Last episode we ended at 597. For those of you who are really into Anglo Saxon history, you might recognize that date as the date that Christianity gets reintroduced to Anglo Saxon Britain. It’s a big deal. A huge deal, in fact. It will bring war, it will bring chaos, and it will bring all manner of changes in the lives of the people in what will eventually become England.
And one of the big changes has to do with sex.
Now the truth of it is that all too often historians and narrators tend to devolve into a giggle fit over sex and try to dodge the issue with silliness or even just outright avoid it. And you might be expecting me to do the same, since I am rather fond of silly statements. But this stuff is actually vitally important and is something that is almost never discussed. So today’s episode might be a little more sober than usual, but I think you’ll find it rather fascinating. And it will bring to light a massive shift in culture that accompanied the reintroduction of Christianity.
You might be wondering how you go about studying a subject like this since the Anglo Saxons weren’t writing down very much, and generally it was the Monks who were doing the writing (and they weren’t too inclined to record these matters). Well, some of it comes from studies on genetics, which is a pretty new area of investigation.
So what do we know? Well, recent studies into Y-Chromosome variations (which, with very few exceptions, are chromosomes that only men have) found that men in Central England had strikingly similar variations on their Y Chromosomes as those from the Anglo Saxon homelands. Basically, guys in Central england had a lot of the same markers as guys from the Danish peninsula. And interestingly, that isn’t the case for men in North Wales. I won’t get into all the math and genetics of the study, but the end result is that to accomplish such a dramatic shift in the genetic makeup of Central England it would have required a migration of over half a million men. And keep in mind that the entire population of Britain at this point is estimated by some to have been scarcely over two million people. To put that in perspective, that would be like the population of Portland packing up their food carts, loading their cattle dogs into their subarus and invading New Mexico. But even that is an imperfect example, because it would have to be a population the size of Portland that was entirely comprised of men.