Scottish History For Dummies book cover

Scottish History For Dummies

By: William Knox Published: 09-09-2014

Explore the fascinating history of Scotland in an easy-to-read guide

Want to discover how a small country on the edge of Northern Europe packs an almighty historical punch? Scottish History For Dummies is your guide to the story of Scotland and its place within the historical narratives of Britain, Europe and the rest of the world. You'll find out how Scotland rose from the ashes to forge its own destiny, understand the impact of Scottish historical figures such as William Wallace, Robert the Bruce and David Hume and be introduced to the wonderful world of Celtic religion, architecture and monuments.

History can help us make connections with people and events, and it gives us an understanding of why the world is like it is today. Scottish History For Dummies pulls back the curtain on how the story of Scotland has shaped the world far beyond its borders. From its turbulent past to the present day, this informative guide sheds a new and timely light on the story of Scotland and its people.

  • Dig into a wealth of fascinating facts on the Stone, Bronze and Iron ages
  • Get to know how Scotland was built into an industrial economy by inventors, explorers and missionaries
  • Discover the impact of the world wars on Scotland and how the country has responded to challenges created by them
  • Find up-to-the-minute information on Scotland's referendum on independence

If you're a lifelong learner looking for a fun, factual exploration of the grand scope of Scotland or a traveler wanting to make the most of your trip to this captivating country, Scottish History For Dummies has you covered.

Articles From Scottish History For Dummies

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10 results
Scottish Conservatives: A Story of Decline

Article / Updated 04-11-2017

Throughout the first half of 20th century, the Conservative Party was the only political party in Scotland to gain more than 50 per cent in a general election, but in the latter half of the 20th century, the Conservatives’ vote was on the slide. In 1997, they failed to get a single Conservative elected. Some commentators have attributed this decline to the impact of Margaret Thatcher, a British Prime Minister, and her free-market philosophy, which was at odds with the Scots’ emphasis on community and helping each other. Although Thatcher was a factor, you have to go back a little further to find the roots of the Conservatives’ decline north of the border. The best way of understanding this issue is to ask what the appeal of Conservatism to Scottish voters was prior to their slide after 1955. The appeal of Conservatism was based on three pillars – empire, patriotism, and Protestantism – which allowed them to appeal to a cross-section of Scottish society. The problem: These pillars collapsed in the decades after the end of the Second World War. People stopped going to church in the 1960s, and that started a downward trend that has continued unabated. The Conservatives themselves dismembered the British Empire in the 1960s and moved to reposition the UK in Europe. Finally, patriotism was last tested in the Falklands War, and Scotland was the least responsive part of the UK. There were no victory parades north of the border. So, what the Conservatives traditionally stood for was failing to engage post-war generations of Scots. On top of this, Labour and, more important, the Scottish National Party were eating into the traditional heartlands of Conservative support. Thatcher didn’t start the slide, but she made things much worse. When she came to office about one-third of Scots voted for her. By the time she was removed, one-quarter did. What was it about Thatcher that the Scots found so objectionable? For a start, the Scots didn’t like her manner and the finger-pointing rhetoric she used to tell them how ungrateful they were. Her pledge to ‘roll back the frontiers of the state’ threatened the livelihoods of many Scots who worked in the public services and nationalised industries. Then there was the deeply unpopular Poll Tax, which was introduced a year earlier in Scotland than in England. This suggested the Scots were being used as guinea pigs for Tory policies – a feeling that was intensified because there were so few Scottish Conservative members of parliament (MPs) that English ones had to be drafted into the Scottish Office. To many Scots, it was as if they were an occupied territory under the dictatorship of an alien government. The Conservatives belatedly responded by rediscovering their Scottish roots. During the government of John Major, the Stone of Destiny was returned to Scotland and major investment took place in Scottish culture and history. But these gestures failed to turn the tide; the party was wiped out in the 1997 general election and has failed to recover. Recent experience does not bode well for it in the coming years. The Conservatives do have a presence in the Scottish Parliament, but ironically, it’s the result of proportional representation – a system the Conservatives are opposed to! For more information about Scottish history, see Scottish History For Dummies Cheat Sheet.

