(based mainly on David Mac Ritchie’s Ancient and Modern Britons Volume 1, ISBN 9781592322251)
In keeping with accuracy, Britain does not mean just England. I mean it as synonymous with British Isles (the collective name of the island containing England, Scotland & Wales – what used to be called Albion/ Prettania/ Brettania/ Alouíōn), Ireland (Northern & Republic – what used to be called Ierne/ Hibernia/ Iouernía), and the surrounding smaller islands.
When I first heard of this book I knew I wanted it. Now I’ve got it, it’s quickly becoming one of the most fascinating books on ‘race’ I’ve ever read. Mac Ritchie was a ‘white’ Scottish historian & folklorist, yet the information he delivers will probably be nothing short of miraculous to ‘black’ people interested in ‘black’ history.
Disclaimer: As informative as it is, it must be remembered it was written in the 1800s before knowledge of DNA was available to corroborate. It was also the time when scientific racism was at its peak. I just present this info as a potentially useful guideline and insight into the mindset of the past. If you want to see how true the claims are, please do your own research to independently verify.
To my regular readers this won’t be news, but the main premise is that ‘white’ people were not the first Brits. There were several distinct stocks of melaninated people here, tens of thousands of years before. Makes sense considering ‘whites’ have existed for no more than 8,500 years yet Europe has been inhabited for about 40,000 years. In short, while they were probably a homogenous tribe at first, today’s ‘white’ people are an extremely heterogenous group with ancestry from pretty far-flung parts of the world. Even pre-Columbian America. All their physical variations are almost exclusively a result of being so… well, mixed-race.
The very first inhabitants of the west Asian (“European”) mainland had skull shapes either identical to or approaching those of Australian Aborigines (known back then as “Australioids”, which also included Tasmanian Aborigines, hill-tribe Indians and ancient Egyptians [wtf?]), Bantu Africans (“Negroids”) and Negritos so it’d be weird if their skin colour wouldn’t have been identical.
(unless they were all albino?…)
Further evidence of this may be gleaned from so-called Venus figurines, statuettes of prehistoric European women. Though it’s not known if they represented real women, fantasy women or goddesses, the fact is they more closely resemble Khoisanid women of southern Africa like Saartjie Baartman than the average 21st century west Asian.
Then there’s the men, who according to new research were definitely ‘black’ but blue eyes were common among them. Which may link to other research that says blue eyes came about 10,000 years ago near the Black Sea.
Mac Ritchie goes into some detail on the particular melaninated groups that existed, aboriginal and newcomers:
- Picts (formerly known by the 2 omni-tribal confederacies’ names of Caledonii & Mæatæ) – original
- Scots (ancient not modern) – original? Though there’s a legend that they descend from a Kemetic princess called Scotia
- Moors (aka. Mors, Morrows & Morays) – newcomers/ original (depending on definition; more below)
- Saracens – see Moors
- Silures/ Euskarians, whom Tacitus likened with Spaniards (pp. 156-7, 186-7) – original?
- Gypsies (aka. “Egyptians” – incorrectly, Gipsies & Romanis) – newcomers
- Danes (ancient not modern) – newcomers
- Huns – newcomers
- Phoenicians* – newcomers
- Chaldees/ Jews – newcomers (though Davie seems to doubt their presence)
- An unspecified copper-coloured race – newcomers?
- Native Americans (at least Pocahontas) – newcomers
* BUT Phoenicians’ racial status was debated. It depends on the meaning of red. Red was a common synonym for ‘white’ even thousands of years ago, and at the time of this book’s writing was sometimes still used as such. This isn’t ludicrous; technically pink (not to be confused with magenta) is light red. The confusion comes from whether they mean that definition, or red as synonymous with Professor Huxley’s chocolate brown, (which was near enough the same as Italian archaeologist Gennarelli’s red) or Davie’s aforementioned copper-coloured. Talk about confusion!
As well as several unspecified mythical/ legendary/ folkloric people (pp. 150-1), likely to have been inspired by memories of actual living ‘black’ people, since Mr. Campbell (one of Mac Ritchie’s references) asserts that Breton & Gaelic tales are full of ‘black’-skinned club-wielding giants. Though Mac Ritchie doesn’t mention it, I’ve also read that south Asians were in London at least since the 1200s-1400s.
