Home > B. The Living Artifact > Scotland, 1400: The Plot Thickens!

Scotland, 1400: The Plot Thickens!

File:RossScotLang1400.JPG

Patterns of settlement. That’s the first thought that came to RT’s mind when he saw this map. And we will also be thinking seriously in this post about the struggle for political power and the divide between the noble families and the crown.

To begin with, the areas that remain and have gone English-speaking since 1100 in this map are still the most densely populated areas of the country. Or to put it another way, 70% of Scotland’s people live in the central lowlands, a belt stretching between Edinburgh and Glasgow (the latter city is home to nearly a quarter of the country’s people). When we add in the population of the northeastern coast (which contains the cities of Aberdeen –pop. 220,420–and Inverness–pop. 59,000), we account for about 75% of Scotland’s population.

But the central lowlands are close to England and have been subject to the influence of its culture for centuries. The Scottish west coast and highlands, on the other hand, were semi-independent until 14th and 15th centuries. These northern and western areas retained their culture much longer than the south did.

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Here is what was happening on the political scene in Scotland in 1400: Robert III, second king of the Stuart dynasty, sat on the throne; his brother, Robert, however, held the real power. The crown was weak, unable as yet to assert it authority over the noble families.

Henry IV, of the House of Lancaster, was king in England; he spent much of his reign suppressing intrigue and rebellion at home, even as he renewed England’s claim to the throne of France. In Ireland, the native Gaelic speakers were experiencing a resurgence as England focused its energies elsewhere. Norway was in decline, absorbed as a second-class partner in the Kalmar Union.

English had made advances in the Central Lowlands over the centuries since King Edgar; in particular, David I, though his Davidian Revolution, had anglicized Scottish culture, introducing feudal tenure, the office of Justicar to oversee justice, and Anglo-Norman style at his court. All of this greatly expanded the power of the Scottish crown during the 12th century.

But not too greatly, as the Highlanders and noble families eventually reasserted themselves, and also the Scottish people had to contend with Edward I of England’s attempt to outright annex their kingdom.

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It seems clear that the gains of English speakers during the centuries before 1400 are due in no small part to the influence of English culture over southern Scotland–and through its numbers and wealth, the south has exercised powerful influence over the entire country.

But what then of the survival of Gaelic and the widespread use of Scots? Why do people use and support minority languages? More on these questions in this thread’s final post.   RT

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Map: Languages of Scotland in 1400 A.D. Wikipedia. Public Domain. Author: Calgacus.

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