Transcript - Thomas Rowsell: The Anglo-Saxons and English Identity, TBG Christmas Social
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It was almost 7 years ago the late Sir RS addressed this group and told us that the focus of our identity ought to be England rather than Britain.
He suggested, as he had in his book England, An Elegy, that the unique and defining aspects of the AS nations were their institutions and laws. It is on these, he argued, we need to rely, and these to revive if we are to preserve our identity.
After the talk I asked him how we as a people can tie our national identity to institutions that have been turned against us. The England of civilised clubs and private societies, cricket on the village green, and tea and biscuits after Sunday mass - all very lovely but it is not likely to exist for our children and we would be wise to raise them with a healthy suspicion of the authorities and associated institutions given the current ideological trajectory of Britain and the west in general.
The Church, universities, government, charities, NGOs, nonprofits - all have been infiltrated by left wing extremists often with an open racial hatred of white people and their cultures.
So is that the end of Englishness? Scruton may have concluded that it is, but I disagree.
I do agree with him though that Englishness itself has been an evolving construct, adapting to meet the challenges of the times.
He typified the English as a gentle, moderate and peaceful people - yet this is only true for some of our ancestors for some of our history. We have also been barbarians and it is as barbarians that we were first known as a nation.
Therefore, this evening I will describe some of the ways that the legacy of our AS forebears has been employed in the construction of Englishness over the centuries.
England begins with the AS invasions of the fifth century. A combination of new genetic evidence, old archaeological evidence and a novel approach to the analysis of skull morphology (craniometry) have revealed what really happened in this obscure period of history to which we trace our ethnogenesis.
Large numbers of Germanic peoples from the continent migrated in a seemingly coordinated way - they were genetically like modern Scandinavians and contribute apprx 40% to the overall genetic makeup of the modern English ethnic group - however their initial impact on eastern England was far higher - with possibly as much as an 80% replacement (according to THE ANGLO-SAXON MIGRATION AND FORMATION OF THE EARLY ENGLISH GENE POOL - Gretzinge et al at Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History) or 75% according to the skull study- what followed was a period of integration, whereby formerly Brythonnic speaking natives either adopted the Germanic language and culture or fled to the Western fringes of the island where they became the Cornish and welsh peoples.
The result is that while we are now only about 40% like the early Anglo-Saxons, we are almost 100% the same as middle and late Anglo-Saxons who had already assimilated the native population. The modern English genetic group existed in the middle Anglo-Saxon era and by the time the term Anglo-Saxon was in use, the people who it referred to were basically the same as us.
The first attempt to construct a coherent unifying identity for Germanic speaking peoples of these isles was made by the venerable Bede in his Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum completed in about 731. He uses the Latin Anglorum, derived from Angles - one of the Germanic tribes that migrated, but uses it to refer to all of them - it translates as English people.
The term Anglo-Saxon emerged a bit later when King Alfred the Great, formerly just king of the West Saxons, captured the Mercian-Anglian territory of London in 886 so he was then known as Rex AngulSaxonum.
By this time the idea of England was at least 155 years old, yet our unified nation state did not exist. However both the terms English (anglorum) and Anglo-Saxon were in use to describe the Germanic people of Britain.
The title Rex AngulSaxonum was used again for Alfred’s successor Edward. But Alfred’s grandson Aethelstan, sometimes seen as the first King of all England, was called Rex Anglorum - a title which implied rulership of all of England, while the previous title of Rex AngulSaxonum was used in a more restrictive sense to imply rulership of some Saxon and Anglian territories which is possibly why it was later applied to Aethelstan’s successor Edmund after the Vikings had captured Northumbria so that Edmund was not truly the ruler of all the Anglorum. It seems the term Anglorum or ‘English’ included the Northumbrians while the term Anglo-Saxon excluded Northumbrians for some odd reason.
Later in the 11th century the Normans took over and brought an end to the so-called Anglo-Saxon era, but not to Englishness. Our neighbours on the continent referred to us then, and still do, with names derived from Angle such as Anglais while our Celtic speaking neighbours refer to us as sassenach - a word derived from Saxon.
Yet for a few centuries Englishness was marginalised in its homeland - with the church using Latin and the court speaking Anglo-Norman French. But the Normans called the native people Engleis - and in so doing recognised their distinct ethnic identity.
