Clements
Barrie Clements
3 years ago

Not sure I believe it but I have seen articles that say that the inhabitants of South Eastern Britain may have spoken a Germanic language before the Romans arrived and this was one of the reasons that Celtic based languages were replaced in what became England. The authors made the point that apart from personal names there doesn’t seem to be any written or epigraphic evidence that Celtic Languages were being spoken in the South East.

D Glover
D Glover
3 years ago

Stephen Oppenheimer – The origins of the British.
His idea of pre-Roman germanic occupation of eastern Britain is not popular with archaeologists.
It would explain how the English expanded so fast between the 5th-7th centuries.

Barrie Clements
Barrie Clements
3 years ago
Reply to  D Glover

As well as that possibility remember that the Roman army had recruited large numbers of Germanic speakers from the beginning of the 4th C and complete units under their own chiefs from the mid 4th C. A lot of these mercenaries would have remained in Britain after their service so by the late 5th C there would have been a lot of 3rd or 4th generation German speakers already in Britain

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago

About 40% of the Roman invasion force of 43AD may been German speakers. (The Auxilia).
However they will also have had to be speak or even write Latin.

It is also incorrect to describe them as mercenaries. They served for twenty five years to obtain Roman Citizenship for both themselves and any ‘wife’ they might now choose to marry. Any existing bastards also now became ‘legitimate’ and also Roman citizens.

A great system, that’s how to build an Empire.

Eugene Norman
Eugene Norman
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

How many lasted 25 years? I have read they got a huge payoff at the end but never read how many survived. I was thinking that the 40 year olds were sent to the front to reduce expenditure but that could reduce morale everywhere, there must have been some who succeeded.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  Eugene Norman

Well it’s slightly more complicated than that. The Romans being legalistic nutters, divided the army into two very separate legal entities. The Legions (about 30 of them) were only open to Roman Citizens. On discharge after 25 years service, they received, as you so rightly say, a “huge payoff”, the equivalent of about 14 years pay (without stoppages for food and accommodation etc). This enabled them to for example buy a farm and stock it with ‘machinery’ (slaves). Epigraphic evidence, (mainly tombstones) tells us that about 60% made it to discharge, in their early 40’s, and many lived a further 15 years or so, dying about 60.
The other part of the army, the Auxilia, was recruited from non citizens who served specifically to gain Roman Citizenship, for themselves, ‘wives’ and offspring. As far we know they received a much smaller “payoff”, but crucially their children could now join the Legions. Again we know a lot about them from the enormous amount of epigraphic evidence, plus even written sources, such as the fascinating Vindolanda Tablets.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  Eugene Norman

Apropos my last have your read any of the Vindolanda Tablets?
The letter from Claudia Severa to the wonderfully named Sulpicia Lepidina might appeal?

Eugene Norman
Eugene Norman
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

No. Thanks for the recommendation. I will take a look.

chrisjwmartin
chrisjwmartin
3 years ago

There are still Celtic placenames and especially river names across the south-east. River names are some of the most persistent names across cultural changes.

Judy Englander
Judy Englander
3 years ago

Yes, the Belgae.

Jon Luisada
Jon Luisada
3 years ago

The killing of a Celtic-speaking individual under the Saxon system of blood price was far cheaper than for a German speaker, serving as a clear inducement to assimilate.
has much in common with the way that ‘converting’ makes life soo much easier in a majority muslim state, or even where they are not majority, in areas or enclaves of majority.

Looks like it worked for the Saxons…..

Oliver Wright
Oliver Wright
3 years ago

Good article, but I fear the use of the word ‘German’ may be misunderstood by readers not familiar with the subject matter. The ‘Germans’ referred to here came from southern Denmark, the northern Netherlands and only the extreme North of Germany. Their relationship with the bulk of modern Germans is about as tenuous as their relationship with the modern English. Most of the German population is descended from a mixture of Germanic, Celtic and Slavic tribes, with the Germanic element, there as here, ultimately dominating culturally and linguistically.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
3 years ago

What appears common to all races was that kingship was largely elective . After the collapse of the Roman Empire the Franks with the support of the Roman Catholic Church adopted the Divine Right of Kings and Roman Law, creating a top down power structure. The RC Church continued much of the traditions of the Roman bureaucracy in it’s support for the Frankish kings. After the death of Charlemagne an inherited aristocracy developed. Celts, Picts, Vikings and Anglo Saxons had far more consultative type rule, the King having to govern with the Witan or similar type organisation. Also in Celt, Viking or Saxon keeping an oath and being a truthspeaker appeared to be more important. The Celt, Viking and Anglo Saxon societies had much higher numbers of free men and less serfdom than in the Holy Roman Empire. Also women had far more freedom in Celt, Viking and Anglo saxon Societies than under Frankish/HRE rule. Arab noted on freedom which women enjoyed within Viking societies.
Celts used to meet in groves of yew and Anglo Saxons under oaks for consultation.
In general. i would suggest the British Isles have have had societies where elective rule, a large percentage of free people and consultation between ruler and ruled, development of agreed laws/customs under which people live, has been far more common than in Continental Europe. Not tyrannical or democratic but consultative and where freedom of speech and truth speaking were considered the mark of courageous and honest people.

