Talk:Anglo-Saxon settlement of Britain

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To-do list[edit]

The article has been stable for a couple of weeks now, and here is a possible starting point for its improvement (add/modify as you see fit); and perhaps this is a good time to archive this talk page, to include everything above this note?

  • It is suggested that the lead have a paragraph with a longer look forward at the A-S, & so why the settlement was important. Perhaps someone will try it out.
  • Build on the description of early 5th century AS society at their arrival to cover most of the 6th century: how AS society evolved and was built into the society of c. 600 ... that gets the article to a point where AS history becomes better known, and which is already covered in other articles. Some reorganisation and rewriting is likely needed in order to do this.
  • I think the "Numbers" section (which I wrote) needs serious revision for balance. The old view of near-complete ethnic replacement need not return, and it's now accurate regarding the authorities cited, but it creates a tacit conclusion bordering on Anglo-Saxon irrelevancy to the gene pool, which it should not do. (ps - there are technical assumptions made in developing genetic analyses for interacting populations and these mitigate against using low-level data to make high-level conclusions, not least because those technical assumptions must be valid if they are to support a conclusion, and we don't know whether or not that is so. Genetics are relevant and useful, but their application should be qualified, and they are not the final word unless assumptions are proven valid, at least not IMHO)
  • Some material really belongs elsewhere, and distracts from the article topic, particularly the "background" section. I put it here because it's relevant and I couldn't fit it in where it belongs (eg, look at the Saxons and Franks articles and see if you can find a way to move information from this article to those; and where to put the info that contradicts the traditional story of the Anglo-Saxons destroying British towns?). Perhaps someone has a good suggestion, or can go ahead and just do it ...

Regards, Notuncurious (talk) 22:04, 9 February 2013 (UTC)

Tried to address all of these issues. Also removed the high project rating in the banner (it should be re-rated due to all the changes). Regards, Notuncurious (talk) 17:41, 12 February 2013 (UTC)

Source of latest edits shares perspective.[edit]

While I enjoyed reading this, the article strikes me as scholarly, rather than encyclopedic. For this critique, I did not have time to read the whole carefully, but focused on the Peoples section, noting through skimming that the tenor and style of the remainder of the article was very much the same.

That section periodically states things in a manner of scholarly opinion, without citation, such as one might find in a primary historical publication. Flags of this are use of limiters and superlatives (Bede as "only reliable and useful textual source", trachts as "among the most reliable", etc.), and in the expressed judgments regarding primary sources, rather than report of others' judgments on the sources (Bede, again, and non-authoritative Procopius).

Moreover, I found that section, as the tag states, to be a scholarly synthesis, rather than reflecting scholarly syntheses of others. That it is more in the vein of original scholarly work follows from its citing dissertation work (a conclusion from which I tone down in an earlier edit), as well as the primary sources themselves. As well, any arguments and analyses made based on selected academic histories are, in themselves, scholarly work, and the decision-making between academic sources and arguments—the selection between non-consensus views—cannot but help to bring in a particular POV.

Rather, somehow, in encyclopedic manner—in this academics view—the article needs to state the current consensus of historians on matters, or when such is lacking, present a balanced summary of prevailing views of the field. Bottom line, an analysis that gets this much into evaluating specific evidences and sources, with decisions made between them, is scholarly and not encyclopedic. Needed is summary of views based on information over which others have already sat in critical judgment. For readers, even trained ones such as I, cannot be expected to evaluate such complex archeological and textual matters on the fly (or to entrust critical judgment between them to wikipedia).

On the up side, I would say that I hope the primary contributors to this article are en route to a career or careers in this field. The effort is significant, and the writers clearly are working hard and digging deep, in the right places. Good work, just "mis-pitched" here. LeProf — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 17:34, 15 August 2013 (UTC)

A suggestion[edit]

What this , otherwise great, article is sorely missing is some of the post modern discussions on factors other than usual discourse on numbers and 'tribal' invasions. Ie the cultural and political reasons why Britain was "Anglo-saxonized". Because migrations are always occurring and people are often being moved and re-settled; yet in the 5th century the result was obviously drastic. This is especially so given the recent trend by British scholars , at least, to see the movement of north Europeans into britain as a "trickle". Moreover, a greater critique on the DNA "evidence" is required as well as addenda on stable isotope analyses. Slovenski Volk (talk) 12:47, 15 November 2013 (UTC)

731 and Muslim battle[edit]

I've deleted the note that read " .<ref>The traditional date is 731, which Bede gives himself. However, a Muslim defeat in Gaul that took place in 732 appears to be mentioned, which gives some fuzziness to the ending date.</ref><ref>Bede, Saint. The Ecclesiastical History of the English People: The Greater Chronicle; Bede's Letter to Egbert. Oxford University Press, 1994.</ref>. This refers to a passage that reads "remained for almost a fortnight. At this time* a terrible plague of Saracens ravaged Gaul with cruel bloodshed and not long afterwards* they received the due reward of their treachery* in the same kingdom. In the same year the holy man of God". The note on this in The Ecclesiastical History of the English People (Oxford World's Classics) by Bede, Judith McClure, Roger Collins and Bertram Colgrave says "not long afterwards: the only events this can refer to are the defeat of the first Arab attack on Gaul at Toulouse in 721 or that of another Arab raid at the battle of Poitiers in October (?) of 732 or 733. If it were the latter, this would represent a late revision or posthumous editorial addition to the text of Book V. Bede's lack of contemporary information about Arab attacks on Gaul is also apparent in the Chronicle."[1] This does not suggest a problem with the dating of 731. Dougweller (talk) 14:49, 24 December 2013 (UTC)

Stenton and Procopius[edit]