The earliest extant Anglo-Norman (french) dialect literature appears under the reign of Henry I in the early 12th century - during this time English literature takes a back seat. Apart from a few religious texts and the Peterborough chronicle we have little in early Middle English from the 12th century:
Henry of Huntingdon’s Historia Anglorum, published around 1129 relied on Anglo-Saxon texts to tell a history of England - and in it Henry coined the phrase Anglia plena jocis - “england full of jokes” possibly the origin of Merry old England - a nostalgia for an England which has been lost (familiar?).
In 1215 a history of Britain was written called Layamon's Brut - which, while including a number of Norman words, also deliberately employs archaic Anglo-Saxon vocabulary - perhaps as an assertion of pre-Norman identity? Yet the text itself relies more on the garbled fake history of the Welshman Geoffrey of Monmouth who invented the myth of a Trojan origin of the British race. Indeed we see that the English author seems more invested in the Brythonnic figure of Arthur than in Anglo-Saxon heroes like Beowulf.
Arthur was a celebrated literary figure of the middle ages - more palatable to the French speaking aristocracy than were any of the Teutonic heroes of the Anglo-Saxons. The Normans approved of and benefited from a mythic national narrative in which the Britons were the original people of England - thereby justifying the subjugation of the English people.
By the time Middle English literature really takes off it is as though the entire nation is suffering from amnesia.
Chaucer’s famous writings occasionally invoke pre-Norman English figures such as the Germanic water god Wade who is mentioned in the merchant’s tale of the Canterbury tales.
An anonymously authored poem from the late 14th century titled Athelston is set in Anglo-Saxon England and seems to be about King Aethelstan - the first king of the Anglorum. Yet this Athelston is no celebrated leader but a tyrant in contrast to his successor St. Edmund who is portrayed more favourably.
Thomas Mallory’s 15th c Le Morte d’Arthur translates many popular French stories of King Arthur into Middle English - thus cementing the Frenchified Celtic hero in the English national identity and making him a folk hero of the very race he was originally supposed to be an enemy of - the English!
Yet the land in which Arthur and his knights’ adventures takes place is called England!
So, It seems that during the High and late middle ages the Anglo-Saxon part of Englishness went underground - scarcely mentioned in literature but surely present in unrecorded forms among the peasants who vaguely remembered a time before the Normans - before forests and common lands were closed off to them and made the exclusive property of the nobility.
The word Anglo-Saxon reappears along with a renewed interest in the early English past in the mid 16th Century - motivated by an awakening protestant national consciousness seeking to define itself in opposition to the Catholic south
For the last 500 years this Protestant identity has repeatedly relied on our Anglo-Saxon origin to justify various political positions.
Liberals, reformers and Americans have attempted to construct an historical narrative which connects the Diggers of the 17th century back to Wat Tyler and the peasants’ revolt of 1381 and even further back to an idealised Ango-saxon past - in which it is alleged, rulers afforded more rights to the native peasant than the later Norman rulers did.
One of the 17th century extremist leaders of the Diggers, Gerrard Winstanley, wrote:
“O what mighty Delusion, do you, who are the powers of England live in! That while you pretend to throw down that Norman yoke, and Babylonish power, and have promised to make the groaning people of England a Free People; yet you still lift up that Norman yoke, and slavish Tyranny, and holds the People as much in bondage, as the Bastard Conquerour himself, and his Councel of War.”
A chasm of about 19 generations separated the Diggers from the Anglo-Saxons - yet Winstanley was confident that invocation of the Norman conquest and the idea that the English had been and should be once more a free people, would be understood and well received by his audience.
100 years later - Anglo-Saxonist founding father of America Thomas Jefferson believed a focus on this heritage could consolidate a new identity which simultaneously continued one kind of constructed Englishness, while distinguishing itself from that of the British empire which it opposed.
In this view the AS are a race with a natural predilection for democracy - one which the motherland presumably abandoned due to alleged Norman and perhaps catholic influence.
This seal was rejected.
Modern Marxists also pick and choose parts of this historical narrative in a similar way, claiming The Diggers as an early socialist movement - although it was really a handful of protestant extremists (just 52 in surrey) who failed to achieve their ends and lasted barely two years. Hardly a national tradition.
Common law and demands for the land rights of peasants were central to the romantic re-emergence of the Anglo-Saxon component of Englishness.
