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Anglo-Saxon Britain

Anglo-Saxon Apartheid Theory

Edited from BBC News, 18 July 2006

Research released in 2006 seemed to support the idea of a form of apartheid society in early Anglo-Saxon Britain.

The scientists behind the research believed that the small migrant population which came from Germany, the Netherlands, and Denmark established a segregated society when they arrived in eastern Britain. The researchers thought that the incomers had changed the local gene pool by using their economic advantage to out-breed the native population. This may explain the abundance of Germanic genes in England today (by the standards of research capabilities and results in 2006).

It had been established that there was a very high number of Germanic male-line ancestors in modern England's population. Genetic research had revealed that the country's gene pool contained between 50% and 100% Germanic Y-chromosomes. But this Anglo-Saxon genetic dominance puzzled experts because some archaeological and historical evidence pointed only to a relatively small number of Anglo-Saxon migrants.

Estimates ranged between 10,000 and 200,000 Anglo-Saxons migrating into what became England between the fifth and seventh centuries AD, compared to a native population of about two million.

Ethnic divide

To understand what may have happened all those years ago, UK scientists were using computer simulations to model the gene pool changes which would have occurred with the arrival of such small numbers of migrants.

The team used historical evidence which suggested that native Britons were at a substantial economic and social disadvantage when compared to the Anglo-Saxon settlers. The researchers believed this may have led to a reproductive imbalance which gave rise to an ethnic divide. Ancient texts, such as the laws of Ine, reveal that the life of an Anglo-Saxon was valued more than that of a native.

Dr Mark Thomas, an evolutionary biologist from University College London (UCL) and an author on the research, said that by testing a number of different combinations of ethnic intermarriage rates and the reproductive advantage of being Anglo-Saxon, the team found that under a very wide range of different combinations of these factors they would get the genetic and linguistic patterns which they had announced. The native Britons were genetically and culturally absorbed by the Anglo-Saxons over a period of as little as a few hundred years.

An initially small invading Anglo-Saxon elite could quickly have established themselves by having more children who survived to adulthood, thanks to their military power and economic advantage. The team believed that they also prevented the native British genes from getting into the Anglo-Saxon population by restricting intermarriage in a system of apartheid which left the country culturally and genetically Germanised.

Dor Thmas insisted that this was just what could be seen in contemporary England - a population of largely Germanic genetic origin, speaking a principally German language.

  [Modern-day England has] a population of largely Germanic genetic origin, speaking a principally German language

Dr Mark Thomas, UCL  


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