Cet article est une version remaniée de : Spalding Lewis, “Black Celt, White Berber: Sir John Rhys and Anglo-French approaches to a European indigeneity”, in BÉROSE, encyclopédie en ligne sur l’histoire des savoirs ethnographiques, Paris, IIAC-LAHIC, 2015.
By the close of the nineteenth century, the concept of an Aryan race had developed far beyond the early portraits painted by the first European Sanskritists and had come to occupy a central role in the world of fin de siècle social science. For the many scientists and amateur scholars concerned with the racial undertones of European history, the Aryan was a mutable, potent, and eminently usable concept that allowed them to link multiple European histories together under an umbrella of racial kinship while simultaneously excluding those states, ethnicities, histories, and languages that did not suit their particular goals. Those excluded aspects of European history were also increasingly provided with their own overarching racial identity in order to locate them, not simply as different, but in fact opposite, even antagonistic, to the progressive and civilized Aryan. From roughly the middle of the nineteenth century,  the concept of the non-Aryan emerged as a specifically racial category, one that could be identified through distinctive traces in European folklore, language, culture, and even early printed text.
Of course this discourse covers a wide span of intellectual currents across the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the majority of which are unfortunately outside the scope of this paper. Instead, this examination will focus on the role of the pre-Aryan in the work of Sir John Rhys, an influential figure in the nascent field of British academic scholarship on Celtic language and history. According to Richard Dorson, Rhys was a “most eminent spokesman” for “the cause of Welsh folklore” of his time,  an accolade even more striking given that Juliette Wood, in her review of the history of Welsh folklore science, suggests that “Dorson rather underplays the importance of John Rhys.”  In the eyes of his fellow scholars, he was not only “one of the foremost philologists of his day,” but also “an authority whose reputation was everywhere recognized as of the highest rank.”  His appointment to the Chair of Celtic at Oxford, to the Presidency of the Myth, Ritual and Magic Section at the International Folklore Congress of London in 1891, and to the Presidency of the Anthropological Section of the British Association in 1900 speak to his standing and reputation within the wider scholarly community and public readership. That he both received a knighthood in 1907 and an appointment to the Privy Council in 1911 further underscores his position in late nineteenth-century discourse as an authority on the British racial and linguistic past.
Rhys famously became the first Chair of Celtic at Oxford University after Matthew Arnold publicly lamented the lack of such a position; less well known perhaps is the fact that he was appointed to that role after submitting a massive dossier of recommendations from top scholars in the field. As Michael Lapidge notes, his list of supporters was long and impressive:
All the authorities agreed that Rhys was the man to fill it [the Chair at Oxford]; he submitted testimonials from Whitley Stokes, Prince Lucien Bonaparte, Constantino Nigra, D. Silvan Evans, [August] Leskien, [Georg] Curtius, [Hermann] Brockhaus, [Hugo] Schuchardt, Samuel Ferguson, D.R. Thomas, Emil Hübner, U. J. Bourke, Graziadio Ascoli, Robert Jones, [Henri] d’Arbois de Jubainville, and Henri Gaidoz. 
That Rhys had gathered such an international cohort of supporters is unsurprising. As a student at Oxford, he had spent his summers on the continent, honing his philological prowess in the company of respected innovators in the field. As a result, the Junggramatiker movement, which was gaining ground in German philological circles during his tenure in that country, profoundly influenced the young Rhys. At the University of Leipzig in particular, where he spent the summer of 1870, the study of language was undergoing a profound shift away from exclusively text-based study and toward an interdisciplinary, and increasingly racialized, focus on the contemporary and ancient vernacular.
