Monday, June 18, 2012

Devon’s Difference

Racial purity is a fancy term for in-breeding. Those who like that sort of thing will carry on doing it. And those who don’t, won’t. In a free society, politicians shouldn’t normally be that bothered either way.

Genetics becomes politicised when it is used to bolster or attack treasured historic identities. Such identities should be strong enough not to need bolstering but it is always gratifying when those who deny the legitimacy of these identities are dealt a heavy blow by objective evidence. This month, new research was reported showing how the DNA of Cornwall differs from that of Devon or, put from the Wessex perspective, how the DNA of Devon differs from that of Cornwall.

A decade ago, the Wessex movement online was subjected to a hefty amount of trolling by a couple of egregious folk asserting Devon to be a ‘lost’ Celtic nation and noisily denying that it had ever been an integral part of Wessex. In fact, of course, the documentary evidence is that Devon became Saxon at a relatively early date and, just as clearly, that Cornwall did not. Only those will be fooled who want to be fooled: beware the DeVonci Code.

Who put them up to it? Labour and UKIP are both suspects, as they both had a vested interest in destroying any viable alternative to the ‘South West’ zone. Labour, because this would make it easier to impose their regional vision, in the demented belief that they were doing good. UKIP, because it would make it easier to oppose any regional vision, in the equally demented belief that its roots lie in Brussels.

We cannot touch upon this subject without mentioning the tendency of some Cornish to make counter-productive noises. The loudest is that the whole of Devon was Cornish in King Athelstan’s reign. It certainly wasn't. The evidence as a whole is that the Tamar was already the border in Alfred’s day, to be not defined but rather confirmed and enforced by his grandson.  Athelstan the Bastard deserves a better press than he gets, especially from the Cornish.

The historical relationship between Cornwall and Wessex needs to be much better understood for all kinds of reasons. The more one delves into what is recorded, what is claimed, and what is simply wishful thinking, the more one reaches the conclusion that no area of international history outside eastern Europe has been so poorly served.  Not just by deeply flawed attempts at popularisation but by the obstructive politicisation of the underlying scholarship itself. The fault does not always lie with the scholars. Key historical documents remain locked up in the Duchy of Cornwall offices, still ‘commercially sensitive’ after 700 years. The creation of a Cornish National Library, recently mooted, ought to be the opportunity to make them available in Cornwall to all concerned. And these include Wessaxons as much as the Cornish: the Duchy has always been a much larger landowner in Wessex than in Cornwall itself. Tug your forelock as you may though, it won’t happen in today’s society and that really does take the organic biscuit.

In the past and in the present, the truth about both has been concealed in order to facilitate oppression. In the future, as soon as possible, it needs to be exposed in order to facilitate justice.


Dewnansek said...

Perhaps you should see the underlying map that is referred to in the posting

It shows that Cornish DNA is different from Devon, but that Devon is distinct from Dorset and points further east.

David Robins said...

Thanks for this. There's a lot of white on that map - plenty to keep the scientists busy for a year or two yet.