Scottish historiography


Scottish historiography

Scottish historiography refers to the sources and critical methods used by scholars to come to an understanding of the history of Scotland. Scottish historiography begins with Chronicles of the Picts and Scots, many of them written by monks in Latin.

The first to adopt a critical approach to organising this material was also a monk, Andrew of Wyntoun in the 14th century. His clerical connections gave him access to sources in monasteries across Scotland, England and beyond, and his educated background perhaps fuelled his critical spirit. Nevertheless, he wrote his chronicle in a poetic format and at the behest of patrons. He begins his tale with the creation of angels. Nevertheless, his later volumes (closer to his own time) are still a prime source for modern historians. The critical spirit was taken forward by the Paris based philosopher and historian John Mair, who weeded out many of the fabulous aspects of the story. Following him, the first Principle of Aberdeen University, Hector Boece further developed the evidence-based and critical approach. Bishop John Lesley, not only a scholar but, as a minister of the Scottish Crown, with unrivaled access to source materials, laid the foundations for modern historiography.

The disputes of the Reformation sharpened critical approaches on all sides, while the humanistic concern for ancient sources saw particular attention being devoted to the collection, conservation and organisation of historical evidence. George Buchanan was perhaps the greatest of the Scottish humanists. The importance of history to all sides in religious disputes led to divergence of views, but also further developed techniques of analysis during the 17th Century. This was also a time of an increasing demand by governments for data - statistical, administrative and legal - on their realms. This was another motor for systematic evidence collection and analysis. Many of the Scottish jurists - Lord Stair - contributed to the development of modern Scottish historiography.

The 18th century saw itself as the Age of Reason and in this climate of Enlightenment, seemingly measured approaches were taken both by those who maintained a distinctly religious approach - such as Principal William Robertson - "The history of Scotland, during the reigns of Queen Mary and of King James VI. (London : 1759)" - and those who sought to escape from that perspective. Among the latter, the greatest was David Hume, in whose work we can see the beginnings of modern historiography. No doubt limited by his own perspective, and by the still limited evidence available, he nonetheless set out a picture of the development of Scottish history which still convinces many today. This century was also the century which saw the beginnings of a local archaeology, though this was still regarded somewhat of a personal eccentricity.

The fact that Hume's "History of Great Britain" was very quickly renamed "History of England" is indicative of a change of focus that happened follow the Treaty of Union (1707) with England. Thereafter, a particularly Scottish historiography languished - whether in a romanticised nostalgia for a lost identity, or in continuing religious polemics. Scottish History became a sub-chapter in English history. Even so great an historian as Lord McAuley wrote only a "History of England".

This began to change in the 1960s. With the expansion of Higher Education, new Universities were established and with them new departments of history, some specialising in Scottish history. This allowed new attention to be paid to the particular geographic, demographic, governmental, legal and cultural structures of Scotland and to relate these to the wider European context, as well as those of Great Britain and its Empire. The distinctiveness of Scottish historiography now lies in its object of study rather than its approaches - though no doubt earlier historians can be glimpsed looking over their shoulders (past the chip) to events in England


Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Enlightenment (The Scottish) — The Scottish Enlightenment M.A.Stewart INTRODUCTION The term ‘Scottish Enlightenment’ is used to characterize a hundred years of intellectual and cultural endeavour that started around the second decade of the eighteenth century. Our knowledge of …   History of philosophy

  • David I of Scotland — David I King of the Scots ... (more) Reign April or May 1124 – 24 May 1153 Coronation Scone, April or May 1124 …   Wikipedia

  • Edward I of England — Edward I redirects here. For other kings who might be known by this name, see King Edward. Edward I Longshanks …   Wikipedia

  • Agnes Mure Mackenzie — (9 April 1891 ndash;26 February 1955) was a Scottish historian and writer. Her middle name is frequently misspelled Muir.Daughter of physician and surgeon Dr Murdoch Mackenzie and Sarah Agnes Mackenzie (née Drake), Agnes was born in Stornoway on… …   Wikipedia

  • Barbour, John — (ca. 1316–1395)    John Barbour was a 14th century Scottish poet, known chiefly for his patriotic 13,000 line verse chronicle The BRUCE (1375), an account of the reign and military victories of the Scottish King Robert the Bruce and his disciple… …   Encyclopedia of medieval literature

  • Alan Orr Anderson — (1879 1958) was a Scottish historian and compiler. He graduated from the University of Edinburgh.In 1908, after five years of work sponsored by the Carnegie Trust, he published Scottish Annals from English Chroniclers , a reasonably comprehensive …   Wikipedia

  • List of historians — This is a list of historians.The names are grouped by order of the historical period in which they were writing, which is not necessarily the same as the period in which they specialized.Chroniclers and annalists, though they are not historians… …   Wikipedia

  • English Civil War — For other uses, see English Civil War (disambiguation). English Civil War An allegory of the English Civil War by Wi …   Wikipedia

  • Oliver Cromwell — Cromwell redirects here. For other uses, see Cromwell (disambiguation). For other people named Oliver Cromwell, see Oliver Cromwell (disambiguation). Oliver Cromwell Portrait of Oliver Cromwell by Samuel Cooper …   Wikipedia

  • Age of Enlightenment — Age of Reason redirects here. For other uses, see Age of Reason (disambiguation) …   Wikipedia