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By Rosalind Mitchison

A fantastic quantity for a person in need of a brisk evaluate of North Britain from the 12 months dot to the 20 th century.

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Scottish records, confiscated and lost on two later occasions by English invaders, and probably sparser than in England even before these occasions, are now traditionally regarded by the public as non-existent. This is not true, but official documents before the mid-fifteenth century are to be counted only in hundreds where the corresponding English material numbers tens of thousands. The surviving ‘Acta’ of Malcolm IV comprise a hundred and sixty-one documents, and are mainly gathered from private cartularies.

Another attempt led to William’s capture at Alnwick in 1174, which coincided with a rising in Galloway. The Scots king could not afford to quibble over terms with the English, made at Falaise, but in the end these were generous. William had to accept English overlordship, swear fealty, and do homage, liege homage, and his barons with him, and hand over his main southern castles. The terms were interpreted leniently, understandably when you look at the English king’s position. He had just had the most serious rising of his reign, which had split the loyalty of the English kingdom deeply.

The effect was such that the Gaelic speech of Buchan gave way to Scots as newcomers recolonized the land later. In the next year, 1308, Bruce outwitted an ambush in the vital cleft to the west, the pass of Brander, and defeated the Macdougalls; his surviving brother Edward Bruce (the rest had been executed by Edward I) went down into Galloway to teach the lord and peasants there to forget their Balliol allegiance, and gradually over the years to retake the castles. From having nothing, not even a base, in a few incredible years Bruce had become king.

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