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Blood of the Isles [Paperback]

Bryan Sykes
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
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Book Description

3 Sep 2007

Bryan Sykes, the world's first genetic archaeologist, takes us on a journey around the family tree of Britain and Ireland, to reveal how our tribal history still colours the country today.

In 54BC Julius Caesar launched the first Roman invasion of Britain. His was the first detailed account of the Celtic tribes that inhabited the Isles. But where had they come from and how long had they been there? When the Romans eventually left five hundred years later, they were succeeded by invasions of Anglo-Saxons, Vikings and Normans. Did these successive invasions obliterate the genetic legacy of the Celts, or have very little effect?

After two decades tracing the genetic origins of peoples from all over the world, Bryan Sykes has now turned the spotlight on his own back yard. In a major research programme, the first of its kind, he set out to test the DNA of over 10,000 volunteers from across Britain and Ireland with the specific aim of answering this very question: what is our modern genetic make-up and what does it tell us of our tribal past? Are the modern people of the Isles a delicious genetic cocktail? Or did the invaders keep mostly to themselves forming separate genetic layers within the Isles?

As his findings came in, Bryan Sykes discovered that the genetic evidence revealed often very different stories to the conventional accounts coming from history and archaeology. Blood of the Isles reveals the nature of our genetic make-up as never before and what this says about our attitudes to ourselves, each other, and to our past. It is a gripping story that will fascinate and surprise with its conclusions.

Frequently Bought Together

Blood of the Isles + The Seven Daughters Of Eve + Out of Eden: The Peopling of the World
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Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Corgi; New Ed edition (3 Sep 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1407400223
  • ISBN-13: 978-0552154659
  • ASIN: 0552154652
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 19.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 102,711 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"The science is explained with an infectious zest. His book is so revealing that the new... as well as the old should read it" (Boyd Tonkin Independent)

"Syke's scientific presentation is chatty and readable" (The Sunday Times)

"Professor Sykes has an admirably free and easy style for an academic" (Daily Mail)

"A fascinating overview of genealogical patterns and tribal heritage... [with] a stong narrative drive, pushed on by Sykes's energetic search for answers" (Telegraph Review)

"Fascinating reading. This book has all the tension of a good detective story but is actually science at its most accessible" (Sunday Express)

Book Description

How our genetic roots rewrite our history

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Blood of the Isles 11 Dec 2010
By James
This interesting work is easily accessible to anybody who does not hold a detailed knowledge of genetics. Professor Sykes skillfully illustrates every chapter on each of the countries of the islands with a previous paragraph outlining some of the history of the nation.

Having grown up in a patriarchal society giving us surnames through our fathers, it changes our views of ourselves in highlighting the importance of the matriarchal line, which is just as much responsible for our existence as the father's.

Above all he successfully (to my mind) debunks theories of migration of whole peoples/linguistic groups through systematically challenging the taxonomy of peoples through blood groups, hair and eye colour, cranial measurements or other external features. When you get down to the DNA, such means of viewing people seem ridiculous.

For me it is very much a book of our time and the conclusion he makes about the origin of the nations of these islands in the last chapter made a lot of sense to me. (I won't tell you what he concludes - you'll have to read it).
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Of interest but reads as unfinished 2 Nov 2007
By Tony Jones VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Following on from Seven Daughters of Eve, Bryan Sykes talks about the genetic evidence that supports (or disputes) traditional myth / history of the various parts of the Isles (his neutral term for England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales).

The style is very chatty, presumably to counterpoint the detailed science bits; I did find that this made it read too much like Bill Bryson as I wasn't sure that reading about the ice cream being sampled on tour collecting DNA really added much to the development of the book.

I also felt let down that having set out a stall, mentioned a much earlier survey of hair / eye colour that showed regional differences, the book stops suddenly whilst beginning the development of the England story.

I almost think this was brought out to keep interest up whilst the overall work continues, and imagine that there will be further editions of this.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Don't let its weaknesses spoil a great read 10 Oct 2010
An earlier review states:
"much of ths book is devoted to relating Dark Age myths, and anecdotes about the author's time collecting DNA samples, and the style is chatty, at times verging on the patronising"
I am broadly in agreement with this assessment, the book does seem to have been hastily written. Yet, I thoroughly enjoyed it and learned a great deal about the genetic roots of the peoples of the British isles. I would venture to say that Bryan Sykes's mix of archeological evidence, written history, and mythology truly gets the most out of genetic studies. I had so much fun that I'm giving it 5 stars.
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26 of 30 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A Curate's Egg 25 Oct 2008
The strength of this book is its analysis of the female mitochondrial and male Y chromosome 'clans' of the British Isles, traced by the author's Oxford University group of geneticists, and its explanation of how this information is used to throw light on people's origins. However, much of ths book is devoted to relating Dark Age myths, and anecdotes about the author's time collecting DNA samples, and the style is chatty, at times verging on the patronising.