As for ‘whites’ their ancestry is speculated about at length. 1,800 years prior to Skene’s book Celtic Scotland, which would be around 2,000 years before present, there were 2 distinct races of Brits:
- Fair ones who resembled Belgic Gauls and were physically identical to what the Romans called Germanii/ Germans (red hair, wild blue eyes, large bodies) – dubbed the “formidable title” Xanthochroi, literally yellow-skins,
- And dark ones who resembled the Aquitani of southwest France & Iberians of Spain & Portugal* (dark wavy hair, short stature, definitively darker than the former) – dubbed Melanochroi, literally black-skins.
* their ultimate origins are debated, but they were definitely regarded as non-‘white’ even centuries before Moors invaded.
It is implied that the Xanthochroi are the original pure ‘white’ people but exactly who they were, where they came from or how they self-identified remains unclear. What is clear is that modern ‘whites’ who think they’re pure descendants of British Islanders are deluding themselves (pp. 123-5). They are descendants of Flemings from north & west Belgium and Normans (mixed French & Scandinavian), who are synonymous with Huxley’s Xanthochroi & the Romans’ Germanii, who mixed with other newcomer & aboriginal groups. Hence why Mac Ritchie distinguishes between ancient and modern populations so much.
In chapter 2 he claims Scythians are likely to be the ancestors of ‘white’ Britons, though he admits the word is vague and already falling into disuse. This is possible, as in ancient times Scythians were seen by the Greeks as the ‘whitest’ people on the planet. They are defined thus by “Lord” Strangford, Mac Ritchie’s authority:
“Some of the Scythian peoples may have been Anarian, Allophylic, Mongolian; some were demonstrably Aryan, and not only that, but Iranian as well, as is best shown in a memoir read before the Berlin Academy this last year.”
However others have said:
“Ethnographers are not unanimous in respect to the ethnic position of the Scythians. Bockh, Niebuhr and many others set them down as Tatars. But Humboldt, Grimm, Donaldson and others maintain … their ethnic affinity with the Aryans. Rawlinson, in his essay, ‘On The Ethnic Affinities of the Nation of Western Asia’ … distinctly ranges the Scythians among Tatar nations. He even maintains that a Tatar element is manifest in the oldest records of the Armenians, Cappadocians, Susianians and Chaldæans of Babylon. … F. Müller is of the opinion that some of the Scyths were Ural-Altaic and others Aryan…”
He further goes on the authority of Lempriere that Scythians consisted of several disunited nomadic tribes who hated money, lived off milk (VERY interesting in the light of this) & wore cattle skins, ate human flesh & drank their enemies’ blood, and used travellers’ skulls as vessels to carry sacrifices to their gods. They also managed to take over Asia Minor (Turkey) for 28 years beginning in 624BC, and even extended their conquests in Europe, Egypt &, with the “kindred” Sarmatians, Rome. The Sarmatians were likewise given to war, lewdness, painting their bodies in wartime, and drinking mixed horse milk & blood, and were known to the Romans & Greeks under various tribe names – Huns, Vandals, Goths, Alans, etc. During those days they conquered all of north Europe & much of Asia. One of Davie’s authorities, Mr. Howorth, identifies them also with Ugrians who hunted, fought with bows & arrows, and scarred their faces (which Mac Ritchie seems to think is the same as tattooing?!?).
On p. 30 it’s stated the word ogre ultimately comes from Ugri/ Ugrians. Also called Huns (e.g. Attila, p.35), they were a tribe whose descendants live predominantly in Hungary (which also came from the word) but also in north Siberia, some of whom were a solidly yellow-brown complexion (p.37), some “almost black” (p.35), and strongly resembling either the “Australioid” or “Mongoloid” aborigines of southeast Asia & the Malay Archipelago. To him these represent two strongly divergent races, especially in regards to the shape of their skulls, but this is explained as due to being mixed themselves. Throughout chapter 2 he states that Ugrians were counted among the Scythians by other historians, and this is explicable by the fact that Scythians were heterogenous and their ethnic “status” is unknown.
In east Europe & Asia, black & white were used to describe a nation’s or tribe’s status relative to another’s, black (kara in Tatar) being subservient & white (ak in Tatar) being dominant. While this doesn’t refer to skin colour anymore it did originally, due to ancient battles waged between the groups (explained further below). And you can guess which side won.
