Scottish history facts for dummies

The Battle of Bannockburn

In his new book, Scottish History For Dummies, Dr William Knox from the University of St Andrews explores the story of Scotland and its place within the historical narratives of Britain, Europe and the rest of the world. The book charts Scotland’s turbulent past to the present day, and explains the impact of key historical figures such as William Wallace, Robert the Bruce and philosopher David Hume. Here, writing for History Extra, Dr Knox reveals 10 things you (probably) didn’t know about Scottish history.

1) There is no genetically pure or original Scot – There is no common ancestral or genetic heritage that links the peoples of Scotland. The country was a patchwork quilt of various peoples grouped together in tribes who certainly never thought of themselves as Scottish. They owed allegiance only to their kith and kin, but in the campaigns against Roman imperialism they built federations that laid the basis of kingdoms.

Ancient Scotland was made up of four separate groups: Angles, Britons, Picts and Gaels (or Scoti), who each spoke a different language. Latin became the common language of the whole country only after the Christianisation of Scotland in the 6th century AD.

2) Kenneth McAlpin (810–858) was not, as is popularly claimed, the first king of Scotland – What McAlpin did was in 842 take advantage of the Picts who had been severely weakened militarily by punitive Viking raids, and unite the kingdom of the Gaels with that of Pictavia. But while he ruled over the whole of Scotland north of the river Forth, large parts of the country were still in the hands of the Vikings in the north and Islands, and in the south the Anglo-Saxons ruled. But McAlpin was referred to as king of the Picts – a title conferred on him at his coronation on Moot Hill at Scone, Perthshire, in 843 AD. It was not until the reign of Donald II (889–900) that the monarch became known as the ri Alban (king of Alba).

McAlpin’s achievement was to create a long-lasting dynasty that gradually extended the territorial borders of Scotland both north and south, but it was not until 1469 that what we know as Scotland today was established. See the next 8 facts here History Extra.

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One Response to Scottish history facts for dummies

  1. alfy says:

    The statement that, “Latin became the common language of the whole country only after the Christianisation of Scotland in the 6th century AD” is patently absurd. It may be that Latin became the common language of Scottisih SCHOLARS AND CLERGY in the 6th century AD as it was in most of Christian Europe, but it was not the language of the common people. If this was the case, when did the Lowland Scots give up speaking Latin and begin using English? Did the Highlanders give up their Gaelic tongue in the 6 century to speak Latin, and then go back to speaking Gaelic as many of them do today? No, no no.
    The other point made by the Prof is the “inexplicable” reason for Prince Charles Edward Stuart halting at Derby and returning to Scotland in the 1745 rising. Most commentators are agreed that there were two principal factors. Firstly, PCES expected disenchanted English Catholics would rally to his cause and increase the size of his army as he moved south. This did not happen. Secondly the Highlanders were used to fighting in local wars for limited time periods of a few weeks. The further they marched from Scotland the less enthusiastic they became. They sensed the hostility of the English towards them. Consequently, and quite logically, they began to desert from the army of PCES and head homewards. Many of them had been forced to join the army by intimidation and threats to their homes and families.

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