(Chapter X, section 4)


The British Isles, Summary


The racial history of the British Isles, reviewed in the first section of the present chapter, is a more complicated matter than one would expect in view of the marginal position of these islands. Its complexity serves to illustrate the little appreciated fact that men of European racial type began navigation in a serious way while still limited to the tools and resources of a Neolithic economy; and that even at that remote time navigation was a primary means by which large populations were transferred between distant points. The population of the British Isles has been drawn from a number of widely separated regional sources, and the sea has served not so much as a barrier as a highroad over which these diverse elements have converged.

These elements include most of the known branches of the white race; one or more varieties of unreduced or unaltered Palaeolithic man; two varieties of brunet Mediterranean, of which the sea-borne Atlanto-Mediterranean is the more important; the two principal surviving variants of the Iron Age Nordic group; brachycephals of Dinaric or Armenoid type, as well as the composite Beaker type which is a blend of Dinaric, Borreby, and early Corded elements.

The snub-nosed Neo-Danubians and East Baltics, the brunet hook-nosed Irano-Afghans, may for practical purposes be considered absent, while the Alpine race, that important bearer of brachycephaly in central Europe from France to the Bosporus, and over into the highlands of western Asia, is notably uncommon. Individuals of apparent Alpine type are, in most cases, Borreby descendants. It is the virtual absence of Alpines in the British Isles which has prevented the British from undergoing a brachycephalization comparable to that found in most of central Europe. There seem to be no dominant trends in head form, for the component elements in the British amalgam have retained their original cephalic index levels.

In both Great Britain and Ireland, the invasion of the Keltic Iron Age Nordics was the event which brought in the largest single body of people, and the British of today, by and large, owe more in a physical sense to these Kelts than to any other group of invaders. In both Great Britain and Ireland, the Neolithic and Bronze Age invasions were of secondary importance in respect to the present population, as were the invasions of Germanic-speaking peoples.

In the different countries which make up the British Isles, these various minorities have differential values in the local populations. It is these minority differences which separate the English, the Scotch, the Irish, and the Welsh, while the community of the Iron Age Nordic element serves as an opposing force to hold them together.

In England, the Germanic element is the most distinctive; in Wales it is the Atlanto- Mediterranean; in Scotland it is a combination of Bronze Age and Scandinavian elements in the northeast, of Irish with Atlanto-Mediterranean in the west; in Ireland the one fact of greatest importance is the reƫmergence of the old northern Palaeolithic stock. The Keltic Iron Age racial type is least important in northeastern Scotland, where Keltic speech never penetrated, and in Wales, where it has attained its maximum survival.