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Scottish History For Dummies Cheat Sheet

Cheat Sheet / Updated 03-27-2016

Scottish history is full of wonderful characters — some good, some not so good — and exciting events from the bloodthirsty to scientific discovery. This Cheat Sheet gives you the lay of the land, and identifies the leaders and the turning points that made Scotland what it is today.

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Myth and History: The Case of the Black Douglases

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

Every child in a Scottish school was brought up to recognise the ‘Black Douglas’ as one of the true, almost mythical heroes of Scottish history. That attitude was underpinned by the part the Douglas family played during the Scottish Wars of Independence. Good Sir James Douglas – ‘the Black Douglas’ – fought alongside Robert the Bruce and was the one lord to be selected to take his heart to the Crusades. To the Scots, he was a hero. To the English, he was a bogeyman. In fact, an English lullaby sung to children included the words: ‘Hush yea, Hush yea, Dinae fret yea, the Black Douglas will nae get yea’. Try falling asleep after hearing that. Another reason the Douglases entered Scottish folklore was William Douglas’s capture from the English of the heavily defended Edinburgh Castle in 1341. Douglas and his lieutenants dressed as merchants, with his men hidden in covered wagons, and gained entry into the castle. With the help of the townspeople, they slaughtered the English defenders, throwing many off the castle rock. The Douglases place in history as good guys and patriots was established. However, when the English threat disappeared, the Douglas family began to harbour ambitions to seize the throne of Scotland from the Stewarts. When James II acceded to the throne, the Black Douglases controlled three earldoms and were claiming a fourth. Their rule stretched over Galloway, Douglasdale, Annandale, Clydesdale, Lothian, Stirlingshire, and Moray. The desire to curb the power of the Black Douglases became an obsession with the king, and as such, relations between James and William, Eighth Earl of Douglas, deteriorated to a fatal degree. At the age of 23, James led a murderous attack on William by stabbing him in the neck in Stirling Castle in 1542. William had no fewer than 26 stab wounds. Horrific as it was, the Eighth Earl’s murder did not mark the end of the Douglas family; instead, it created a civil war of sorts between them and the crown during the years 1452 to 1455. From heroes of the struggle against English rule, the Douglases had become pariahs, but pariahs with power. To effectively kill off the threat from the Douglases, James bribed their allies with gifts of land. These defections proved decisive in the Battle of Arkinholm, Dumfrieshire, in 1552, in which the brothers of James, the Ninth Earl of Douglas, all lost their lives. In the following months, the Scottish parliament declared the Douglas lands and possessions forfeit and permanently annexed them to the crown. The destruction of the Black Douglases marked the consolidation of royal power in Scotland. Future Stewart kings of Scotland never again had to face such a powerful challenge from a rival family to their authority. But while we hear of the beginnings of the story of the Black Douglases – the swashbuckling, the daring do, and the love of country – their unpatriotic demise as enemies of the monarch is a story Scottish children are not often told. Better the myth than the reality.

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Bought and Sold for English Gold: The Treaty of Union of 1707

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

Why the Scots voluntarily gave up their independence in 1707 to join an incorporating union with the English is one of the most hotly contested questions in Scottish history. The one thing historians can say with certainty was that the treaty was never popular and its passing was the cause of riots and protests the length and breadth of the country. This was to be expected, as petition after petition opposing union with England flooded the Scottish Parliament. In spite of the extent of the opposition, the treaty was signed and the documents were rushed south with a large military escort. Historians trying to explain this phenomenon fall into three categories: Those who emphasise bribery and corruption Those who emphasise TINA (there is no alternative), which rests on the desperate economic condition of Scotland Those who see it as an act of great statesmanship – a visionary solution to longstanding problems concerning the backwardness of the country. There is no common ground between these entrenched positions, but one thing they all forget is that, in many ways, there was no choice as soon as the English opted for union. In the past, the English wanted nothing to do with Scotland – in their eyes, Scotland was barbaric, lawless, and an economic basket case. But in the first decade of the 18th century, an awkward problem emerged: Queen Anne had produced no heir in spite of 17 pregnancies! Who was to succeed her? One possible and legitimate candidate was a Stewart, but that raised the possibility of a Catholic on the throne; the other possibility was Sophie and her husband the Elector of Hanover, who were Protestant to the core. A no-brainer! But because the Scots were not consulted on the succession, they began acting bloody-mindedly and this exasperated the English. The only solution was union; failing that, invasion. However, the Scots were able to use the desperation of the English to find a solution to the succession crisis to their advantage. In the negotiations that took place, the independence of the Church of Scotland was guaranteed; the legal system was to be left untouched; and equally important, those Scots who had lost large sums of money in the failed Darien Scheme were to get their money back plus 5 per cent interest (so it was a kind of bribe). In the long run, union proved to be a good deal for Scotland, but try telling that to the rioters on the streets of Edinburgh after the news of the signing of the treaty became public!

