Scotland 2

Scotland

Beginning in the sixth century, the area that is now Scotland was divided into three areas: Pictland, a patchwork of small lordships in central Scotland; the Anglo-Saxon Kingdom of Northumbria, which had conquered southeastern Scotland; and Dál Riata, founded by settlers from Ireland, bringing Gaelic language and culture with them. These societies were based on the family unit and had sharp divisions in wealth, although the vast majority were poor and worked full-time in subsistence agriculture. The Picts kept slaves (mostly captured in war) through the ninth century.

Gaelic influence over Pictland and Northumbria was facilitated by the large number of Gaelic-speaking clerics working as missionaries. Operating in the sixth century on the island of IonaSaint Columba was one of the earliest and best-known missionaries. The Vikings began to raid Scotland in the eighth century. Although the raiders sought slaves and luxury items, their main motivation was to acquire land. The oldest Norse settlements were in northwest Scotland, but they eventually conquered many areas along the coast. Old Norse entirely displaced Gaelic in the Northern Isles.

In the ninth century, the Norse threat allowed a Gael named Cináed mac Ailpín (Kenneth I) to seize power over Pictland, establishing a royal dynasty to which the modern monarchs trace their lineage, and marking the beginning of the end of Pictish culture. The kingdom of Cináed and his descendants, called Alba, was Gaelic in character but existed on the same area as Pictland. By the end of the tenth century, the Pictish language went extinct as its speakers shifted to Gaelic. From a base in eastern Scotland north of the River Forth and south of the River Spey, the kingdom expanded first southwards, into the former Northumbrian lands, and northwards into Moray. Around the turn of the millennium, there was a centralization in agricultural lands and the first towns began to be established.

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Norse kingdoms at the end of the eleventh century

In the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, with much of Scotland under the control of a single ruler and united by the Gaelic language, a modern nation-state first emerged, as did Scottish national consciousness. The domination of Gaelic was diminished during the reign of David I (1124–53), during which many English-speaking colonists settled in Scotland. David I and his successors centralized royal power and united mainland Scotland, capturing regions such as Moray, Galloway, and Caithness, although he did not succeed at extending his power over the Hebrides, which had been ruled by various Scottish clans following the death of Somerled in 1164. The system of feudalism was consolidated, with both Anglo-Norman incomers and native Gaelic chieftains being granted land in exchange for serving the king. The Scottish kings rejected English demands to subjugate themselves; in fact, England invaded Scotland several times to prevent Scotland’s expansion into northern England.

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The Wallace Monument commemorates William Wallace, the 13th-century Scottish hero.

The death of Alexander III in March 1286 broke the succession line of Scotland’s kings. Edward I of England arbitrated between various claimants for the Scottish crown. In return for surrendering Scotland’s nominal independence, John Balliol was pronounced king in 1292. In 1294, Balliol and other Scottish lords refused Edward’s demands to serve in his army against the French. Scotland and France sealed a treaty on 23 October 1295, known as the Auld Alliance. War ensued, and John was deposed by Edward who took personal control of Scotland. Andrew Moray and William Wallace initially emerged as the principal leaders of the resistance to English rule in the Wars of Scottish Independence, until Robert the Bruce was crowned king of Scotland in 1306. Victory at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314 proved the Scots had regained control of their kingdom. In 1320 the world’s first documented declaration of independence, the Declaration of Arbroath, won the support of Pope John XXII, leading to the legal recognition of Scottish sovereignty by the English Crown.

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