The genetic history of the British Isles is the subject of research within the larger field of human population genetics. It has developed in parallel with DNA testing technologies capable of identifying genetic similarities and differences between populations. The conclusions of population genetics regarding the British Isles in turn draw upon and contribute to the larger field of understanding the history of humanity in the British Isles generally, complementing work in linguistics, archeology, history and genealogy.
Research concerning the most important routes of migration into the British Isles is the subject of debate. Apart from the most obvious route across the narrowest point of the English Channel into Kent, other routes may have been important over the millennia, including a land bridge in the Mesolithic period, and also maritime connections along the Atlantic coast.
In addition, the periods of the most important migrations are also contested. While the Neolithic introduction of farming technologies from Europe is frequently proposed as a period of major population change in the British Isles, such technology could either have been learned by locals from a small number of immigrants, or may have been put into effect by colonists who significantly changed the population.
Other potentially important historical periods of migration which have been subject to consideration in this field include the introduction of Celtic languages and technologies (during the Bronze and Iron Ages), the Roman era, the period of Anglo-Saxon influx, the Viking era, the Norman invasion of 1066 and the era of European wars of religion. There are also similarly many potential eras of movement between different parts of the British Isles.
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“The isles of Greece! the isles of Greece
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—George Gordon Noel Byron (17881824)
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—Henry James (18431916)
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“Nature, we are starting to realize, is every bit as important as nurture. Genetic influences, brain chemistry, and neurological development contribute strongly to who we are as children and what we become as adults. For example, tendencies to excessive worrying or timidity, leadership qualities, risk taking, obedience to authority, all appear to have a constitutional aspect.”
—Stanley Turecki (20th century)