The Junggrammatiker (or NeoGrammarian) movement - associated most closely with Karl Brugmann and Hermann Osthoff - directly challenged the classical philological paradigm, which held language apart as an almost transcendent phenomenon, one above the influence of either its speakers or its historio-cultural context. By contrast, and as Davies makes clear, the Junggrammatiker were emphatic that “language cannot be an organism which develops according to laws of its own independently of the speakers [...] we can understand how languages change only if we observe how change occurs in present-day languages and assume the same types of development apply to all phases of linguistic history.”  This revamping of philological practice also extended to the material of language itself, and one of the key demands made by these scholars was that philology recognize as an absolute principle that “sounds change [proceeds] according to ‘mechanical’ laws which in principle suffer no exception.”  In much the same way that British folklorists expended great effort shoring up the scientific credentials of their nascent discipline, the Junggrammatiker were intensely concerned with the issue of inconsistency, a problem that could potentially disqualify language, and the study of it, as a true science. Reasons for apparent exceptions to the laws of sound change had therefore to be discovered; as a result philology developed a renewed interest in the human and cultural contexts within which language developed. Thus from the mid-nineteenth century, the theorization of racio-cultural contact begins to form a more and more central feature of linguistic research, appearing at key moments as the kinetic force behind the evolution and development of language itself.
Like the Junggrammatiker Rhys endeavored to prove that language change always produced regular results, admitted no exceptions and proceeded along quantifiable lines. He did this by using the work of his contemporaries in the social sciences to supplement linguistic research, favoring work that was engaged in the “discovery” of the critical role played by Aryan and non-Aryan encounter in the formation of modern Europe. The kaleidoscope of language variation, once cause for disciplinary concern, could now be reimagined as the trace evidence of extensive racial interaction, whether preserved in the speech of the isolated rural poor, on an early medieval border stone, or in a Welsh manuscript. As races migrated, come into contact with each other, and formed new hybrid races, so language, the scientifically observable product of a race, retained signs of that history:
Skulls are harder than consonants, and races lurk behind when languages slink away. The lineal descendants of the neolithic aborigines are ever among us, possibly even those of a still earlier race. On the other hand, we can imagine the Kynesian [non-Aryan] impatiently hearing out the last echoes of palæolithic speech; we can guess dimly how the Goidel gradually silenced the Kynesian; we can detect the former coming slowly round to the keynote of the Brython; and lastly, we know how the Englishman is engaged, linguistically speaking, in drowning the voice of both in our own day. 
Like Paul Broca, who pushed the importance of racial taxonomy as one of the goals of the human sciences, Rhys was interested in proving the scientific validity of the study of languages via the mechanism of racial encounter. In his view, the movement of discrete human groups formed the means by which apparently non-regular sound changes could be explained. With recourse to the scientific evidence of other disciplines, such as craniometry, archaeology, and physical anthropology, Rhys followed suit with continental philologists and characterized language as a mutable, almost biological product that developed in conversation with a multiplicity of influences, race being among the most significant. That Rhys shared his European contemporaries’ interest in racial taxonomy is undoubtably suggestive; it was his position as an authority on the history of Celtic in Europe and Britain, however, that strengthened the dissemination of those interests into wider academic and popular discourse.
In 1900, Rhys gave a Presidential Address at the meeting of the Anthropological Section of the British Association. In it, he painted a portrait of the so-called non-Aryan population that had, throughout his work, figured as the primary agent of racial migration and mutation in the history of Europe. In particular, he argued that the proper study of the history of the Celtic language in Western Europe demanded a focus on the influence of race: without an acknowledgement of the role of the so-called natives that the Celts first encountered, how might one begin to analyze the deeper meaning of the latter’s linguistic relics?
We have also to exercise a sort of double vision if we are to understand the fairies and see through the stories about them. An instance will explain what I mean: Fairy women are pretty generally represented as fascinating to the last degree and gorgeously dressed [...] On the other hand, not only are some tribes of some fairies described as ugly, but fairy children when left as changelings are invariably pictured as repulsive urchins of a sallow complexion [...] there we have the real fairy with the glamor taken off and a certain amount of depreciatory exaggeration put on. 
