Sahil Matani points out, tongue firmly in cheek, that, as it is now proposed to compensate hereditary victims of Slavery, it can easily be argued that the same principle ought to be applied even more broadly, going back in History even farther, and farther, and farther.
One glaring example is the great evil visited on the Anglo-Saxon population by the Normal Conquest of 1066. By any standard, the effect on indigenous English society was enduring devastation. Through war, invasion and genocide, the Anglo-Saxon ruling class was almost entirely replaced, control of the church and state surrendered to foreign adversaries, English replaced by Norman French as the language of government, and Englandâ€™s entire political, social and cultural orientation shifted from Northern Europe to the continent for the next thousand years.
This matters because, just as the pain of colonialism continues to be endured by its descendants, the Conquest continues to have lasting effects. In his study of surnames and social mobility, economic historian Gregory Clark concluded that Norman surnames continue to be 25 per cent overrepresented at Oxbridge to this day relative to other indigenous English surnames. As Clark put it: â€˜The fact that Norman surnames had not been completely average in their social distribution by 1300, by 1600, or even by 1900 implies astonishingly slow rates of social mobility during every epoch of English history.â€™ Not for nothing did Nonconformists and Whigs loudly oppose â€˜the Norman yokeâ€™ during the 17th and 18th centuries.
Cambridge University, which still drips with Norman money and influence, should now consider to what extent it needs to compensate its Anglo-Saxon victims. The Sutton Trust estimates that Oxbridge graduates earn Â£400,000 more during their lifetimes than graduates from other UK universities. These figures imply that descendants of the rapacious Norman invader class could be earning tens of thousands of pounds more than other graduates â€” an undeserved lifetime premium that has survived 31 generations. So, reparations must certainly be made. But who shall pay, and who shall receive?
It should be straightforward for a Royal Commission to trace the present-day descendants of Britainâ€™s Norman usurpers through a combination of genealogical and administrative research as well as â€” inevitably â€” mandatory genetic testing. A small tax on the Lampards, Vardys and Gascoignes of the world, payable to the Bamfords, Bransons and Ecclestones, would be sufficient to catalyse healing for the open sores of the past.
What are the sums involved? By 1086, the Norman arrivistes had stolen almost a third of the 12.5 million acres of arable land in England, parcelling it into manorial estates. At a conservative estimate, that land is now worth Â£7,000 per acre â€” or Â£25 billion in total that the Normans owe Anglo-Saxons for the Conquest. Franceâ€™s liability could, of course, be offset against our exit bill from the EU.
There will be inevitable quibbles, such as descendants of Normans claiming that they were not personally responsible. But this is feeble prattle. Countries typically honour treaties dating hundreds of years in the past, despite no one being alive who signed them. We pay debts accumulated by previous generations.