Inventing History: The Myth of Anglo Saxon Purity

The Anglo Saxon Invasion That Never Happened

BBC (2015)

Film Review

This BBC documentary uses archeological, genetic and linguistic evidence to demolish the myth of a fifth century Anglo Saxon invasion that supposedly drove Britain’s indigenous tribes west and north to Wales, Scotland and Ireland.

There is no archeological evidence whatsoever of an invasion. In fact, current evidence suggests a lengthy period (beginning in 2,000 BC) of Germanic migration and assimilation with Celtic inhabitants was more likely.

For me, the most interesting evidence comes from linguistic study of Old English. The latter differs significantly from other Germanic languages in that it uses word order, rather than word endings, to distinguish between the subject and object of sentences. Linguists attribute this anomaly to the merger of Celtic and Germanic cultures over many centuries and the influence of Celtic speakers on Old English.

Archeologists now believe that the myth of fifth century Anglo Saxon invasion was created by mixed race kings to lay claim to their (fraudulent) claim of pure Teutonic heritage This was frequently used to justify their privilege over genetically equivalent subjects who were stigmatized as irrational and unstable Celts.

14 thoughts on “Inventing History: The Myth of Anglo Saxon Purity

  1. I haven’t watched the video but there are all sorts of problems with the traditional interpretation, from kings with celtic names to the vast differences in art and culture between supposedly closely related tribes.

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  2. It’s an interesting theory – and probably it was similar to the slow encroachment of Turks into Anatolia. After all, the German-speaking parts of Europe are a pretty short boat-ride from the shores of Merrie England. On the other hand, Gaels and Celts do seem to have retreated into more distant extremities of the British Isles: Ireland, Wales, Cornwall and the Scottish Highlands. And the case shouldn’t rest on that linguistic argument, because Old English did have verb conjugations, noun gender and inflections, similar to modern German. We just got lazy over the years 😉 But I’m not justifying what the sassenachs did to Scotland and Ireland.

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    • Yes i agree with this comment and sometimes people cite spurious arguments about, say, ‘meaningless do’ (e.g. Do you have a cat? as opposed to have you a cat?) – there is no record of that construction until centuries later so the fact that some of the Celtic languages have a similar construction means nothing. So does Polish; so what? But take a close read of Beowulf and there is no doubt that there is something badly wrong with the traditional interpretation.

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  3. I think the review I wrote may be somewhat misleading Alan. Most of the evidence cited in the film is archeological or genetic – the archeological remains show a continuous history of of settled agricultural development in an area that should have been thrown into chaos by a military conquest that supposedly happened in the 5th century. I think you might be interested in viewing the film – if you haven’t done so already. I found it quite compelling.

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  4. Sorry to hear that, Tube. I think you have good reason to question your Anglo Saxon purity. I’m pretty sure Tubularsock is a Basque name. Do you have stumpy ears? It’s nothing to be ashamed of.

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  5. Haven’t seen the video, but there are a number of clear inaccuracies in your review. As pointed out by Alan Scott, Old English was most definitely closely related to continental languages, including Old Frisian (with which it was almost identical), Old Saxon and Old High German. As for Germans arriving from 2000BC, this must be a typo. Not only weren’t there any Germans that early, there weren’t even any Celts. From my reading, there is definitely a case for gradual german settlement from the Roman period, but that didn’t start until 100 AD. There is also a good argument that the number of Germans who came after the Romans left was not huge. It seems they enslaved the locals and their language took over completely. As for archeology, the germans had wood buildings, which don’t last very long. As far as I recall, there is pretty good evidence of significant changes in agriculture, with ploughing systems based on northern european models starting at the same time.

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  6. Thanks for your comment, deorreader. The point made in the film isn’t that English is unrelated to the Germanic languages you mention – but that it employs a dramatically altered syntax in contrast to those languages. Also the notion that the assimilation of early Germanic tribes into British populations possibly started as early 2000 BC is merely a hypothesis based on DNA and the architectural remains of prehistoric settlements. The recorded history of Britain that you refer to didn’t start until 43 AD.

    The main point of the film is that there is no archeological evidence supporting a 5th century Anglo Saxon invasion.

    Thanks again for taking the time to comment.

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  7. Pingback: Reclaiming Our History: the Myth of Britain’s “Dark Ages” | The Most Revolutionary Act

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