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on 21 April 2017
I think we would all like to know who we are, and, where we come from. Every year, new discoveries make this possible. Excellent book, And Excellent read.,
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on 14 November 2012
As a casual reader I am finding the reading pretty hard going. The nature of the DNA evidence makes it necessarily detailed, but it doesn't let up much and I find myself skimming through to something more interesting. The information is interesting, but it is very dry and repeats itself frequently.
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on 21 May 2017
sent as a present assume it is ok
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on 6 November 2017
thorough, clear and useful
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on 23 July 2017
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on 19 June 2009
I found Stephen Oppenheimer's tome utterly fascinating and a thoroughly rewarding read. Yes there are typos, but the core ideas are well argued and the author draws extensively on archaeological, anthropological, historical and genetic-based research. Despite completing a PhD in Roman Archaeology at UCL I too found 'The Origins of the British' bloody hard going and would recommend; (a) that you read the conclusion before reading the chapter, and (b) read the book twice!
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on 8 March 2016
Despite his childhood holidays in Wales, the author appeared to have no knowledge of the language and didn't recognise place names of Welsh origin scattered throughout England and southern Scotland. Disappointing.
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on 4 June 2015
I loved this book; its sweep, passion and enthusiasm. I would recommend it to anyone with an interest in where the people of the Isles came from. I particularly enjoyed the account of the peopling of the land after the ice age and ideas on the origins of the Celts. Where Oppenheimer really falls down though, is with his (fashionable, by his own admission) attack on Anglo Saxon migrationism. It felt to me as if he had been given a brief to defend the indefensible. It starts with the premise of the Belgae being Germanic as a way of explaining how the English language came to dominate England rather than a celtic tongue. Now Caesar doesn't in fact say the Belgae were Germanic; simply that they claimed to have Germanic ancestry, which was a way of showing off their braveness against the surrounding Gaulish tribes. If an early version of English was spoken by the Belgae in Roman Britain as Oppenheimer posits, why didn't Caesar or Tacitus mention the fact? When Tacitus talks, for example, in his Germania about the language of the Eestii, he says it sounds 'more like the British' not 'more like that in the part of Britain that doesn't speak Germanic'. Moreover, the names that we know of chiefs and tribal capitals in Belgic Britain refute Oppenheimer. Oppenheimer also says much Scandinavian/Germanic dna came to England en masse in the stone age, with no proof for this beyond his own dating of haplotype origins, which has been criticised as severely overestimating the ages of these groups. If his dna dating is wrong, this brings the Anglo Saxon migration theory right back. Another problem for Oppenheimer is that he has the testimony of both Gildas and Bede as to the Invasions (as well as continental sources that mention them of course). Oppenheimer's approach is to claim that Gildas and Bede contradict each other. To do this he contrasts 'Bede's story of the elite Anglian invasion' with 'Gildas' version, the Saxon Advent.' It seems obvious though that Gildas referred to the Germanic tribes as 'Saxons' as a generic term. To Oppenheimer this amounts to a 'web of confusion about Saxons spun by Gildas'. Oppenheimer often refers to the 'prophet St Gildas' later making a parallel with 'another British prophet' Enoch Powell to belittle Gildas further. Also, as Gildas was not canonised the use of the title St seems designed to mock him. Oppenheimer can though bring out the sources to support his own side of the story. He cites the Irish king lists written in the 12th century AD as possibly supporting a date of nearly 2000 BC for Celtic language introduction into the British Isles. Why then disparage the evidence of Gildas, writing during the time that he was actually chronicling? Because, Oppenheimer says, the king lists document was 'based on a compilation of older texts now lost to us, and gives considerably more credible detail and cross-references for the last two thousand years than do any of the chroniclers, such as Gildas...' Really? Other poor arguments are brought into play in an effort to prove that early Anglo Saxon did not come from Bede's claimed homelands. Oppenheimer says 'early Scandinavian loanwords' in English are a problem for the migration theory because 'there is no specific record of Scandinavian invasions' to England. What about the Jutes? There are other errors or omissions that 'prove' his cases. Referring to Fig 9.3, which blanks Norwegian cruciform brooches on a map of distribution, he says that cruciform brooches 'point to links across the North Sea more to Angeln in Schleswig-Holstein than farther North'. I've seen Norwegian cruciform brooches myself in the national museum in Oslo. They do exist and are known by specialists for their well-arched bows. Summing up, I found his final chapter warm and liked his welcoming of new immigrants to the story of the Isles. The AS migration debate can only be settled in my view when we have a solid dna data set from contemporary bones. For example, Bede says Angeln was left empty, so how can we know what dna they had if the migration theory is true? This book left me feeling that a genocide, or at least an attack that caused the bulk of the Britons to flee from what became Eastern and Central England, must have taken place. The arguments used by Oppenheimer to discredit it are simply so far-fetched. Yes, there is a lack of slaughtered bodies, but there is a lack of almost any bodies at all. We have ourselves seen thousands displaced by violence that leaves little mark as homes are taken over (eg Armenians, Abkhazia). I fear that in 2000 years academics will deny 20th century genocides, using arguments that won't stand up to anyone who can still put two and two together.
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on 27 February 2009
When I decided to purchase this book, I was mistakenly under the impression that it was going to be accessible to the layman with a curiosity in the subject matter. However, while it's not exactly a "stuffy textbook", it can get overly technical and difficult to digest. At times I felt like giving up, particularly around the middle which, featured almost nothing but heavy statistics and data. However, I persevered onwards, and I'm very glad that I did.

This book was an extremely fascinating read and one that has completely shattered many of the preconceived notions that I had of the English, the Celts, and "Britishness" as a whole. Yes, sometimes it did feel like you need a Ph.D. in History, Archaeology and Linguistics all in one to be able to follow it, but if you're interested enough in the subject to be willing to plough through all of that, then you'll find this a treasure trove worth of information.
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on 27 February 2011
As usual Stephen Oppenheimer meanders through existing evidence old and new in order to weave out a legible tapestry of history. Whilst I and others may not agree fully with all the findings it must be accepted that he has produced an exceptional piece of work around which it is now possible to set a new benchmark for the understanding of migration of peoples to the Isles of Greater Britain. Mistakes of past historians are defabricated and then reconstructed in simple terms so that a broader picture unfurls showing greater definition.
'The Origins of the British' will provide you with ammunition to throw at television historians that constantly regurgitate old school perspectives upon our past. I guarantee that if you have any interest in archeology, history, genetic study, or linguistics then this publication is a must, one that may well set you on a route of learning which is crying out for future examination.
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