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The Origins of the British: The New Prehistory of Britain

Stephen Oppenheimer

10 Reviews

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Prose: non-fiction, British & Irish history

'British prehistory will never look the same again.' Professor Colin Renfrew, University of Cambridge

Stephen Oppenheimer's extraordinary scientific detective story combining genetics, linguistics, archaeology and historical record shatters the myths we have come to live by. It demonstrates that the Anglo-Saxon invasions contributed just a tiny fraction (5%) to the English gene pool.

Two-thirds of the English people reveal an unbroken line of genetic descent from south-western Europeans arriving long before the first farmers. The bulk of the remaining third arrived between 7,000 and 3,000 years ago as part of long-term north-west European trade and immigration, especially from Scandinavia - and may have brought with them the earliest forms of English language.

As for the Celts - the Irish, Scots and Welsh - history has traditionally placed their origins in Iron Age Central Europe. Oppenheimer's genetic synthesis tells a different story. There is indeed a deep divide between the English and the rest of the British. But as this book reveals the division is many thousands of years older than previously thought.

'Be prepared to have all your cherished notions of English history and Britishness swept away' - Clive Gamble

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Praise for The Origins of the British: The New Prehistory of Britain

  • Be prepared to have all your cherished notions of English history and Britishness swept away. - Clive Gamble

  • The historians' account is wrong in almost every detail. In Dr

  • Oppenheimer's reconstruction of events, the principal ancestors

  • of today's British and Irish populations arrived from Spain

  • about 16,000 years ago. - New York Times

  • He upends some of the most deeply rooted notions of where

  • the British people come from, and does so in a clear, painstaking

  • and detailed way. The result is both fascinating and unexpected. - Geographical

  • Particularly illuminating ... The author carefully lays out the genetic data that show how three-quarters of Britishness dates to the repopulation after the northern ice sheets last retreated, and

  • takes us through a fascinating investigation of what this means for some cherished notions of Britishness. - Nature

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Stephen Oppenheimer

Stephen Oppenheimer, author of Eden in the East, qualified in medicine from Oxford to begin a career in tropical paediatrics. He has spent 20 years working and travelling in the Far East and Pacific region and is a world-recognised expert in the synthesis of DNA studies with archaeological and other evidence to track ancient migrations. His first book Eden in the East: The Drowned Continent of Southeast Asia challenged the orthodox view of the origins of Polynesians as rice farmers from Taiwan.

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