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Wednesday 14 October 2009

You're Not From Around Here Are You?

Today is the 943rd anniversary of one of the most famous dates in history. Well British history anyway.
On 14th October 1066, approx 6 miles from where i'm sitting typing this blog, the invading Norman army of William (the Conqueror) defeated the Saxon army commanded by King Harold.
It is on days like this when you realise the true scale of history. Especially when it is so close at hand.

Now the point of this blog is not to give a history lesson. But, to point out another aspect of this battle. Who were the people involved in this pivotal battle, the last time that the British Isles were invaded & where did they come from?
Most of us are probably aware that the Normans came from Northern France. But, the name Norman is actually a corruption of North Men, meaning men from the north. Vikings in other words.
The Saxons, as the name suggests, originated from Saxony in Germany.
So the Battle Of Hastings was actually between the Germans, the French & some Scandinavians. I'm sure there were some other nationalities thrown in there as well to complete the mix. Maybe even some natives of Britain. But, the questions is, "what is a native Britain, or Briton". I'm not sure that anyone really knows.

Recently i've had a number of conversations, often very one sided & often with older people, who spend their whole time moaning & complaining about immigration & how this country is being ruined by the "seemingly constant flow of immigrants into our country".
I will state here, as i've said to these people, that immigration needs to have some controls. That is only sensible. No country can afford to open its borders & allow just anyone to come in.
But, i've come to realise that, ultimately, we're actually all immigrants.

I watched a TV program over here in the UK a couple of years ago, which set out to, more or less, prove this point.
They asked a selection of volunteers to take part in a DNA test. The collected DNA was then analysed & it was then calculated from which parts of the world the persons ancestors originated from. This was done on a percentage basis. So, for example, you might be 40% African, 20% Asian & 30% North European etc.
All of the people asked thought that to be classed as truly British you needed to have ancestors in Britain going back at least 5 to 10 (?) generations. They were then asked how many generations they thought that their ancestors went back. They all replied that they would conform to their own "British" classification. One person even thought they they were descended from Saxon stock, from the time of King Harold.
Needless to say, they were all very much mistaken. Most of the people originated from Eastern Europe, or Asia &, if memory serves me correctly, none of them conformed to their own "British" classification.

While this was just a TV program & a limited experiment. It just goes to show that, as i said earlier, we are all immigrants.

Britain has been invaded on several occasions during its history & has also accepted waves of immigrants from around the world at other times. All of these people have contributed to the cultural & racial melting pot that is modern day Britain.
Britain is a nation of immigrants.
And Britain is by no means the exception. Many, if not most other countries, have the same history of immigration.

It would do us good to remember that sometimes.


  1. Well, over here, we do know about 1066, but we don't pay attention to the exact date. Happy Anniversary?

    But an interesting blog, never-the-less. I've had many similar conversations, holding up the "we're a nation of immigrants" angle with those who think the end is near because of new immigrants. But here, those defenders of nativism know that their own patronage only arrived on these shores within the last few hundred years, tops.

    Very interesting to think of people saying, "Ten generations? You're a bleeding newbie!"

  2. I'm not sure that many people over here know the actual date either. We have a Hastings Week in the town every year around the anniversary. That tends to jolt the memory.

    I did think of the USA when writing this. I've often wondered how you would feel for exactly the reason you said. After all, apart from the Native Americans, you are all immigrants. And that is very obvious.
    Over here, because the British Isles has been populated for so long, people tend to forget the immigration in the distant & not so distant past.