Rhys goes on to delineate the ethnographic data that can be distilled from the evidence of these narrative and linguistic artifacts; his description of the “actual” fairy race hidden beneath the glamour of fiction and ancient language is an astonishingly detailed portrait, one which not only imagines the aboriginal race in terms of contemporary colonial analogues, but also relies heavily on its relationship with the invading Celtic Aryans to round out the characterization:
The fairies, as a real people, consisted of a short, stumpy swarthy race [...] They seem to have practiced the art of spinning, though they do not appear to have thought much of clothing. They had no tools or implements made of metal. They appear to have had a language of their own, which would imply a time when they understood no other, and explain why, when they came to a town to do their marketing, they laid down the exact money without uttering a syllable to anybody [...] they were consummate thieves; but their thievery was not systematically resented, as their visits were held to bring luck and prosperity. More powerful races generally feared them as formidable magicians who knew the future and could cause or cure disease as they pleased [...] Their family relations were of the lowest order; they not only reckoned no fathers, but it may be that, like certain Australian savages recently described by Spencer and Gillen, they had no notion of paternity at all. The stage of civilization in which fatherhood is of little or no account has left evidence of itself in Celtic literature [...] but the other and lower stage, anterior to the idea of fatherhood at all comes into sight only in certain bits of folklore. 
Clearly this formidable portrait of the European non-Aryan is heavily dependent on a colonial frame of mind. Australian aborigines appear only in order to be deployed as kin with the European non-Aryan, establishing the “ultimate primitivity” of the latter simply through association with the former. This account is also heavily indebted to the language of physical anthropology. Elsewhere, in The Welsh People, Rhys refers to the heterogeneity of skull shapes found in barrows in order to “prove” intermarriage between multiple races at an early date.  Here, his translation of narrative imagery into a physical and historical reality likewise follows the discursive interests of descriptive anthropological research into the human form, which tended to diagnose, for example, intellectual capacity from skull size and cultural progress from archaeological remains.  While Rhys was cautious about the use of physical anthropological conclusions as a means of identifying racial types in modern European populations,  and preferred to argue that “all conscious distinction of race had probably been obliterated before the eleventh century”,  he was clearly unperturbed by its application to the archaeological evidence of racial difference.
Another key feature of this description, one that typifies discourse on the so-called non-Aryan, is a focus on the relationship between Aryan and non-Aryan as the best method for diagnosing the identity of the latter. In a move post colonialists will no doubt recognize, aboriginal identity is figured only in terms of its relationship with, and its attitude towards, the colonizing Aryan population. The non-Aryans are characterized as oppositional, defiant, even antagonistic towards their colonizers; cultural and personal characteristics are likewise constructed only in terms of their difference from those of the Aryan. It is worth noting that the roots of this approach are, to some degree, to be found in the way that research on the non-Aryan developed in the first place. Social scientists of this period were increasingly interested in diagnosing the present of a disruptive racial element in European history, and it is suggestive to remember that they often used the concept of the non-Aryan as a theoretical dumping ground for irregularities in their fields of research. The idea of an aboriginal, non-Aryan population allowed confusing aspects of folklore, irregularities in language change, even variations in craniometrical data to be safely excised from a (now uninterrupted) Aryan history, while still preserving the scientific credentials of the social sciences. Research on the non-Aryan, like much of the anthropology practiced in areas of colonization, was never just about the subject. Rather, its ultimate function was to supplement the social scientific story of the European center.
Celtic Britain contains one of Rhys’ most detailed delineations of this kind of racialized history, one that begins with the life of the Celtic race after it had migrated into Britain. Rhys’ narration of prehistoric Britain during the waves of Aryan migration is replete with colonial structures for inter-cultural interaction:
At first the Goidel [first Celtic-Aryan invasion] probably drove the Ivernian [non-Aryan aborigine] back towards the west and the north, but, when another invasion came, that of the Brythons, he was driven back in the same way; that is, he was, forced, so to say, into the arms of the Ivernian native, to make common cause with him against the common enemy. Then followed the amalgamation of the Goidelic and Ivernian elements; for wherever traces of the latter are found we seem to come upon the native in the process of making himself a Goidel, and before becoming Welsh or English in speech he first became Goidelic, in every sense south of the Clyde. This means, from the Celtic point of view, that the Goidelic race of history is not wholly Celtic or Aryan, but that it inherits in part a claim to the soil of these islands, derived from possession at a time when, as yet, no Aryan waggoner’s team had approached the Atlantic. 