Many melaninated Europeans were still alive up to about 200 years before Mac Ritchie. Since the book was originally published in 1884, that means there were still brown-skinned native Europeans walking around in the late 1600s! And while none were purely ‘black’ anymore, they were visibly distinct from ‘whites’ and many were “as dark as mulattoes”! No wonder Founding Father of the USA Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) didn’t regard most Europeans as ‘white’!
Modern Brits, and Europeans in general, are descendants of the colossal admixture. It’s just more obvious in the melanochroi, similar to modern South America. Apparently even a tinge of colour in the skin shows mixture; the original pure ‘whites’ were so pale they were almost translucent! And I’ve heard the translucent-skin thing before. As a child I read a hadiyth where Muhammad described the huwr (virgins of paradise) as so radiantly ‘white’ you can almost see their bone marrow through their flesh – like that was supposed to be attractive! And according to other works highlighting the ‘blackness’ of the original Arabs, Turks used to be so pale they were sometimes called silver and likened to the moon.
Other features that give away ancient ‘black’ ancestry in modern ‘white’ people:
Curly hair (regardless of colour)
Black hair (regardless of texture)
Certain facial structures & bodily features
Davie asserts that any one of these features alone means the possessor is not 100% ‘white’, no matter how “pure” all the other features are. Those non-‘white’ features may show up with no known pattern, even if you trace someone’s ancestry 100 generations back and not come up with a single ‘black’ or brown person among them. However, judging from Onyeka’s Blackamoores: Africans in Tudor England, that may be because skin colour wasn’t usually deemed important enough to point out in people’s genealogy. Not to mention that Africans even then often changed their names to European-language names for whatever reason.
Certain modern clans & families can also be traced back to ‘black’ clans. Obviously over the course of time people intermarry and adopt new names whose meanings don’t apply to them, but that’s over time. Originally people’s names were taken as literal descriptions, e.g. Macintyre = son of a carpenter, MacDonald = son of Donald, etc.
Though colour terms can refer to people’s hair (as some modern ‘white’ history buffs are adamant to assert) this wasn’t normal. If the speaker meant to describe someone’s hair they would normally describe them as red-HAIRED, black-HAIRED, yellow-HAIRED, etc. Without such adjuncts, colour descriptions were understood to refer to skin as it’s the most obvious distinction. (p.57-8)
(p.59-61) There are still many place names in the British Isles (Scotland/ Ireland) that are nowadays taken to refer to natural features of the places themselves or of local fauna. However, it makes most sense to think they refer to the aboriginal people who lived there, e.g. Falkirk (speckled church, i.e. church of speckled people).
Here’s a non-exhaustive list of terms that related to ‘black’/ brown people or their descendants in ancient British history:
- Grim (origin of Graeme/ Graham!)
- Dubh, like in Dublin
- Dun/ donn (synonymous with tawny)
- Breac/ bhreac (pronounced vreck, postulated as the origin of freckle as it means spotted)
- Niger (original Latin)
- Swarthy/ swart/ schwarz
- Graafel (lit: grey-skin, in reference to a quadroon – p. 120) – so it has caught on!!!
- Gorm/ woad-stained (lit: blue or green, Gaelic), because aboriginal ‘blacks’ of the British Isles very often painted (or tattooed?) themselves such
- Moor and all its variants – Mauri, Morienses (referred to at least some Indians!), Moravienses, etc.
