St. Brice's Day massacre and its impact on English ancestry

#1
About the massacre:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Brice's_Day_massacre

The St. Brice's Day massacre was the killing of Danes in the Kingdom of England on 13 November 1002, ordered by King Æthelred the Unready. England had been ravaged by Danish raids every year from 997 to 1001, and in 1002 the king was told that the Danish men in England "would faithlessly take his life, and then all his councillors, and possess his kingdom afterwards". In response, he "ordered slain all the Danish men who were in England". (...)
^^^ Apparently that massacre eradicated Danish blood from England:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4632200/

https://www.nature.com/articles/nature14230

In particular, we see no clear genetic evidence of the Danish Viking occupation and control of a large part of England, either in separate UK clusters in that region (cf. Orkney), or in estimated ancestry profiles, suggesting a relatively limited input of DNA from the Danish Vikings (...)
 

Recusant

Ad Honorem
Sep 2009
2,624
Sector N after curfew
#2
It will be difficult to address this topic within the rules of this site, but I doubt that your hypothesis has any validity. There was no equivalent event to the St. Brice's Day massacre for the Romans nor the Normans, yet just as with the Norse, they left practically no genetic legacy in Britain according to the paper.

The paper doesn't hypothesize that the single historical event you cite is responsible for its findings in regard to limited contribution from the Norse to the makeup of the population of modern Britain. As well, the Wikipedia article you linked explains that the massacre is thought by a number of historians to have been limited to areas outside the Danelaw; not one historian is mentioned who believes that it effectively wiped out the Norse. Given this, and given the fact that England had a Danish king a bit over a decade after this event, it seems unlikely that the massacre explains the findings of the paper in Nature.
 
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Recusant

Ad Honorem
Sep 2009
2,624
Sector N after curfew
#4
It can be an interesting trivia.

But how relevant can it be to History?
There is an incisive comment from the lead author of the paper in a pop science article about it:

“When you study the past through history, linguistics or archaeology, you learn about successful people,” says Donnelly. “History is written by the winners, so much of current historical information is from a relatively small subset of people. Genetics, by contrast, is the history of the masses.”
The Norse and the Normans had a fairly large impact on the history of the British Isles, the Romans as well, though to a somewhat lesser extent. The study described in the paper in Nature shows that the impact of these three groups on the makeup of the modern population was negligible. In regard to history it appears to definitively tell us that none of these groups were particularly large in relation to the overall population of the islands, so there is some relevance.

The hypothesis offered in the OP is also interesting from a historical perspective. However, it seems untenable.
 
Oct 2013
14,260
Europix
#5
There is an incisive comment from the lead author of the paper in a pop science article about it:



The Norse and the Normans had a fairly large impact on the history of the British Isles, the Romans as well, though to a somewhat lesser extent. The study described in the paper in Nature shows that the impact of these three groups on the makeup of the modern population was negligible. In regard to history it appears to definitively tell us that none of these groups were particularly large in relation to the overall population of the islands, so there is some relevance.

The hypothesis offered in the OP is also interesting from a historical perspective. However, it seems untenable.

Ok, I'm a nobody, but I strongly dissagree with Donelly on two poits:

1. "... When you study the past through history, linguistics or archaeology, you learn about successful people ... "

No, through archaeology You don't learn only about successfully people. In fact, archaeology thought us a lot lately on "unsuccessful people".

2. "... Genetics, by contrast, is the history of the masses. ... "

One learns almost no history through genetics. Genetics don't tell what the masses spoke, what believed in, what had been through.


Anyway, leaving aside all that, at the present moment, the genetical studies are in a too "incipient" phase to not be token with a pinch of salt: on one of the links from the op, there is a link to another study. Not a genetics study, but a study on genetic research itself. It's worth reading, even if we skip the hard data and we look only at the intro and the conclusion: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3107607/

________

Just in case: I'm not against genetic studies, I am not trying to dismiss their importance. I'm only "wary" on the tendency to use them in explaining historical aspects that cannot be explained through genetics.

Like You said:
... The Norse and the Normans had a fairly large impact on the history of the British Isles, the Romans as well, though to a somewhat lesser extent. The study described in the paper in Nature shows that the impact of these three groups on the makeup of the modern population was negligible. ...
Genetically, the impact of the three groups is "negligible". Still, we know what was their real impact on Brittain's history: ... huge :)
 
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M9Powell

Ad Honorem
Oct 2014
4,435
appalacian Mtns
#6
Seeing as how the Anglo-Saxons are Germanics from the Danish peninsula, I seriously doubt anyone can find a genetic difference between the 2. Probably not much cultural difference either.
 
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Jun 2015
5,713
UK
#7
I always find looking at topology in any area, as well as linguistics, is a key to not only power shifts and governance changes, but population movements. The Normans and Angevins introduced many French words into English, but didn't settle that much in large numbers. However, the Norse established many placenames in the old Danelaw, which still exist of course. The dialects of northern England, like the demographics of the 9th/10th centuries, are a mix of Anglo-Saxon and Old Norse. So many Norse must have settled in England, either during the Danelaw, or after the united England was established.

As for the massacre, only some Norse were killed, since there were greater concentrations of Norse in the old Danelaw areas. Killing them in Oxford, or London, was easier due to these being areas holding more English political influence.
 
Jun 2015
5,713
UK
#8
Ok, I'm a nobody, but I strongly dissagree with Donelly on two poits:

1. "... When you study the past through history, linguistics or archaeology, you learn about successful people ... "

No, through archaeology You don't learn only about successfully people. In fact, archaeology thought us a lot lately on "unsuccessful people".

2. "... Genetics, by contrast, is the history of the masses. ... "

One learns almost no history through genetics. Genetics don't tell what the masses spoke, what believed in, what had been through.


Anyway, leaving aside all that, at the present moment, the genetical studies are in a too "incipient" phase to not be token with a pinch of salt: on one of the links from the op, there is a link to another study. Not a genetics study, but a study on genetic research itself. It's worth reading, even if we skip the hard data and we look only at the intro and the conclusion: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3107607/

________

Just in case: I'm not against genetic studies, I am not trying to dismiss their importance. I'm only "wary" on the tendency to use them in explaining historical aspects that cannot be explained through genetics.

Like You said:


Genetically, the impact of the three groups is "negligible". Still, we know what was their real impact on Brittain's history: ... huge :)
genetics tells us of population movements. It's an important tool in historical analysis.

I find it hard to believe there were no Norse settlments in England. How then did Yorkshire get York, Selby, and Thirsk alongside Beverley, Bridlington, and Howden? This alone suggests that Norsemen settled down and created towns alongside existing Anglo-Saxon locales.
 
Sep 2012
927
Prague, Czech Republic
#10
The Norse and the Normans had a fairly large impact on the history of the British Isles, the Romans as well, though to a somewhat lesser extent. The study described in the paper in Nature shows that the impact of these three groups on the makeup of the modern population was negligible.
It doesn't really show that. Hard to discuss this within forum rules; but it's more that people from Lincolnshire do not look significantly more like Danes than people from Kent.

I think the study of history through genetics is fascinating; but it's also extraordinarily complicated and difficult to interpret. Which is why I think HIstorum's rules exist, since people tend to leap to facile interpretations unsupported by the data.
 

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