In reality though - common law dates to the Norman period and it is not clear to what extent it was derived from earlier Anglo-Saxon legal traditions.
SO we can see that the early modern revival of Anglo-Saxon identity was very much driven by radical liberal beliefs which sought historical justification in an alleged golden age of AS liberty.
And this trend continued.
In the 1730’s the whig politician Richard Temple, 1st Viscount Cobham commissioned the Dutch sculptor John Michael Rysbrack to create statues of the Anglo-Saxon gods, complete with runic inscriptions, to be displayed in his gardens at Stowe. The statues were part of a group of buildings and statuary commissioned by Lord Cobham which were intended to embody a political programme championing Whig beliefs in historic British liberty. The statue of Thunor the thunder god is now in the V and A.
In 1840 Queen Victoria married her cousin, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gota and the British public began to celebrate their AS heritage with renewed vigour. They realised that the very origins of English monarchy were rooted in our Germanic past, when pagan kings claimed descent from the great god Woden. HM the Queen claims descent from Alfred the Great who in turn claimed descent from Woden himself.
You can also see a marble statue by William Theed of Queen Victoria and Albert dressed as Anglo-Saxons, or at least how Victorians thought AS dressed, in the Royal Mausoleum, -- or a plaster copy in the national portrait gallery. Their daughter the Princess Royal had the idea for the statue after Albert died.
At the unveiling of the statue of King Alfred in Winchester in 1901, Prime minister Roseberry said In him…we venerate the ideal Englishman, the perfect sovereign, the pioneer of England’s greatness. ”
The Victorian novelist and historian, Sir Walter Besant, described King Alfred as,“The typical man of our race - call him Anglo Saxon, call him American, call him Australian - the typical man of our race at his best and noblest.”
But Anglo-Saxon heritage fell out of fashion again along with all things Germanic as tensions between Germany and Britain escalated in the run up to the first world war - with the result that the royal family changed their name to Windsor to conceal their German origin.
Ww2 made anti-German sentiment even stronger and post-war attitudes to history and archaeology saw an ideological shift which led to many earlier narratives of historic invasions and racial replacements being brought into question.
Anglo-Saxons were not fashionable any more, apart from in the great works of the deeply conservative author and Anglo-Saxon philologist J.R.R Tolkien - who was heavily influenced by Norse and Anglo-Saxon poetry and sagas.
By the early 21st century people like the archaeologist Francis Pryor, an Englishman with a particular fondness of all things Celtic, attempted to argue that the Anglo-Saxon invasion was in reality a small-scale migration with very limited impact on the island.
This he claimed on the basis that archaeological evidence is lacking - even though we see a significant shift to Germanic style burials and grave goods at precisely the time we would expect in the East of the country.
Genetic evidence was rather shaky at that time (2005), such that it could not reliably be used to prove or disprove the A-S migration. Yet Pryor’s “limited migration" theory failed to explain how Germanic Old English came to completely replace Brythonnic as the language of what is now England.
Thankfully genetic science has marked the end of the era of Anglo-Saxon deniers.
The so-called genomic revolution of the last 10 years refers to significant breakthroughs in the science of genetics - including archaeogenetics which requires retrieval of valid DNA samples from ancient skeletons. The so called Dark ages are not quite as dark now that we can sequence entire genomes of Anglo-Saxon skeletons and compare them to thousands of modern English DNA samples thanks to people like Sir Walter Bodmer who recently spoke to the Traditional Britain Group about his landmark genetic study of the People of the British Isles.
(DNA Briefly summarised): we can be certain the Anglo-Saxon invasion did occur and that we do descend from those invaders as well as from the previous inhabitants of Brit. It turns out the two peoples were already very closely related - descending from the same Bronze Age Indo-European tribes who occupied North West Europe over 4000 years ago.
Despite this wealth of new evidence there are still a few persistent denialists.
They rely on flimsy arguments like saying that Germanic style brooches and jewellery were manufactured by natives who were copying imported Germanic works - this is true but ignores the fact the natives were genetically mixed with Germanic people and spoke a Germanic language by this time - so they were Germanic.
They also point to the now well documented evidence of very diverse Roman soldiers stationed in Britain during the Roman occupation - and imply any of these cultures could have been significantly influential on early English culture too.
