Gary's Reviews > Blood of the Isles

Blood of the Isles by Bryan Sykes
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it was amazing
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This is a totally engrossing book for anyone interested in British history or in genetics. The crux of the book is DNA and the genetic origins of the British people but is explained in such a beautiful way that you do not need to be a genetic scientist to understand it. In fact, myself, who has no scientific background fully understood it and found it extremely fascinating.

As Bryan Sykes explains 'this is living history, told by the real survivors of the times. the DNA that still lives within our bodies. This really is the history of the people by the people'

The author combines the findings of his genetic studies with the history, legend and folklore of the islands, Great Britain and Ireland.
He explains how in his first book The Seven Daughters of Eve: The Science That Reveals Our Genetic Ancestry he discovered concrete evidence that Europeans have a predominant hunter-gatherer ancestry from people who settled on the continent 40 000 years ago or more and NOT as was commonly disseminated , by farmers from the Middle East who were supposed to have entered Europe 10 000 years ago.

In the second Chapter of the book 'who do we think we are' Sykes examines the prevailing beliefs, dogma and myths of the past about British history and origins, including the false understanding that the English are close cousins of the Germans through being descended from the Anglos-Saxon invaders who conquered what is now England in the 500-700s CE/AD.
The DNA findings effectively debunk these beliefs (espoused by among others Nazi sympathizers who sadly still exist in England, who believe the Germans are the closest cousins of the English and it was a travesty that the English fought their German brothers in the two world wars (or were tricked into doing so in the case of World War II by the 'wicked Jews')

Instead he reveals that almost the entire mitochondrial DNA (DNA passed down from the females genes) in England is from the Ibero-Celtic peoples that arrived in Britain 10 000 years ago and is fundamentally the same as that in Scotland, Wales and Ireland.
'Even if the entire population of Jutes, Angles and Saxons arrived in Britain, that that could have exterminated all of the Britons, , with their centuries of experience of Roman military tactics. Even if they had managed to kill all the men they would not have managed to kill all the women'
And hence how the DNA proves this. The overwhelming majority of the matrilineal descent of the people in England has stayed constant for ten thousand years, from the original inhabitants of Britain , who were there 8000 years before the Anglo-Saxons settled in what is now England.
As Sykes clearly states ' 'On our maternal side almost all of us are Celts'
'The matrilineal history of the Isles is both ancient and continuous. I see no reason at all from the results why many of our maternal lineages should not go right through the millennia to the very first Paleolithic and Mesolithic settlers who reached our islands around 10 000 years ago. The average settlement dates of 8000 years ago fits in with this.'

As for the Y chromosome (passed down through the male gene) 'still there are far more people with Celtic ancestry in England, , even in the far East of England, than can claim to be of Saxon or Danish descent. In the west of England, the patrilineal line too is almost all Celtic, while in the south approximately 10% of the men now living in the south of England are the patrilineal descendants of Saxons or Danes, this increases to 15% above the Danelaw line, and at the most in England in East Anglia is 20%. So so much for the article in the Daily Mail entitled 'We are all Germans' - that is simply not true.

'Overall the genetic structure of the Isles is overwhelmingly Celtic, if by that we mean descent from those who were here before the Romans and who spoke a Celtic language' All the invasions and opposed settlements since Julius Caesar have barely scratched the surface.

Each chapter on the genetics of England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales is preceded by overall histories of these country's in the early periods, and their mythology and folklore (even if you know most of the information Sykes writes in a way which is a pleasure to read.)

I was intrigued to read that there a small number of people in the south of England who can trace ancestry through mitochondria (therefore the female line unbroken) to subsaharan Africa and the Middle East, most likely descendants of slaves brought by the Romans, whose lines have carried on through the generations through unbroken lines of women . As a Jew , I find the idea that there may be found in some people in England who do not know it who carry mitochondrial DNA from generations ago from Jewish women intriguing.

He traces the main ancestry of the Shetland and Orkney islands to Vikings. His style is always engaging and chatty, I enjoyed the anecdotes, and the humour. This is one of the better books on the topics for laymen and historians without degrees in genetic science.
In the field of DNA and history would also recommend the work by Rabbi Yaakov Kleiman DNA and Tradition: The Genetic Link to the Ancient Hebrews to the Ancient Hebrews which traces the ancestry of modern day Jews to ancient Israel.
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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
November 28, 2013 – Shelved (Hardcover Edition)
November 28, 2013 – Shelved as: to-read (Hardcover Edition)
December 23, 2013 – Started Reading (Hardcover Edition)
December 24, 2013 –
page 13
4.25% (Hardcover Edition)
December 24, 2013 –
page 91
29.74% (Hardcover Edition)
December 24, 2013 –
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December 25, 2013 –
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December 25, 2013 –
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December 25, 2013 –
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December 25, 2013 –
page 164
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December 25, 2013 –
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December 25, 2013 –
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December 26, 2013 –
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75.16% (Hardcover Edition)
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December 26, 2013 –
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December 26, 2013 –
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86.93% (Hardcover Edition)
December 26, 2013 –
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100.0% (Hardcover Edition)
December 26, 2013 – Finished Reading (Hardcover Edition)
July 10, 2016 – Shelved

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