We should mention Procopius if only because of his comment about the Frisians, but we shouldn't be using Stenton. There are better and more recent sources. This source[2] take a more skeptical look at Procopius. [3] is less skeptical but points out he was getting his information from Frankish Ambassadors to the Imperial court. This is Stenton[4]. Procopius and the Sixth Century By Averil Cameron looks important. Look at pages 213 onward[5] - he was obviously very confused, writing about "Brittia" and "Bretannia" without realising they are both Britain. And finally, Thompson, E.A. (1980): "Procopius on Brittia and Britannia", in: Classical Quarterly 30, pp. 498-507.*. With all these good sources, why use Stenton on Procopius, especially as he is more or less ignored by modern writers. Dougweller (talk) 16:43, 24 December 2013 (UTC)

Native names in Anglo-Saxon dynasties[edit]

What might be a useful addition is mention that Celtic personal names are found early in some Anglo-Saxon dynasties - Cerdic, Ceawlin and Caedwalla in the West Saxon dynasty and Caedbaed in the Lindissi (Catherine Hills (2003) Origins of the English, Duckworth, pp. 55, 105). This argues for the partial survival of British elites as well as peasants. Also the small numbers of ships described in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle as bringing early chieftains to Britain, obviously containing war bands and not peasants.

The argument about numbers, ie. you need a large population to enable raiding, is not very convincing. All the evidence points to large populations of unwarlike peasants ruled by small groups of elite warriors - the gesithcund. Peasants ploughed and reaped, they provided a surplus to support the warrior elite, they didn't take up arms themselves. It did not matter what ethnicity the peasants were or what language they spoke, as long as they paid their renders to the elites. A large population of British peasants could support an Anglo-Saxon warband and enable it to make war-like raids.

There is also a central problem with the title and intro. of the article, which both presuppose that there was an "Anglo-Saxon settlement of Britain", when some sources used later in the article challenge this as an event. The title may be unavoidable, but some mention of scepticism amongst some archaeologists (in particular) about this as an event/process should be prominently introduced in the lead section. Urselius (talk) 15:02, 2 January 2014 (UTC)

The archaeological evidence points to agricultural layers in the east of the island being abandoned during a period which corresponds to the early anglo-saxon period in these regions. The skepticism amongst archaeologists is overstated. A small illiterate warrior elite doesn't assimilate a large settled population with writing, especially not when said warrior elite adopted the religion of the natives. Unless you want to argue that english is linguistic fairy dust. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 15:58, 14 February 2014 (UTC)
Recent pollen analysis work shows that there was no widescale reversion of any area of Britain to secondary forestation following the end of Roman rule. Some wetlands that had been drained, presumably to produce grain for the Roman troops on the Rhine frontier, were abandoned. However, this was agriculturally marginal land only made profitable by the demand of the Roman army for grain. Once this demand had ceased there was no profit in working this expensive agriculture. Urselius (talk) 20:35, 14 February 2014 (UTC)

Section is still bare[edit]

From Jutes...onwards to the end of that section this article reads rather barely. All the examples come from Yorke 2006 only. — Preceding unsigned comment added by J Beake (talkcontribs) 19:55, 2 January 2014 (UTC)


The more I read of this article the less I like its structure. It mostly reads as if it had been written in 1950, or earlier. It uses more recent sources, but these overwhelmingly are taken from academics with rather conservative views. Even some of the books I have read which are more progressive (eg. Higham) seem to have been selectively fished for their relatively few conservative remarks.

This article needs to state at the beginning that the academic community is deeply divided over the nature of the Anglicisation of lowland Britain. It should then be structured to clearly separate conservative mass migration hypothesis matter from the more radical ideas on cultural and linguistic shift without mass migration. The 'elite dominance model' of acculturation should also be included somewhere. Also there are far too many disputable assertions presented as though they were facts.

Is anyone going to debate this, and my earlier input, with me? Urselius (talk) 10:22, 3 January 2014 (UTC)

I don't know enough about the detail of the topic to be able to debate or suggest too much myself, but I agree that the article should highlight the differing mainstream views on the issue. However, this is currently referred to fairly early on. The second para of the lead refers to the traditional characterisation of an invasion (implying there has been some revision or dispute about that thesis). The third para explicitly opens by explicitly saying: "There is ongoing debate ... as to how and why the Anglo-Saxon settlements were successful and as to the full nature of the relationships between the Anglo-Saxons and Romano-Britons, including to what extent the incomers displaced or supplanted the existing inhabitants". Admittedly it then, in the main body itself, kind of loses track of the issue until the final "Number of migrants" section. As you say that could arguably be better integrated across the page as a whole. N-HH talk/edits 11:29, 3 January 2014 (UTC)
Thanks. The problem is that the article pays lip-service to the debate, but then presents various aspects as though there was no doubt about them. Some academics in the field credit the initial Anglicisation of parts of Britain to cultural exchange between elites across the North Sea, involving little in the way of population movement. In this context, to then present the distrubution of brooch types etc. as indicating mass tribal immigration to certain regions as an established fact is not useful, and is confusing to the reader. I think that the lead needs to be accurately reflected in the rest of the article. The most logical lay-out, I would submit, is to follow the lead with a section on the historical sources - which are not particularly numerous - then explore the evidence for a traditional mass migration model, followed by sections on the evidence for alternative models not reliant on mass migration. Urselius (talk) 12:18, 3 January 2014 (UTC)
I think it probably needs to be borne in mind that some of those who created and developed this article are no longer active editors (as with many other articles); and many of those who are still active are less well informed (in terms of being able to access sources) than you seem to be. If you were to re-edit and improve the article, based on reliable sources, in the way you suggest, many of us may well see it as an improvement. Worth a try? Ghmyrtle (talk) 09:35, 4 January 2014 (UTC)
Looking over it, the article is well referenced, but commentaries have been added in a less than ordered way. There are some gaps in coverage, but in essence it is the structure, or lack of structure, that is the main problem. I may cut and paste it to my sandbox and see if it can be rearranged to better advantage. Urselius (talk) 11:49, 4 January 2014 (UTC)
And references can be deployed however anyone wants to deploy them. Many WP pages have impressive footnotes but in fact are pushing fringe ideas or giving them equal weight with mainstream ideas. Too many WP editors have an overly simplistic view of sourcing policy and believe that if you can "source" a statement to a seeming authority, in it goes, without regard for overall balance, presentation or structure. Often that can lead to content that's as flawed and misleading as someone writing it all off the top of their head without any sources or footnotes. With this sort of topic in particular, where there's a lack of definitive evidence and a lot of disagreement among academics, it's incredibly difficult of course to ensure a balanced write-up. Anyway, good luck with trying; it would be good if someone else with a bit of knowledge could have a look too. As you'll note I tweaked some of the recent additions to make it more dull and appear a bit less judgmental. N-HH talk/edits 12:01, 4 January 2014 (UTC)
I have tried to rewrite the lead in the hope that it is an improvement. Urselius (talk) 16:47, 4 January 2014 (UTC)

