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The Origins of the British: A Genetic Detective Story
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The Origins of the British: A Genetic Detective Story

3.86 of 5 stars 3.86  ·  rating details  ·  118 ratings  ·  16 reviews
History has long maintained that the Anglo-Saxon overtaking of the Iron Age Celts was the origin of the British people. Celtic Britain reconstructs the peopling of Britain — through a study of genetics, climatology, archaeology, language, culture, and history — and overturns that myth and others. The Anglo-Saxons, who supposedly conquered the Celts, contributed only five t ...more
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published November 7th 2006 by Basic Books (first published September 11th 2006)
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Wow, where to begin? I picked up Origins of the British firstly because I’m British and interested in learning more about my own ancient ancestry, but also on the strength of the author’s previous work. Out of Eden, Oppenheimer’s previous book, used population genetics as well as archaeology to trace the expansion of Homo sapiens out of Africa and the routes they took to eventually spread across the planet. Though it was a challenging read, Oppenheimer considerately sought to explain difficult c
This was interesting but old news to people of British descent who've already had ancestral DNA testing. It was written before the human genome project became so popular. Cheap and accurate, the DNA genome test requires only a cheek swab. Three weeks later you can track your ancestry back 6,000+ years.
I share, though, people's sorrow at the Celts being forced to surrender the title "indigenous population." How many tragic frat boy tattoos were inked in honor of that tribe (so beloved by white p
Jaakko J.
The book "The Origins of the British" by Stephen Oppenheimer is not a light read. At 628 pages, it is not a book man would read just to amuse himself. It is a book that one reads to to gain new insight into the history. Book is filled with detailed descriptions of the genetic methods used. It is very scholarly work that is aimed squarely at the class of professional historians.
However, even if I am not a professional historian, I did quite enjoy this book. It is fun to watch when old established
Russell Ince

A very interesting book, the gist of it being that 75% of British ancestors came from Spain beginning some 15,000 years ago. This book seriously undermines assumptions of Anglo-Saxon ethnicity. Very well written.

If I had to make a criticism: the book doesn't know whether to be a popular science book or an academic text and could do with a little more brevity.
Fascinating read and very informative. My only criticism is that it sits somewhere between popular reading and academic research, the level of detail is off-putting at times.
With this book, I continue delving into my current obsession with genetics and deep ancestry. It uses genetics, archeology, linguistics, and classical sources to argue that most Brits are descended from people who arrived in the British Isles a long, long time ago -- basically right after the ice receded -- and that the traditional division between Celt and Anglo-Saxon does not go as deep as generally believed. The good part about this book is that the subject matter is interesting; the bad part ...more
David Cheshire
This amazing re-writing of prehistory is derived from an astounding new methodology, genetic tracking of tiny, periodic mutations of parts of our DNA. Study of the "genetic flow" allows migrations to be quantified, dated and located. Oppenheimer gives due respect to other disciplines and urges a multi-disciplinary approach. But his revisions are astounding. The stories we've grown up with of Celtic, Roman, Anglo-Saxon and Viking invasions are turned upside down. These are not esoteric matters. W ...more
David Willem
A revolutionary idea - that the cultural, genetic and linguistic differences between the West and East of Britain precede any Celtic v Anglo-Saxon split, going right back to the end of the Ice Age. The genetic-frequency maps are amazing. You can actually see the contours cross the Channel and the North Sea, showing the way the first settlers came when everything was dry land.
Linda Trionfo
I liked this book as I was wanting to connect places with family stories from long ago. It was very technical and wordy at times so I had to skip around a little to stay focused. But over all great education on where I came from and what it may have been like for my family, mostly in Scotland and Ireland in the 1400's through 1700. Worth the read.Some reviews have said this is all old news...well I never knew much about it, so its new to me and I loved learning about it! That's what books are fo ...more
Peter Levi
A fascinating look at the genetic history of the British Isles, in particularly debunking the accepted history I grew up with which was of successive waves of settlers killing off the inhabitants they found there. I can't give it five stars however as the text is very dense and it's not an easy read.
Facinating! I could not put it down. My family is mainly from England & Scotland (except for the German part) and I was facinated with the premise. Although I do not agree with the author's theories, I nevertheless found in very interesting.
Catherine Kesseler
Mr. Oppenheimer makes his case using linguistics, ancient writings, archeology, and genetics. A really intresting book. It did tend to bog down in a lot of details. The charts and graphs were in black and white and difficult to read.
Jul 27, 2009 Lenore rated it 1 of 5 stars
Shelves: ill
I gave up about 200 pages in, finding the level of detail so excruciatingly tedious that I could not even bring myself to find and read the summary sections.
Simon Marriott
I've read it three or four times. To me it was a magical read that makes sense of all the bits that didnt make sense in my current history understanding.
Bit long-winded, but good at debunking myths and definitely filling a gap in my knowledge of prehistory
Paula  Obermeier McCarty
A fascinating look at ancient British history.
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