A new angle on the Angles (and the Saxons and the Vikings...)

Posted by mjs76 at Sep 02, 2010 12:10 PM |
Leicester departments work together for historical-genetic analysis of how the early British population was built up.

Twenty-first century Britain is a melting pot of different cultures and much has been written about the modern meaning and relevance of ‘Britishness’. But go back 944 years or more to pre-Norman times and everything becomes simpler – or does it? Accepted history is that waves of invaders – Angles, Saxons, Jutes, Vikings – sailed across the North Sea and integrated with the native Celtic population. (The Romans came along too, but they left after a bit of marching and road-building.)

The University of Leicester has just received a grant of £1.37 million from the Leverhulme Trust for a massive, interdisciplinary project - The Impact of Diasporas on the Making of Britain: Evidence, Memories, Inventions - to examine this topic from a variety of angles and challenge received wisdom. A diaspora is a movement or migration of a group of people from their homeland to a new home (the word comes from the Greek for ‘scattering of seeds’).

Impact of Diasporas… has evolved from a project called Roots of the British and is a collaboration between our School of Historical Studies, School of Archaeology and Ancient History, School of English, Centre for English Local History, Department of Genetics and – less obviously - our School of Management. The University of Nottingham’s Institute for Name-Studies is also involved, because we don’t have one of those.

The six (or seven, depending on how you look at it) projects are:

Surnames and the Y-chromosome

Dr Turi King, Genetics

Dr King, our expert on the connection between family names and genetics, will focus on the Viking genetic legacy and its impact in different regions of Britain. This project follows on from earlier acclaimed work in this field: you can view the poster for Excavating past population structures using surname-based sampling: the genetic legacy of the Vikings in northwest England (PDF).

Modelling migration

Professor Mark Jobling, Genetics; Dr Simon James, Archaeology and Ancient History; Dr Joanna Story, Historical Studies

This project will use computer simulations to provide a virtual laboratory for modeling the processes of genetic change.

Genetics and early British population history

Professor Mark Jobling; Dr Turi King; Dr Simon James

These three academics will collaborate on a project to illuminate British population history using both existing and new datasets. They will look at genetic data on modern populations and they will search for and validate new genetic markers for migration and diaspora.

Immigration and indigenism in popular historical discourses

Professor Steven Brown, Management; Dr Simon James

In order to examine the cultural transmission of collective memories of community origins, this project will make use of ‘social remembering’ across three generations of the population.

Dialect in diaspora: Linguistic variation in early Anglo-Saxon England

Dr Phillip Shaw, English; Dr Joanna Story

Drs Shaw and Story will examine the impact of Anglo-Saxon and Viking diasporas on the development of early English dialects. This will involve examining inscriptions on early Anglo-Saxon coins and Romano-Germanic votive stones (offerings to the gods), place names and personal names. This project, which will also draw analogies with later, global diasporas, is connected with…

People and places

Dr Jayne Carroll, University of Nottingham

This doctoral project into the widespread genetic impact of the Viking diaspora will compare the Scandinavian linguistic influence on place-names with levels of Scandinavian ancestry in the modern population.

Home and away in early England

Dr Joanna Story; Dr Richard Jones, Historical Studies

What did ‘home’ mean to the inhabitants of Anglo-Saxon England? Conversely, what did they understand of opposing concepts such as exile, exclusion and foreignness? This project will examine the construction of a shared past on Anglo-Saxon identities and the importance of a sense of place and community.