Face of Britain: How Our Genes Reveal the History of Britain Hardcover – 2 Jan 2007
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Top Customer Reviews
However, there were a few areas that let the book down. As a previous reviewer has pointed out, basic mistakes (such as labelling the Welsh language as Gaelic) made me wonder what else the author had got wrong.
This book also left me confused as to who McKie was referring to when he was talking about the early Britons (who apparently provided modern Britain with most of its DNA). Who were the people who left the `red-hair' gene? I was never sure when he was referring to the ancient people who came to the Isles 10,000 or so years ago, or to the `Celtic' peoples who arrived later. He seemed to skip from 10,000 years ago straight to Anglo-Saxons, without making much distinction between the pre-Anglo-Saxon people.
Other than these two faults, the book overall was interesting and easy to read. I would recommend, but I will be reading other books in this genre first to try and clear up some of the areas that McKie left hanging.
I thought the TV series of sufficient interest to buy the DVD (see separate review), but the series was geographically specific whereas I wondered what a fuller national picture might tell. This book did not provide the answers, since it quickly became aware that Bodmer’s tests were themselves concentrated only in those localities featured on screen, although it is noted that his is only a pilot study: “further locations are scheduled to be added in future years.” So, alas, we have no samples from mainland Scotland, only one area in Wales, and a whole swathe of midland England is missing. But this does not mean that this book does not merit a wide readership. It certainly answered some of my questions, if not all.
In the first chapter, which is really a preface, McKie points out that “medicine was the prime motivating factor for the setting up of the project,” history and archaeology being beneficiaries riding piggyback.Read more ›
And, as someone with a lay interest in the subject, I found that there is plenty that was new to me, for example the work of Sir Walter Bodmer on DNA and much of the material in the chapter about the significance of red hair.
I can strongly recommend the book as a readable explanation of where we in the British Isles come from that does question accepted ideas
It lacked professionalism, there were lots of repeated bits of info, other areas seemed to have been added as padding and there were, as another reviewer has commented, some real howlers of mistakes. Oh dear!
In my opinion, poorly written, the images (which I had expected in far greater number and detail) were pretty useless as they morphed faces from one area to another. -There were no definitive descriptions of what sort of features we could discern as indications of OUR families' origins (and lets be frank, thats why most of us would want to read this book).
Sorry, I wouldnt bother.
Sir Walter took DNA samples from people in various rural locations whose grandparents had lived locally. Working on an inspired hunch, he then compared the occurrence across the British Isles of the gene that can give rise to red hair - the MC1R or so-called `Celtic' gene. He found that it was most common in the Irish, with about half as much in the Cornish and very little or none in English regions sampled. Together with an earlier study that showed genetic similarities between English people and the Friesians of Northern Holland, this provides evidence to support the traditional model of the Anglo-Saxon conquest - that of invading pagan, illiterate barbarians forcing Celtic Christians to flee for their lives to the Atlantic seaboard of Britain. However, the book claims that most historians subscribe to another model - in this the Anglo-Saxons came in small numbers peacefully absorbing most Celts, their superior culture leading to their becoming the dominant race, the educated Celts leaving in a huff to head west and write a biased history.
History defines identity; if the Anglo-Saxons could be seen in a better light, it would permit their descendants to feel better about themselves. Perhaps this motivates some historians to disregard inconvenient evidence: that early historians, Celtic and Anglo-Saxon, are unanimous in following the first model; that DNA studies can now be said to support it too; that there are very few Celtic loan words in the English language to support the alternative one.
In matters of history, even the smartest people have can difficulty handling the truth...
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Sykes never fails to raise the bar. Others may jump but none jump higher.
Not having seen the TV series that this book accompanied, I can’t judge how well it served as an accompaniment. Read morePublished on 22 Jun. 2014 by Sophie Newton
This was bought as a gift for my brother. Am waiting to hear his comments but it looks really interesting. He's very into family history so this will be a new slant on the topic!Published on 24 Dec. 2012 by Susie Q
The entire premise for the 'Faces' aspect of this book and accompanying TV series is flawed from the off. Read morePublished on 8 Jun. 2010 by Saes Maes
After the channel four series of the same name revealed the use of technology in researching our ancestory and genetics I was interested to further my knowledge and understanding... Read morePublished on 11 Oct. 2007 by Bethan Wykes