The Origins of the British

by Stephen Oppenheimer


The Origins of the British
A Genetic Detective Story by Stephen Oppenheimer

As a child, I sometimes wondered why people told jokes about Englishmen, Irishmen, Welshmen and Scotsmen. Why should our origins and differences matter? Part of growing up was realizing that they do matter and trying to understand why.

"This book challenges some of our longest held assumptions about the differences between Anglo-Saxons and Celts – perceived differences that have informed our collective sense of identity.Orthodox history has long taught that the Romans found a uniformly Celtic population throughout the British Isles, but that the peoples of the English heartland fell victim to genocide by the Anglo-Saxon hordes during the fifth and sixth centuries.


Now Stephen Oppenheimer’s groundbreaking genetic research has revealed that the ‘Anglo-Saxon invasion’ contributed only a tiny fraction to the English gene pool. In fact, three quarters of English people can trace an unbroken line of genetic descent through their parental genes from settlers arriving long before the introduction of farming.

Synthesizing the genetic evidence with linguistics, archaeology and the historical record, Oppenheimer shows how long-term Scandinavian trade and immigration contributed the remaining quarter – mostly before the arrival of the Anglo-Saxons. These migrations may have introduced the earliest forms of English.

And what of the Celts we know – the Irish, Scots and Welsh? Scholars have traditionally placed their origins in Iron Age Central Europe, but Oppenheimer’s new data clearly show that the Welsh, Irish and other Atlanticfringe peoples derive from Ice Age refuges in the Basque country and Spain.They came by an Atlantic coastal route many thousands of years ago, though the Celtic languages we know of today were brought in by later migrations, following the same route, during Neolithic times.

Stephen Oppenheimer shows us, in his meticulous analysis, that there is in truth a deep genetic line dividing the English from the rest of the British people but that, fascinatingly, the roots of that separate identity go back not 1500 years but 6,000.The real story of the British peoples is one of extraordinary continuity and enduring lineage that has survived all onslaughts.

Stephen Oppenheimer of University of Oxford is a leading expert in the use of DNA to track migrations. His last book Out of Eden rewrote the prehistory of man’s peopling of the world in a thesis that has since been confirmed in Science. He is also the author of Eden in the East:The Drowned Continent of Southeast Asia, which challenged the orthodox view of the origins of Polynesians as rice farmers from Taiwan.

Anyone interested in knowing the identity and distribution of their male founding cluster as described in Stephen Oppenheimer's  book "The Origins of the British" may use the following link to have their Y chromosome tested for this.


'Stephen Oppenhimer's exciting new book sets a whole new agenda for prehistoric archaeologists working in Britain...essential reading for everyone interested in the origins of the Britons...British prehistory will have to be radically re-thought.'
Barry Cunliffe, Professor of European Archaeology, University of Oxford


'Stephen Oppenheimer is the supreme genetic detective fishing for evidence in the gene-pools of history. Be prepared to have all your cherished notions of English history and Britishness swept away in this fascinating and superbly illustrated account of what makes up our national character.'
Professor Clive Gamble, Department of Geography,
Royal Holloway University of London