This argument falls flat - LANGUAGE - MATERIAL CULTURE - GENETICS
THE 2016 STUDY BY Martin-iano,. et al. ‘Genomic signals of migration and continuity in Britain before the Anglo-Saxons’ SHOWS that the Britons were the same genetically after Roman occupation as they had been before. In other words the diverse Roman soldiers all left Britain with the Romans. The genetic impact of the Anglo-Saxons on the other hand, was much more significant.
Besides these persistent deniers - genetic science has convinced everyone that the invasion did occur and that we, the English are indeed the kin of the Anglo-Saxons.
But in the last two years, the woke crowd of race baiters and anti-white activists have scheduled the term "Anglo-Saxon” itself for demolition.
Medieval history or medievalism has been infiltrated, like all the humanities in Western academia, by Marxists and many peculiar neo-Marxists and other left wing extremist ideologues. The sort of people who list their pronouns on social media.
There are very few key figures in woke medievalism but they have been given loud and prominent platforms by the legacy media. An Asian woman called Dorothy Kim, radicalised in Californian universities, calls herself a historian but made a career out of attacking historians and calling them white supremacists.
She was once limited to Facebook groups until major platforms like Time and the New York Times gave her some attention.
After Kim came an anti-British woman of mixed ancestry named Mary Rambaran-Olm, who, in her online persona calls herself ‘Axel Folio, PhD, hates (wyte) noise.’ Her entire career consists of complaining about white people for whom she harbours a clearly pathological hatred.
Olm led the charge in 2019 of a far left attempt to banish the word Anglo-Saxon from academic discourse on the grounds that it is allegedly racist and also that AS studies are too white. In fact according to Olm and Kim - medievalism itself is rooted in white supremacy.
Her whingeing blogs resulted in the International Society of Anglo-Saxonists holding a vote on whether to change their name! She resigned from her position as 2nd Vice President of that society, which apparently despite being racist, allowed a non white woman whose entire career consists of complaining about racism, to be the vice president. Anyway the stunt had the desired effect as they renamed themselves the International Society for the Study of Early Medieval England
One Durand, trying to convince the uni of Cambridge to drop the term wrote in February 2020 that “Historically, the people of early medieval England did not generally refer to themselves as ‘Anglo-Saxon’, abandoning the term after a period of infrequent use during the eighth and ninth centuries. Self-identification as ‘Englisc’ or ‘Anglecynn’ was the norm.”
He echoed the tweets of notorious far left activist and self described “queer medievalist and helicopter parent to a kitty” Eric Wade, a fan boy of Olm and Kim, who wrote in September of the previous year “The term "Anglo-Saxon" is not the primarily self-ID of the group we traditionally call the Anglo-Saxons. Alfred and a few others use it somewhat in the 8th and 9th century. Then it largely dies out.”
This is misleading though. a 10th century charter of King Eadwig describes him as King of the Anglosu - an abbreviation of Anglo Saxonum which is Latin for Anglo-Saxon. Even King Cnut sometimes used the title king of the Anglo-Saxons as recently as the 11th century!
So these so-called historians, (really Marxist activists in disguise), either don’t know what they are talking about or they are just lying. Each is equally plausible.
For some reason even the Smithsonian links to Wade’s twitter rants as though they were a reliable source. This is the same person who tweeted, without any evidence, the libelous accusation that I was somehow linked to a terrorist organisation - something he evidently claimed simply because I disagree with his ridiculous cancel culture narratives couched in Neo-Marxist buzzwords and anti-white dog whistles like “whiteness” - a word which is clearly intended to dehumanise white people and therefore legitimise and even encourage violence against them.
In any case - as many have pointed out, even if Anglo-Saxon has been used in racist contexts, so has the word English - and as for Anglecynn…. that literally translates as race of the Angles - however it was used to refer to Saxon and Jutish descended people too so a more accurate translation would be English race or Anglo-Saxon race. I doubt the woke luvvies would be any happier if we used that!
Even leftie TV historian Michael Wood admitted in his response to the controversy.
“On the continent in the eighth century, Paul the Deacon speaks of the “Anglisaxones”; Alfred and his successors used “King of the Anglo-Saxons” as a title for their new order. We may drop ‘Anglo-Saxonists’, then – we may prefer ‘Early English’ – but we cannot dispense entirely with ‘Anglo-Saxons’.”