Crucially, while Rhys draws heavily on the historical and archaeological work of William Skene and William Boyd Dawkins, respectively, to supplement his own diachronic map of racial conquest and amalgamation, he finds final “proof” for hybridization in preserved traces of a non-Aryan language. According to Rhys, “it is hardly open to doubt that the Goidelic race [the first Aryan invasion of Britain] was profoundly modified in many respects by its absorption and assimilation of the indigenous element.” He cites with approval Charles H. Read’s contention that “the term Goidelic should strictly be confined to the mixed population in possession of the country when the Brythons arrived”.  Goidelic migration into Britain was followed at a later stage by the invasion of the Brythonic Celts, causing further hybridization of non-Aryan and Goidelic populations by forcing them into closer quarters. Another final result of the Brythonic migration, for Rhys, was the admixture of the already-intermingled non-Aryan and Goidelic population into that of the the newly arrived Brythonic Celts. Rhys clearly imagines this encounter to have transmitted the lineal inheritance of what he calls the “claim to the soil of these islands” from the original non-Aryan inhabitants to the Brythonic Celts.
Rhys’ contention that the majority of the racial make-up of the populations of Wales, Britain, and Ireland was non-Aryan followed from his larger vision of Celtic migration across Europe, which he argued was characterized by the invasion of small, warlike forces which then established a minority “ruling class” over a larger native population. To support this feudalistic, even colonial vision of Aryan migration, Rhys refers to Caesar’s census of the continental Gaulish tribes, noting that according to the latter the “Gaulish aristocracy formed a surprisingly small proportion” of the population, one that acted as the aristocratic elite within a much larger body of non-Aryan natives . From this, he argues “the French of the present day”, like the modern British, Welsh, and Irish, are “in the main, neither Gauls nor Aryans of any description so much as the lineal representatives of the inhabitants whom the Aryans found there” . “The original Aryans”, Rhys argues, “spread their language and institutions among other races by conquest”; thus “the various nations of the world speaking Aryan languages are not all equally Aryan in point of blood” .
If Rhys’ work was to support philology’s claims to modern scientific credentials, however, the structures of hybridization in the history of Celtic must then be observable in the wider family of Aryan languages. And indeed, according to Rhys, all changes in Aryan languages that appeared irregular could be explained as the product of racial interaction, the existence of multiple forms of the parent language the evidence of racial contact or even amalgamation. In order to distinguish between Aryan and its hybrids, Rhys used the letters Q or P, a taxonomy grounded in the shift from the former consonant to the latter in distinctive dialect areas. Thus, for Rhys, the migration of the Q Celts, followed by the advance of the P Celts, is paralleled in the linguistic and racial histories of both Italy and Greece, and Rhys is emphatic that one can “with certainty infer [that] the same division into a Q and a P group once obtained in the Hellenic world” . That this distinction is a racial one is also clear, and is particularly evident in his extraordinary anthropomorphization of the linguistic variants of Aryan when explaining their historical movements:
But what I want you particularly to notice is that the Q people, the Quintiuses, came into Italy first, and that the P people, the Pontiuses, arrived later, just as the Celtic people of the Q group, the Goidelic macs, arrived first in the Celtic lands, while the P Celts only came some time later. 
Within each Aryan branch the same pattern of movement, contact, and hybridization is repeated, with the Q variant of the language followed in turn by the P. It is also critical, however, to note the reasons Rhys imagined were behind this split of Aryan languages (and, by inference ethnic groups) into Q and P variants in the first place. Just as in Britain, where the influence of a non-Aryan linguistic and racial presence directly influenced the development of a Celtic and eventually British population, so the linguo-racial history of Europe was similarly grounded in Aryan and non-Aryan interaction. Hence Rhys argues for a further distinction to be made between the Q and P groups, one which he imagines provides the necessary impetus for the sudden and forceful invasion into the territory of the Q group by the members of the P. While, he says, “the Q peoples [...] the Goidels, the Latins, and the others in point, were simply Aryans, and all that is vaguely connoted by that term”,  the P group exhibits a more problematic set of characteristics. As Rhys has it, “the Aryan of the P group is the ancient Aryan plus something else, in other words the term Aryan is here modified by an unknown quantity, which unknown quantity makes itself felt linguistically in such changes from original Aryan speech as have already been specified” (emphasis added): 
What does this mean when translated into ethnology? I cannot exactly say, but one could hardly be far wrong in assuming it to imply a mixture of race, whatever else it may have involved. The Aryans conquered or assimilated and subdued another race in the neighborhood of the Alps: the subject race learned the language of the conquerors while retaining its own inherited habits of pronunciation, and those habits of pronunciation in some cases prevailed [...] Thus arose a modified form of Aryan language spoken by a Neo-aryan [sic] people of mixed origin, partly Aryan and partly something else. 