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The Historical Periods of Scotland

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

History is divided by historians into a number of distinct, named periods. Here is a rundown of some highlights of different periods of Scottish history. Ancient Scotland Neolithic Scotland: c.12,000 BC to c. 2,750 BC The Beaker people and the Bronze Age: c. 2,750 BC to 750 BC The Iron Age and La Tène culture: c. 750 BC to 43 AD Roman Britain: 43 AD to 410 AD The spread of Christianity: c. 400 to c. 600 The Middle Ages The first of the Viking Raids: c. 795 to c. 825 The disappearance of the Picts: c. 843 The MacAlpin Dynasty: c. 843 to 1290 The spread of feudalism: c. 1050 to 1150 The Wars of Independence: 1296 to 1357 Early Modern Scotland The Scottish Reformation: 1560 The Union of Crowns: 1603 The National Covenant: 1638 The Wars of the Three Kingdoms: 1638 to 1688 The Union of Parliaments: 1707 The Modern Age Jacobite Rebellions: 1689 to 1745 Industrialization: c. 1750 to 1850 The Highland Clearances: c. 1780 to 1854 The Great War: 1914 to 1918 The Second World War: 1939 to 1945 The Restoration of the Scottish Parliament: 1999

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Major Events and Battles in Scottish History

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

Following is a list of the main events and battles that played a decisive role in Scottish history, from the arrival of the Romans to the Industrial Revolution and beyond: 84 AD: Battle of Mons Graupius, the earliest recorded battle in Scottish history, in which the Romans, under Agricola, defeated the Caledones. 121 to 129: Construction of Hadrian’s Wall. 410: The Romans leave Britain. 563: St Columba arrives from Ireland to Argyll to found a monastery on the Island of Iona. 685: Battle of Nechtansmere; the Picts under King Bridei defeated the Angles and established Scotland’s southern border. 795: The first Viking raids. 843: Kenneth MacAlpin unites the Scots and Picts as one nation under his rule. 1018: The Battle of Carham. The Scots defeated the Anglo-Saxons and claimed Strathclyde. 1040: Macbeth slays Duncan in battle and begins a 17-year rule, becoming the first Scottish king to make a pilgrimage to Rome. 1069: Marriage of Malcolm Ceanmore (Malcolm III) to Margaret, a union that ushered in a golden age that ended with the canonization of Margaret as Scotland’s only royal saint. 1124: David I ascends the throne and is principally known for initiating the spread of feudalism in Scotland, which led to the settlement of Anglo-Norman families like the Bruces. 1263: The Battle of Largs. The Scots defeat Haaken of Norway and obtain the Hebrides. 1286: Alexander III dies after falling from his horse. The only heir is child ‘Margaret, Maid of Norway’. Scotland plunges into chaos. 1292: Edward I of England selects John Balliol as the King of Scotland and kicks off the wars of independence. 1305: The leader of the Scottish resistance to English rule, William Wallace, is captured and executed. 1314: The Battle of Bannockburn. Scots under Robert the Bruce, with an army half the size of the English one, inflicted the worst defeat suffered by England in the medieval period, resulting in Scottish independence. 1320: The Declaration of Arbroath is drawn up to recognize Scottish independence from England and sent to the Pope. 1332: The Second War of Independence begins. 1371: Robert II, the first of the Stewart kings, accedes to the throne. 1412: St Andrews University is founded by Bishop Wardlaw. It was followed by Glasgow in 1451, Aberdeen in 1495, and Edinburgh in 1582. 1469: Orkney and Shetland Islands acquired by Scotland from Norway. Finalization of the boundaries of Scotland. 1512: Under the terms of a treaty with France, the ‘Auld Alliance’ is established. 1513: The Battle of Flodden. James IV is killed in the battle along with much of the aristocracy and thousands of Scottish soldiers. 1559: John Knox’s sermon at Perth, regarded as the start of the Reformation in Scotland. 1561: Mary, Queen of Scots, returns to Scotland and is executed in 1587. 1603: The Union of Crowns. James VI becomes James I of England, Scotland, France, and Ireland. 1638: The National Covenant is signed at Greyfriars Church in Edinburgh, an event that plunges the whole of Britain into civil war. 1649: Charles I is executed. 1653: Scotland is incorporated into the Cromwellian Protectorate. 1660: The restoration of the monarchy. Charles II is crowned king and immediately destroys the covenanting movement in Scotland. 