- Murrey, variant of Moor but signifying copper-coloured/ dark red
- Kara/ Ciar (Tatar or Ugrian language)
While ‘white’ terms include:
- Finn/ fionn (origin of Fiona)
- Sar/ sarni/ sorni/ sairan (purportedly origin of Sir, p.32)
- Ak (Tatar or Ugrian language)
A lot is mentioned of what happened to those original pure ‘black’ clans. In short, they used to live side by side with the ‘whites’ and “dark whites” until the Roman invasion beginning in 43 AD. Over the centuries they all lost power & influence to the ‘whites’, especially with the spread of Christianity. An example of this is the 4th century Czernii Ugri (‘black’ Ugri/ Huns) of chapter 2 who were conquered by the ‘white’ Ugri/ Huns and many of whom fled to the British Isles. Many intermixed with the growing ‘white’ populace, and the few die-hard rebels & dissenters were relegated to the outskirts of society. Many of them, trying and failing to hold onto their historic power & status, descended into petty crime. Certain areas of London became renowned for Gypsy presence. Others died off – naturally & otherwise. Many others took up different trades, especially in the entertainment biz, in such numbers that certain professions were associated with ‘black’/ brown people themselves, like clown, juggler, jongleur, minstrel, mountebank, tinker, prygge/ prig, sorcerer, acrobat, etc (p. 359). The so-called melanochroi, or “dark whites”, had been making a much larger presence since the time of the Danish Conquest in the early 1000s AD and were much more distinct from “fair whites” than today. According to Davie-boy not a single sector of British society escaped this racial amalgamation; neither rich nor poor, educated nor uneducated, business owner or unemployed, pure ‘black’ nor pure ‘white’ – the majority of living British people (and back in his time) have melanochroi blood, to the point that the then-common phrase “English people like ourselves” bears no meaning. No-one alive remembers what “true” English people or culture are because melanochroi were effectively a new race that didn’t fully identify culturally with either of their ancestral sides. Even Christianity “or what passes for Christianity” (p. 358) has been diluted with so much heathen/ pagan influence that it can’t be relied on to identify anything or anyone. Much of what many mistook for quintessentially English mores, rural fairs for example, were originally from gypsies. The Morris dance likewise originated from Moors*, and it looked absolutely nothing like its much tamer modern form. Even the word “boo” was an aboriginal Irish war-cry. From the 1400s-1600s gypsies were famed for roaming the isles north & south, as well as London theatres, in bands of a few hundred and were ‘black’ as Moors but had since been reduced to small families, were “merely tawny” and almost completely abandoned their ancestral ways.
* Very interestingly, Sir Walter Scott (from whom this claim came) meant native British Moors, aka. Picts. He fully denied the Moorish invasion from north Africa in the early 700s, or at any point in European history!
On a slight tangent, it is my personal belief that modern stories of drows (dark elves) are semi-mythical recollections/ re-tellings of those pure ‘black’ Europeans.
Warning for anyone who wants to read the book: Mac Ritchie is NOT sympathetic to ‘blacks’ at all, he is not a “‘white’ ally”. He makes it explicitly clear in damn near every chapter that he considers melaninated people to be inferior. Just because he admits ‘black’ people were his ultimate ancestors doesn’t mean he has to like them – or us.
- The Australioid first people of Britain were “of the very lowest type of humanity” (p.8)
- An African people discovered by Major Serpa Pinto, a race of ‘white’ Khoisanids who were “hideous beyond belief, like caricatured Mongolians, and evidently lower even than the Fuegians of South America in the scale of humanity” (p.18) and were “abject and hideous” (p.20)
- The Australioids’ skulls “still bear witness to their depravity” (p.19)
- The xanthochroi are “exquisitely handsome” (p.20)
- The Barbarian Prisoner, an example of what xanthochroi were thought to look like, bore “noble, manly features” and his face was “charged with dignity and force”. Such a face may have “rightly” been seen by his contemporaries as that of an aristocrat or of the ruling class (p.39)
- Heraldic representations of Moors are “ugly” (p.55)
- The Black Morrow of Galloway legend, assuming he actually existed, was of unimpressive appearance and “it is easy to see why they [other members of his race] were remorselessly hunted down” (p.55)
- 400-500 years before, the kings of Ireland accepted English rule. But they were completely “savage and uncivilized”, not just because they went naked and rode horses barebacked “like the wildest Indians [native Americans]”, but also because they hated wearing clothes, and their savagery was comparable to “a conquered Zulu King, or a Maori chief” failing to adopt English customs (p.74) – however at this point he wonders whether more clothes really do make a man more civilised, and accepts that his contemporary definition of “savage” and “civilized” are entirely subjective
- A group of people called the wild Mac Ra’s from 1715, although having miscegenated for over a century before, still displayed some native Scot features. Some were “as black and wild in their appearance as any American savages whatever” (p.81)
And yes, it was no secret that at least some pre-Columbian Americans were ‘black’.
I will go into more detail on this fascinating work in Part 2.