Just as in Britain, when the so-called Q Celts absorbed the British non-Aryan aborigine into their racial and linguistic identity in order to become the Goidelic variant, so the P languages are the evidence of ancient intermixture between what one might call the ur-Aryan and a pan non-Aryan substratum. Nor does Rhys appear to make any real distinction between British and ancient continental non-Aryan populations; while he delineates the aboriginal races in Britain to varying degrees of specificity elsewhere, he makes his position on the identity of the European aborigine clear in The Welsh People:
Was it [the non-Aryan population of Britain] a single race or several? This cannot be answered, but it would clearly be a waste of conjecture to suppose the pre-Goidelic inhabitants to have belonged to more than one race, until at any rate evidence is found to compel us to that conclusion. So we rest satisfied for the present to assume that they belonged to a single race. 
In the case of continental Aryan history, Rhys maintains this vague sense of non-Aryan, and it functions in his accounts of language development as the generalized label for a “something else” that “penetrated the fabric” of the Aryan language and race.  The homogeneity of the generic non-Aryan substratum, by contrast with the specificity of historic non-Aryan races such as the Picts, who are evaluated in more detail in Rhys’ narratives of British history,  allows for Rhys to both consider all intermixture of Aryans and non-Aryan (in the singular) under the same rubric of racial composition and linguistic pattern, and also to employ the non-Aryan, and fusion with it, as the crucial impetus for racial migration and language change throughout the history of the continental and British Aryans.
According to Rhys, of the most significant products of this hybridization was the so-called hybrid speech of neo-Celtic, the result of the amalgamation of both the P and Q Celts with the native population after their settlement in Britain. Rhys finds the evidence for a non-Aryan element in Goidelic speech in what he characterizes as a grammatical anomaly; this non-Aryan “syntactic peculiarity” reveals a dual inheritance within an apparently homogenous language. This process of linguistic intermixture carried on, Rhys emphasized, with the invasion of the Brythonic Celts, who through contact with the Goidels “indirectly acquired some of the linguistic peculiarities of the Aboriginal inhabitants.”  Rhys characterizes the pattern of hybridization as “racial amalgamation on a considerable scale,” one which eventually produced a dual-voiced modern Welsh language, evidence of an Aryan body “profoundly modified by the pronunciation and syntax of the non-Aryan language of the Aborigines.” 
Rhys does not himself examine these peculiarities in detail (being either unwilling or unable), however his popular history The Welsh People includes an appendix by fellow philologist David Brynmor-Jones - “Pre-Aryan Syntax in Insular Celtic” - to which Rhys directly refers the reader. In it, Brynmor-Jones synthesizes several streams of Continental philology on non-Aryan Europe in order to diagnose the sources of Wales’ racial identity. He reorients material from both Iberic and Hamitic theories, both of which argued for a vast, non-Aryan, presence across Europe from its early history, although their disagreements about its origin can be read in their names. Following the conclusions of the Hamitic theory, Brynmor-Jones argues that “Egyptian preserves a very ancient form of Hamitic speech; and we can assume with confidence that it approaches much nearer to the primitive Hamitic type of language.” And, crucially, “Egyptian may therefore be expected to agree more closely in general structure with our hypothetical pre-Celtic dialect.”  His argument therefore, proceeds on the assumption that Egyptian is scientifically congruent with the pure parent Hamitic, from which disseminated a broader swath of pre-Aryan varieties, including both Welsh and Berber. That this was not merely a linguistic kinship is clear: like Rhys, Brynmor-Jones enriches his philological argument with the “proof” of anthropological evidence:
That the pre-Celtic inhabitants of Britain were an offshoot of the North African race is shown by the cranial and physical similarity between the long-barrow men and the Berbers and Egyptians, and by the line of megalithic monuments which stretches from North Africa through Spain and the west of France to Britain, marking the route of the tribes in their migration. 