1689: The Glorious Revolution. Presbyterianism is recognized as the official faith of Scotland, but it was also the year of the first unsuccessful Jacobite Rebellion led by John Graham of Claverhouse, also known as ‘Bonnie Dundee’. 1692: The Massacre of Glencoe. Thirty-eight members of the MacDonald Clan are slaughtered by government forces under the cover of darkness. 1698: The first expedition in the Darien scheme, a disaster that almost ruins the governing classes in Scotland. 1707: The Union of Parliaments. A new country called Great Britain is created as the Scots vote to give up their sovereignty. 1715: The Second Jacobite Rebellion. The Jacobites, led by the Earl of Mar, sought to set James Stewart (James VIII), the ‘Old Pretender’, on the throne of Britain but were defeated at the Battle of Sheriffmuir. 1719: The Third Jacobite Rebellion took place with assistance from Spain, but it resulted in defeat at the Battle of Glenshiel. The aftermath of the rebellion marks the beginning of the British government’s policy to pacify the Highlands. 1745: The final Jacobite Rebellion, which culminated in 1746 at the Battle of Culloden – the last battle to be fought on British soil – and defeat of Charles Edward Stewart, ‘Bonnie Prince Charlie’. 1776: Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations is published; along with other thinkers and scientists, the Scots invent the modern world. 1793: Thomas Muir and other radicals are arrested and transported to Australia for their fight to end the old system of political corruption and replace it with universal male suffrage. 1807: The Highland Clearances, a systematic policy of clearing people from the Sutherland estates to make way for sheep. 1832: The First Reform Act, which enfranchised the middle classes and increased the size of the electorate by 5,200 per cent. It was followed by further reforms in 1868 and 1884. 1843: The Disruption. The Church of Scotland split over the question of patronage and led to the formation of the Free Church of Scotland. 1859: The first Open Golf Championship is held at Prestwick, Ayrshire. 1873: The Scottish Football Association formed, beginning a national obsession with the round ball. 1884: The Crofters’ War. Crofters conduct land seizures and clash with police forces on islands like Skye. It led to reforms favorable to the crofters in 1886. 1888: The founding of the Scottish Labour Party by Keir Hardie. The Scottish Labour Party was the forerunner of the British Labour Party, founded in 1906. 1912: ‘The Outrages’. Suffragettes in Scotland step up their campaign in Scotland for votes for women by acts of civil disobedience. Windows are broken, and houses and railway stations are burnt down. 1912: The formation of the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, formed as a combination of Tories and Liberal Unionists. It became known as the Unionist Party in Scotland. 1914: The First World War and industrial unrest in Glasgow creating the image of ‘Red Clydeside’. 1918: The Reform Act grants the vote to women over the age of 30 – but it took another ten years to lower the voting age to 21. 1922: The General Election sees the successful return of ten Labour candidates in Glasgow and creates a political sensation but also coincides with the beginning of the worst economic recession on record. 1924: Ramsay MacDonald is Labour’s first prime minister. His government lasted only nine months, but he was re-elected in 1929. 1931: The fall of the second Labour government. The general election saw the Labour vote almost wiped out in Scotland, but it recovered in 1935. 1934: The founding of the Scottish National Party. Although at this time it was small and insignificant, the party grew into a major political party in the 1970s. 1939–1945: The Second World War. Clydeside becomes a major target for German bombers. 1947: The First Edinburgh Festival of Drama and Music. It went on to become the largest arts festival in the world. 1967: Scottish Nationalist Winnie Ewing wins Hamilton in a by-election. This was Labour’s safest parliamentary seat in Scotland. It sparked off a nationalist revival, and the Scottish National Party won 11 seats in the 1974 general election. 1975: The first oil is piped ashore from the North Sea. 1978: Referendum on a Scottish Assembly. It proved a disaster for the ‘Yes’ campaign, and in the general election that followed, the Scottish National Party lost ten of its parliamentary seats. 1997: The Second Referendum on a Scottish Assembly leads to a 75 per cent majority in favor. 1999: The Scottish Parliament sits for the first time in 300 years.

