The Races of Britain(excerpts)

The Races of Britain


(excerpts)

1885

by John Beddoe



Preface

... The ever-increasing rapidity of local migration and intermixture, due to the extension of railways and the altered conditions of society, will in the next generation almost inextricably confuse the limits and proportions of the British races; and it is a source of satisfaction to me that I have laboured to seize on fleeting opportunities, and to observe and record phenomena, which, however trivial they may appear from some points of view, may for generations to come retain some biological and historical value.


Chapter I. On Methods

It was the ancient controversy respecting the colour of the hair of the Kelts, then burning briskly enough, and even now still smouldering, that led me to begin systematic numerical observations in physical anthropology. Very little reading sufficed to show me that, if it was a difficult task to ascertain the complexional peculiarities of the Kelts of 2000 years ago, it was a no less puzzling one to determine those of their supposed representatives at the present day. It is of little use to appeal to current opinion, or the results of casual observation. The eye may rest upon a great many sets of features in the course of a long day's travel, but the mind will retain but few of them photographed on the tablet of memory; and those few will probably be such as have presented striking peculiarities, or have belonged to the persons brought most frequently and nearly into the company and contact of the observer. This fact, together with the inveterate tendency of so many scientific observers, to see everything as they wish and expect it to be, rather than as it is, may account for the striking discrepancies among ethnological writers on this simple matter of fact ...

My first observations were vitiated by faulty classification; but I soon settled down into the system to which I have since adhered, and which recommended itself chiefly by its convenience, as it generally enabled me to locate an individual in his proper class and division on a very cursory inspection.

I acknowledge three classes of eyes, distinguished as much by shade as by colour & light, intermediate or neutral, and dark ... Each of my three classes of eyes is subdivided into five, in accordance with the accompanying colour of hair: ... When unable to decide in which of two columns...an individual ought to be inscribed, I divide him between the two, by a Solomonian judgment, and set down 1/2, or .5, in each of them.

When engaged in this work I set down in his proper place on my card of observation every person (with the exceptions to be mentioned presently) whom I meet, or who passes me within a short distance, say from one to three yards. As a rule, I take no notice of persons who apparently belong to the upper classes, as these are more migratory and more often mixed in blood. I negelect those whom I suppose to be under age -- fixing the point roughly at 18 or 20 for men, 17 or 18 for women -- as well as those whose hair has begun to grizzle. Thus I get a fairly uniform material to work upon ... In order to preserve perfect fairness, I always examine first, out of any group of persons, the one who is neares, rather than the one to whom my attention is most drawn ... Considerable difficulties are created by the freaks of fashion....When I began to work in England, dark hair was in fashion among the women; and light and reddish hues were dulled with greasy unguents. In later years fair hair has been more in vogue; and golden shades, sometimes unknown to nature, are produced by art ... Fortunately, most vagaries of this kind are little prevalent in the classes among whom I seek my material.

It may be objected that there is no security that many of the persons observed may not be aliens to the place or neighbourhood wherein they are encountered. Certainly, there is no such security. But if a sufficient number of observations be secured, and the upper and other notoriously migratory classes (who are mostly easy of recognition) be excluded, the probability is immense that the great majority of the remainder have been born within a moderate radius of the centre of observation; and the majority will determine the position of the community in my chromatic scale.

A ready means of comparing the colours of two peoples or localities is found in the Index of Nigrescence. The gross index is gotten by subtracting the number of red and fair-haired persons from that of the dark-haired, together with twoce the black-haired. I double the black in order to give its proper value to the greater tendency to melanosity shown thereby ... From the gross index, the net, or percentage index, is of course readily obtained.

... On account of [the] dearth of material [on the measurements of British heads], I have measured a considerable number of living British heads, and shall make use of the results of these measurements in the present volume. As no accredited method existed when the work was done, it was necessary to frame one....It was necessary to avoid fatiguing or irritating the subects; yet it was desireable to obtain as many data as possible suitable for comparison with those taken from ancient crania[; I therefore] restricted myself to the use of the index callipers and graduated tape.

