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Early Britain eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 175 pages of information about Early Britain.

In blood, it is probable that the importance of the Anglo-Saxon element has been generally over-estimated.  It has been too usual to speak of England as though it were synonymous with Britain, and to overlook the numerical strength of the Celtic population in Scotland, Wales, Cornwall, and Ireland.  It has been too usual, also, to neglect the considerable Danish, Norwegian, and Norman element, which, though belonging to the same Low German and Scandinavian stock, yet differs in some important particulars from the Anglo-Saxon.  But we have seen reason to conclude that even in the most purely Teutonic region of Britain, the district between Forth and Southampton Water, a considerable proportion of the people were of Celtic or pre-Celtic descent, from the very first age of English settlement.  This conclusion is borne out both by the physical traits of the peasantry and the nature of the early remains.  In the western half of South Britain, from Clyde to Cornwall, the proportion of Anglo-Saxon blood has probably always been far smaller.  The Norman conquerors themselves were of mixed Scandinavian, Gaulish, and Breton descent.  Throughout the middle ages, the more Teutonic half of Britain—­the southern and eastern tract—­was undoubtedly the most important:  and the English, mixed with Scandinavians from Denmark or Normandy, formed the ruling caste.  Up to the days of Elizabeth, Teutonic Britain led the van in civilisation, population, and commerce.  But since the age of the Tudors, it seems probable, as Dr. Rolleston and others have shown, that the Celtic element has largely reasserted itself.  A return wave of Celts has inundated the Teutonic region.  Scottish Highlanders have poured into Glasgow, Edinburgh, and London:  Welshmen have poured into Liverpool, Manchester, and all the great towns of England:  Irishmen have poured into every part of the British dominions.  During the middle ages, the Teutonic portion of Britain was by far the most densely populated; but at the present day, the almost complete restriction of coal to the Celtic or semi-Celtic area has aggregated the greatest masses of population in the west and north.  If we take into consideration the probable large substratum of Celts or earlier races in the Teutonic counties, the wide area of the undoubted Celtic region which pours forth a constant stream of emigrants towards the Teutonic tract, the change of importance between south-east and north-west, since the industrial development of the coal country, and the more rapid rate of increase among the Celts, it becomes highly probable that not one-half the population of the British Isles is really of Teutonic descent.  Moreover, it must be remembered that, whatever may have been the case in the primitive Anglo-Saxon period, intermarriages between Celts and Teutons have been common for at least four centuries past; and that therefore almost all Englishmen at the present day possess at least a fraction of Celtic blood.

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