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The definition of indigenous population is the population that has been residing in a region for a period of time. What isn’t clear is how long that period needs to be. In times when people are more sensitive than ever to people migrating in and out of areas, it is interesting to look at a country which has experienced so many different patterns of migration, that it is difficult to identify what is the actual indigenous population.

The United Kingdom, like many other countries, is a melting pot of different ethnic groups. Many different indigenous populations have, at some time, found themselves moving into the region and settling down. The situation is complicated further by the fact that, over time, there has been much mixed breeding, creating what now is a mix of cultures.

The Celts – the oldest residents of the UK

Many of the areas of the country are home to the Celts. They were inhabiting the country prior to the Roman invasion. Today there is a close relationship between Ireland, Wales and Scotland with their Celtic ancestry. Future arrivals into the country tended to congregate on the east coast of the country, so the western regions did not receive so much ethnic mixing.

After the Romans, the country received large numbers of Saxons from Germany. These people became known as the Anglo-Saxons. As the Anglo Saxons spread from the east, the Celts were squashed towards the western side of the country.

The situation became further complicated by the fact that there were often visitors from Northern Europe in the shape of the Vikings. They came in the form of Danish war parties, but that also resulted in many Vikings settling in the country and taking part in village life. Over time, the Danes came to see themselves as being English.


From 1066 the country saw a large migration of Normans from France. The Normans controlled the country for 87 years but many of those who came over from France soon settled into the English way of living, even using the English language.

The Vikings – not always welcome visitors

So the indigenous population appears to be a mixture of Celts, Saxons, Normans, Vikings and Romans. From the 12th century there were no major great migrations into the country and time saw a continuing mix of the ethnic groups into one main community.

Things started to change when the UK started their policy of Empire building. Explorers left the ports of the country, going off in search of new lands. New countries were found in America, Australia, Asia and Africa, and territories were formed.

The resulting action was that many people from these new countries started to migrate into the United Kingdom. People of the Commonwealth were now given the legal opportunity to reside in the country, and over the last 150 years there has been waves of different nationalities coming in.

There have been times when large groups have come from the West Indies, or large groups came from Asia. Many of these ethnic groups have now been in the country for three or four generations, so when dealing with the issue of the indigenous population of the country, should the contributions of the Sikh Hindu and Muslim people be ignored?

The entry of the United Kingdom into the European Union in 1973 has seen the issue complicated further. The free international borders between the member countries saw huge groups of people entering the country from most parts of Europe. There have been large numbers of Eastern Europeans settling in the country, so they have added to the ethnic mix.

In June 2016 the country voted to withdraw from the European Union as one of the major fears was that the UK was losing its “Britishness”. The five years previous, the largest numbers entering the country was actually the French in search of employment. Things were turning back to the 11th century.

The indigenous population of the UK is a complicated one. Those who argue with the greatest passion to retain it are often those who know very little about it. The majority of the country have appeared to have migrated in from mainland Europe.