05 April 2007


Early English Settlement of Orkney and Shetland
Published 2007 by John Donald, an imprint of Birlinn.
Classical and Mediaeval historians state that there was English settlement in both Orkney and Shetland from at least the fourth century AD – about a century before the English migrated from the Continent to England. Scholars have dismissed these references as mistaken, though with no better reason than that they do not fit the traditional view. This book examines the case for early English settlement, bringing to light new evidence from the Norn language which was spoken on the islands until the eighteenth century, as well as re-examining historical and archaeological sources. The linguistic evidence serves as a proof for the accuracy of the assertions of early historians. It shows that the English were a small group within the complex cultural mix of Orkney and Shetland, ultimately subsumed into the Norwegian Viking population which later migrated to the islands. The English did not survive as a discrete population. But they had a four-hundred year presence in the islands, which constitutes the earliest English settlement within the British Isles.

Interview in The Orcadian.

Oxbow Books comments: "This fascinating book [which] treads a neat line between scholarly rigour and readability proposes that the Orkneys and Shetland were settled by the Saxons from the 4th century AD, centuries before the Vikings. Davis builds his case using historical records, linguistics and new genetic evidence, explaining the theory and processes in detail."