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Author Topic: Did the Anglo Saxons invade Britain?  (Read 4499 times)

Chris

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Did the Anglo Saxons invade Britain?
« on: March 20, 2012, 02:50:02 AM »

Britain BC by Francis Pryor.

I know Jamie's got it listed on the BHP website, but no one has mentioned it in here I think.  Its an easy to read overview of the archaeological record of Britian and Ireland 'Before the Romans'.
What about Britain AD: A Quest for Arthur, England and the Anglo-Saxons

I was looking at this yesterday in Waterstones. As Tim mentions, Jamie has Britain BC in his book recommendations but what about Britain AD? Looked pretty interesting to me but didn't get as I'd thought I'd ask here first.
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Jamie

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Re: Did the Anglo Saxons invade Britain?
« Reply #1 on: March 20, 2012, 07:56:02 AM »

I tend to rather enjoy Pryor's books.  But I'm not a gigantic fan of Britain AD, nor the documentary that was based upon it.  The main reason is his position on the Anglo Saxon invasions.  It seems like it's pretty fashionable right now to claim that Britain wasn't invaded by [insert culture], or at least throw mud at it.  And while we can say "Well, we don't know if there was a Beaker or Celtic invasion because all we have are dig sites, etc."  I don't think that applies to the Anglo Saxons.  Largely because we have Gildas writing in the 500's.  Was he completely reliable?  No.  But given the sudden cultural shift in areas and Gildas' reports of invasions and atrocities, I really don't know how you get to "Meh, it was probably just cultural bleed."

Of course, I'm simplifying an entire book to a paragraph, and Pryor's writing is excellent as always.  And whenever I read him, I lament the fact that I didn't become an archaeologist.  But I can't say that it would go on my recommended reading list.
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Chris

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Re: Did the Anglo Saxons invade Britain?
« Reply #2 on: March 20, 2012, 03:27:16 PM »

A fair and honest comment Jamie. I always prefer it when people just say what is on their mind (with a little tact and diplomacy instead of just a rant) because then you know what to expect from that person. I see what you're saying though and I don't understand it when there are trends in scholars' opinions. Surely it's the archeological sites that enlighten us with the facts that Britain was unequivocally invaded by different peoples on many separate occasions.

What book would you personally recommend about the Middle Ages specifically as I find this period quite interesting?
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Jamie

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Re: Did the Anglo Saxons invade Britain?
« Reply #3 on: March 20, 2012, 07:45:18 PM »

Off the top of my head, Anglo Saxon England by Stenton is pretty solid but also very dense.

Does anyone else have any recommendations?
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Tim the Enchanter

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Re: Did the Anglo Saxons invade Britain?
« Reply #4 on: March 20, 2012, 10:48:08 PM »

A Brief History Of The Anglo Saxons by Geoffery Hindley is one I've read.  It was pretty good, even had my mother in law reading it for a bit...(!) 
It wasnt the most exciting book (as it could have been) but it was a good read.   

I haven't read Britain AD yet but its on my list.  I will speak a bit in Pryors defense.  Its easy to say sweeping changes were caused by sweeping invasions but the truth is usually grey area.  Archaeology thought famers 'invaded' Britain from Europe in the Neolithic until science and more archaeology has sort of proved otherwise.  An archaeologist in Britain 2000 years from now might find a lot of Levis and Coke bottles but it doesnt mean Britian was invaded by Americans.... or does it?   And I think if scholars opinions are forming a trend, that's how theories and facts are born, no?  What do you think?
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Tim the Enchanter

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Re: Did the Anglo Saxons invade Britain?
« Reply #5 on: March 20, 2012, 10:50:03 PM »

... you could also go right to the source and get copies of Bede's Ecclesiastical History and the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle... if you want to read some crazy stuff.
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Chris

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Re: Did the Anglo Saxons invade Britain?
« Reply #6 on: March 21, 2012, 03:03:02 AM »

Thanks for the recommendations, I will check them out  :)

I think the subject of archaelology, scholars and trends is quite an interesting debate and one that could see various viewpoints. I agree that facts and theories are born from trends, that's one part of the natural progression of an idea and to prove or disprove that idea based on what is discovered, whether we believe it or not. Something that is believable now may not be in 10 years time so trends develope into something else and something else again, particularly when those trends have change because of an individual's idea or theory. Trends usually start from one thing.