Capelli genetics paper - wrong interpretation[edit]

"Research in 2003 on Y-chromosome variation suggested that a considerably high contribution to the modern English gene pool (50–100%) which suggested a large settlement of people. Capelli, C. et al. 2003 A Y chromosome census of the British Isles. Curr. Biol. 13, 979–984. (doi:10.1016/S0960-9822(03)00373-7)."

This is wrong, I have read the paper and one of the authors is a personal friend of mine, the paper does not give any outright percentages but presents two graphs. One shows the positions of the sample points relative to three fixed points - an Irish Basque Welsh point taken as indigenous, a Norwegian point and a North German/Denmark point. The second graph is of a simulation with projected % inputs of non-indigenous genepools. The reader then has to transcribe the positions of the sample points (eg York or Faversham or Orkneys) from the first graph into the second graph to estimate the percentages (and the error circles are quite large). Most English sample points fall in the range 20% to 40% Germano-Danish input with York an outlier at about 60% - and Orkney and Shetland as outliers with about 60% Norwegian.

I think the editor mixed up the conclusions of Weale et al. and Capelli et al. The Capelli paper used more sample points and a larger number of individual samples - so has greater authority than the Weale paper. Urselius (talk) 17:43, 3 January 2014 (UTC)

I agree, including my mistake, maybe this section is now better though and we can work towards a clearer style Lets make some constructive changes then ...before I started my imperfect suggested changes this page was a mess ... it is getting better but we probably need a way forward. Personally i am very happy with how you changed my attempt. No edit wars here. J Beake (talk) 20:54, 4 January 2014 (UTC)

Recent and forthcoming changes[edit]

I think that I am responsible for most/all of the criticisms recently mentioned. I replaced an article that I saw as dated and ideological with something more informative and historically relevant, the success of which is of course debatable. It was quickly updated credibly and creditably by N-HH et al, but these changes were not received with appropriate collegiality, a fact that surely hindered further improvement until now.

I encourage Urselius et. al. to continue their good efforts to create an article that gives an accurate telling of the history and presents material in a way that can stand up to competent criticism ... the process is evolutionary in the best possible way. I look forward to reading your work.

The article I inserted was never intended to be a finished product, and there is much to be added (aside from the perceived corrections in what is there now) to push uncertain ancient history into the light. The early 5th century chiefdoms/kingdoms aren't covered, nor the evolution of trading centers that became towns, etc. I figured that these would emerge with the creation of "background" articles that address them (eg, perhaps based on recent publications like the Lincolnshire-supported work of Thomas Green; and on Helena Hammerow's book on the evolution of towns in Denmark and the Netherlands and Norway, which seem to be the precursors to modern towns, which do not seem to owe a legacy to Roman-era towns). New "background" articles that contributed to this one include the Frisii, Chauci, Roman departure from Britain, Roman-era Wales, and others, as well as several substantial contributions to other articles. More are needed.

Again, please proceed with the improvements, and if there is something that looks too POV, or looks to have been cherry-picked, then simply improve it with an edit note, without any concern that it needs to be extensively justified on the talk page so as to allay push-back. If I can be of any help, or if you have any questions, please leave a note on my talk page ... I check it from time to time. (I'm back to my extended break) Regards, Notuncurious (talk) 21:52, 4 January 2014 (UTC)

Suggested Improvements[edit]

Maybe we can have here a list of the improvements we would like to see?

For me the key to this is to capture the crux of issue with the settlement.

1. My view is the new section on movement of people vs culture is the great fulcrum to the article. This still needs to be clearer in its style but I hope it brings the debate out of the 1950s as people hoped.

2. Now I think it needs a more direct and shortened introduction and maybe a section on background. The settlement needs to be contextualised for people who will still be coming to this topic with primary school invasion theory in their minds (which is still taught). To them this page is confusing. So I propose a clear Invasion vs Settlement section where we can just give a roadmap towards the importance of the next sections. For example: If settlement, is it movement of actual people? If people came not to grab land - why did they come and why didn't they meet resistance (I love Harke's joke to Pryor that this is a Farmer's view)? If it isn't an imposed culture how did the culture develop? If people came - how many?

