July 5, 2002
1:16 PM   Subscribe

It appears England is made up of an ethnic cleansing event from people coming across from the continent after the Romans left. Our findings completely overturn the modern view of the origins of the English.
posted by stbalbach (21 comments total)
Not being English there were a few terms I had to google:

Offa's Dyke is a linear earthwork which roughly follows the Welsh/English boundary. It consists of a ditch and rampart constructed with the ditch on the Welsh-facing side, and appears to have been carefully aligned to present an open view into Wales from along its length. As originally constructed, it must have been about 27 metres wide and 8 metres from the ditch bottom to the bank top.

The Doomsday Book of 1806 The Domesday survey is far more than just a physical record though. It is a detailed statement of lands held by the king and by his tenants and of the resources that went with those lands. It records which manors rightfully belonged to which estates, thus ending years of confusion resulting from the gradual and sometimes violent dispossession of the Anglo-Saxons by their Norman conquerors. It was moreover a 'feudal' statement, giving the identities of the tenants-in-chief (landholders) who held their lands directly from the Crown, and of their tenants and under tenants.
posted by srboisvert at 1:36 PM on July 5, 2002

That would explain why the English are warm , welcoming ,inclusive and outward looking, with a tendency to embrace other cultures and the Welsh are cold, rude, chippy,arrogant, exclusive, inward looking and extremely wary of other cultures.
Oh and did I mention aggressive whiners?
posted by Fat Buddha at 2:03 PM on July 5, 2002

...the Domesday Book of 1086...

This is old hat really.
Where did we think the original inhabitants went to when the Angles & Saxons invaded? Florida? Puh-lease.
posted by dash_slot- at 2:45 PM on July 5, 2002

Quotes in front page posts still ought to use markers to set them off from the poster's voice/views. Italics works nicely.

This may reflect overly simplistic attention to such matters from our side of the water, but this doesn't sound especially new to me -- it's always been an assumption that the Anglo-Saxon Invasion essentially, over time, replaced the indigenous population. It's much more complicated than the politically-charged term ethnic cleansing, though:

The primary sources leave the impression that the Romano-British urban and rural lifestyle was replaced by Anglo-Saxon invaders starting in the mid fifth century.... [Various] annals all suggest a conquest in two parts separated by a significant length of time, [with] a mid fifth century date for the beginning of the first phase when warbands immigrated to Britain either after being invited by the British authorities as in Kent, or on their own as in Sussex and Wessex. The West Saxon traditions indicate the later phase of conquest started about 552 after a twenty-five year period of consolidation in Hampshire....

Archaeological evidence indicates a much more complex situation. A significant population of Germanic people of mixed tribal background was built up in cooperation with the Roman and British authorities during the fourth and the first half of the fifth centuries. These settlements appear to have supported the Saxon Shore defense system that was constructed during the fourth century....

The political collapse on the continent led to the withdrawal of Roman military and civil authority from Britain in the last half of the fifth century. It appears that an administrative and economic collapse quickly followed. This is the point where the primary literary sources pick up the story. With the Roman army gone, the British were vulnerable to attacks by the irregular forces that were left behind. When the British authorities were no longer able to supply the auxiliaries with the amenities they had come to expect, they took matters into their own hands, supported by warbands from the continent.

Another factor to consider is the depletion of Roman subject populations, partly as men were called to supply the legions. This figures into the increasing prominence of 'barbarian' generals such as the half-Vandal Stilicho, and legal means by which the Romans permitted barbarians into the empire under certain conditions. In the end, this only encouraged invasions by force. During this period, the Visigoths sacked Rome, and the eastern empire became increasingly concerned with encroachments by Persia and tributaries, as well as Hunnish invasion from the Russian steppes. In short, it may well be that there wasn't that much of a population to overcome, and the Germans overwhelmed the locals by sheer numbers; and those who wouldn't integrate were put to the sword, or fled west into the hills.