... I have spoken of the necessity and frequent difficulty of obtaining the consent of the owner of the head to be examined. His reluctance may sometimes be overcome by means of money, without going to the extent of the new hat always jocularly demanded in such cases. Sometimes other means have proved successful. I cannot resist detailing those by which I obtained a valuable series of head-measurements in Kerry [in western Ireland]. Our travelling party consisted of Dr. Barnard Davis, Dr. T. Wise, Mr. Windele, and myself. Whenever a likely little squad of natives was encountered, the two archaeologists got up a little dispute about the relative size and shape of their own heads, which I was called in to settle with the callipers. The unsuspecting Irishmen usually entered keenly into the debate, and before the little drama had been finished were eagerly betting on the sizes of their own heads, and begging to have their wagers determined in the same manner.


Chapter II. Prehistoric Races

... If our pal├Žolithic race were really the ancestors of the Eskimos, or at least their near relations, ... it is at least possible that they may have left descendants behind them to mingle their blood with the neolithic races and their descendants of to-day. Now I think some reason can be shown for suspecting the existence of some Mongoloid race in the modern population of Wales and the West of England.

Their most notable indication is the oblique or Chinese eye, with its external angle in a horizontal plane a little higher than the internal one ... I have notes of 34 persons with oblique eyes. Their heads include a wide range of relative breadth, from 73 to 86.6; and the average index of latitude in 78.9, which is not much greater than the average of England and Wales. But in other points the type stands out distinctly. The cheek-bones are almost always broad; the brows oblique, in the same direction as the eyes; the chin, as a rule, narrow or angular; the nose is often concave or flat, seldom arched; and the mouth is rather inclined to be prominent. The forehead usually recedes a little; the inion [a point at the external occipital protuberance of the skull, just above the nape of the neck] is placed high, and the naso-inial arc is rather short (13.8 inches), so as to lead one to suppose that the cerebellum is scarcely covred by the posterior lobes. The iris is usually hazel or brown, and the hair straight, dark brown, black, or reddish. This type seems to be common in Wales, in West Somerset, and especially in Cornwall ...

No instance of this type has turned up among the (comparatively few) heads from the East of England which I have had the opportunity for measuring, and very few from Ireland. I believe, however, that specimens of it might easily be found in the mountainous parts of Connaught, especially on the borders of Sligo and Roscommon. I have seldom noticed it in Scotland, but it occurs in Shetland. Dr. Mitchell mentions the obliquely-set eye in his description of one of his Scottish types, "the Irish Celt or Fin;" but though I am acquainted with the type he evidently had in mind, I cannot recognize in it any resemblance to the Finns of Finland, nor to the patterns of features just described.

There is an Irish type, known to Mr. Hector Maclean, and admirably described by him, which I am disposed to derive from the race of the Cro-Magnon, and that none the less because, like some other Irish types, it is evidently common in Spain, and furnishes, as Maclean remarks, the ideal portrait of Sancho Panza. It is said to be pretty common in the Hebrides, but rare in the Highlands. In the West of Ireland I have frequently seen it; but it is curious, psychologically, that the most exquisite examples of it never would submit to measurement. Though the head is large, the intelligence is low, and there is a great deal of cunning and suspicion.

There are, however, in my lists more than 40 persons who are noted as progthanous, or, more exactly, "having prominent mouths;" ... roughly speaking, about 6 per cent. of the English, 8 per cent of the Welsh, and 20 per cent. of the Irish list. The "Mongoloids" and the "progthanous" overlap each other in six instances; but except in these cases there are very decided points of difference. The latter have longer and narrower heads; their index of breadth is but 76.5, and in the bare skull would never exceed 80. The cheek- bones are much narrower (135 against 141 millimetres), but almost invariably prominent in the face. The usual form of the forehead is flat, narrow, and square; that of the chin, narrow and often receding; that of the nose, oftener concave than straight, oftener straight than sinuous or aquiline, usually prominent at the point, with the long slitty nostrils, which, whencesoever derived, are characteristicof the modern Gaels. The flatness of the temporal region, which comes out in the narrowness of the diameter at the root of the zygoma [bony arch below the orbit of the skull from which the cheekbones rise] gives to the norma verticaolis that coffin- or pear-shape which Daniel Wilson ascribes to the Celts. The hair is generally very dark, and often curly, but the eyes are more often blue or light- or dark-grey than of any shade of brown ...

