The Celts: A Sceptical History by Simon Jenkins - review by Ewen A Cameron

Ewen A Cameron

Beyond the Fringe

The Celts: A Sceptical History


Profile 280pp £16.99

Simon Jenkins follows up his recent histories of England and Europe with a lively volume billed as a polemic about the Celts. It is both more and less than that, however. The book falls into four parts. In the first section, he follows recent scholarship in archaeology and medieval history in arguing that simplistic models of population movement and replacement are unhelpful explanations of the early history of Britain and Ireland. His objective is to banish the myth that there is a single Celtic people: ‘There are Ireland, Scotland and Wales, as well as Cornwall, Brittany and the Isle of Man. They have never in any respect cohered as one entity and I regard lumping them together as Celts or “the fringe” as distorting and dismissive.’ Neither does he approve of views of the Saxons as invaders who moved into the eastern part of Britain to replace the indigenous Celtic population.

The second section looks at the idea of the ‘English Empire in Embryo’ in the medieval and early modern periods, while the third focuses on the forces that worked to sow ‘The Seeds of Dissolution’ following the American Revolution. The Celts disappear in these parts, which is logical

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