It is somewhat ironic that the left have attacked this term - AS identity is historically a force of the left
It is integrated with a narrative of class conflict reinforced by the media. The Guardian published articles blaming Normans for current inequality in 2011, 2012 and 2019. In reality though, the 2021 rich list includes no Norman surnames in the top 10 but two AS names - Weston and Dyson.
The fiction is also depicted in tv dramas - in ch 4 1066 (2009) and Robin Hood tv drama of the 80s. Cartoonish Norman villains against plucky English people with working class accents.
Some erroneously believe that the working class are more AS while the upper-middle are more Norman - completely untrue - all of the English and lowland Scots share AS ancestry regardless of class
Even the alleged racist connotations of the term AS in America stem ultimately from a desire to use the past to break from the past - some have tried to connect the term via WASP to the kkk even though that group was based on Scots identity not AS - hence klan.
In recent times English nationalists have fallen back on AS heritage as a feature of identity distinguishing them from the Welsh and Scots.
Even this is an attempt to step over our more recent past - that of the British empire - to retrieve a sanitised national identity from before our colonial expansion - something for which people can express pride without guilt - white guilt
Futile - the left will not allow that anyway - we cannot escape who we are and that must include Britishness as well as englishness and all the heritage of our imperial period whether we like it or not.
We are compelled by reason and truth to accept that our language and our nation are rooted in the Germanic invasions of the migration era
BUT - we also share deeper roots in this land with the Celtic peoples
AND - we are known worldwide not for what our ancestors achieved in ancient times - but in recent times
Scruton was right that we should rely on Englishness as a crucial part of British identity - but only as a part of it. The unification of the entire island was already an objective in the AS period where kings wished not merely to rule the Anglorum, but to become a Bretwalda 'sovereign of Britain'
Scruton was wrong to think Englishness is contingent on any fragile institution - if any institution ever exemplified Englishness, that is ONLY because it was made by and run by the English people.
An English institution run by foreigners to the detriment of the English, is not English and we should shed no tears if it falls to pieces.
If I invoke Anglo-Saxon ancestors as a central pillar of English identity - it is not because I imagine some egalitarian democratic golden age of the past - nor is it because I wish to justify a Protestant identity in distinction to the catholic south - or ties to our Germanic neighbours to the East at the expense of our Celtic neighbours to the West.
Nor is it because, in an era of identity politics and multiculturalism, I seek to sanitise the British identity by reducing it to a pre-colonial form of Englishness in which the English cease to be global aggressors and instead see themselves as the poor victims of class oppression.
I reject the fake Anglo-Saxon identity invoked by low church Protestants, Whigs and class warriors. Yet I also reject the narrative which seeks to minimise the significance that the Anglo-Saxons have for us as English and therefore also as British people.
I invoke them because they are my ancestors - we have them to thank for our language, them to thank for our nation, them to thank for a substantial portion of our blood. We the English are an ethnic group and they are our progenitors.
They were not socialists, nor did they know about egalitarianism. Nor did they see themselves as independent from the church of Rome in their Christian faith - they were first pagans who worshipped Woden and then they were Catholics - like all medieval Europeans. -- If we remember and celebrate them - let it be for who they truly were and not for who we would like them to have been.
To quote Sir Roger Scruton
“We do not merely study the past: we inherit it, and inheritance brings with it not only the rights of ownership, but the duties of trusteeship. Things fought for and died for should not be idly squandered. For they are the property of others, who are not yet born.”
We have inherited the legacy of our empire building ancestors, of extremist Protestant parliamentarians as well as Royalist restorationists, of medieval Catholics and of Anglo-Saxon pagans and Romanised British Celts, of our barrow building Bronze age ancestors of the Beaker culture and of the henge builders who preceded therm. All of this we must pass on to future generations.
Englishness must now adapt as it did before - from a Catholic to a Protestant identity and then from a radical low church identity to a more moderate identity respecting the monarchy again and the traditions of the high church - but Englishness cannot continue as Scruton said, by focusing on institutions as the core of identity, but instead must focus on the common heritage and ancestry of our people - recalling with reverence the ancestors who bequeathed us this sacred land.
So in their tongue I wish you all a Gód Geól and Gesælige Cristesmæsse!
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