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Main page » Audiobooks » The Dark Origins of Britain [BBC Radio 4]

The Dark Origins of Britain [BBC Radio 4]


The Dark Origins of Britain is a landmark series dealing with the greatest unresolved mystery in our history - how the modern nations of England, Wales and Scotland were born out of the chaos of the Dark Ages. In 400 AD, when Roman power collapsed in Britain, we were a province inhabited by Celtic peoples speaking a mixture of early Welsh and Latin. But only two hundred years later, the foundations of a new, Anglo-Saxon, English-speaking nation were being laid.

It was perhaps the biggest cultural transformation we've ever experienced. It set us on the road we were to follow to the present day. But even now, no-one knows how it happened, or why. The fifth and sixth centuries are truly the darkest period in our history - almost without written records or archaeological evidence.

An Anglo-Saxon brooch and a helmet from Sutton Hoo excavation.

In recent years historians and archaeologists have begun telling the story of the Dark Ages as it's never been told before. They've overturned our most basic assumptions about the period. For centuries we've taken it for granted that England was an Anglo-Saxon nation, and that England - and by extension, Wales - was created by a large-scale Anglo-Saxon invasion. But most experts now believe that that invasion never happened.

According to this new orthodoxy, there was no process of ethnic cleansing, as the contemporary chroniclers claimed and generations of children have been taught. Instead, the existing population of lowland Britain simply adopted Anglo-Saxon fashions, and learnt to speak English in a deliberate process of upward mobility. The Dark Origins of Britain investigates that extraordinary claim - with its profound implications for who we really are - with the help of Britain's leading specialists in the field.

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Tags: Britain, Origins, early, Welshand, Latin