Jojo
Jojo
3 years ago

An interesting article; thanks!

Jen Bannerman
Jen Bannerman
3 years ago

nothing about the Scots?

titan0
titan0
3 years ago
Reply to  Jen Bannerman

Ancient Britons. Scotti, Celts, Picts, Vikings, Some French. Nowhere is pure. It does not alter the fact that each group eventually homogenised over time.
Nowadays homogenisation is frowned upon in the UK. If not true, then why the enclaves of cultural, religious, or national peoples facing outwards with suspicious contempt for indigenous people?

Janice Mermikli
JM
Janice Mermikli
3 years ago
Reply to  titan0

It is, I believe, what is called being “cuturally enriched”, though I would call that a euphemism. Anythiing clearer would get me modded.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago

Do a DNA test and even if you are 5% Viking just say you are of Viking descend. Being Viking is cool…apparently.
And if you have no Viking blood…just say you are of Viking descend.
Anyway, does anyone really care if you are 40% celt or 30% German?

Lindsay Gatward
LG
Lindsay Gatward
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

Being descended from Vikings is definitely Cool no others come close! – Love the explanation of why the Swede’s are so good looking is that they took the pretty girls and left the ugly ones behind…..as you would – These comments are great fun makes you consider how each individual alive now depends on an unbroken chain of individuals managing to survive to do the right thing at the right time all the way back to the first life form that used sex for reproduction and what a lot of fun they all had – Apart from dramatic moments like Viking raids and actual wars most of the decisions on who mates are decided by who the female seduces and to overcome this control of the female by say face coverings is necessary – Wonder if our Covid Mask regime will drag on for generations?

odensprouse
odensprouse
3 years ago

I’ve always wondered where all this “DNA” come from and who’s to say it’s being read right we didn’t really know what it was until the mid 20th century.
I’ve always heard some families could go generations only moving a few miles, and in the feudal system I just don’t think people could afford to move halfway around the world.i think a lot of this is some made up bullshit to be honest and in the US it’s been pushed hard. The powers that be thinks it time for a change and saying every body is mixed is a cheep way to stop white people of being proud of there race I have blonde hair and blue eyes see blue eyes first appeared in 5000 years ago in Scandinavia that’s what I read first but now some how it got changed. They was just as much racism and fear of other cultures as there is today. And try to tell me people didn’t throw there baby off a cliff back there if there was something wrong with it

Albert Kensington
Albert Kensington
3 years ago

Bede records really vicious ethnic conflict between the Northumbrians and Britons during the early C7th century – a war of extermination; that was about 150 years post the Hengist/Horsa episode.

Mass immigration tends to be very nasty for native populations

J A Thompson
J A Thompson
3 years ago

The English are not a race, they are an attitude!

roger.whitmore2
RW
roger.whitmore2
3 years ago

Get Nigel Farage to read this article …… With his German wife

Nigel Clarke
Nigel Clarke
3 years ago

Why?

titan0
titan0
3 years ago

Old Nige is descended from an immigrant group persecuted and moved here centuries ago, isn’t he?
His grandfather great? Moved from Germany in 1840s or something.
Is he a synchronised Brit? Or does he remain trapped in the thinking of the Hugenout and the German?
We might all have similar needs but too many now in these lands, have dissimilar behaviour and direction.
Change and opinions by and of the new is not a had thing but you always get damage hammering a square peg into a round hole.

Janice Mermikli
Janice Mermikli
3 years ago

What an idiotic comment! What difference would it make?

wrirwin
wrirwin
3 years ago

Interesting to read this discussion as an American. It reflects an anti-immigrant point of view that is alien to American thinking and which if expressed in America would get you “canceled” these days.

Leti Bermejo
Leti Bermejo
3 years ago
Reply to  wrirwin

Alien to American thinking? What is your ‘esteemed’ leader building walls for then? You must’ve been asleep.

blanes
blanes
3 years ago