Considering Anglo-Saxon migrations
Until the early 20th century, historians had the idea that millions of barbarians migrated to the south at the end of
the Roman Empire. More recently, that image changed. Today, most historians agree that no more than 350 000 up to 500 000
people migrated during the period of the ‘great migrations’.
That figure must be compared with the estimation of the total population of the total Roman Empire during its
the last days: 50 million people, 30 million of them would live in the West. 96 % of them were farmers. So, half a million
people would immigrate, or 2% of the local population at the utmost, and spread over a period of at least 150 years. This
means an average of 5000 men, women and children per year, or 20 per day for the whole Western Empire! This percentage is not
comparable with present day immigration. Today, immigration percentage is greater.
Travelling always was expensive. So, migrating people (called tribes) moved in large groups, wagon trails. To
be able to supply themselves with food, they plundered the neighbourhoods when they passed. It is a myth that the Romans
forbade immigration into the Empire. In fact, everybody was welcome into the Empire, as an individual or as a family and as a
new taxpayer. Plundering groups were however not welcome for obvious reasons.
The surprisingly low migration rate is also valid for the Anglo-Saxons migrations into Britain.
For a calculation of the population of Britain in AD 428 click here
Estimation is that Britain had some 4 million inhabitants in AD 410. At least 2.7 million lived east of the
Pennines. We know that Anglo-Saxons were invited in Britain as 'mercenaries' even before the fall of the Roman Empire. And
that they were still coming 150 years later. In reality, the total migration represented probably no more than 35 000 up to
50 000 men, women and children, although the majority must have been young men. The Anglo-Saxons came over 4 or 5
Therefore, we must divide the total by 4 or 5 to have a more precise idea about the real percentage of the
Anglo-Saxons part of the local population at any time during that period. The equation (50 000 / 4 = 12 500 Anglo-Saxons per
generation. 2 700 000 locals / 12 500 A-S *100=0,46%) gives us a continuous max. between 0,25% up to 0,46%. This percentage
can be compared with the ‘classic’ 0,5-1,5 % percentage for professional soldiers.
So, the Anglo-Saxons must have represented no more than half of the professional soldier quantity in
Britain, which is consistent with the new version of the events during the 5th century that I will develop next.
The number of North-Germans in Britain was way too small to have any impact upon the local language.
Dr. Oppenheimer confirms that unambiguous North-German genetic markers are almost absent in modern Britain.
The idea of a possible half a million invading Anglo-Saxons is unlikely considering the fact that they had to
come by small boats from deep within Germany. The number and size of the ships to perform such an operation would have
exceeded 'Operation Dynamo’ (the Dunkirk-Dover evacuation of the British Army end May 1940). Technically, only a slow
and continuous 'migration' was possible. This influx could therefore have been stopped easily by local Britons.
Recent scientific publications adopt the idea that the Anglo-Saxons had not an overwhelming power upon the local population.
The main reason is very simple: the Anglo-Saxons had not enough people to do so. This gives us a important clue that the
Anglo-Saxons had to keep the local population on their side. They simply were unable to cope with a mayor rebellion, a
The Fries lived amongst Angles and Saxons. The zones on the picture are approximate. The
etymology of 'Angle' is 'narrow region', related to 'angle' (hook) .
How much Anglo-Saxons were available for Britain? The region they came from must have had some 0,7 - 1
million inhabitants. Extract 1 % professional soldiers = 7000 - 10000 men. Most of them already had work, were at the service
of local 'kings' (see the Finnesburgh fragment). Britain needed experienced soldiers the most. So, we can estimate that 10%
or an average of about 700 men were available, and possibly came over. The renewal of this 'source' was slow as a long
training was necessary and people died young. The occupation of soldiery always was hazardous. 500 men maximum per year is
the best estimation, 300 is more realistic.
The Romans actively recruited for their army. There are many examples of the fact that they sometimes compelled people to
join the legions. The Britons had no other choice but to 'invite' soldiers passively. As Britain needed an estimated 2
legions or 10 000 men to defend itself, the whole operation 'Come and Join Us' needed 20 years at least, and at best. 30
years is closer to reality. Thirty years later, this Anglo-Saxon force represented 0,27% of the British population.
Compare: The size of the American Army in Iraq during the war represented some 1 % of the population, but they were unable
to maintain law and order in the country. In fact, they were lucky that the Iraqi targeted primarily each other.
Gildas suggested strongly that the Anglo-Saxons were far from popular. But he lied. He hated the Anglo-Saxons for a reason
unknown to us and portrayed them as terrible, devilish, bloodthirsty, brutal, uncivilised, pagans, you name it. Thing is
that later historians believed him. Mind you: Gildas gave no serious facts in support of his condemnation of the
Reasoning further, it becomes clear that the late date of the Adventus Saxonum (AD 446 - proposed by Bede) is
unlikely. The rebellion happened just a few years later. This implies that no more than 1500 Anglo-Saxons, at best, took over
the country. This is hard to believe. The early date (428) is more realistic. But a take over was only possible by
means of a concerted action. Only a strong concentration of Anglo-Saxons could have achieved the 'conquest'. Striking is that
no early source mentions such a coordinated, central lead action. In fact, they relate a very chaotic series of events. Only
the very late sources (Historia Britonum, Anglo-Saxon chronicle) mention some battles in Kent. Something similar in
the rest of the country was not reported. There is also no sign that the Anglo-Saxons used Kent as a base for ensuing