The Emergence of the English

This book critically evaluates the prevailing idea that north-west European migration was central to the transformation from post-Roman to ‘Anglo-Saxon’ society in Britain, and explores the increasing evidence for more evolutionary change.


£16.95 ISBN-13: 9781641891271

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Susan Oosthuizen

This book takes a critical approach to the assumption that the origins of the English can be found in fifth- and sixth-century immigration from north-west Europe. It begins by evaluating the primary evidence, and discussing the value of ethnicity in historical explanation. The author proposes an alternative explanatory model that sets short- and medium-term events and processes in the context of the longue durée, illustrated here through the agricultural landscape. She concludes that the origins of the English should rather be sought among late Romano-British communities, evolving, adapting, and innovating in a new, post-imperial context.
Though focusing on England between the fifth and seventh centuries, this volume explores themes of universal interest—the role of immigration in cultural transformation; the importance of the landscape as a mnemonic for cultural change; and the utility of a common property rights approach as an analytical tool.


1. Introduction
2. What Can Reliably Be Said To Be Known about Late Antique and Early Medieval England?
3. Ethnicity as an explanation
4. Another Perspective

Reviewer Quote(s)

[A]t less than 150pp I was expecting a brief polemic, and read on with an increasing degree of astonishment at the breadth of knowledge and the depth of research it contained, marshalling arguments for and against the traditional views of a radically changed social, political and economic post-Roman landscape., Nigel Hillpaul, Excutibor, April 2019

In this slim volume, Susan Oosthuizen thoroughly reconsiders the question of what happened in Britain during the poorly documented fifth and sixth centuries … The Emergence of the English is a stimulating book that is sure to generate much discussion., Leonard Neidorf, Nanjing University, Anglia, 138, 2020