Guide Medieval Identity Machines (Medieval Cultures)

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In Medieval Identity Machines, Jeffrey J. Cohen examines the messiness, permeability, and perversity of medieval bodies, arguing Series: Medieval Cultures.
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Until the thirteenth century the borders with England were very fluid, with Northumbria being annexed to Scotland by David I, but lost under his grandson and successor Malcolm IV in Unlike England, Scotland had no towns dating from Roman occupation. From the twelfth century there are records of burghs, chartered towns, which became major centres of crafts and trade.


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There are almost no written sources from which to re-construct the demography of early Medieval Scotland. This would have meant that there were a relatively small proportion of available workers to the number of mouths to feed. This have made it difficult to produce a surplus that would allow demographic growth and more complex societies to develop. If the pattern followed that in England, then the population may have fallen to as low as half a million by the end of the fifteenth century. It has been suggested that they would have had a mean population of about 2,, but many would be much smaller than 1, and the largest, Edinburgh, probably had a population of over 10, by the end of the era.

The organisation of society is obscure in the early part of the period, for which there are few documentary sources. The combination of agnatic kinship and feudal obligations has been seen as creating the system of clans in the Highlands in this era. This led to increasing social tensions in urban society, but, in contrast to England and France, there was a lack of major unrest in Scottish rural society, where there was relatively little economic change.

The Pictish language remains enigmatic, since the Picts had no written script of their own and all that survives are place names and some isolated inscriptions in Irish ogham script. Our fuller sources for Ireland of the same period suggest that there would have been filidh , who acted as poets, musicians and historians, often attached to the court of a lord or king, and passed on their knowledge and culture in Gaelic to the next generation. In the Northern Isles the Norse language brought by Scandinavian occupiers and settlers evolved into the local Norn , which lingered until the end of the eighteenth century [] and Norse may also have survived as a spoken language until the sixteenth century in the Outer Hebrides.


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In the later part of the twelfth century, the writer Adam of Dryburgh described lowland Lothian as "the Land of the English in the Kingdom of the Scots". After this "de-gallicisation" of the Scottish court, a less highly regarded order of bards took over the functions of the filidh and they would continue to act in a similar role in the Highlands and Islands into the eighteenth century. They often trained in bardic schools, of which a few, like the one run by the MacMhuirich dynasty, who were bards to the Lord of the Isles , [] existed in Scotland and a larger number in Ireland, until they were suppressed from the seventeenth century.

In the late Middle Ages, Middle Scots , often simply called English, became the dominant language of the country. It was derived largely from Old English, with the addition of elements from Gaelic and French.

Scotland in the Middle Ages

Although resembling the language spoken in northern England, it became a distinct dialect from the late fourteenth century onwards. By the fifteenth century it was the language of government, with acts of parliament, council records and treasurer's accounts almost all using it from the reign of James I onwards. As a result, Gaelic, once dominant north of the Tay, began a steady decline.

The establishment of Christianity brought Latin to Scotland as a scholarly and written language. Monasteries served as major repositories of knowledge and education, often running schools and providing a small educated elite, who were essential to create and read documents in a largely illiterate society. These were usually attached to cathedrals or a collegiate church and were most common in the developing burghs. By the end of the Middle Ages grammar schools could be found in all the main burghs and some small towns.


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They were almost exclusively aimed at boys, but by the end of the fifteenth century, Edinburgh also had schools for girls, sometimes described as "sewing schools", and probably taught by lay women or nuns. All this resulted in an increase in literacy, but which was largely concentrated among a male and wealthy elite, [] with perhaps 60 per cent of the nobility being literate by the end of the period.

Until the fifteenth century, those who wished to attend university had to travel to England or the continent, and just over a 1, have been identified as doing so between the twelfth century and Those wanting to study for second degrees still needed to go elsewhere and Scottish scholars continued to visit the continent and English universities reopened to Scots in the late fifteenth century.

Medieval Identity Machines

He had probably studied at a Scottish grammar school, then Cambridge, before moving to Paris, where he matriculated in By the humanist and historian Hector Boece , born in Dundee and who had studied at Paris, returned to become the first principal at the new university of Aberdeen. Much of the earliest Welsh literature was actually composed in or near the country now called Scotland, in the Brythonic speech, from which Welsh would be derived, include The Gododdin and the Battle of Gwen Ystrad.