This is evidently the Gaelic type of Mr. D. Macintosh, whom I rank with Hector Maclean as one of the best observers and recorders of local physiognomy. Macintosh finds these people very numerous in Dorset and Devon, especially toward Exmoor; and several of my specimens came from that quarter. It may be worth notice that there was a large immigration from Ireland into North Devon in the sixteenth century, during one of the perpetually recurring seasons of civil strife in that island ...

This one character of prognathism, taken separately, may be objected to as being of small value; but there is, as I have shown, a very great similarity in other respects among the individuals who present it. It will scarcely do to ascribe it, as is often done, to the effect of misery and oppression on the physique of the race. The average stature of my 34 was 5 ft. 7.6 in. (1.717 metre): my material is taken mostly from the labouring classes, yet in the progthanous lists appears one of the ablest and most distinguished clergymen in Wales. I have also noticed it in the portraits of some well-known Welsh bards; in fact, eloquence, or at least readiness of speech, seems to be a general characteristic of the type.

While Ireland is apparently its present centre, most of its lineaments are such as lead us to think of Africa as its possible birthplace; and it may be well, provisionally, to call it Africanoid, applying the name Atlantean, which has been suggested, to the widely- diffused Ibero-Berber race type, of which it is probably a subdivision, in spite of the wide difference in the form of the jaws between it and the basque type of Zaraus, the best accredited Iberian standard.

Though I believe this Africanoid type to have been of very high antiquity, it must be acknowledged that we have no evidence carrying back its presence, in any of the British Isles, beyond the polished stone period. But the best authenticated ancient skulls from Ireland may have belonged to it; for example, the three from the Phoenix Park tumuli )of which two are figured in the Crania Britannica), and those from the bed of the Nore at Borris. These show the inclination to progthanism to be of remote date in Ireland, as well as the peculiar form of low, straight brow that still prevails there, and which is connected with low, square, horizontal orbits.

Here follows a Comparative Table of Mongoloid and Africanoid Types.

... It has been noted that the great development of the brows, and the transverse furrow on the forehead above them, are shared by this type ["the men of the British bronze race," which persists, according to Beddoe, in "the West of England and in Wales"] with the Australians and some other savage races, as well as by the ancient Canstadt race, who have even been thought to retain in these points a Simian characteristic. Ranke and Kollmann say well, however, that points of likeness to anthropoid apes are distributed variously among the different races of mankind, but that none of them can be taken in themselves to imply intellectual or moral inferiority. King Robert Bruce's skull was of the Canstadt type, and Savanarola's approached it. Certain it is that the British bronze type is found frequently -- I should say with disproportionate frequency - - among our best as well as our ablest and strongest men.


Chapter III. Britain Before Caesar and Claudius

... To sum up this chapter, the natives of South Britain, at the time of the Roman conquest, probably consisted mainly of several strata, unequally distributed, of Celtic- speaking people, who in race and physical type, however, partook of the tall, blond stock of Northern Europe than of the thick-set, broad-headed, dark stock which Broca has called Celtic, and which those who object to this attribution of that much-contested name may, if they like, denominate Arvernian. Some of these layers were Gaelic in speech, some Cymric; they were both superposed on a foundation principally composed of the long-headed dark races of the Mediterranean stock, possibly mingled with the fragments of still more ancient races, Mongoliform or Allophylian. This foundations layer was still very strong and coherent in Ireland and the north of Scotland, where the subsequent deposits were thinner, and in someparts, wholly or partially absent ...


