Monday, February 22, 2021

Sixth Century Holocaust

Peter Ackroyd > Anglo-Saxon civilization was created by a pandemic.

He's referring to the largely un-sung plague of the 540s, probably bubonic or pneumonic, which emerged out of Egypt and devastated the late (or sub) Roman world. 

It seems that for some reason the 'native' inhabitants of Britain, my own paternal ancestors, were more adversely affected by this pestilence than the Anglo-Saxons, at that time established mainly along the eastern side of the island. 

The population catastrophe amongst the Britons of the west permitted Saxon leaders like Ceawlin to penetrate the wealthy agricultural heartlands of Salisbury Plain towards the end of the sixth century. 

The western saxons established their own kingdom of Wessex, which would ultimately evolve into the kingdom of England. 

Meanwhile many Britons shifted across the water having concluded that life is all right in Armorica, thus founding the semi-independent cultural enclave that came to be known as Britanny. 

Some of these Bretons would be back several centuries later on as a key part of the Duke of Normandy's invading army in 1066. 

My next door neighbour during my fresher year at Girton was one Gus Le Breton. 


norm said...

It would seem the DNA says that your people or at least some of them, walked into Britain.

Inner Diablog said...

I think the point here beyond everything is that Englishness has always been a very malleable identity, which is why English nationalism has not taken hold so much as Scottish or Welsh nationalism, which are infused with slightly phoney notions of Celtic identity. One could say that the English are Britons who were first Romanised, then Anglo-Saxonised, then at least partially Vikingised, before a new conquest in 1066, comprised of French speaking Vikings and Bretons, i.e. returning Britons descended from refugees from earlier centuries. Yet even the original Britons were a compound lot, a blend of people that had 'walked' up from Iberia and people who had 'walked' across from Scandinavia. The turning point would be the adoption of English as a formal language at court and as the language of literature, yet the likes of Chaucer and Henry V, now seen as English icons, belonged to a Europeanised elite, with ancestors from SW France and Normandy.