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  • THE PARADOX OF MEDIEVAL SCOTLAND 1093-1286 - Social Relationships and Identities before the Wars of Independence

THE PARADOX OF MEDIEVAL SCOTLAND 1093-1286 - Social Relationships and Identities before the Wars of Independence

What is the Paradox?

The period between 1093 and 1286 laid the foundations for modern Scotland. At its start, the king of Scots ruled no more than a small east coast realm between Lothian and Moray. At its end, his authority extended over the whole area of modern Scotland apart from the Northern Isles. During the same period, Scotland's society and culture was transformed by the king implanting a new nobility of Anglo-Norman origin and establishing English influenced structures of law and government. Rees Davies observed of Scotland that 'paradoxically, the most extensively English-settled and Anglicised part of the British Isles was the country which retained its political independence' (The First English Empire, 170). The paradox could go deeper. Is it a coincidence that it was only in the thirteenth century, when Anglicisation became dominant in the lowlands, that the kingdom of the Scots ceased to be regarded by its inhabitants as a realm of many regions and began to be thought of as a single country and people? In one sense the kingdom was becoming more self-consciously Scottish; and yet its history in this period is typically seen in terms of native distinctiveness being eroded by the influx of English immigration, social institutions and culture. But, should this be seen primarily in British terms? How does this transformation relate to wider patterns of social and cultural homogenisation that have been identified in this period, embracing French-speaking elites, Flemish as well as English traders, and the religious life and institutions of Latin Christendom?

This project was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council from 2007 until 2010 and combining members of the Universities of Glasgow, Edinburgh and King's College London to investigate how a recognisably modern Scottish identity was formed during the period 1093-1286. Drawing on over 6000 contemporary charters, it constructed a unique data-base which provided biographical information about all known people in Scotland between 1093 and 1286. This has now been updated to 1314 as part of the Breaking of Britain project. This enlarged database is freely available to all on the 'Database' tab above.