Chapter XIII. Preface to the Tables and Maps

... It may be objected that an Irish surname is insufficient evidence of Irish blood and probable Irish physical type; that an O'Hanlon may be the son of an English mother. But this is very rarely the case: Englishwomen very rarely marry Irish, or at least Catholic Irish, men ...


Chapter XIV. General Commentary on the Tables

When we talk of a race mixed from two or three stocks, we are apt to forget that even these parent stocks were not absolutely homogeneous ... The variations, therefore, in the description I am going to quote, with slight abridgement, from Hector Maclean, are not greater than necessary to correctness: --

"The dolichocephalous [long-headed] Celt," he says, "is of various sizes, but often tall; he is of various complexion, the colour of the skin ranging from a ruddy white to a swarthy hue; the shape of the body is often graceful; the head is high and long, often narrow, seldom broad in proportion; the face is frequently long, and the profile more or less convex; the lips are usually full, often thick and more or less projecting; the chin and lower jaw are obliquely placed, and the contour of the lower jaw, taken from its junction with the neck, is but slightly curved, and often looks to the eye as if it were a straight line; the chin is seldom round, and generally somewhat trapezoidal; the forehead, viewed in profile, gradually increases in prominence from the coronal region towards the eyebrows; face, from the external orbital angels to the point of the chin, long -- a characteristic of which the old Gael, Feinn, or Scots seem to have felt rather proud (see 'Lay of Diarmaid,' West Highland Tales, translated by J.F. Campbell). The nose is frequently large and prominent; eyebrows prominent, long, slightly arched, sometimes closely approaching a straight line; cheekbones large and prominent, eyes most frequently gray or bluish gray, sometimes dark gray or dark brown; hair reddish yellow, yellowish red, but more frequently various shades of brown, of which yellow is the ground colour; sometimes, when it appears altogether black, a yellow tinge is discovered when it is closely examined; when mixed with other types, the hair is coal-black, but hardly ever so when pure. Leg and foot usually well- developed, thigh long in proportion, instep high, ankle well-shapen and of moderate size; step very elastic and rather springing, the heel being well raised and the knee well bent. Quick in temper and very emotional, seldom speaking without being influenced by one feeling or another; more quick than accurate in observation; clear thinkers but wanting in deliberation; they have a fertile and vivid imagination; love the absolute in thought and principle ; dislike expediency and doubt; sympathetic with the weak, patriotic, chivalrous."

Maclean describes with equal minuteness and accuracy another type, which he calls the brachycephalous Celt, and which is, he says, frequent in the eastern and northern parts of the Highlands. In this the head is broad (comparatively), the profile straight, cheekbones borad and large, nose generally sinuous, face tapering rapidly to the chin, which is often prominent and angular; the skin is dark; the eyes deep-set, often small, dark-gray or dark-brown; the hair reddish-brown, red, or raven-black; the lips seldom prominent; the hand square, large-jointed; the chest square and broad; the calf large, and well-formed. The gait is easy and shuffling. These people have strong attachments and feelings, but much forethought and self-control; are gloomy, fervent, humorous ...

Maclean's third "Celtic" type is that of Sancho Panza, already described, and said to be especially prevalent in the outer Hebrides, as well as in the west of Ireland ...

In few parts of Britain does there exist a more clearly marked moral type than in Yorkshire. To that of the Irish it has no affinity; but the Scotchman and the Southern Englishman alike recognise the differences which distinguish the Yorkshire character from their own, but ate not so apt to apptrehend the numerous respective points of resemblance. The character is essentially Teutonic, including the shrewdness, the truthfulness without candour, the perseverance, energy and industry of the Lowland Scotch, but little of their frugality, or of the theological instinct common to the Welsh and Scotch, or of the imaginative genius, or the more brilliant qualities which sometimeslight up the Scottish character. The sound judgment, the spirit of fairplay, the love of comfort, order, and cleanliness, and the fondness for heavy feeding, are shared with the Saxon Englishman; but some of them are still more strongly marked in the Yorkshireman, as is also the bluff independence -- a very fine quality when it does not degenerate into selfish rudeness ...