Then we could have other questions explored: Why didnt the Anglo-Saxons become Britons? What continued? Was their some sort of apartheid between communities in some places? Not to mention the biggy not yet written: What did the Anglo-Saxon Settlement do for us? I mean, place names, continental genre of literature, etc. J Beake (talk) 10:06, 5 January 2014 (UTC)

The major choice, in my opinion, is how to lay out the article; as you say the two main theories (or their most extreme versions) should be directly contrasted. One way of doing so is to have separate sections on each viewpoint, or alternatively, there might be sections based on topics, such as historical sources, language/linguistics, archaeology and genetics each with the interpretations placed on the available evidence by the various scholarly "camps". Urselius (talk) 11:51, 5 January 2014 (UTC)
I agree, these are the choices. At first, I was worried by the latter approach you describe because people like to use an interdisciplinary approach. However I warming to it. I feel that the problematic issues need to be tackled and worry that these can be lost unless they are set in context. The task would be to outline the sections as you describe and to ensure that journey is described taking the reader from the assumptions to the "camps". I feel these camps are not as far apart from each other, as popular belief is from them. (To show the stuff being taught in primary schools as fact you maybe interested to see ) J Beake (talk) 21:51, 5 January 2014 (UTC)
The day we base articles on primary school webpages, rather than on up-to-date scholarly sources, is the day I finally abandon all hope here.....! Ghmyrtle (talk) 21:54, 5 January 2014 (UTC)
"Angle and Saxon came up over the sea's broad brim, seeking Britain,
Wise warsmiths, they overcame the Welsh,
Noble warriors, they took the land."
That was the view in the 10th century - from the end of the poem The Battle of Brunnanburh (my rather loose translation) - it is a pity that so many modern viewpoins are just as simplistic. Urselius (talk) 13:52, 6 January 2014 (UTC)

You might want to look at the middle section of the Migration and the formation of kingdoms (400–600) section in the Anglo-Saxon England article, as the basis for a Background section for this article, as it discusses the evolving invasion/ migration model. It would need to be developed to include some of the latest DNA studies. Wilfridselsey (talk) 16:14, 6 January 2014 (UTC)

Earliest Anglo-Saxon Society[edit]

The final section I feel needs an overhaul is the Anglo-Saxon society section. My suggestion is for a complete overhaul with sections not on the earliest Anglo-Saxon society, but Early Anglo-Saxon Culture. The sub-sections could be: Language, Religion, Clothing, Political forms, Rural life, Food, Metalwork. J Beake (talk) 23:09, 15 January 2014 (UTC)

Yes, it isn't very well structured. There is also the hole in Pryor's argument - he sees influences from the Continent affecting a society which had lost much of its social differentiation - but he doesn't expain how a bunch of farmers, reduced to subsistence or near-subsistence agriculture, interact across the North Sea to gain these cultural and linguistic infuences. Therefore, there is a big gap from the point of view of both the 'Victorian-style' traditionalists viewing the early Anglo-Saxons as egalitarian "farmers with spears" and the people in Pryor's camp on the one side, and the supporters of "elite dominance" on the other. Without elites (and Gildas, Bede and the A-S Chronicle mention nothing but elites and their deeds) there can be no elite dominance. Personally, I cannot see any Continental influences entering Britain without the involvement of chieftains and their retinues - given that in one Anglo-Saxon law-code an army was any group of armed men numbering more than 30 - it isn't surprising that these early elites have left little archaeological trace of themselves. Urselius (talk) 08:25, 16 January 2014 (UTC)
Another thing, I think that all the DNA evidence would be better placed together rather than in two sections. Urselius (talk) 08:27, 16 January 2014 (UTC)
I am glad we have an agreed way forward for this section. I also agree about the DNA. Tightening this section, including other DNA studies, mentioning the few other studies that have conducted Strontium analysis, etc., would require a change of name from "Y-Chromosome evidence" to "Molecular evidence".J Beake (talk) 09:22, 16 January 2014 (UTC)
I was worried about how to introduce the tooth enamel stuff, useful but not DNA. There was a study on early Anglo-Saxon period burials in, I think, NE England, where there were incomers amongst the locals, but they came from western Britain not northern Germany! I haven't seen the paper itself though. Urselius (talk) 13:31, 16 January 2014 (UTC)
I have had a go at this - as far as I can see there are only three studies of note, of which only two give any relevant information. I think it is useful extra evidence, but my view is a snapshot in one or two cemetaries is just that a snapshot.J Beake (talk) 13:40, 16 January 2014 (UTC)

Table of possibilities[edit]

This appears to be pure original research - see WP:NOR. Unless it can be sourced it should be deleted. Sorry about that. Dougweller (talk) 15:35, 21 January 2014 (UTC)

It may appear like this at the moment but I can assure you isnt research - all the possibilities come from research. I am adding extra citations. The calculations are just simple mathematics. My task is to help bring this whole article into the present - I have outlined some of the things I have done, and with the help of one other editor we have increased the quality rating. I have been referencing and tidying but the whole article will need more citations and cohesion. Please either contact me directly if you are unsure about something or talk here. Thanks J Beake (talk) 21:16, 21 January 2014 (UTC)
"The table below summarises some of the evidence and shows the numbers that are attained when a different starting dates, population rates, migration numbers are used based on the work of Helena Hamerow and Robert Hedges." It needs to be made explicit in the article what this means. If it means that you are using their figures and results, then please give page numbers. If it means you are using their methods, then it is WP:NOR. I don't mean to be rude and there is some good work being done here, but it's easy to pass the boundary between actually reflecting what our sources clearly say and interpreting or using what they say to make an argument. Dougweller (talk) 21:32, 21 January 2014 (UTC)
Well I appreciate the comment i would hope you would be patient till I have finished working. I am not using the methods the pages of hodges is 81-83. All I have added is simple mathematics which is like Paris is the capital of France. Please don't try and see things that are not there but I apologise if i have upset your sensitives. I have added a few thousands words to the article and painstakingly ordering the references. I would love to think that you are not just deleting and giving me a lecture. J Beake (talk) 21:45, 21 January 2014 (UTC)
If you prefer i will take this section into my sandbox till its complete.