But do we ever really settle on one theory and say 'yes, that's it....it definitely happened this way' ?

I like the bit about Levis and Coke bottles; archgaelogists in the future will be able to read massive amounts of entire histroies of just about every nation preserved for such future peoples by simply looking it up, probably through a tv, computer or whatever there is going to be around then. There will probably be technology that scans and reproduces a 3D model of the ground underneath so you don't have to dig (but I guess where is the fun in that).
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Tim the Enchanter

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Re: Did the Anglo Saxons invade Britain?
« Reply #7 on: March 21, 2012, 06:40:37 AM »

You are very right there, after all, even gravity is a theory.  'Facts' can change and the beauty of science and history is that they're always open for opinion and debate.   From an amateur point of view I'm inclined to believe what the PHDs and professionals offer, so if they think invasions happened or didnt, I'll go with them. 
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Jamie

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Re: Did the Anglo Saxons invade Britain?
« Reply #8 on: March 21, 2012, 07:46:40 AM »

Pryor is an excellent archaeologist. My concern about his Anglo Saxon theory is that it is outside of his scope a little and seems to discount Gildas. Not to mention Legend which serves as an oral history.

Trusting PhD's is something I do too. But what do you do when they disagree? There seems to be precious little consensus as everyone has their own pet theory. For example, this controversy and the Edward II thing that was mentioned elsewhere. For my part I try to keep an open mind and present credible theories. Though some hit the cutting room floor like Legio IX in China.

Now Levi's are one of my favorite arguments and I think I actually used it in the Celtic migration episode. Or maybe McDonald's. But the thing is that an argument like that breaks down when you have written historical record discussion the event.  If we had Crom writing about all these beaker making people invading and killing his friends, we'd have a harder time saying "meh, it was probably just cultural bleed."

I absolutely buy the cultural spread of beaker people and Celtic culture. Trade would have allowed for significant cultural changes. I would imagine that there were maybe small migrations and the rest was done by trade.

But as for the anglo Saxons? I think they came over in waves and integrated with the native population. I'm not saying that they were all displaced (though Wales would probably have been a refuge) but my guess is that unlike earlier shifts, this one was initiated by invasion and integration.

I also believe in the Norman invasion. ;)
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Chris

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Re: Did the Anglo Saxons invade Britain?
« Reply #9 on: March 22, 2012, 02:22:23 AM »

You are very right there, after all, even gravity is a theory.  'Facts' can change and the beauty of science and history is that they're always open for opinion and debate.   From an amateur point of view I'm inclined to believe what the PHDs and professionals offer, so if they think invasions happened or didnt, I'll go with them.
Me too, what do I know compared to the minds of those who have studied in their particular fields for years?.....if anyone knows what they are talking about it is the scholars, that's what we bank on really. But then there are very enthusiastic amateurs. They might not have a Phd or spent years around dig sites etc. etc. but I am sure they are capable of piecing together the already known facts and coming up with credible (and probable) theories of their own. Heck, I guess even I could but I don't fancy those odds very much as I mentioned just a moment ago, what do I know? Not a lot  ???

Take Jamie, for instance. It's pretty cool when he comes up with his own little theories about what could have happened based on his own research and opinions, makes the listening more interesting. Do we believe him? That is the question. I do  ;)
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Chris

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Re: Did the Anglo Saxons invade Britain?
« Reply #10 on: March 22, 2012, 02:58:22 AM »

But as for the anglo Saxons? I think they came over in waves and integrated with the native population. I'm not saying that they were all displaced (though Wales would probably have been a refuge) but my guess is that unlike earlier shifts, this one was initiated by invasion and integration.
I am glad you said that, I couldn't agree with you more. Migration and eventual integration, after a great deal of fighting spread over a long period of time.

Displacing an entire peoples just wouldn't happen, although many settled in mainland Europe as well, the Britons had been bullied into submission before by the Romans so they weren't going to let the Anglo-Saxons invade and take over without a good fight. Because this period went on for so long it was inevitable that integration was going to happen eventually and the result is a huge mixing pot of different peoples (inc. the Jutes and I am sure there are a couple of others but can't think off the top of my head which ones) forming what is essentially a new people, whether they liked it or not.