[Map: Index of Nigrescence]


The Cornish are generally dark in hair and often in eye: they are decidedly the darkest people in England proper; they resemble the Scottish Highlanders in their warmth of colouring ... The point which comes out most distinctly from my head-measurements is the prominence of the glabella and (probably also) of the brow-ridges. To these may be added, more doubtfully, a receding forehead, a head much arched longitudinally, and broad about the parietal eminences ...

The statistics for Wales give several very distinct indications; they represent the Welsh as a generally-dark-haired and often dark-eyed people, among whom the Gaelic combination is common ...

The inferences that can be drawn from my head-measurements respecting the Welsh are but scanty....[W]e may with some certainty put the index of breadth at about 78, somewhat greater than that of the Irish or of the Wiltshire or West Somerset men, but below that of the eastern Englishman....[W]e may infer with less certainty a broad forehead, a small glabella, a somewhat low head, a somewhat short face, and a considerable lateral development of the zygoma. dark complexions, square foreheads, and sinuous noses prevail; noses more or less aquiline are more common that the concave.

But, in truth, the Welsh are anything but a homogeneous race. The diagram of head- breadth indices confirms other lines of probability, and points towards the presence in force of at least two races in South Wales, not thoroughly amalgamated. The characteistics of several types are doubtless smoothed over, and to a great extent neutralised in these averages. Those which come out are not those of the dominant race, the true Kymry, whose purest representatives should be sought in the tall, long- faced, light-eyed, darkish-haired population of Nithsdale, Upper Galloway, and the neighbouring region.

...The account which Giraldus de Barry gives of his countrymen is extremely interesting, and may still, after 700 years, be read with instruction....It presses very hardly on worst points of the Welsh character; but some of the vices which he alleges are those with which their enemies still charge them.

"They are inconstant," he says, "mobile: they have no respect for their oaths, for their promises, for the truth....[T]hey are always ready for perjury."

"They attack fiercely, with much noise; if repulsed, they flee as in terror, but as readily return to the charge. They are given to digging up boundary fences, and removing landmarks; they are continually having lawsuits about land. They are abstinent in need, and temperate by habit; but will gorge themselves at another's expense: no one wastes his own substance out of gluttony as the English do; but they are ostentatious in vieing with others."...

Vengefulness is also noted as a characteristic by Giraldus, and withal love of race and family, regard for high birth, and carefulness about genealogies. This last quality does undoubtedly belong to the Welsh, and makes it strange that they have not contrived for themselves a better system of surnames....

Throughout the greater part of Ireland one distinct type of man decidedly predominates; and to describe it is easy, though to explain its origin and constitution may be difficult....

In the personal observation table for Ireland, the localities are arranged in an ascending scale of depth of colour of hair; and it will be seen from the figures, and from the illustrative maps, that blonds are most numerous on and near the eastern coast, and brunets towards the west, whither they have been driven by successive invasions. There are a few exceptions to the rule, mostly explicable.

Under 30 per cent. of nigrescence come ... the upper classes in Dublin and Cork, with the people of Enniskillen, Youghal, Cloyne, and the neighbourhood, of Cashel and Cahir in Tipperary, of Charleville in Limerick, of Waterford town and Wexford county, and some other parts of Leinster. The index in these cases is comparable with that found in most parts of England; but in no case is it nearly so low as in many parts of the nort and east of that country or of Scotland.

Between 30 and 50 per cent. ranks the general population of Cork and Dublin, of Drogheda and Kildare, of Killarney in Kerry, of Collooney in Sligo, of Joyce's Country in Galway, of some districts about Cork, and of the county of Fermanagh with Western Cavan; also the people of the fisherman's quarter in Galway, called the Claddagh. Most parts of the Scottish Highlands would come in here.