Here, Brynmor-Jones again demonstrates his familiarity with contemporary scholarship, arguing for Hamitic as the language family of the non-Aryan while also identifying an essentially Iberian route of migration. Essentially, he joins the two theories into one, with recourse to the evidence of social science, simultaneously enlarging the scope of non-Aryan influence and homogenizing it. Brynmor-Jones efforts, however, also illustrate a fascinating moment in the humanistic sciences that I would like to suggest was due to the immense cultural capital being generated by the so-called Kabyle Myth, which imagined certain ethnic groups in North Africa to be geographically preserved, “pure” indigenous Europeans.  For European social scientists, the Kabyle challenged established racial taxonomies, and as a result the need to theorize them into place became even more pressing. Indeed, it is no accident that the French occupation of Algeria from 1830 coincides with an increase in scientific diagnoses of the presence of a distinct, non-Aryan influence within the boundaries of Europe. That the Kabyle were light skinned Africans, occupying a geographical region known for a deep history of migration and cultural interchange, positioned them at the center of anxieties over the racial identity of Europe. Similarly marginalized areas in Britain, particularly Wales, Scotland and Ireland, had long experienced similar scrutiny, and Brynmor-Jones’ scientific deployment of a Celtic kinship with North Africa is a fascinating manipulation of the politics of anthropological discourse at the end of the nineteenth century.
It is essential to note that Brynmor-Jones’ essay on pre-Aryan syntax was, by his own admission, not only inspired by Rhys’ suggestion that the “peculiarities” of Welsh might be explained by the influence of a pre-Aryan race but was also examined by Rhys at several stages in its composition.  What is particularly fascinating, however, is the way Brynmor-Jones uses theories of a localized non-Aryan population, usually of either Iberic or Mediterranean origin, to argue for racial amalgamation on a much wider scale. In both Rhys’ and Brynmor-Jones’ work, the presence of an anomaly in Welsh dialect shift must necessarily be indicative of large-scale Aryan interaction with a homogenous non-Aryan substratum, one whose racial borders happen to encompass multiple contentious populations, pulling colonial Algeria and the Celtic fringe of Western Europe together. That these theories of an Aryan/non-Aryan racial binary in Europe were heavily indebted to conclusions provided by polygenecist approaches to physical anthropology renders this approach to Welsh racial identity even more striking. 
Finally, The Welsh People, which has formed the bulk of my examination here, was in fact written largely during Rhys and Brynmor-Jones’ appointment by the Royal Commission in 1893 to produce practical documentation on various facets of the history and population of Wales. The Commission published its findings in 1896 as the Report of the Royal Commission on Land in Wales and Monmouthshire.  Alongside detailed statistics concerning the average diet, land holding, and education of the Welsh population is Rhys’ own research, which touches upon both the linguistic history of Wales and also its ethnological inheritance, the latter in a chapter entitled, appropriately enough, “Racial Conditions.”  This chapter was later reprinted in Rhys and Brynmor-Jones’ The Welsh People as “The Ethnology of Ancient Wales,” along with other revised material from the original Report.  What is fascinating about the commission of this chapter as an official report for Parliament is that it formed part of an archive not only of accepted fact, but practical fact intended to assist in the administration of Wales. That Rhys’ interpretation of the non-Aryan population of early Britain, its relationship to the successive waves of Aryan invasion, and its status as the predominant element of a hybrid modern European race was entered into the official annals of late nineteenth-century Parliament makes abundantly clear the degree to which the idea of a non-Aryan substratum was accepted within not only philological but also anthropological and administrative discourse.
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