See Lynn Harry Nelson's lecture on the Germanic invasions for more context {offline for summer? LHN is apparently giving up maintaining the WWW-VL history network...}
posted by dhartung at 3:29 PM on July 5, 2002

It's much more complicated than the politically-charged term ethnic cleansing, though.

Hear, hear, dhartung.
posted by Ty Webb at 3:49 PM on July 5, 2002

London, by Edward Rutherfurd, details pretty much all this. It's a good read.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:11 PM on July 5, 2002

It has always stuck in my mind that "Welsh" is originally the Anglosaxon word for "foreigner" or "stranger". Or as this definition puts it:

Welsh - O.E. Wilisc, Wylisc (W.Saxon), Welisc, Wælisc (Anglian and Kentish), from Wealh, Walh "Celt, Briton, Welshman, non-Germanic foreigner;" in Tolkien's definition, "common Gmc. name for a man of what we should call Celtic speech," but also applied to speakers of Latin, hence O.H.G. Walh, Walah "Celt, Roman, Gaulish," and O.N. Valir "Gauls, Frenchmen" (Dan. vælsk "Italian, French, southern"); from P.Gmc. *Walkhiskaz, from a Celtic name represented by L. Volcæ "ancient Celtic tribe in southern Gaul." The word survives in Wales, Cornwall, Walloon, walnut, and in surnames Walsh and Wallace. Borrowed in O.Slav. as vlachu, and applied to Romanians, hench Wallachia. Welsh was used disparagingly of inferior or substitute things, hence Welsh rabbit (1725), also Welsh rarebit (1785).

Saxons are named for their weapon of choice, the seax (a curved knife like a Gurkha's kukri).

Incidentally, the essay linked here has some great lines:
"The Anglo-Saxons weren’t only a vicious group of people but they also farmed a lot. They couldn’t read or write, so their language relied on speech"
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 9:37 PM on July 5, 2002

I have always understood that my "ancestry" on both sides of my family leaves me about 80% Welsh. My surname also apparently means "John's son" in Welsh. That said, I have always wished that there was a "human" box to check in any form that asks you to choose "race". Unless, of course, they start giving England back to its rightful owners, proper lineage required, of course. I'll have the proper forms filled out quicker than you can say "I'll take Buckingham Palace, please".
posted by yhbc at 10:03 PM on July 5, 2002

ethnic cleansing event

Come one, come all : it's the ethnic cleansing event of the season! All prices are slashed! We've decapitated these pricetags, folks!

Well, whatever. But I really get annoyed at meaning-free buzzword conglomerations like this. No offense, stbalbach, just whining.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 10:04 PM on July 5, 2002

The term ethnic cleansing horrifies me, when I think about it.

Hygienic euphemisms were characteristic of Nazi terminology. I recall "ethnic cleaning" being first used in the aftermath of the breakup of Yugoslavia. It sounded quite nice, as though perhaps people were being offered a wash and clean clothes. The parallels with "Judenrein" were immediately obvious.

I am reasonably certain that it was the perpetrators who coined the term. It pains me every time I hear it used by people who ought to be naming "murder, persecution and expulsion" for what they are.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 11:30 PM on July 5, 2002

posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 1:24 AM on July 6, 2002

Hey, whilst we're talking about Wales, I can mention the One True Origins of Elvis again, right?
posted by dash_slot- at 6:21 AM on July 6, 2002

"You've got to tolerate
Some of those people that you hate
I'm not in love with you
But I won't hold that against you

"Let's get juxtaposed" --super furry animals
posted by kliuless at 7:04 AM on July 6, 2002