J Beake (talk) 21:46, 21 January 2014 (UTC)

Thanks very much for the offer. You haven't upset my sensitivities, but the edit sent my OR antenna quivering. I guess given the fact that you've responded here to explain what you are doing will show anyone else who comes along that you are trying to reference everything you do. Thanks for your fast response. Dougweller (talk) 21:50, 21 January 2014 (UTC)
Thanks for that we are just trying to unravel a subject that many scholars tackle ... I would hope I could encourage people to tackle things as well, or be supportive when I or others are not quite there. — Preceding unsigned comment added by J Beake (talkcontribs) 21:58, 21 January 2014 (UTC)

Taken back into sandbox ... "be bold" we are told .. why did I bother. Wouldn't life be better if people just tried not to sound so patronising.J Beake (talk) 22:53, 21 January 2014 (UTC)

I am really really sorry you feel this way, and I did say there was no need to sandbox it. I don't know what else I can say to convince you I'm not being patronising. Dougweller (talk) 06:09, 22 January 2014 (UTC)
Unfortunately, Wikipedia often raises problems that inhibit the freedom to edit as we might desire to do, even for the obvious betterment of an article. Development of a thick skin or a sinuous, nay serpentine, ability in diplomacy is often advantageous. Urselius (talk) 11:50, 22 January 2014 (UTC)
Skin thickened, I realise of the two ways I could have read the issue, I read it the wrong way. I am sorry, I think it was too crude a table - and for the readers help it needs good grounding, which is best sorted in sandbox. I will make this section better and help the article get to grips with how the numbers have been understood .... it is one of the trickiest bits because but I feel in understanding the methodology and then getting to grips with how scholars have understood the numbers, this will help the article understand the tricky nature of the figures.

By the way for those interested I am rereading Malcolm Gladwell's book The Tipping Point, it remains me how the sociological element in the Anglo-Saxon settlement is the missing link. For those who are interested he outlines the phenomenon of how large scale sociological events can be changed by little things.

He points out three aspects needed in what he calls a social epidemic.

  • The power of a few - which remains me of the "elite" in this article, but maybe also the role of Irish/british monks not covered especially in the North, or the possible impact of the individuals that put their name to areas in the Tribal Hideage.
  • The Stickiness Factor - The specific content of a message that renders its impact memorable. For me this is the message of vows and loyalty - as opposed to the broken vows spoken of by Gildas.
  • The Power of Context - "Social Epidemics" are sensitive to the conditions and circumstances of the times and places in which they occur - the time was right for those in rural britain to have a change from the high social inequality between the detached rural elite and local people... to an environment of the loyalty and relative freedom of the Coerl.... purple patch. J Beake (talk) 19:44, 23 January 2014 (UTC)
The article is hugely improved, hardly the same beast. I read "stickiness factor" as 'sickness factor' and had visions of the 'Yellow Plague' and Maelgwn Gwynnedd's rather comical death! Urselius (talk) 20:27, 23 January 2014 (UTC)
Vastly improved, and thank you. I envy you. I've spent the last couple of editing hours going through an article tediously to make sure I've identified all of a large amount of copyvio. Not at all constructive but necessary - but also certainly not as rewarding as improving an article as much as J Beake has. Dougweller (talk) 22:01, 23 January 2014 (UTC)
-> What is also missing is a clear chronological 'development'- ie from the earliest ppossible presence of Saxon mercenaries, to a discussion of the earliest clear evidence for acutal Anglo-Saxon settlement (ie north of the Thames), its contrast to that of the south of the Thames where "Roman' artefatcs continue longer, as well as the differences between lowland and highland England in the 5th century. (talk) 00:02, 24 January 2014 (UTC)
Good point ... I have been thinking about what to do about regionalism ... there is room in the settlement section for "regional differences" I think it needs to explain Dorcester question.. as well as the differences you outline. Maybe even outline some of Laycock's ideas. — Preceding unsigned comment added by J Beake (talkcontribs) 20:03, 24 January 2014 (UTC)
Agreed, this is impressive work and a useful and informative replacement for the article's previous incarnation. The highest compliments to J Beake's ongoing effort, which is taking us to where we need to be. Regards, Notuncurious (talk) 20:56, 24 January 2014 (UTC)
I'd also like to express my support for J Beake's recent work, and congratulate him/her on growing a more tortoise-like carapace. It is essential for any kind of sustained happiness as a truly productive editor. Richard Keatinge (talk) 12:26, 25 January 2014 (UTC)

Numbers section[edit]

I have been thinking about this section and I have a proposal: Should we change this into a section on 'Migration & aculturation theories'.

What I mean is there are maybe 4 prominent theories that bring together all the evidence and suggest a synthesis; answering the main questions of, how many and when. These are (in my opinion - please feel free to comment):

Two regarding numbers

  • Harke & Thomas: near equal ratio & apartheid
  • Lucy, Hodges et al: Small elite replacement, continuity

Two regarding acculturation

  • Higham: early dominance - quick acculturation but continuity
  • Dark: longer Briton - one of gradual change and cultural mixing

What do think? J Beake (talk) 13:23, 30 January 2014 (UTC)

The question of numbers is just one aspect of "Movement of peoples or movement of culture" (incidentally, I think a question mark is needed at the end of this heading) and both could be placed in a 'Migration & aculturation theories' section. Urselius (talk) 14:49, 30 January 2014 (UTC)
Do you mean take out the short introduction of "Movement of peoples or movement of culture" and place it in a new 'Migration & aculturation theories' section with numbers, letting all the evidence sections stand alone by promoting them up a level? If so I think this is a great solution.

