SCOTS, WHA HAE Scots, wha hae wi' Wallace bled, Scots, wham Bruce has often led, Welcome to your gory bed Or to Victorie! Now's the day, and now's the hour: See the front o' battle lout, See approach proud Edward's power-- Charles and slaverie! Wha will be a traitor knave? Wha will fill a coward's grave? Wha sae base as be a slave? Let him turn and flee! Wha for Scotland's King and Law Freedom's sword will strongly draw, Freeman stand, and freeman fa', Let him follow me! By oppression's woes and pains, By your son's in servile shains, We will drain our dearest veins, But we shall be free! Lay the proud usurpers low! Tyrants fall with every foe! Liberty's in every blow-- Let us do, or die! --Robert Burns (1759-96) (1)
At the University of St. Andrews in the early 1990s, students (including myself) used to ring the telephone of the Scottish National party in order to demonstrate our support and to hear the voice of Sean Connery on the answer phone. Several years later, in 1995, Mel Gibson's Braveheart appeared in movie theaters across the globe, offering an inaccurate view of history while providing an excellent demonstration of the strength of Scottish nationalism in the late twentieth century. In 2001, that nationalist sentiment swept across the country, finding a political outlet when almost seventy-five percent of Scots voted in favor of re-establishing a Scottish Parliament for the first time since the union of the crowns (1707). Scottish nationalist sentiment remains strong in the first years of the twenty-first century. Books such as Arthur Herman's How the Scots Invented the Modern World (2001) have worked to establish a global significance for the relatively small land in the northern part of the Isle of Great Britain. (2)
Current Scottish nationalist ideology has its roots in the post-Culloden cultural nationalism that largely developed during the nineteenth century. Over the past two hundred years, the Scots have glorified many aspects of their history as they strove to maintain a separate identity from their English neighbors. Being a part of the United Kingdom encouraged the Scots to define themselves and their unique culture and history in a definitive manner. The nationalist sentiment embraced by the Scots in the nineteenth century, though, was not new. Nor did a Scottish identity develop overnight. Rather, Scottish nationalism matured over a long period of time and had become a force in Scotland well before the failure of Bonnie Prince Charlie and Culloden in 1746. This study offers a general introduction to the growth of Scottish nationalism from the late 1200s through the Union of 1707. Contrary to claims offered by many scholars in the field, Scottish nationalism had fully developed and became significant both politically and culturally by the end of the early modern period.
Proving the existence of Scottish nationalism before the French Revolution is a difficult task. Most scholars of nationalism, with exceptions such as Liah Greenfeld, believe that revolutionary France signified the emergence of nationalist thought. Many Scottish historians disagree. Several claim that Scotland was the first nation, and that the Scots wrote the first European nationalist document more than four centuries before the overthrow of the ancien regime. Are these claims justified? A traditionally poor nation, Scotland exists on the periphery of Europe and, as a result, has not figured prominently on the world stage. Indeed, not many universities outside of Scotland (with the exception of many in Canada) offer classes on Scottish history. Few world civilization, or even western civilization, textbooks introduce any significant discussion of Scotland before it joined the United Kingdom. As a result, Scots have written much of their own history and often paint a picture tinted by rose-colored glasses. (3) On the other hand, as most historians concentrate on the leading players in history, such as England, France, Spain, the German principalities, and the Italian city-states in Western Europe, they could have easily overlooked the growth of nationalism in oft-ignored Scotland. With the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the creation of a number of new nations since then, studying the rise of a small nation and the growth of nationalist sentiment has become increasingly relevant to the current state of world affairs. Proving that nationalism existed before the French Revolution can enhance the modern scholar's understanding of this powerful force in global politics.
What is nationalism? Many historians, political scientists, and even students in university seminars have debated extensively the definition of the term. (4) In order to prove the existence of pre-eighteenth century nationalism in Scotland and to follow its development, it is necessary first to understand the concept itself. Nationalism can be interpreted in many different ways. Various scholars have settled on different chronological and material components of the doctrine of nationalism. Greenfeld is one of the few scholars who describes a fully developed nationalism before the French Revolution. In Nationalism: Five Roads to Modernity (1992), she proposes that nationalism developed in England during the sixteenth century and remained an exclusively English (and perhaps Dutch) ideology for almost two hundred years. Greenfeld asserts that nationalism takes many forms and expresses itself uniquely in different states. In addition, she stresses that a singular component of national identity, such as ethnicity, religion, class, or linguistic or territorial identity does not create nationalist sentiment. Only when a component or such components result in the creation of a sense of unique identity within a defined group can a nationalist doctrine be established. (5)
Upon reviewing the definition of nationalism offered by Greenfeld and other scholars, it is possible to perceive the essence of nationalism. Nationalist ideology can take many forms, from ethnic to linguistic and from cultural to political. The specific trigger for nationalist sentiment is not as crucial as the doctrine it creates. Nationalism is based on commonality within a group which transcends class boundaries; (6) it reflects the establishment of a uniqueness which allows members of a state to identify with one another and share a bond or a consciousness, through cultural, political, religious, ethnic, or linguistic similarities which are not shared with those outside the group.