The Construction Of Castles During The Middle Ages - Absolute History

The first surviving major text in Early Scots literature is John Barbour 's Brus , composed under the patronage of Robert II and telling the story in epic poetry of Robert I's actions before the English invasion till the end of the war of independence. Many of the makars had a university education and so were also connected with the Kirk.

However, Dunbar's Lament for the Makaris c. Although there are earlier fragments of original Scots prose, such as the Auchinleck Chronicle , [] the first complete surviving work includes John Ireland 's The Meroure of Wyssdome In the early middles ages, there were distinct material cultures evident in the different linguistic groups, federations and kingdoms within what is now Scotland. Pictish art can be seen in the extensive survival of carved stones, particularly in the north and east of the country, which hold a variety of recurring images and patterns, as at Dunrobin Sutherland and Aberlemno stones Angus.

The finest era of the style was brought to an end by the disruption to monastic centres and aristocratic life of the Viking raids in the late eighth century. Scotland adopted the Romanesque in the late twelfth century, retaining and reviving elements of its style after the Gothic had become dominant elsewhere from the thirteenth century.

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Medieval vernacular architecture utilised local building materials, including cruck constructed houses, turf walls and clay, with a heavy reliance on stone. In the late Middle Ages new castles were built, some on a grander scale as " livery and maintenance " castles, to house retained troops. Ravenscraig , Kirkcaldy, begun about , is probably the first castle in the British Isles to be built as an artillery fort, incorporating "D-shape" bastions that would better resist cannon fire and on which artillery could be mounted.

Linlithgow was first constructed under James I, under the direction of master of work John de Waltoun and was referred to as a palace, apparently the first use of this term in the country, from This was extended under James III and began to correspond to a fashionable quadrangular, corner-towered Italian signorial palace, combining classical symmetry with neo-chivalric imagery.

In the late twelfth century, Giraldus Cambrensis noted that "in the opinion of many, Scotland not only equals its teacher, Ireland, but indeed greatly outdoes it and excels her in musical skill". He identified the Scots as using the cithara , tympanum and chorus, although what exactly these instruments were is unclear.

In the High Middle Ages the word "Scot" was only used by Scots to describe themselves to foreigners, amongst whom it was the most common word. They called themselves Albanach or simply Gaidel. Both "Scot" and Gaidel were ethnic terms that connected them to the majority of the inhabitants of Ireland.

At the beginning of the thirteenth century, the author of De Situ Albanie noted that: "The name Arregathel [Argyll] means margin of the Scots or Irish, because all Scots and Irish are generally called 'Gattheli'. Scotland's multilingual Scoto-Norman monarchs and mixed Gaelic and Scoto-Norman aristocracy all became part of the "Community of the Realm", in which ethnic differences were less divisive than in Ireland and Wales. The resulting antipathy towards England dominated Scottish foreign policy well into the fifteenth century, making it extremely difficult for Scottish kings like James III and James IV to pursue policies of peace towards their southern neighbour.

This document has been seen as the first "nationalist theory of sovereignty". The adoption of Middle Scots by the aristocracy has been seen as building a shared sense of national solidarity and culture between rulers and ruled, although the fact that north of the Tay Gaelic still dominated may have helped widen the cultural divide between highlands and lowlands. The epic poetic history of the Brus and Wallace helped outline a narrative of united struggle against the English enemy. Arthurian literature differed from conventional versions of the legend by treating Arthur as a villain and Mordred , the son of the king of the Picts, as a hero.

Andrew, martyred while bound to an X-shaped cross, first appeared in the Scotland during the reign of William I and was again depicted on seals used during the late thirteenth century; including on one particular example used by the Guardians of Scotland , dated Use of a blue background for the Saint Andrew's Cross is said to date from at least the fifteenth century.

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Part of a series on the. Architecture Art The Kilt Literature. Football Rugby union National football team Golf. By Region. Edinburgh timeline Glasgow timeline. Main article: Scotland in the Early Middle Ages. Main article: Origins of the Kingdom of Alba. Main article: Scotland in the High Middle Ages.

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Main article: House of Dunkeld. Main articles: Davidian Revolution and Scoto-Norman. Main article: Scotland in the Late Middle Ages. Main article: Wars of Scottish Independence. Main article: House of Stuart. Main article: Government in Medieval Scotland. Main article: Warfare in Medieval Scotland. Main article: Christianity in Medieval Scotland. Main article: Geography of Scotland in the Middle Ages. Main article: Economy of Scotland in the Middle Ages. Main article: Demography of Scotland.

Main article: Scottish society in the Middle Ages. Main article: Culture of Scotland. Main article: Celtic languages.