Wednesday, February 07, 2007

In the Pink

As our readers know, SQA is not averse to venturing into the realms of our kindred professions and wider heritage issues. However, we hold that archives is a pillar, indeed the central pillar of our cultural heritage, flanked by museums, art galleries, archaeological sites, libraries and the built heritage.

And anthropology.

Consequently, it is sometimes necessary to view archives in context or in other words to look at how the disciplines of managing and researching archives can also underpin the disinterested interpretation of other cultural evidence.

And this is without taking into account the huge concern modern archivists, especially those in local government, must have for their majority users, family historians and genealogists, whose ranks have been swelled in recent years by government policy on access and intense media coverage.

What brings us to muse on the place of archives in this wider context of cultural evidence?

Alex Graham

The answer is a certain programme made by Alex Graham’s Wall to Wall production company for Channel 4, entitled 100% English. (Mr. Graham is Scottish)

The programme sought, through several celebrities and ordinary participants who considered themselves, and were no doubt considered by the general public, to be English in the sense of supposedly being of pure English race. By then applying DNA test results supplied by a US company, the outcome was to proclaim on the basis of the very diverse DNA record discovered, that the participants were not English at all with the obvious implication there is no such thing as Englishness or an English people.

Here of course lies the clue to the programme’s deception, as any anthropologist knows: the programme was predicated on the premise that the English are a race rather in the way the Japanese or Chinese constitute races by virtue of being homogonous or indigenous. We can take this predication further by saying the implication is if the English are a race, they are also racially pure. This raises a highly contentious issue, which we will consider below.

We might at this point consider the poetical sense of race, rather as in Churchill’s book The Island Race (an abridgement of The English Speaking Peoples) in which the case is made for the unique character of the British contributing to a distinctive world wide heritage. However, in strict anthropological terms, the English are not a race, never were a race, are probably legally not a nation but most definitely are a people, a term anthropologists carefully use to describe a unified society regardless of whether its components are indigenous or racially homogenous.

Murray’s The Oxford English Dictionary defines a people as a body of persons composing a community, tribe, race or nation. This is rather more useful as a description of the English or British and carries none of the undertones of racial purity suggested by the neo-Nazi producers of 100% English. As for the adjective English, the same lexicographer states the earliest recorded sense is of or belonging to the group of Teutonic peoples collectively known as the Angelcynn i.e. Angle Kin (Bede, 731), comprising the Angles, Saxons, Jutes, Friesians, Danes, Franks (Frank-manni), Goths and Alamanni. Beowulf, the eponymous hero of the epic Old English poem, was a Goth. Ethelbert, King of Kent and patron of the earliest recorded English laws and writings was Jutish while his queen, Bertha, was Frankish. Beowulf was fair of complexion while the successors to his domains in northern Jutland, the Danes (from southern Sweden like the Goths) were known to the Irish as the Finn Dubh or Dark Race as distinct from the fairer Norse invaders, the Finn Gaill.

By a process of cultural assimilation, the indigenous British also became English for the most part, including the population of southern Scotland which formed part the English kingdom of Northumbria, part of the English Heptarchy. As Murray puts it the adjective came in the 11th. Century to be applied to all natives of England, whatever their ancestry, the only legal or cultural exception to this being the distinction between the people and their Norman French rulers.

Murray’s definition of an Englishman is a man who is English by descent, birth or naturalization… born in England or of English parents.

This leads us to mention Sir Thomas Craig's assertion in On the Union of the British Kingdoms that under the Common Law of Scotland an Englishman became a naturalised Scotsman and that under the Common Law of England a Scotsman became a naturalised Englishman, in each case merely by crossing the border. This was upheld by case law in each country. Craig recounts the story of a Scotsman on trial in the Court of King's Bench for rape in the 16th. Century. The Scotsman demanded dimidietas linguae or that half the jurors should be Scots. Hs request was refused on the gound that a Scotsman had always been held an Englishman and not an alien or foreigner in England, and that the Scottish tongue was not a foreign language but English pure and simple.

The Scotsman was executed forthwith.

We asked Benedict Crumplethorne to crystallise our views.

It is very sad the makers of and advisers to 100% English have pandered to the popular notion of racial purity hitherto represented by the Nazis’ policy of proof or pure Arian ancestry recorded in each SS man’s ehrenpass. They have fostered the erroneous view among the viewing public that the English are racially homogenous, in order to then debunk it, a common technique of political correctness process. This is surely evidence of the kind of social engineering and manipulation of opinion associated with the crucial EU plank of fragmenting England into Euro Regions to be governed direct by Brussels.

We overlap with the Scots, Welsh and Irish and most of our ancestors were indigenous British, confirmed by DNA testing oddly enough, as stated in The Times some time back by Professor David Coleman of MigrationwatchUK who based on his own and others’ research has confirmed the existence of an ancient, indigenous British genotype or race. This discovery is strangely at odds with the programme which has overlooked a common British, rather than English, genetic origin.

Ellison Millinocket, SQA’s technical adviser, was able to offer further comment.

The dating of a person’s DNA components is an inexact science. Consequently, it cannot be said whether a programme participant’s ancestry traced to Africa or Asia occurred prior to or after the English settlement of the British Isles. We already knew Mrs. Thatcher had Irish and Scottish ancestry so why her daughter was presented to the viewing public as a prime candidate for Englishness mystifies me. The first occupants of the British Isles had to come from somewhere. According to the Romans, one British tribe came from Spain. The Romans were also a diverse bunch and would have brought in slaves, soldiers and traders from all over their Empire. They certainly employed Germanic sailors like Carausius and there is no evidence the Romans left Britain in 411. All these people or their descendants became English and contributed to our distinctive English character, as your chap Murray observes.

And what a lot of fun we would have with the Scots, Welsh and Irish!

Ireland was colonised by people from ancient Britain and later Scotland and Wales. Wales was occupied by the Irish between 450 and 550 and settled by Scandinavians and English and Scotland, well, Scotland! The name Scots is the ancient British word for Irish, a reference to the Irish occupation of northern Britain in 843, and southern Scotland is historically English, hence the occurrence there of English placenames like Edinburgh and common English surnames like Brown, Wilson and Smith. Scandinavians also settled Scotland. By the way, please can England have the southern Scottish counties back?

We thanked Benedict and Ellison for their enlightened contributions.

Further reading

Scottish Bollocks

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