English, Irish, Scots: They’re All One, Genes Suggest – New York Times


Britain and Ireland are so thoroughly divided in their histories that there is no single word to refer to the inhabitants of both islands. Historians teach that they are mostly descended from different peoples: the Irish from the Celts, and the English from the Anglo-Saxons who invaded from northern Europe and drove the Celts to the country’s western and northern fringes.

But geneticists who have tested DNA throughout the British Isles are edging toward a different conclusion. Many are struck by the overall genetic similarities, leading some to claim that both Britain and Ireland have been inhabited for thousands of years by a single people that have remained in the majority, with only minor additions from later invaders like Celts, Romans, Angles, Saxons, Vikings and Normans.

This isn’t surprising, but it also isn’t a simple answer. I’m sure the genetic makeup of the average 3rd or 4th generation Canadian isn’t terribly different than their American counterparts, but there’s a lot more to “nationality” than just genetic makeup. Witness “the English”, whose nation created an empire through invasion and aggression. Compare them to “the Scots”, who remained quite insular and whose warring was generally limited to those opportunities (whether defensive or spiteful in nature) in which they might spank their Sassenach neighbours. Might this be a nature/nurture case study, played out in a nationwide scale?

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