THERE was no great realm of Scotland in the eighth century, and North Britain, when the vikings first laid hold upon it, was a patchwork of kingdoms inhabited by peoples of different races. There were, first and foremost, the Picts, these occupying the largest part of the land, all the country north of the Firths of Forth and Clyde (except modern Argyllshire) and overflowing into the islands of the west and north, a confederacy of greater and lesser tribes, each with their own sub-king or chief, but having, when their history begins, a high-king at the head of all. Second, and like the Picts long-established, were the Strathclyde Welsh, Brythonic Celts as were their brothers in Wales itself, the whole body being the westward-crowded remnant of the Britons of pre-Roman days. But these Welsh of the north, or of the Cumbrian kingdom as it is sometimes called, were isolated from the Welsh of Wales and separately ruled, their territories being the lands from the Clyde to the Derwent in Cumberland, with Carlisle a chief town of theirs and Dumbarton (Alcluit) on the Clyde their capital; yet it may be that Galloway was not Welsh entirely, having a more Pictish than British population. Then, third, there were the Scots, newcomers, who were Goidelic Celts and colonists from Ireland: they had first established themselves about the year A.D. 500 in their new home, the district that came to be known as Dalriada and that comprised the whole of Argyllshire including the Kintyre peninsula and the islands of Islay, Jura, Arran, and Bute. Then, fourth, there were those other newcomers, Teutons, the Angles of Bernicia, whose kingdom, with Bamborough as its capital, extended first from the Forth to the Tees and later, when Deira was added, from the Forth to the Humber.

This Anglian kingdom was at first a powerful and dangerous neighbour, but the principal interest of eighth-century history in North Britain is the solid advance of Dalriada, the kingdom of the Scots, as a political force, and the decline of the Picts and the Welsh. Indeed, in the ninth century the four kingdoms


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A History of the Vikings


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