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It may come as a surprise to you, but the first mention of anything Celtic was made in 1707, until then the term simply didn’t exist.

It was coined by the Welsh linguist Edward Lhuyd who had spotted similarities between the languages spoken in Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Cornwall and Brittany. He derived the term from a generic word the Romans used to use for continental Gauls which in turn had come down from the Greek historians Hecataeus and Herodotus.

The idea of a Celtic nation of horse-wielding warriors, master craftsmen and wise old Druids is more a product of late eighteenth century Celtic revival than any actual historical fact. The tribes who we now refer to as Celts (who certainly never referred to themselves as such) were more likely a loose conglomeration of peoples who had little common history.

However, by the late 1700s Irish, Welsh and Scottish nationalism was on the increase and the protagonists looked for a way to differentiate themselves from England and assert their right to independence. Celtic ideals were quick to take hold and an alternative history was born.

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15 May 2011
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