Wednesday, June 21, 2023

“Anglo-Saxons aren’t real.”

 From The National Review:

Hwæt! News has just come down from the U.K. Telegraph that the venerable dons of the Cambridge University (est. 1209) Department of Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic History — apparently suffering from a profound crisis of identity — will now be instructing their students that “Anglo-Saxons aren’t real.” Apparently, anti-racists at Cambridge have determined that the phrase smacks too much of “the myth of nationalism.”

Britain being the multicultural melting pot it is, emphasizing its Anglo-Saxon roots now apparently seems as churlish as emphasizing its Norman French ones during the Napoleonic Wars. (The Welsh, Scots, and Irish are also purportedly not supposed to have ever “existed” as coherent ethnic groups under Cambridge’s new rubric, which will be news to my colleague Michael Brendan Dougherty at the very least.)

This alone suggests why the entire exercise is such insultingly ahistorical nonsense. First of all, nationalism is not a myth. While in its modern form — as a politically unifying force giving coherence to an internationally recognized state — it is certainly a creation of the 19th century, the idea of ethnically or culturally coherent identity groups goes back, transparently, to the dawn of humanity. (The German word Deutsch literally descends from a proto-Indo-European root that functionally means “us people as distinct from them.”)

It must be understood that the complexities of British identity are various and ongoing, and the idea of a “national identity” as one that binds together different races, native languages, or ethnicities is as old as . . . well, as old as the British Isles themselves. Once upon a time these islands were occupied by dark-skinned, blue-eyed hunter-gatherers. Then those were wiped out by neolithic Anatolian farmers. Then those were almost entirely genetically replaced by Indo-European horse-warriors, first presumably Celtic-speaking and then later (this time documented historically) by Germanic-speaking Anglo-Saxons. (Read more.)


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