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History of Scotland

The earliest evidence of habitation in Scotland goes back some 7,000 years to the Stone Age as burial sites have been unearthed. Metal was introduced around 1,000 BC and with it, sword and shield and the arrival of Britons led to many skirmishes with the local inhabitants.

The Romans arrived in 82 AD and with them the first recorded history which included description of a battle with an army of red headed men which they called ‘Picts’ (painted ones). In 122 Hadrian built his well known wall from Solway to the Tyne to keep the northern barbarians out. This was not entirely successful and despite many Roman victories the Picts refused to be conquered.

After an uneasy period of relative peace the Romans pulled out of Scotland in the middle of the 4th century. From then until the 7th century there were four main races in Scotland, the Picts, the Anglo-Saxons, the Britons and the Scots Celts, originally from Ireland, who settled north of the Clyde. These races were almost constantly attacking each other for land over the next three centuries.

In 843 the King of the Scots, Kenneth Macapline created a union with the Picts and became king of all land north of the Clyde and the Forth which became known as Scotia. In 1018 Malcom II defeated the Anglo Saxons and brought them into the kingdom and in 1034 he was succeeded by his grandson Duncan I who already ruled the Britons, so the four kingdoms were united as one Scotland. In 1295 Edward I of England wanted to unite Scotland to England and declared himself to be overlord. The Scots were against this and formed an alliance with France thus leading to war with England. Edward’s army slaughtered the Scots at Berwick and Dunbar earning him the nickname ‘Hammer of the Scots’. William Wallace led a resistance movement against Edward and defeated the English at Stirling Bridge in 1297. A year later at Falkirk his army was beaten and he had to go into hiding for seven years before being captured and then executed. In 1314 Robert the Bruce, who was claimant to the Scottish throne, defeated Edward’s successor Edward II at Bannockburn. Scotland was left to rule itself after a peace treaty was agreed upon in 1328.

The Stewarts ruled Scotland for the next 300 plus years, the most notable being James VI who was named as the heir to the English Queen Elizabeth, becoming James I of England. Charles I succeeded him in 1625. When civil war broke out in England the Scots agreed to help the Parliamentarians. When Oliver Cromwell defeated Charles I and executed him, the Scots invited his son Charles II to become Scottish king. Cromwell invaded Scotland and ruled both countries until his death in 1658, Charles going into exile. The Restoration of 1660 brought Charles II back to the throne and he was succeeded in 1685 by James VII / II the first Catholic monarch for over a century. He was deposed in 1688 by his Protestant daughter Mary and her Dutch husband William. Some Scots remained true to James and these Jacobites raised an army and almost defeated William at Killiecrankie in 1689, but their leader Graham of Claverhouse was killed and they lost heart and returned to the Highlands. The government ordered all clans to take an oath of allegiance to the crown on the first day of 1692. Circumstances prevented the leader of the MacDonald clan from taking the oath until the 6th January, although he was assured his oath would be accepted. A party of Campbell soldiers were sent to Glencoe and as is custom were offered hospitality from the MacDonalds. Orders came from high authority to the Campbells and they slaughtered 38 of the MacDonalds in what became known as the Massacre of Glencoe.

The Jacobite Rebellions took place between 1708-46 and were between supporters of the deposed king’s son, James Edward Stuart and the Whigs, who would not tolerate a Catholic king. Measures were taken to quell the clans. General Wade built military roads and forts, opening up the Highlands and linking strategic points. He also founded a regiment of clansmen loyal to the Whigs, the Black Watch to control the clans. James Edward Stuart’s son, Prince Charles Edward Stuart, exiled in Rome set sail for Scotland determined to win the throne back for his father. He raised an army which saw success at Prestonpans defeating General Cope’s soldiers, and then decided to march on London with 5,000 men. He reached as far south as Derby but then decided to go no further and return north. On 16 April 1746 the Jacobite army met with the English army of the Duke of Cumberland at Culloden. The Jacobites were soon defeated with the English showing no mercy. Prince Charles escaped and spent the next five months hiding in the Western Highlands.

Following Culloden the wearing of Highland dress and bearing of arms was outlawed. Any remaining Jacobites were executed or transported. Between 1780 and 1860 were the Highland Clearances when thousands of crofters were evicted from their homes to make way for sheep. Many emigrated to America, Canada, Australia and New Zealand to escape the harsh regime. By the end of the 19th century the rural Highlands and Islands were deserted.

Since then things have been peaceful and Scotland has produced literary figures such as Sir Walter Scott, Robert Louis Stevenson and Robert Burns. Shipbuilding and engineering developed rapidly and employed 100,000 people by the start of the twentieth century. Unfortunately by the 1970’s competition from abroad had severely cut back shipbuilding, as well as coal mining and a lot of the heavy engineering. Focus is now on tourism, natural resources of oil and gas, and a rapidly expanding technology industry.

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