A Potted History of Scotland

Category: History
Published on Saturday, 05 October 2013 18:08
Written by Maggi Kaye
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Prehistoric Scotland
People lived in Scotland for at least 8500 years before recorded history dealt with Britain. At times during the last interglacial period (130,000 – 70,000 BC) Europe had a climate warmer than today's, and early humans may have made their way to Scotland, though archaeologists have found no traces of this. Glaciers then scoured their way across most of Britain, and only after the ice retreated did Scotland again become habitable, around 9600 BC. Mesolithic hunter-gatherer encampments formed the first known settlements, and archaeologists have dated an example at Cramond near Edinburgh to around 8500 BC. Numerous other sites found around Scotland build up a picture of highly mobile boat-using people making tools from bone, stone and antlers.

Suggested Reading: The Early Races of Scotland And Their Monuments by Forbes Leslie
Scotland in the Early Middle Ages
The period was marked by comparatively good relations with the Wessex rulers of England, intense internal dynastic disunity and, despite this, relatively successful expansionary policies. Sometime after an invasion of the Kingdom of Strathclyde by King Edmund of England in 945, the province was handed over to King Malcolm I. During the reign of King Indulf (954-962), the Scots captured the fortress later called Edinburgh, their first foothold in Lothian. The reign of Malcolm II saw fuller incorporation of these territories. The critical year was perhaps 1018, when Malcolm II defeated the Northumbrians at the Battle of Carham. The Norman Conquest of England in 1066 initiated a chain of events which started to move the Kingdom of Scotland away from its originally Gaelic cultural orientation. By the late 13th century, scores of Norman and Anglo-Norman families had been granted Scottish lands. The first meetings of the Parliament of Scotland were convened during this period.

Suggested Reading: Kings of Celtic Scotland by Benjamin T. Hudson
Scotland in the High Middle Ages
After the death of the Maid of Norway, last direct heir of Alexander III of Scotland, Scotland's nobility asked Edward I, King of England, to adjudicate between rival claimants to the vacant Scottish throne. John Balliol was chosen as king, having the strongest claim in feudal law, but Edward used the concessions he gained to undermine and then depose King John. The Scots resisted under the leadership of Sir William Wallace and Andrew de Moray in support of John Balliol, and later under that of Robert the Bruce. Bruce, crowned as King Robert I on March 25, 1306, won a decisive victory over the English at the Battle of Bannockburn on June 23 - June 24, 1314, but warfare flared up again after his death during the Second War of Scottish Independence from 1332 to 1357 in which Edward Balliol unsuccessfully attempted to win back the throne from Bruce's heirs, with the support of the English king. Eventually, with the emergence of the Stewart dynasty in the 1370s, the situation in Scotland began to stabilise.

Suggested Reading: Medieval Scotland by A. D. M. Barrell
Wars of Scottish Independence
The Wars of Scottish Independence were a series of military campaigns fought between Scotland and England in the late 13th and early 14th centuries.The First War (1296–1328) began with the English invasion of Scotland in 1296, and ended with the signing of the Treaty of Edinburgh-Northampton in 1328. The Second War (1332–1357) began with the English supported invasion of Edward Balliol and the 'Disinherited' in 1332, and ended around 1357 with the signing of the Treaty of Berwick. The wars were part of a great national crisis for Scotland and the period became one of the most defining moments in the nation's history. At the end of both wars, Scotland still retained her status as a free and independent nation, which was her main aim throughout the conflict. The wars were also important for other reasons, such as the emergence of the longbow as a key weapon in medieval warfare.

Suggested Reading: Independence and Nationhood: Scotland 1306 - 1469 by Alexander Grant
Scotland in the Late Middle Ages
By the end of the Middle Ages, Scotland was showing a split into two cultural areas — the mainly Scots-speaking Lowlands, and the mainly Gaelic-speaking Highlands. However, Galwegian Gaelic persisted in remote parts of the southwest, which had formed part of the Lordship of Galloway, probably up until the late 18th century. Historically, the Lowlands were closer to mainstream European culture. By comparison, the clan system of the Highlands formed one of the region's more distinctive features, with a number of powerful clans remaining dominant until after the Acts of Union 1707.