J Beake (talk) 15:12, 30 January 2014 (UTC)

In short - yep :) Urselius (talk) 15:51, 30 January 2014 (UTC)
Ok I will give that a go, I think. As it makes sense. — Preceding unsigned comment added by J Beake (talkcontribs) 16:09, 30 January 2014 (UTC)

Questions in section headings[edit]

Can we please change these? See MOS:HEADINGS - "Headings should not contain questions." Thanks. Dougweller (talk) 16:02, 1 February 2014 (UTC)

Done, the phrasing might not be optimal, however. Urselius (talk) 16:47, 1 February 2014 (UTC)


The article is too willing to give the benefit of the doubt to Stephen Oppenheimer, whose studies are generally poorly received by population geneticists (blood of the pacific got several bad reviews), and both linguists and archaeologists have panned his british material for questionable conclusions (he obviously doesn't know what material culture means). He's also gotten conclusions which are at odds with those of other population geneticists (although on the whole population genetics of the kind done are of questionable interest and accuracy for any group that's not very isolated especially for tracing millenia old roots). Being fair I'll pretend that the interest in him is because he's a vulgarizer, and not because he tends to make english and flemish nationalists happy with his linguistic absurdities. However if people insist on him staying (and removing all references to him is really fucking easy), pick a book that doesn't insist english was identifiably separate from german a thousand years before the well documented actual split. If he's even acknowledged in the literature, which is rarely, it tends to be negative; most of the interest in him comes from outside the sciences he mangles. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 15:56, 14 February 2014 (UTC)

I am not sure swearing helps your argument. I am not convinced by Oppenheimer's argument. Note that the following is stated - "However Y chromosome evidence relies on the archaeological and historical evidence for interpretation, and there is a danger of creating a circular argument. Therefore scenarios that are not justified by other evidence or are created to account for the historical evidence have not been universally accepted."
Oppenheimer he has been picked up by J.E. Pattison and others as providing an alternative to Weale and Capelli, and as such should be noted. Thanks for proving that I was balanced in my use of all sides of the argument.
The real issue was picked up by Catherine Hills (see Origins of the English). All geneticist need to give a convincing case of why they are convinced that the Y chromosome evidence is relates so much to one mass migration. I think Catherine Hills knows "what material culture is". Bottom line yes he does appear because he gives an extreme view and as stated there is a need in this subject to understand the range of views, although I think a concensus is beginning to form of this question around the middle to lower numbers. J Beake (talk) 15:29, 16 February 2014 (UTC)

Fostering, hostages and refugees[edit]

Both British and Anglo-Saxon societies indulged in the related social institutions of fosterage and hostage taking. Often a vassal chieftain would send some or all of his sons to the court of his overlord, to be raised and trained for war. The foster son was effectively a hostage for his father's behaviour, but also benefitted from being near to the source of political power. If an overlord were Anglo-Saxon and the vassal British this would also be a powerful way of anglicising the families of local British elites. It is also recorded that a number of Northumbrian kings sought refuge at Celtic courts, in Gwynnedd and Elmet and in Ireland. We know that King Oswiu was exiled in Ireland at a young age, and while there he seems to have become thoroughly integrated into local society, gaining an Irish nickname and probably a wife. Bede recorded these exiles because they were of Northumbrian kings, presumably the opposite happened and British princes sought refuge at Anglo-Saxon courts. I have not come across these being highlighted as methods of anglicisation in any literature I have read, which is odd as they seem rather obvious. Urselius (talk) 16:08, 16 February 2014 (UTC)

Nice thought. I had been thinking also about whether the article reads too "peaceful". We may need to say more about how people, especially the warrior / elite class, lived. There is evidence for trades/raids/hostages/tribute. I think the shifting nature of settlement and lifestyle in this period is a factor. This all would have created a complex pattern of loyalities and activities, tributes and family/tribal rivalries - hostages are a natural part of this. The most interesting part of the Spong Hill excavation is the over 2000 differently designed beads. The differentiation that went on in the early period was large and the possiblities of refugees and hostages even at the micro level. However these settlements and others show a large continuity. Could the people have spread, North and west into the frontier lands - Mercia? By the way we know that the Franks used these tactics as a matter of normal practice - and interesting it came from the need to find revenue, as no-one would pay Tax. probably why there isnt more about is that scholars use the word Slave and maybe your word hostage is what they sometimes mean - for example Patrick was taken in "slave raiding", but in reality if the raiders could have got what they wanted by selling him back I am sure they would have. How much slave raiding happened in early lowland england? Possibly a lot. J Beake (talk) 16:24, 17 February 2014 (UTC)
Lavelle, Ryan. "The use and abuse of hostages in later Anglo‐Saxon England." Early Medieval Europe 14.3 (2006): 269-296. Looks at the practice later in the period.J Beake (talk) 16:24, 17 February 2014 (UTC)
Nice find, I'll check it out. Urselius (talk) 19:52, 17 February 2014 (UTC)

A little note about Y Chromosome[edit]

Outside of the scope of this article, I think it is a real shame that people don't understand Thomas et al's paper. Particularly having seen Mark Thomas on TV, nor does Mark really get it I think. Let me put here the basics of what I am on about.

They did a rather nice piece of statitical analysis.

  • They looked at the populations Na & Nb where A is Incoming chromosomes and B is Indiguous chromosomes
  • They made S the reproductive advantage, where A/B = 1+S/1
  • They considered initial populations of 5%/10%/20%
  • Also those available to have child producing relations between communities (really only incoming women to indigenous men)
  • They looked at up to 15 generations and considered the present population of Y Chromosome possessors as being 50%.
  • Unfortunately they were fixated in the paper with 20% as an initial settlement number.

