What an audacious little book. I was suspicious from the outset… no author biography, no index, and no bibliography.
This had to be the ravings of a madman. However, it’s really a tight little essay, and rather than revealing any new ‘factual’ material, instead manages to convincingly confront the accepted mythologies of the origins of British peoples and their languages.The History of Britain Revealed provokes more questions than it provides answers.
The reader is thrown straight into chapter 1. ‘An Englishman’s Home’, a rant about the prevailing myths about the Anglo-Saxons, and how they managed to completely ‘replace’ the language of England with their own. Alarm bells went on… it’s a rant, I thought, albeit an amusing one. It will endure for a chapter or two, then probably peter out into vague claims and unsubstantiated evidence. I was wrong. The author, for all their sniping at academia and unexpected vague personal references, has employed pure logic to dissect the conceits of history, and how these beliefs are controlled by that old fortean chestnut, cognitive dissonance as well as nationalist agendas.
In just 140 pages, Harper manages to attack the Oxford English Dictionary (it’s a mess), argue that neither Old or Middle English ever really existed, and show that most of what we believe about our cultures is based on how historians and linguists are constantly backing each other up, just so no one will be accused of being wrong. Is English really a Germanic language? If so, why is is full of Latin? Is Latin based on French, instead of the other way around? Out of a list of countries that include Portugal, Spain, France and Italy, why are the Anglo-Saxons the only invaders, who unlike the the Visigoths, Vandals, Arabs, Burgundians, Danes, Normans, Ostrogoths, Lombards and Franks to invade a country – Britain, in their case and effect a permanent change on the language.
Whether you agree with Harper or not, this is, in fact, a very fortean book. In starts off with a big bag of beliefs, and ends up with a box of maybes.
The History of Britain Revealed (Amazon.com)
The History of Britain Revealed (Amazon.co.uk)