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A History of Scotland by Rosalind Mitchison

By Rosalind Mitchison

A terrific quantity for an individual in need of a brisk assessment of North Britain from the 12 months dot to the 20 th century.

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They were ‘bound’ to the soil unless they could get to a town and live and work there for a while, but they do not seem to have had the security of tenure of a manorial villein in England. Since their value was as rent payers and since it would be a long time before Scotland was fully occupied and farmed, their lords usually wished to retain them. A network of duties and obligations held them to him: they had to use his mill, fetch his needs, cut his turf, pay him conveth. In the south the land was farmed in small townships, with the arable in strips; in the north in homestead units or ‘davochs’.

Edward sent Aylmer of Valence to fight him with no holds barred. The Scots had only begun to learn the military lesson of the War of Independence, to avoid pitched battles, to destroy the castles and rely on the forest, on mobility and difficult terrain, and on scorched earth. Bruce was caught out and defeated at Methven and ran for the Highlands. Many of his followers, including his wife and daughter, were caught, but he got out and away from the country. He came back again in the winter and started a campaign from the hills of the south-west, his own land of Carrick.

In 1300 it began to look as if papal pressure would get Balliol returned: not surprisingly Bruce gave up the difficult job of the shared Guardianship and early in 1302 he made peace. There was no obvious reason why he should fight for another to hold an inheritance he thought should at least partly belong to his own family. But the plan that France and the Pope should put back Balliol was broken by another national resistance, the Flemish rebellion and the battle of Courtrai in July 1302. Like Edward, Philip of France was overstretched in imperialistic wars, and now met defeat.

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