Scotland: Early History

Early History

The Picts, of obscure origin, inhabited Scotland from prehistoric times. The Romans attempted vainly to penetrate Scotland, and their successive lines of forts and walls proved inadequate to contain the northern tribes of Picts and Celts. Although the Romans had little influence on Scottish life, Christianity had been introduced into Scotland before they left by St. Ninian and his disciples in the 5th cent. In the century and a half after the Roman evacuation (mid-5th cent.), four Scottish kingdoms came into being—that of the Picts in the north; that of the Scots who came from Ireland and founded Dalriada in what is now Argyll and Bute; that of the Britains in Strathclyde; and that of Northumbria (which also included northern England), founded by the Angles and settled largely by Germanic immigrants.

The mission of St. Columba (563) from Ireland reintroduced Christianity to Scotland. The usages of the Celtic Church differed in various details from those of Rome, introduced in the south of Britain by St. Augustine. Conflict between the two was settled in favor of Roman usage decided at the Synod of Whitby in 663, but Scottish Christianity only slowly adopted the Roman forms. After the decline of the Northumbrian power in Scotland began the raids of the Norsemen, who harried the country from the 8th to the 12th cent. In 794 they attacked the islands off Scotland and soon returned to live in the Hebrides; by 870 they were established in what came to be Caithness and Sutherland. In the mid-9th cent. Kenneth I established his rule over nearly all the land N of the Firth of Forth. His descendants pushed into Northumbria and by the 11th cent. ruled all of present Scotland except N Pictland and the islands.

Under Malcolm III, who married St. Margaret of Scotland (an English princess), there began a reorganization of the Scottish church and a gradual anglicization of the Lowland peoples. Malcolm invaded England after rejecting the claim of William II of England to sovereignty over Scotland, but peace followed the marriage of Malcolm's daughter to Henry I of England and allowed the process of feudalization in Scotland to continue. Although the clan system, based on blood relationships and personal loyalty to a chieftain, survived in the Highlands, feudal property laws were generally adopted in the Lowlands in the 11th and 12th cent. David I (1124–53) supported feudalism with land grants from the crown, encouraged the growth of self-governing burghs, and backed his bishops in their refusal to recognize the supremacy of the archbishop of York.

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