Are the English really Germans or Spaniards?


Are the English really Germans or Spaniards?

Ed WestPolitics

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The English are basically Germans, geneticists at London university have discovered. The Telegraph reports:

“There is no use in denying it,” Der Spiegel, the German news magazine, wrote this week. “It is now clear the nation which most dislikes the Germans were once Krauts themselves.”

University College London academics studied a segment of the Y chromosome that appears in almost all Danish and north German men. They found that half of British men also have the segment.

Researchers following up the UCL study claim that Anglo-Saxons swiftly took over Britain and changed the genetic make-up of its inhabitants.

Heinrich Härke, an archaeologist at the University of Reading, said that “up to 200,000 emigrants” came to south east England in the fifth and sixth centuries. In a study of a Saxon cemetery near Oxford, he found that a quarter of its artefacts matched those discovered along the Elbe.

This goes against much current thinking. It was once universally assumed that although our Anglo-Saxon ancestors had intermarried with native Britons, the English were still basically Germans. This was based on an idea that became known as the Anglo-Saxon genocide theory, in which the invading Angles, Saxons and Jutes drove out the native Britons in the 5th century, but as with all history, it had political implications for the present.

This was heavily influenced by the rise of “Teutomania”, Michael Burleigh’s term, which arose following the rediscovery of Tacitus in the 16th century. Tacitus described the ancient Germans as being a heroic race noted for being freedom-loving, egalitarian, sober, hard-working and loyal, all stereotypes that came to be associated with both the English and Germans (although, of course, Tacitus was partly using the Germans to hold up a mirror to his fellow Romans who, he felt, were mired in tyranny, drunkenness and treason).

This influenced English political thought once the new middle classes began to challenge the largely Norman-descended aristocracy, and a king who was a bit too fond of ancient Rome’s spiritual successor, the Vatican.

In 1640 Parliamentarian leader John Hare became one of the first Englishmen to express the Anglo-Saxon supremacists argument when he wrote: “Our progenitors that transplanted themselves from Germany hither did not commixe themselves with the ancient inhabitants of the country of the Britain’s, but totally expelling them, they took the sole possession of the land to themselves, thereby preserving their blood, laws and languages uncorrupted…”

Anglo-Saxonism became an important part of the national political myth, with Magna Carta an extension of ancient Saxon freedoms that dated back to the continent. Baron de Montesquieu believed that the English political system came from forests of Germany, while Thomas Jefferson believed that it was their Saxon ancestry that gave the Americans their love of freedom (in stark contrast to Benjamin Franklin, who lived in the third-German Pennsylvania and did not think much of the “Palatine Boor”).

Victorian England developed an obsession with Anglo-Saxons, and was heavily pro-German; upper-middle class English people holidayed in Germany far more than they do now, and routinely spoke German (which as the pre-eminent European language was vital for a wide range of fields from music to the classics).

Nazism killed off English Pan-Germanism, even in its most gentle form. The ultra-nationalism of the Nazis, which drew on the same Teutomania, made the English far more hostile to their near-neighbours, and made a celebration of our German heritage politically suspect or just plain weird.

This has received a further blow from genetic archaeology in the past 15 years, which has generally shown that, far from being Germans, the English are mostly descended from very ancient indigenous people who long pre-date even Celtic speakers.

Bryan Sykes, who helped to overturn the idea that native Europeans were displaced by Middle East farmers in the 4th millennium BC, says that only 10 per cent of men “now living in the south of England are the patrilineal descendants of Saxons or Danes… that figure rising to 15 per cent north of the Danelaw and 20 per cent in East Anglia”. East Anglia, incidentally, does have the best-run railways in England. Coincidence?

Another geneticist, Stephen Oppenheimer, has argued that 68 per cent of English DNA pre-dates the first farmers in the 4th millennium BC, and that most of our ancestors arrived from Iberia.

Now the Germans are claiming us as their own again, I’m confused. Are we Germans, or Spaniards? I suspect that, much as we like the latter, we would rather see ourselves as the former (even though this new study is unlikely to discredit Sykes’s and Oppenheimer’s claims).

Despite what Der Spiegel say, the English really aren’t very anti-German and, except for a few knuckle-draggers, are prepared to look beyond the obvious stereotypes (although alas the sad decline of German in schools has closed off an entire culture to us).

And, trust me, right now the Greeks hate you far more; I just hope that when I go on holiday there later this year I don’t get mistaken for one of the “Saxon overseas”, as our ancestors used to call them.