Paleogenetics is helping to solve the great mystery of prehistory: how did humans spread out over the earth? ... Before the Second World War, prehistory was seen as a series of invasions, with proto-Celts and Indo-Aryans swooping down on unsuspecting swaths of Europe and Asia like so many Vikings, while megalith builders wandered between continents in indecisive meanders. After the Second World War, this view was replaced by the processual school, which attributed cultural changes to internal adaptations. Ideas and technologies might travel, but people by and large stayed put. Today, however, migration is making a comeback. ... Much of this shift has to do with the introduction of powerful new techniques for studying ancient DNA. ... Whole-genome sequencing yields orders of magnitude more data than organelle-based testing, and allows geneticists to make detailed comparisons between individuals and populations. Those comparisons are now illuminating new branches of the human family tree. ... In five years, we’ve gone from thinking we shared no DNA with Neanderthals, to realising that there was widespread interbreeding, to pinpointing it (for one individual) within 200 years – almost the span of a family album. But the use of ancient DNA isn’t limited to our near-human relatives. It is also telling us about the dispersal of humans out of Africa, and the origin and spread of agriculture, and the peopling of the Americas. It is also helping archaeologists crack one of the great mysteries of prehistory: the origins of the Indo-Europeans.
All we know at this point in time is that Brexit will (probably) happen at some point over the next 2-3 years, but we still have no idea what the actual implications will be. It all depends on the forthcoming negotiations between the UK and the EU (and the rest of the world), and David Cameron and Boris Johnson probably both did the wise thing and chickened out, because that isn’t going to be much fun. ... In that context I note that it has taken Canada ten years to negotiate their free trade agreement with the EU, and that was prioritised by the EU negotiators. The EU have already declared that the UK will not be prioritised. On top of that, the UK will now have to negotiate trade agreements with pretty much every country around the world that it does business with – a monumental task, and the legal resources to do that job do not exist, according to a government official. ... As events unfolded, it would probably be fair to say that the vote wasn’t really about what it was supposed to be about; that got lost along the way. No, it turned into a referendum for or against immigration and a protest vote against Brussels and London. The amount of bitterness in large parts of the country – and in particular in the North – is such that many saw the referendum as an opportunity to give Brussels and London (or at least the elite in those cities) a slap in the face.
When International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach announced the 10 members of the first-ever Refugee Olympic Team in June—after a yearlong global vetting by 17 national Olympic committees and the United Nations Refugee Agency and after countless tryouts in Europe and Africa that resembled nothing so much as the hunt for Willy Wonka's golden tickets—he clearly intended the impact to redound far beyond sports. ... the crisis is so great, and the journeys of some athletes have been so harrowing, that the Refugee Team's march into Maracanã Stadium under the Olympic flag during the opening ceremony, just before Brazil's delegation, figures to be irresistible. ... Their routes to these Games differ, but all the Olympic refugees share the same mission: to change the conversation. They know that refugees have become easy scapegoats in scared societies, easy applause lines for politicians and all too easy to caricature as criminal or unclean. In Rio they hope to present an alternative to all the wire photos of crowded camps and dead bodies washed ashore, relieve the basic human fear of the other. They want to show that they can march in a parade, wave, smile, run and compete—just like everyone else.
The myth around which the EU has grown is that ministers and their officials always planned gradually, but inexorably, to subordinate the nation state to a higher European order. In the words of Vaclav Klaus, a former prime minister of the Czech Republic, countries would “dissolve in Europe like a lump of sugar in a cup of coffee”. But although Monnet and some of those around him did indeed dream of a European superstate, the politicians who made use of their ideas did not. The pooling of sovereignty found in the treaties first of Paris and then of Rome—which created the European Economic Community in 1957—was designed to save the nation state, not bury it. Europe’s governments have jealously guarded their powers ever since. ... If one key aspect of Europe has stayed constant, another has come full circle. Monnet’s scheme was an answer to the problem of Germany: too large to co-exist as a first among equals, too small to dominate its neighbours without resort to force. It was, for a long time, a good answer. For 65 years Germany has been prepared to subsume itself in Europe and, in exchange, has been allowed to act as a full member of the Western alliance. Today, by dint of unification and EU enlargement as well as its mighty economy, Germany runs Europe. ... Nobody thinks Europe’s great power is about to take up arms. But what sort of union does it want? ... The EU was not predestined, but makeshift. In the frantic politics of the post-war world other Europes were possible. But the one that actually came into being has been oddly durable. The fretful union of today, dominated by governments that scrap and bicker and backslide, is not an aberration. It is how things began. ... Leaders rarely act without a crisis to spur them on, and as a result their remedies are often inadequate.