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Customer Review

42 of 50 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent Book about the British People, 31 Mar. 2007
This review is from: The Tribes of Britain (Paperback)
When I asked for this book for Christmas from my wife, I had been under the impression it dealt with the genetics of the British people. The book does do this, but it is hardly the primary focus. I quickly was over any disappointment as the book captured my attention through sharp, crisp writing, a plethora of engaging facts, and seamless storytelling.

The book deals with the subject of just who the British people are and how they came to be. Woven into the tapestry of the tale are the histories of the pre-historic people of Britain, of the Celts and Picts, the Britons, the Romans, Anglo-Saxons, Vikings, Normans and every people and culture who have contributed to the bloodlines of the British people.

This is not a history of the Kings and Queens of England, or the hundreds of battles fought, or of the Empire. It is truly a history and an examination of the people of the British Isles.

One quickly comes to understand that it is impossible to define virtually anyone in Britain as simply "English" or "Ango-Saxon" or "Irish" - that the vast internal and external migrations and transpositions of people, language and culture that have occured over the millenia serve to blur the lines that supposedly differentiate the various home nations in terms of ancestry.

So many notable books concentrate solely on the English or on the Scots or only on the Irish, and many books that focus on Britain give only passing mention to the home nations other than England and her people. The Tribes of Britain is an excellent bit of writing about the British people as a whole and would be of interest to students of history and to the many people with any sort of British ancestry.
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Showing 1-5 of 5 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 27 Feb 2009 15:32:07 GMT
Last edited by the author on 27 Feb 2009 22:59:31 GMT
Paul Bolger says:
Ireland is not part of Britain. Fact.

I always look for new and interesting takes on these islands, and look forward to reading this book, but I fear we will never learn to enjoy our similarities and get over our differences until people from or apologetic for the island of Britain, regardless of ignorance or simple misuse of that most hated term "The British Isles", recognise that the island of Ireland has an ocean between it and the larger land mass next door. Genetics matter little - unless skin colour comes into it. It is culture and world view that differentiates peoples of the same skin colour.

I am sure the French speaking people of Switzerland, Belgium and Luxembourg would not relish being called Frankish because they live next door to a larger land mass that can't get over itself and it's people's perceived place in the world .

In reply to an earlier post on 24 Oct 2009 16:19:29 BDT
Sawney Beane says:
As you said you haven't read the book , so you have misinterpreted the point that the author and reviewer are making, and judging a theory about pre-history with modern political outlook.

In reply to an earlier post on 26 Jan 2011 15:40:45 GMT
Peasant says:
Yes, it's a sticky point, and one that usually gets Irish people's backs up (not that I am without my own Irish ancestry, mind), but to geographers there is a group of off-shore islands on the edge of the Atlantic and they don't care that, politically, one of them has a national boundary through it. Anyway, what do you do? Do you only start studying the history oof the 6 counties since the 1920s? Do you conveniently forget that all the islands were, however reluctantly, part of the same political unit for several hundred years? Do you only "do" Scotland after 1603? Or after the Act of Union?

Paul Bolger may not realise that large swathes of the population of Europe are blissfully unaware that the British Isles are NOT all one state. But that isn't the point. When considered on a European basis, us off-shore-islanders have more in common with each other than we have with the mainland, and when you're studying subjects other than political history, it makes sense to acknowledge that fact. In pre- and post-Roman times there were large-scale incursions into the West coast of England from Ireland; from the Deise into Devon and from the area round Drogheda (the Sedanti no less) into the Wirral. How does Mr bolger want to handle that?

In reply to an earlier post on 4 Sep 2015 03:41:13 BDT
Last edited by the author on 4 Sep 2015 04:15:02 BDT
Norvik_1602 says:
Hi Paul,

Ireland is only part of Ireland. Fact.
Derry is not the correct (legal, de facto) name for Londonderry. Fact.
'The North' or the '6 Counties' is not the correct name for Northern Ireland. Fact.
'England' is not the correct name for the United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland, nor is English the same as British. Fact.
'Holland' is not the same as 'The Netherlands'.

I am Southern Irish and I have heard other people here repeatedly use the above terms.

People (Irish 'Nationalists') who find 'The British Isles' hateful as a term seem, hypocritically and paradoxically, not to mind the word Ireland being used to mean 'Southern Ireland/Eire/The Irish Free State/The Republic of Ireland/The 26 County State' in one breath and the political unit of the whole island (and its offshore islands) as part of the United Kingdom/Kingdom of Ireland/Lordship of Ireland/Pre-Norman Ireland in the next breath. Or the geographic unit of the whole island.

The same hypocrisy exists with regard to nationality whereby being 'Irish' is bestowed or withdrawn (usually through the use of 'Anglo-Irish') on someone in a biased or plain arbitrary fashion. So Richard Harris, the actor, is 'Irish', but Peter Snow, BBC newsreader, is not.

Look through Wikipedia and you will see most 'positive' persons born in Ireland before 1922, great writers, scientists etc. claimed as 'Irish' but negative ones (e.g. murderers without political motives etc.) are allowed to remain 'British'.

You say culture and world view differentiates people. Do you not understand that there are many people in Ireland whose view of their collective and historical identity is very much a pan-British Isles, if not pan-British Empire/Commonwealth one? Trying to deny this by objecting to 'British' being used to encompass all those within the British Isles is futile. As futile as putting Gaelic place-names on every road sign, or in even more ethnic cleansing style a Celtic place-name (Ath Cliath) when the place in question (Dublin, Dubh Linn) has a Viking/Norman/English/British origin that the Nationalist State wishes to deny or erase.

The great fear for Irish nationalists, I think, is that the science of genetics may reveal that there are no differences between the 'English' and the 'Irish' and that undermines their claim/justification to be separate/independent.

In my own view that is a strong likelihood, but political outlook is independent of genetic inheritance.

Your view, Paul, can be summed up as being the sort of Nationalism blinkered hypocrisy which is irked if the team of rugby players from the British Isles is referred to as the British Lions and not the British & Irish Lions, but who would be outraged if any of the rugby players on the team from the Irish Republic and from Northern Ireland, demanded that that team be called the Irish & British team, or the Irish & Northern Irish team.

Language is not something you can dictate as the failure to make the population of the Irish Republic monolingual or even bilingual in Gaelic (again, usually referred to by people like Paul as 'Irish' thus denying that English is another, indeed the real language of Ireland) demonstrates.

Your beef is that the word British, in any context which includes the separate Republic of Ireland State carries an implicit political claim.

It does not. It is merely a way to shorten what would be a clumsy, overly wordy construction, witness Good Morning Britain on ITV as if Northern Ireland wasn't being included, or references to the Great Britain team at the IAAF World Championships recently.

Ireland, on the other hand, and Eire explicitly claim jurisdiction over Northern Ireland, as De Valera intended.

In reply to an earlier post on 5 Sep 2015 09:42:45 BDT
Peasant says:
Ireland is an island off the western coast of Europe (geography, geology). Eire or The Republic of Ireland is an independent country in the EU (politics, history).

The British Isles is a collection of islands off the west coast of Europe (geography, geology). Great Britain is a state comprising England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland (politics, history) but NOT, you'll note, the Isle of Man, which is inescapably part of the British Isles.

You will find that the Dutch refer to their country as The Netherlands meaning the same as the state we call Holland. The 'Low Countries' is, confusingly used to include Belgium which was once part of the Spanish territories of the area (history).

Lord alone knows how people in the former Yugoslavia cope. Perhaps we should stop getting our knickers in such a twist?
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