The divide between the 1.5 million Anglo-Saxons and the 20,000 Normans was even greater than historians previously thought, according to an eight-year research project by an Oxford medievalist, Dr Katharine Keats- Rohan.
Her detailed genealogical analyses of the 11th century Domesday Book and 12th century manuscripts have revealed that in the 100 years following the Norman conquest there was virtually no inter-marriage between the Norman aristocracy and the English. In the top 10 Norman families, there was no inter-marriage at all for several centuries. Among a further 2,000 Norman families, the inter-marriage rate was less than 5 per cent for at least four generations.
"Most historians have assumed there was substantial intermarriage between the Normans and the English. My research has revealed that this was definitely not the case," said Dr Keats-Rohan. "I believe it shows the Normans considered themselves to be socially and ethnically elite. It was socially unacceptable to mix with the English. In terms of ethnic superiority and social separation, it was a medieval forerunner of apartheid."