4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
To the Origins and Back,
This review is from: The Origins of the British: A genetic detective story (Hardcover)
"The Origins of the British" by Stephen Oppenheimer is not a light read. At 628 pages it is not a book man would read just to amuse himself, but to gain new insight into history.
The book is filled with detailed descriptions of the genetic methods used and it is very scholarly work aimed squarely at the class of professional historians.
However, even if I am not a professional historian, I must confess that I did quite enjoy this heavy book, the more so as I just love when old established ideas are questioned in the field of history also. I have amused myself chiefly in my spare time with reading history for the past 40 years and the kind of new insight this book did really bring is always welcome.
Stephen Oppenheimer is namely out to prove that the invasion of Angles and Saxons at the end of the Roman period in Britain did not wipe out the then current Celtic population in England as the old wisdom goes, but that there had been a distinct Germanic population there even at the time of Roman invasion.
There perhaps was just the arrival of new small ruling elite at the end Roman times, and that elite already has direct linguistic relationship with the people living in England already.
Stephen Oppenheimer has a lot of true research in genetic outlook of the inhabitants of the British isles to back him up. Many findings in archeology and new interpretations of historic texts do also clearly support his theories.
I laid this book down even more convinced than ever on the fact that the alleged great Germanic human migrations at the end of Roman empire were not true upheavals and migrations of real nations, but just predatory excursions of armed groups that just took the power to extract money from the locals away from the former Roman elite.
On similar note I must wonder how rarely the real predatory nature of the Roman Empire is brought to light. In the end this was a nation that did grow and flourish by stealing the results of the hard work of others.
Unfathomable riches were gathered first as plunder and then as protection money for hundreds of years as a result of predatory assaults on all of the neighboring nations that could not defend themselves from the hordes of soldiers Rome could muster to fight for plunder and slaves.
Of course Rome did bring also the Roman peace or Pax Romana, the good roads and the Roman justice, but this empire was also a robber nation that did bring a new parasitic upper class to lands it conquered to live off the work and toil of the conquered.
However, I must stress that these ideas are not in this book by Stephen Oppenheimer as he concentrates on the flow of genetic markers and the like and like many other modern historians he does refrain himself from judging the events he tells about in any way.
I just could not stop myself bringing up this issue, the more so, as the nature of human conquests is a central one even in this book. Stephen Oppenheimer does show how the alleged great human migrations in the history of Britain just could be shifts in small elites.
Stephen Oppenheimer shows that the main body of the population of the British Isles could in fact been quite the same for the whole of the time after the end of last Ice Age.
According to him Britain was at that time first populated on the other hand by people coming from the direction of the Iberian peninsula on the west coast and on the other hand from the Ice Age refuge in Ukraine area in the west of Britain.
He does not say this in these words, as there is not enough scientific proof of this idea, but the central idea is quite clear; the human population in certain area is not renewed at conquests, but the newcomers just bring a new set of genes to play and in the end mingle happily with the old inhabitants.
The culture and even language may change, but the basic human genetic makeup may remain very much the same millenniums after millennium; just enriched by new waves of immigrants. They may come as slaves or rulers; in the end this does not make a big difference in the long run.