Modern nationalism is often of an ethnic variety: for instance, the Serbian nationalists in the Balkans. Other forms of modern nationalism are religious in nature, such as Shi'ite and Sunni Muslim nationalists in Iraq or the Hindus and Muslims in Kashmir. Scottish nationalism was neither fully ethnic nor fully religious. Both Catholics and Protestants in Scotland have embraced nationalist sentiment. In addition, the Scots have brought together many different ethnicities into the population, from the Dal Riada and Picts during the first millennium to the Vikings and Normans of the Middle Ages. The Scots absorbed these "foreigners" into their society and created a culture and national myth that includes all of the country's ethnic groups. Moreover, Scottish nationalism was not linguistically based, as the Scots used Gaelic, English, French, Norse, and Latin in different areas of the kingdom. In spite of this diversity of ethnicity and language, by the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries the seeds of nationalism had been planted in Scotland. This nationalism is not identical to the modern version, nor is it the same as that developed following the French Revolution in 1789. From its earliest stages, Scottish nationalism evolved in its own direction and resulted in an atypical situation. It began as primarily political in nature; during the sixteenth century, it assumed a religious form, and later, following the loss of Scotland's political identity in 1707, transformed into cultural nationalism. The general Scottish acceptance of the loss of political autonomy strangely corresponds with developments in its nationalist ideology from the early thirteenth century to the mid-eighteenth century.
Scottish nationalism formed as a result of long-standing anti-foreign sentiment, (7) although it later developed characteristics independent from the opposition to foreign lands. Scandinavian encroachment in northern Scotland and the Isles helped the Highlanders to define themselves against foreign incursion during the early medieval period. Even more dramatically, though, the constant southern encroachment upon Scottish borders forced her people to unite against the English at regular intervals beginning during the age of Malcolm III Canmore, King of Scotland, and William the Conqueror, his English counterpart in the mid-eleventh century. Though Anglo-Scottish conflict occurred with some regularity, the stimulus for Scottish nationalism, according to several Scottish historians, was the status of the Scottish monarchy during the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries?
At the end of the thirteenth century, the Scots found themselves facing the most difficult of situations for a monarchial government; the lack of a king, with no clear successor. Alexander III died in 1286, leaving his toddler granddaughter, Margaret, Maid of Norway, as Queen of Scotland. The child queen died in the Orkneys in 1290 on her way to Scotland, leaving the kingdom without a direct heir and with thirteen claimants to the throne. The Scottish lords asked Edward I of England to be an impartial arbitrator in the matter of king-choosing. Edward I devised his own plan and made each of the claimants agree to England's supremacy over Scotland and acceptance of the English king as their overlord. In so doing, he forced the claimants to proclaim England's supremacy over Scotland by refusing to choose any man who did not comply with his proposal. He also threatened to use force to take over Scotland if the Scots did not accept his terms. Eventually, Edward I chose the man with the best claim by primogeniture, John Balliol, later known to the Scots as "Toom Tabard," largely as a result of his deference to the English king?
Although John attempted to act as an independent king, Edward I had other ideas for his new puppet and vassal kingdom. He tried to exploit Scotland, overrule her courts, demand military service from her people, and tax her for the benefit of England and was largely successful. John eventually retaliated, but Edward I forced him off the throne, resulting in the Wars for Scottish Independence. The Scots began their fight against England by signing the Treaty of Paris with France (1295), which became the basis for the Auld Alliance. By the terms of this treaty, the Scots were required to initiate hostilities against England, partially to distract Edward I from turning his troops against France. The Scots who were supposed to fight were not simply the nobles of the realm, but also "the communities of the towns." (10) The war with England would thus be a Scottish war, not just a war of the nobility. When the treaty was ratified in 1296, the seals of representatives from six of the burghs were appended onto the document. (11) England's attempt to end the independence of the Scots thus resulted in the formation of a Scottish popular unity with regard to anti-English sentiment, and the emergence of two men who are still considered Scottish national heroes, William Wallace and Robert the Bruce.
Not everyone in Scotland joined the fight against Edward I: the nobility, in particular, were slow to risk their own positions by taking up arms against the English king. Even Robert the Bruce did not definitively decide to oppose the English monarch until after Edward I had killed John "the Red" Comyn in a church in Dumfries, turning the later hero into an outlaw. More importantly, though, the men who fought for Scottish independence in the earliest days of the Wars for Independence were those who were usually less likely to play a role in the politics of Scotland, namely, lairds, knights, and burghers, who, at that time, were considered the commons of the realm. This fact is integral for the beginnings of a political nationalism that steps beyond the boundaries of simply the noble classes. (12)
English infringement of Scottish laws and customs during the reign of John Balliol led to the Scots community taking rule back into their own hands in 1295-96, specifically under the leadership of William Wallace. (13) Wallace was not of noble birth; in fact, he was only a Renfrewshire county gentleman. (14) In 1297, he defeated the English at Stirling Bridge and styled himself as "Commander of the Army of the Kingdom of Scotland" and the Guardian of the Kingdom of Scotland. Although he utilized the term kingdom instead of nation, Wallace was not simply protecting a throne for an absentee ruler, he was protecting the independence of Scotland. As historian J.M. Reid observes, "Wallace [was] the champion of a rising of a people in its own defence." (15) Since he was not …