The Celts were clearly the earlier inhabitants of the British Isles, and the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes (the traditional three invading tribes, given by Bede) came later. But to claim (as yhbc) that one is the "rightful owner" of England due to being Welsh, or Irish, etc. is a very loaded argument. The Celts were not the original inhabitants either -- by all accounts I've seen, they came from the mainland as well. Unfortunately we know next to nothing about who was there before (perhaps the Picts were one such group?). There is argument about whether the Celts built Stonehenge or the earlier inhabitants. Anyway, it's hardly so simple as Welsh belong, Anglo-Saxons don't. I say this as someone who is neither. ;-)
posted by caveday at 8:22 AM on July 6, 2002

joe's_spleen, the word "ethnic cleansing" was first coined -- yes, by the perpetrators -- to refer to removing people of minority groups from sensitive government jobs. Later, the practice spread to factories and other businesses. Then it was used to cover the forced removal of people, in some cases by law, in others at gunpoint. Only in the final, most violent phase did it become a synonym for genocide.

The term covers a lot of ground. People who use it often mean it to be a sneering equivalent of genocide (a term which itself often gets far too casually used), but because of its imprecision, it should probably only be used in a third party sense, e.g. "The Serbian 'ethnic cleansing' of Bosnia was carried out by militias and resulted in tens of thousands of civilian dead."

I believe the scientist quoted in the article was being deliberately provocatively flippant, e.g. "You could almost say it was ethnic cleansing", rather than outright accusing the Saxons of systematic race murder. The remainder of the article, and the historical evidence, tends more toward the suggestion of retreat and removal.

For myself, I'm not sure on which side I should be. My name is obviously German, but that only represents 25% of my ancestry, probably W Prussian, which was contaminated by several generations in America anyway. Another 25% is from the Penn family, which is supposed to be descended from the brother of William Penn, who is an Englishman sometimes claimed as Welsh-Irish. It's no wonder I identify more strongly with the 50% of me that's definitively Swedish. ;-)
posted by dhartung at 10:02 AM on July 6, 2002

Welsh are cold, rude, chippy,arrogant, exclusive, inward looking and extremely wary of other cultures.

Hey! You missed out thieving and reneging!

Maybe I'm just a stupid fucking Welshman but I don't understand how an 8th century earthwork can "act as a barrier" to a process which started in the late 5th century.
posted by ceiriog at 2:19 PM on July 6, 2002

Hmm. Who'd the Welsh wipe out?
posted by aeschenkarnos at 5:38 PM on July 6, 2002

aeschenkarnos: possibly the Beaker Folk or the Windmill Hill People?

Wonder whom they wiped out...
posted by Slithy_Tove at 6:38 PM on July 6, 2002

dhartung, my point, and I think joe's_spleen's as well, is that the phrase 'ethnic cleansing' shouldn't be used at all, at least in part because of the inaccuracy of it you describe, but mostly because it's a perversion of language.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:05 PM on July 6, 2002

Other than concerns about terminology, and the complete lack of awareness of pre-Norman conquest British history shown in the article, does anyone else find the whole idea of a genetic basis for ethnicity a tad retrogressive? My Y chromosome may have had ancestors at the battle of Catraeth, but does that make me more Welsh than, say, Colin Jackson?

The really interesting debates about ethnicity and how it's defined in Britiain are happening elsewhere. The emerging legal definitions include:
For a group to constitute an ethnic group in the sense of the Act of 1976, it must, in my opinion, regard itself, and be regarded by others, as a distinct community by virtue of certain characteristics.

... it is possible for a person to fall into a particular racial group either by birth or adherence, and it makes no difference, so far as the [Race Relations] Act of 1976 is concerned, by which route he finds his way into the group.
posted by ceiriog at 1:27 AM on July 7, 2002

ceiriog, in New Zealand we have seats in Parliament specifically set aside for Maori representives. (Those members are full members in terms of voting ability etc, I must point out). There is no set criteria for eligibility to be on the Maori electoral roll rather than the general one, other than personal choice.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 8:23 PM on July 7, 2002

« Older The Best Investigative Reporter You've Never Heard...   |   "Sir, you're diners club card was declined, we... Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments