Friday, April 20, 2007

Britannian, and proud of it.

"Should we be looking for a new England ?" is the question posed on today's Telegraph "Your View".

This was an opportunity to dust off some ideas developed here late last year. See link to "Re-discovered: our Britannian heritage".

Here's what I have just sent:

"My views on Englishness have been totally transformed since reading the work of Stephen Oppenheimer, the Oxford geneticist.

Contrary to what we have been told until recently, the English are not for the most part a bastard race of Anglo-Saxon stock who arrived relatively recently, eg 8th century AD.

(ed. I meant to say "mongrel", not "bastard")

Nor can the Celts (Scots, Welsh and Irish) claim to be older, more authentic inhabitants of the British Isles. According to Oppenheimer, most British and Irish share about 70-80% of their genes in common (the remainder being Celt, Anglo-Saxon, Norman etc). That's because we are all derived from Basque settlers who arrived some 15,000 years ago at the end of the last Ice Age, as the last ice began to recede, but while Britain was still joined to Europe by a land bridge.

As I said a while ago on my own blog, I no longer regard myself as English or British, because these terms are either too vague, or in the latter case have acquired ugly racial overtones that I dislike.

I regard myself as a "Britannian", with a long proud history of continuous social, linguistic and technological evolution. Invaders have come to our shores, but we have learned from all of them, and then either booted out the ones we don't like, or integrated and assimilated the ones we do.

We Britannians are not Johnny Come Latelys. We, like the Basques of the Pyrenees, are one of the oldest surviving races in Europe.

But unlike our Basque cousins, we dumped our difficult language, and created a blend of Germanic and Latin that is recognized the world over as being without parallel for expressing oneself in virtually every context one can imagine - social, technical, literary, you name it. That's why English is the world's lingua franca (noting use of a term that keeps the Latins happy).

Forget St.George's Day. Who was St.George anyway ? Who cares ?

Let's instead celebrate the arrival of the first Basque immigrant to our shores. Then we should give the present day Basques the benefit of our experience in how to work constructively with locals of a different ethnic stripe instead of making a fetish of separateness, because that is the true Britannian genius - avoiding absurd excesses of national chauvinism - while still calling most of the shots !

Updated Saturday 18:55
It would seem that my fellow countrymen are still not ready for the genetic iconoclasm of Stephen Oppenheimer - they prefer to cling on to the old received wisdom that the English are the descendants of Anglo-Saxon invaders from lands that are presently Denmark and Germany, and that they decimated the native "Celtic" population. "Ben" popped up on the thread as a kindred spirit, only to be ridiculed by "Martin":
Here's an extract from Ben's comment:
"The English are an ancient nation who have been on this land for 12,000 years since the last ice age.
The invasions that have occurred have not, according to the latest DNA testing of the nation, changed the makeup of England much. In fact the Anglo Saxon invasion which many previously believed to be the basis of the English, only affect 5% of the bloodlines.
So Mr Blom, the truth is we are not a mixture of lots of nations, we are our own nation and have been for a very, very, very long time................To this racist, anti English government, the racist anti-English left, the racist anti-English PC brigade and to everyone else who feels they can take our England and tell us what to do in our own lands. You cannot. We will not accept this anymore.
The English make up 83% of the British Isles. We are not going to put up with this nonsense anymore. To England and the English !!!"
Posted by Ben on April 20, 2007 2:35 PM
Response from Martin (he begins by quoting Ben):
"In fact the Anglo Saxon invasion which many previously believed to be the basis of the English, only affect 5% of the bloodlines."
This is just simply, patently and absolutely untrue. ANY genetic study carried out will show the contrary. All such genetic studies have shown an overwhelming preponderence of people who are genetically indistinguishable from the Dutch and the Danes and clearly distinguishable from the Welsh, Irish and other celts.
Where do people get these ideas from? Even channel 4's new series on Saturday nights, Face of Britain, has come to this conclusion. 5%? It looks like you have plucked it out of thin air, and certainly despite a degree in Anglo-Saxon history and culture I haven't seen it before. The English are a race distinct from the Celtic peoples around them. Britain is nothing more than an artificial concept created for political reasons, and it is time to lay it to rest.
Posted by Martin on April 20, 2007 7:57 PM

My reply (submitted 17:46 French time):

Martin (April 20, 2007 7:57 PM) asks where the ideas come from that most British share the same (Basquish) genes, with there being little difference in genetic makeup of those in East Anglia ("Anglo-Saxons") from those in Wales ("Celts").
Whilst not wishing to downplay the value of his degree in Anglo-Saxon, I suggest he get familiar with the work of the Oxford geneticist Stephen Oppenheimer. Here is a link to an article he wrote for the Telegraph last year following publication of his book:

See also my earlier post on this thread, and yesterday's post to my blog entitled "Britannian- and proud of it".

Are you by any chance the same Martin I met at the Telegraph's Bloggers' Open House ?

More later (maybe).
Geekish footnote: apologies for all the cramped text above. It was not intended to be that way. I have edited twice, inserting spaces at intervals to allow in some white space, but as soon as I hit the Publish button it all reverts to suet-pudding mode. Why this is I don't know, but suspect it's to do with cutting and pasting text, either direct from the Telegraph, or via an email buffer, which I tend to use as a temporary warehouse. It would appear that Blogger's default settings are easily over-ridden by those of imported text.
The current fashion is to "migrate" (yuk) to TypePad 's blogging platform (yuk). But from what I have seen so far (Salut! etc) one type of quirkiness is replaced with another .....
This site needs tweaking ( a less in-your-face hippo logo, less cluttered, less self-indulgent margin etc) but here's one blogger who's sticking with "Blogger/ blogspot" for now".

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