The results

  • the most selective advantage is 2%, meaning for every 49 "Indigenous" there is 51 "Incoming" boys born, which is very very low in my opinion when you consider economic advantage, opportunity health and age - not to mention preferences for boys in anglo-saxon culture - with possible abandonment of girls. I would expect the real figure to be be more 8-10%.
  • 10% indigenous men having the chance (forget laws) to marry/procreate with incoming women. This means for 150 years mostly only the elite indigenous could marry incoming. This is very possible.

The answer is around 4/5 (80-125 years) generations would take from 20% to 50% holders of Y Chromosomes, but line seems very geometrical in 7/8 (140-200 years) with the above parameters it seems would reach 50% from just over 1% initial. That means a population of 10,000-30,000.

Therefore it seems to me that very low initial populations can reach 40% plus percentage ( my prefer percentage, taking the Danes into account) just with the advantage of young, fit and desirable people - and that they are mostly men. (Without the need to say there was any political or law-based apartheid-like structure) More inportantly it proves how dynamic populations can be and the power of geometric progressions. J Beake (talk) 16:08, 20 February 2014 (UTC)

I would just like to go through some of the really huge holes in the scientific rigour of the population genetics studies that have been published so far. Most of them compare Irish/Welsh to North German/Dane, with the English in the middle. They are comparing just three variables and if you compare just three populations you will find apparently simple relationships between them. What all these studies needed to do was to also look at Belgian and North French samples, and compare all of these to an outgroup, such as the Finns. I suspect that much genetic input to Britain that has been imputed to historically recorded North German and Danish incomers is merely Continental versus insular, and not specific to the putative home of the post-Roman Germanic incomers. Also there is a blythe assumption made, with not a jot of evidence, that modern Irish and Welsh marker frequencies are reflective of pre-Roman Eastern England. This is appalingly bad science! The Trinovantes were much closer to the Continent than the Welsh or Irish tribes, and there is no reason to suppose that they did not have a much higher level of Continental gene marker frequencies than the Irish did even in 43AD. Urselius (talk) 18:22, 20 February 2014 (UTC)
About your specific point, I think that you are missing out the demonstrable porosity of Englishness. Once natives could 'pass for English' then any reproductive advantage attaching to Englishness as such would then be recruited to the propagation of their native genes.
I agree about the initial science and the amount of assumptions in the first studies are "polo-mint" shaped. I think the problem in the second paper is that they describe a uniform process.
  • I think the first two generations must be different and the rate of population increase problem very large. Like "Americans during the war" - overpaid, oversexed, and over Here
  • Crazily they also assume the generations were 25 years - Lakenheath man who was 30 when he died in c. 500 should tell us that life was shorter and partnering multiple.
  • I agree with the Englishness point however to what extent did the Chromosomes follow this, in that what would have been better for a local landowner with daughters. In fact I think many fathers would have wanted daughters so they were linked to the new patrons. Suddenly genetically these families become "incomers".

It all goes to show that they research seems to prove the exact opposite to what they conclude J Beake (talk) 19:17, 20 February 2014 (UTC)

New source[edit]

This article looks interesting and relevant, but I'll leave any editing to those more knowledgeable than me. Ghmyrtle (talk) 10:35, 27 February 2014 (UTC)

Thanks Ghmyrtle ... its seems the more strontium results we get the few non-local results we find. However the issue that Sam Lucy found is the period for earliest Germanic settlement seems to be earlier than 450. This means that of course people like the Lakenheath warrior who dies in 500 ad aged around 30 and who was located as local still could have been second or third generation. Yet every year the numbers lessen .. Mr Harke now thinks at the most 100,000 a few years ago he thought over a million. Personally I think the numbers could be between 10-20,000, but we need many more continental strontium results. I think the weak link in high figures notion is that they assume A-S genetics were just a little more successful. I think that is vastly underestimating. 10,000 with an increase of 2% per year (same as India today) makes 500,000 in 200 years J Beake (talk) 23:44, 7 March 2014 (UTC)


Longtime reader, first time commenter. Be gentle.

An academic linguist, I'm brushing up my non-specialist knowledge of the history of England, having tumbled on Francis Pryor's Britain AD, which argues strongly against the Anglo-Saxon invasion & displacement story canonical in history of English texts. I had already heard of Oppenheimer's stuff, so I knew there was a fight going on somewhere, but hadn't found reports of the action. This page is a wonderful touchstone for me to explore from, so thanks to its creators and shepherds. However ...

Doing exactly that exploration, I found that a significant part of the section titled "'Saxon' political ascendency in Britain" is plagiarized from Nick Higham's article in History Compass 2:1, DOI: 10.1111/j.1478-0542.2004.00085.x. For instance, the clause "...Kenneth Dark, who has argued that Britain should not be divided..." appears verbatim in both. I haven't checked if any of the other sections on the page are plagiarized.

I actually like the text, in both places. It seems to present a balanced summary of two reasoned interpretations of the non-dispositive evidence. I doubt, though, that this is a WP-sanctioned method for achieving that end.

Now that plagiarism has put me over the tipping point into creating a user identity, I'll start trying to contribute where my specialty gives me standing. This, however, is not such an area. Can I leave it to those of you supervising?