I know this is a major oversimplification but I find it fascinating that we (as in peoples) all came from somewhere else  :D
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Jamie

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Re: Did the Anglo Saxons invade Britain?
« Reply #11 on: March 22, 2012, 08:13:31 AM »

This is a conversation that was moved from Book Recommendations, since we're discussing theories more than books at this point.  ;)
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Chris

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Re: Did the Anglo Saxons invade Britain?
« Reply #12 on: March 23, 2012, 03:49:44 PM »

I think I am going to give Britain AD a chance, both the book and the documentary, which is still available on 4OD here. I will watch part one on my next day off and hopefully get the book this weekend.

He might be straying away from his Bronze Age comfort zone and speciality but I like Francis Pryor anyway, especially when I have seen him on Time Team. Even though he has had some  outlandish and wackier theories than the regulars, he does have engaging presence on-screen that is entertaining in its own right  :o ;)
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drewster81

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Re: Did the Anglo Saxons invade Britain?
« Reply #13 on: March 29, 2012, 11:32:09 AM »

I recently read articles (and I've been struggling to find them, the one below is a bit older) that used DNA to show that the peoples of Great Britain and Ireland have almost the exact same DNA.  They stress that none of the Celtic, Roman, Anglo-Saxon, Viking or Norman invasions significantly displaced the population at all.

I haven't done near as much reading on this as you guys have though, so by all means, let me know what you think.  It IS interesting to think that the majority of British and Irish peoples (including my ancestors, most of whom come from various areas of Britain) were originally from the Basque region!

http://www.prospectmagazine.co.uk/2006/10/mythsofbritishancestry/

Here's a salient (and looooong) quote: 

"What is more, new evidence from genetic analysis (see note below) indicates that the Anglo-Saxons and Celts, to the extent that they can be defined genetically, were both small immigrant minorities. Neither group had much more impact on the British Isles gene pool than the Vikings, the Normans or, indeed, immigrants of the past 50 years.

The genetic evidence shows that three quarters of our ancestors came to this corner of Europe as hunter-gatherers, between 15,000 and 7,500 years ago, after the melting of the ice caps but before the land broke away from the mainland and divided into islands. Our subsequent separation from Europe has preserved a genetic time capsule of southwestern Europe during the ice age, which we share most closely with the former ice-age refuge in the Basque country. The first settlers were unlikely to have spoken a Celtic language but possibly a tongue related to the unique Basque language.

Another wave of immigration arrived during the Neolithic period, when farming developed about 6,500 years ago. But the English still derive most of their current gene pool from the same early Basque source as the Irish, Welsh and Scots. These figures are at odds with the modern perceptions of Celtic and Anglo-Saxon ethnicity based on more recent invasions. There were many later invasions, as well as less violent immigrations, and each left a genetic signal, but no individual event contributed much more than 5 per cent to our modern genetic mix."

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Chris

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Re: Did the Anglo Saxons invade Britain?
« Reply #14 on: March 29, 2012, 03:44:20 PM »

Wow, this is quite freaky. I was reading something similar to this earlier today and then I clicked on the link and found it was the same article, only the one I looked at was a little more recent based on comments from readers of the article. The only reason I was reading this was because I was looking at a book in Waterstones called The Origins of the British: A Genetic Detective Story by the same author of article.

I want to understand where the British peoples really came from and how far back that goes. Everyone has come from somewhere and with so many theories it is difficult not to feel dizzy with all the data that is spewed out. It sounds like this author has some intriguing theories but my initial repsonse to the Basque region being the brithplace of our ancestors is totally alien to me and breaks away from the theories I was more familiar with years ago. I was also looking at The Tribes Of Britain by David Miles but I honestly don't know how good either of these will be.

I am reading Britain AD at the moment but I will have to get down to the nitty gritty of Britain BC as Jamie's recommendation of this is something I can't ignore.

Getting back to the whole Anglo-Saxon thing though, the whole subject is controvertial in different ways because just to use the word 'invade' evokes lots of different responses. Did they invade, encroaching upon the local population by force because they knew the island was fertile with plenty of space for the taking or did they 'migrate' for different reason? Invade and migrate are two very different words and I believe they did both extremely well but I really haven't read enough to form a clear decision as yet. I do believe that it is possible they probably didn't affect the celtic gene pool as much as we might have thought but a mass of migratory peoples are certainly going to have an impact on mixing those genes to some degree.
« Last Edit: March 30, 2012, 02:46:11 PM by Chris »
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