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Rulers of Scotland

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

Kenneth MacAlpin is reckoned to be the first king of Scotland, but his rule extended only to the south and west of the country; great swaths of territory were still in the hands of the Anglo-Saxons and Vikings. Not until 1460 did what is known today as Scotland exist territorially. The last king of a separate Scotland was James VI, who died in 1625. By that time, he was also king of England and Scotland thanks to the Union of Crowns in 1603. From that point, England and Scotland shared a monarch but not a parliament; they were both independent countries until 1707. House of MacAlpin Kenneth MacAlpin: c. 843 to c. 858 Donald I: 859 to 862 Constantine I: 862 to 876 Interregnum Interregnum (no overall king): 876 to 877 House of MacAlpin Aed: c. 877 to 878 Eochaid and Giric (probably shared the throne): 878 to 889 Donald II: 889 to 900 Constantine II: 900 to c. 943 Malcolm I MacDonald: c. 943 to 954 Indulf: 954 to 962 Dubh ‘the Black’: 962 to 966 Culen: 966 to 971 Kenneth II: 971 to 995 Constantine III ‘the Bald’: 995 to 997 Kenneth III: 997 to 1005 Malcolm II: 1005 to 1034 Duncan I: 1034 to 1040 House of Moray Macbeth: 1040 to 1057 Lulach: 1057 to 1058 House of MacAlpin Malcolm III Canmore: 1058 to 1093 Donald III Bane: 1093 to 1094 Duncan II: 1094 Donald III Bane (resumed the throne): 1094 to 1097 Edgar: 1097 to 1107 Alexander I: 1107 to 1124 David I: 1124 to 1153 Malcolm IV ‘the Maiden’: 1153 to 1165 William ‘the Lion’: 1165 to 1214 Alexander II: 1214 to 1249 Alexander III: 1249 to 1286 Margaret, ‘the Maid of Norway’: 1286 to 1290 Interregnum English Overlordship (Edward I): 1290 to 1292 House of MacAlpin John Balliol: 1292 to 1296 (abdicated) English Invasion and Occupation Edward I of England: 1296 to 1306 House of Bruce Robert I de Brus (Bruce): 1306 to 1329 David II: 1329 to 1371 House of Stewart Robert II ‘the Steward’: 1371 to 1390 Robert III (John Stewart): 1390 to 1406 James I: 1406 to 1437 James II: 1437 to 1460 James III: 1460 to 1488 James IV: 1488 to 1513 James V: 1513 to 1542 Mary, Queen of Scots: 1542 to 1567 James VI: 1567 to 1625 (became James I of England in 1603) The Stewart dynasty continued to hold the throne until 1689, when James III and VI was defeated at the Battle of the Boyne in Ireland. The throne of Britain was given to William of Orange and his wife Mary. They were succeeded by Anne, who died childless, and she was in turn succeeded by George, Elector of Hanover.