Side issue: Francis Pryor reports (p 212-3) a tooth enamel study by Paul Budd & team that may be the one Urselius was thinking of: 10 of 24 dead in an E. Heslington Anglian cemetery came from west of the Pennines, but contra Urselius' memory 4 of the 24 were in fact from Old Anglia or Scandinavia. However, all 4 were female, and 1 was juvenile, a situation seemingly unaccounted for by the fostering/hostage hypothesis of language shift Urselius and J Beake were discussing. Still, addressing this conflict seems like original research rather than WP material. Frphnflng (talk) 21:35, 21 May 2014 (UTC)

As Dark is prominently named in this section, perhaps the easiest way to avoid plagiarism is to put the relevant passages in quotations. I do not have the work(s), so cannot check the wording myself. The fostering discussion was just me expressing incredulity that no one in the field has explored this obvious (to me anyway) method of acculturation. There was no intent to include it in the article itself. I can easily imagine the son of a British chieftain raised as a fosterling/hostage in an Anglo-Saxon king's retinue being thoroughly anglicised - if he then took over his father's lands there would be a single generation change of language and culture at the top of a British territory, with no blood spilled. Urselius (talk) 07:47, 22 May 2014 (UTC

Good to have your input. I think this is the only part of this section that has been there for more than a year. I think if it is a direct quote that was never properly ascribed, we can do as Urselius says. Higham, as often he does, sums up the situation well. As for your linguistic background, what do you think of PeterSchrijver, Language contact and the origins of the Germanic languages. This theory seems to provide a clear linguistic model. (talk) 08:15, 25 June 2014 (UTC)


I note earlier some protestation was (rightly) made about the weighting Oppenheimer (and Sykes) views are given in this article. To say that too much of a benefit of doubt has been given to him is to put it mildly. It could very well be that his 'autuchthonist- palaeolithic' views are dead wrong. Aside from a poor interpretation of the data, they are undoubtedly ideologically biased on the prevailing 'immobilist' zeitgeist in British scholarship. Coupled with: his view that R1b is some palaeolithic - "Basque" marker. Apart frmo the fact that there were no "basques" in the palaeolithic, the mounting ancient DNA evidence suggests that R1b spread through western Europe much much later. Certainly, isotopic evidence from the Bronze Age shows that whislt some settlements indeed showed overwhelmingly 'local' signatures' others (eg Cliffs End) had as high as 60% 'immigrant' proportions. Clearly, the Bronze Age, and even into the Iron Age, there was quite a bit of moving around going on, by specialist smiths and their families, etc, who were afforded special privillages , and perhaps even were responsible for the introduction of Celtic languages into Britain. Slovenski Volk (talk) 15:06, 6 October 2014 (UTC) .

The weighting seems quite even to me, Weale is given as much prominence as Oppenheimer and Sykes, more indeed as his material is presented first. There are as many opinions on the matter as there are investigators in the field. Urselius (talk) 10:25, 7 October 2014 (UTC)
HI Urselius. Thanks for your reply. I wasn't necessarily suggesting that more weighting should be given to Weale and more 'pro-migratory' papers; but rather, there is no mention of the drawbacks and pitfalls in all genetic studies dealing with topics such as this. Ie mention needs to be made of the type 'a' and type 'b' problems (to use Marek Zvelibil's critique on "genetic evidence") associated with egentics studies, problems with dating, stochasticity of haploid markers, the a priori & post hoc interrpretation of data, etc, which are part and parcel of the approaches taken by geneticists when dabbling with historical-archaeological reconstrcutions. I highlighted Oppenheimer simply because his results are the most widely known, but also the most outdated. There is no mention of recent anceint DNA results here. (talk) 12:10, 7 October 2014 (UTC)

Hi, I think that any information directly linked to the subject of the article should be included, but reflections on the methodology of population genetics and ancient DNA studies probably are not directly germane. Personally, I think a lot of such work is badly designed and performed and the data dubiously interpreted, also such concepts as 'mitochondrial DNA clocks' and 'mitochondrial Eve' are pernicious and over-hyped. However, I think that articles more specialised in this field of work (such as Genetic history of the British Isles) are better suited to a critique of methodology. Urselius (talk) 12:40, 7 October 2014 (UTC)

You're quite right Slovenski Volk (talk) 13:34, 7 October 2014 (UTC)

Nothing on foederati[edit]

A paragraph begins: "Confirmation of the use of Anglo-Saxons as foederati or federate troops has been seen as coming from burials of Anglo-Saxons wearing military equipment of a type issued to late Roman forces which have been found both ..." but afaics there has been absolutely no previous mention of foederati at all, nor are they explained later. There wasn't even a link until I added it just now. I know this article has been through the wars, have the 2-3 paras on this needed fallen victim in an edit war? End of Roman rule in Britain is just as remarkably silent on the subject. Johnbod (talk) 12:06, 2 November 2014 (UTC)

A number of recent writers have cast doubt on the ethnicity of the people buried with military equipment. As ever, there was a circular argument involved - burial with equipment means not Christian, therefore means incoming Anglo-Saxon pagans. A view based on assumptions. The burials could have been merely of Roman soldiers or even Roman bureaucrats, who are known to have aped military dress. Much "chip-carved" metalwork, such as the Quoit Brooch Style, has been shown to have been provincial Roman, rather than Germanic, in origin. Urselius (talk) 14:47, 2 November 2014 (UTC)
Roman by background of the makers and most of the style, but still Germanic in terms of the owners, and at least some of the forms - per Webster, Leslie, Anglo-Saxon Art, 2012, British Museum Press, ISBN 9780714128092 etc. But this is completely beside my point, which is that the article does not mention what foederati were, or touch on debates about their role. And it should, as they have by no means vanished from the debate. Johnbod (talk) 16:37, 2 November 2014 (UTC)
Difficult to assign ethnicity except by molecular methods. Feel free to add material related to the Foederati angle. Urselius (talk) 17:22, 2 November 2014 (UTC)
Further, Agree with Urselius. The idea of Germanic federati pre-5th century is very much on the wane. It rested on dubious notions that belt-sets and weapons are "Germanic' cultural features. In fact, they were part of the new military style of the Late Roman empire. Of course, this is not to say that there weren't individuals of "Germanic" origin serving in the army, but their number has been likely been overestimated in the past. Well into the 4th century, the large marjority of the army were "provincial Romans", see [6] ~~ p 95-110. Slovenski Volk (talk) 05:08, 8 December 2014 (UTC)