Some of his assumptions appear to me dubious. He assumes that if the DNA analysis shows that immigration was both male and female, this shows it was peaceful, but this is not borne out by experience elsewhere. The European settlement of Australia and North America was by families, but this did not prevent the settlers from violently seizing the land of the existing inhabitants.

I found the conclusion particularly disappointing. In general he accepts the view that farming was spread by diffusion of knowledge to the hunter gatherers rather than large scale immigration by farmers, yet in the final chapter he suggests that there was an early occupation by a small number of Mesolithic hunter gatherers, and later larger scale immigration by farmers. This is all the more confusing as it appears to be based on the distribution of the farming 'Jasmine' mitochondrial clan, but these were only 10% of female genes on his own figures, and the Helena clan who are nearly 50% are barely discussed. Which clan did the early Mesolithic inhabitants belong to and where did they come from? What was their contribution to the population of the British Isles today? These and other points are not discussed.

Several reviewers of Stephen Oppenheimer's 'The Origins of the British' rated it as much better than this book, and I agree with them.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating and accessibly written 14 Dec 2007
I really enjoyed this book, reading it cover to cover in a couple of days. Not having read Professor Sykes' previous book, I found Blood of the Isles adequately conveyed the scope and findings to date of the Oxford Genome Project. His writing style is involving and renders a subject which could be as dry as dust both interesting and relevant to life in Britain today.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The bulk of this book is occupied with narrative summaries of the history of the constituent parts of the British Isles. The author seems almost apologetic about the scientific content of what he has to say, so the rather dull and somewhat inaccurate historical accounts get too much exposure, and the science too little. The scientific element that comes off best is the account of blood groups and their distribution throughout different regions. Some of straight historical stuff is debatable, and some clearly misunderstood. In particular it's best to be extremely wary of the stuff about "celts" - it looks as if Sykes is following one of the numerous crackpot writers on this tendentious subject, and ends up confusing himself.

Perhaps the author intended this to be a beginner's book, and I expected too much.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommended.
Highly recommended.

Sykes never fails to raise the bar. Others may jump but none jump higher.
Published 22 days ago by scrimpy maggy
5.0 out of 5 stars A very absorbing & informative read
A brilliant outline of the work done in the field of genealogical genetics. Well written and comprehensive and tends to make one wish to continue reading to the end.
Published 2 months ago by Geoff_MI
5.0 out of 5 stars "Blood of the Isles" by Brian Sykes
This book is one that I twin with Stephen Oppenheimers "The Origins of the British", and I challenge anyone to leave either one of them out as all these books give one a... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Ms. C. B. Mclaglen
5.0 out of 5 stars Totally engrossing
This is a totally engrossing book for anyone interested in British history or in genetics. The crux of the book is DNA and the genetic origins of the British people but is... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Gary Selikow
1.0 out of 5 stars Pot boiler
I don't think I have ever read anything so aptly described as a pot boiler. Admittedly, there are some good anecdotes but the amount of cut and paste from the author's earlier... Read more
Published 5 months ago by mk
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent
For those like me who are fascinated by the migrations of our ancestors and how this has come to make us what we are today,this book is a must. Read more
Published 9 months ago by CAROLINE MOZLEY
5.0 out of 5 stars Blood of the Isles
A fascinating book about the heredity of the inhabitants of the British Isles. I shall certainly read it again some time soon.
Published 9 months ago by Barbara Lyddiatt
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating but...
This is a remarkable book, but at times the historical detail is, although necessary, a bit tedious. Read more
Published 10 months ago by S. Bartlett
5.0 out of 5 stars British Isles ancestry explained clearly
The author is a leading pioneer in DNA research and this book concentrates a lot of his knowledge into who we the people living on these islands are and where we came from. Read more
Published 12 months ago by J Bright
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing.
I bought this book on the heels of reading The Seven Daughters of Eve, which I thought was fabulous. Read more
Published 14 months ago by isismoonchild
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