Suggested Reading: The Late Medieval Scottish Parliament: Politics and the Three Estates, 1424-1488 by Roland Tanner
Scotland in the Early Modern Era
During the 16th century, Scotland underwent a Protestant Reformation. In the earlier part of the century, the teachings of first Martin Luther and then John Calvin began to influence Scotland. The execution of a number of Protestant preachers, most notably the Lutheran influenced Patrick Hamilton in 1528 and later the proto-Calvinist George Wishart in 1546 who was burnt at the stake in St Andrews by Cardinal Beaton for heresy, did nothing to stem the growth of these ideas. Beaton was assassinated shortly after the execution of George Wishart. The eventual Reformation of the Scottish Church followed a brief civil war in 1559-60, in which English intervention on the Protestant side was decisive. A Reformed confession of faith was adopted by Parliament in 1560, while the young Mary Queen of Scots was still in France. The most influential figure was John Knox, who had been a disciple of both John Calvin and George Wishart. Roman Catholicism was not totally eliminated, and remained strong particularly in parts of
the highlands. The Reformation remained somewhat precarious through the reign of Queen Mary, who remained Roman Catholic but tolerated Protestantism. Following her deposition in 1567, her infant son James VI was raised as a Protestant. In 1603, following the death of the childless Queen Elizabeth I, the crown of England passed to James. He took the title James I of England and James VI of Scotland, thus unifying these two countries under his personal rule. For a time, this remained the only political connection between two independent nations, but it foreshadowed the eventual 1707 union of Scotland and England under the banner of the Great Britain.

Suggested Reading: The Culture of Protestantism in Early Modern Scotland by Margo Todd
Scottish Enlightenment
The Scottish Enlightenment was a period of intellectual ferment in Scotland, running from approximately 1740 to 1800.In the period following the Act of Union 1707 Scotland's place in the world altered radically. Following the Reformation, many Scottish academics were teaching in great cities of mainland Europe but with the birth and rapid expansion of the new British Empire came a revival of philosophical thought in Scotland and a prodigious diversity of thinkers. Arguably the poorest country in western Europe in 1707, it was now able to turn its attentions to the wider world without the opposition of England. Scotland reaped the economic benefits of free trade within the British Empire together with the intellectual benefits of having established Europe's first public education system since classical times. Under these twin stimuli, Scottish thinkers began questioning assumptions previously taken for granted; and with Scotland's traditional connections to France, then in the throes of the Enlightenment, the
Scots began developing a uniquely practical branch of humanism to the extent that Voltaire said "We look to Scotland for all our ideas of civilisation."

Suggested Reading: Crowded with Genius: The Scottish Enlightenment: Edinburgh's Moment of the Mind by James Buchan
Scotland in the Modern Era
Tied as it was to the health of the British Empire, Scotland suffered after the First World War as it had gained beforehand. In the Highlands, which had provided a disproportionate number of recruits for the army, a whole generation of young men were lost, and many villages and communities suffered greatly. In the Lowlands, particularly Glasgow, poor working and living conditions led to industrial and political unrest. John MacLean became a key political figure in what became known as Red Clydeside, and in January 1919, the British Government, fearful of a revolutionary uprising, deployed tanks and soldiers in central Glasgow. During the 1920s and 1930s, due to global depression and foreign competition, Glasgow and Clydebank experienced high unemployment. In the Second World War naval bases and infrastructure in Scotland were primary German targets. Attacks on Scapa Flow and Rosyth gave RAF fighters their first successes downing bombers in Firth of Forth and East Lothian. The shipyards and heavy engineering
factories in Glasgow and Clydeside played a key part in the war effort, and suffered attacks from the Luftwaffe. Clydebank endured great destruction and loss of life. The Highlands again provided a large number of troops for the war effort. Commandos and resistance fighters received training in the harsh conditions of the Lochaber mountains.

Suggested Reading: Modern Scotland 1914-2000 by Richard J. Finlay