Between 50 and 70 ranks the largest number of districts; viz., the counties of Longford and Leitrim, most part of those of Sligo, Roscommon, and Galway, with the town of Galway and the Arran Isles, Athlone, pettigo in South Donegal, Dingle in Kerry, and Capoguin in Waterford. The indices here equal those met with in Wales and Cornwall. Lastly, over 70 come several districts in the west of Kerry, with Clifden in Connemara, Jar-Connaught, Moytura in the hills between Sligo and Roscommon, and Mallow in county Cork. Such a preponderance of dark hair does not, I believe, occur anywhere in Great Britain; it ranges with that found in Auvergne, Savoy, and Northern Italy ...

The physiognomy of the Irish as distinguished from the English, Welsh, and Scotch, is best studied in the west and south-west, where there has been least immigration. Apart from that, one type probably predominates in almost all parts of the country. Davis well says that it is easily seen to be derived from the cranial conformation. The leading feature is the level eyebrow, surmounting low deep orbits.

... Though there are other primitive types of feature in the west of Ireland, the one already referred to as correlated with the skull-type is by far the most conspicuous ... The nose is generally long and sinuous, except in those (a decided minority) who are notably prognathanous, in whom it is generally of moderate length and somewhat concave: in either case it is pointed and has the true Gaelic nostril, which is long and narrow, and often conspicuously visible. Quite a due proportion, perhaps more, of the fairer people belong to the prognathanous class. This is a little strange, as in the west of England prognathousness goes with dark hair ...

The people of the Aran Isles, in Galway Bay, have their own strongly marked type, in some respects an exaggeration of the ordinary Gaelic one....We might be disposed, trusting to Irish traditions respecting the islands, to accept these people as representatives of the Firbolg [a semi-mythical people of pre-Christian Ireland], had not Cromwell, that upsetter of all things Hibernian, left in Aranmore a small English garrison, who subsequently apostatised to Catholicism, intermarried with the natives, and so vitiated the Firbolgian pedigree.

There are several islands off the west coast [of Ireland], besides Aranmore, which it might repay an anthropologist to visit. I have had the privilege of seeing but one of them, Inismurray, county Sligo. There "the barbarous people received us with no little kindness." Barbarous they were, however, as they grew up, as the "Queen" of the island told me, "all the same as cattles." ...


Final Chapter. Conclusions and Inconclusions

... That in the absence of trustworthy evidence as to a change of colour-type in Britain, in the direction from light to dark, it is best to rest upon the undoubted fact that the gaelic and Iberian races of the west, mostly dark-haired, are tending to swamp the blond Teutons of England by a reflux migration. At the same time, the possible effects of conjugal selection, of selecytion through disease, and of the relative increase of the darker types through the more rapid multiplication of the artizan class, who are in England generally darker than the upper classes, should be kept in view ...

That sundry important problems respecting the Picts; the origin of the modern Gaelic type, and particularly of the prognathous element therein; the complexion of some of the "Celts" of history ... &c., &c., remain yet unsolved ... The physical type of the modern Gael in Ireland and Scotland, and of their apparent kinsmen in parts of Wales and the wets of England, is, on the whole, best accounted for, perhaps, by a cross of the Iberian witha long-faced, harsh-featured, red-haired race, who contributed the language and much of the character ... The great geographical extension of this type in the British Isles makes it more likely that it was generated by a crossing effected on the Continent than that it was produced in situ ...

But a truce with speculation! It has been this writer's aim rather to lay a sure foundation ... to prepare some small part of a solid platform, whereon insight and genius may ultimately build, than himself to erect an edifice of wood and stubble, which may make a fair show for a day, and then be consumed by the testing fire. If these remaining questions are worthy and capable of solution, they will be solved only by much patient labour, and by the cooperation of anthropologists with antiquarians and philologists; so that much of the blurred and defaced prehistoric inscription as is left in shadow by one light may be brought into prominence and illumination by another.