Who are the English? Their language and culture have had an impact on the modern world out of all proportion to the size of their homeland. But what do we really understand about their ancestry? Traditionally they have been seen as the descendants of those Germanic peoples who poured into Britain after the Roman legions departed, today known as the Anglo-Saxons. Alternative interpretations have questioned this picture, or suggested complications. At last, the astonishing progress made in extracting and analysing ancient DNA means that theories can be tested empirically, shedding new light on the movement and migrations of peoples in the past.
Skilfully and accessibly blending together results from this cutting-edge DNA technology with new research from archaeology and linguistics, Jean Manco reveals a long and adventurous journey before a word of English was spoken. Going beyond a narrow focus on the Anglo-Saxon period, she probes into the deep origins of the Germani and their kin, and extends the story to the language of Shakespeare, taken to the first British colony in America. The result is an exciting new history of the English people, and a groundbreaking analysis of their development.