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10 Turning Points in Scottish History

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

Are there any real turning points in history, or is it just one continuous story with a series of little diversions on the way? Historians debate these issues endlessly and never reach agreement. But here are ten points in time that genuinely contributed to making Scotland what it is today: The end of the Ice Age (c. 7500 BC): Until the ice caps melted, there was no possibility of human settlement – there could be no Scotland. When the ice caps did melt, it was a very different place. Bits that were previously joined had become disjointed as sea levels increased. The Orkneys and Shetlands had become islands. The Roman invasion (80 AD): Unlike the English, the Scots north of the River Forth withheld the Roman onslaughts, despite being slaughtered at the Battle of Mons Graupius in 84 AD. So, the Romans didn’t have the impact they had in England, but they did leave a couple walls and some handy roads. The Roman invasion encouraged the peoples of Scotland to band together, and that laid the foundation for the creation of petty kingdoms fixed on warrior rulers, which later grew in size. The coming of Christianity (c. 390–450): The Romans introduced Christianity to the peoples of England and Ireland, but it was the Irish who introduced Christianity to the Scots through St. Patrick (God bless him), and, later, Columba and Ninian. But it was a Celtic Church with Celtic saints until after the Synod of Whitby in 664, when it became a Roman church. The Battle of Dun Nechtain (Nechtansmere; 685): Some historians see this battle as one of the most decisive battles in Scottish history. King Bridei of the Picts halted the northward expansion of the Northumbrians, although they continued to dominate much of southern Scotland. Failure would have meant the end of any possibility of a Scottish nation because it would have been part of a greater Northumbria. The kingship of Kenneth MacAlpin (c. 843–858): If you’re looking for the origins of the Scottish nation, you’ll probably find it here, where in 843, MacAlpin became king of most, but not all, of Scotland. His successors established a dynasty that would last to the 13th century, with a few interruptions along the way. The Battle of Bannockburn (1314): The Battle of Bannockburn was the decisive battle in the struggle against English domination and secured the independence of the kingdom of Scotland. It didn’t mean the end of hostility between the two countries, but it put an end to the likelihood of Scotland being incorporated as a province in a greater England. The Reformation: Scotland began the 16th century as a Catholic country and ended as a Protestant one. This amounted to a revolution in faith, but it took over a hundred years of fighting and bloodshed to establish Presbyterianism as the official religion of Scotland. When they spoke of ‘Blood of Christ’, they meant it literally! The Treaty of Union (1707): This was one of the great defining moments in Scottish history, when the nation voluntarily gave up its independence to join in an incorporating union with the English. Sovereignty was lost, but the union allowed the Scottish economy to prosper and grow as it became part of the largest free-trade area in the world. The steam engine (1765): James Watt’s invention of the steam engine was fundamental to industrialisation. His application of steam power to machinery transformed society in Scotland and the rest of the world and allowed for the early growth of the cotton industry and the emergence of the factory. The formation of the Scottish Labour Party (1888): Keir Hardie, a miner and journalist, along with others fought a by-election at Mid-Lanark as an independent Labour candidate. He lost, but it led to the formation of the Scottish Labour Party, which became the forerunner of the modern Labour Party. In time, Hardie’s actions completely transformed the political landscape of Scotland and the rest of Britain.

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Scottish Women and the Suffrage Question

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

The word suffrage comes from the Latin word for ‘vote’, something that until 1918, women in Scotland and the rest of the UK didn’t have. Voters were male, and they argued that they were entitled to the vote because they fought for queen/king and country. This argument didn’t go down well with a lot of women, and the injustice of it made some of them very angry. The demand for the vote had been around since the 1860s. Back then, the movement was dominated by the Suffragists, women who used peaceful tactics to try to win support for the ‘great cause’ as it was known. In spite of their best efforts, the Suffragists got nowhere. So, at the turn of the century, more militant voices began to be heard. They were known as Suffragettes, and they were prepared to break the law and go to prison for their beliefs. The campaign for women’s suffrage became split between moderates and militants. You could understand the frustration that women felt at the lack of progress made toward the vote over 40-odd years, but did militancy help or hinder the cause? Scottish Suffragettes fire-bombed Leuchars Railway Station in Fife and Ayr Racecourse, as well as the historic Whitekirk in East Lothian. On top of this, they poured acid into pillar boxes, attacked the prime minister, and slashed portraits of the king. When arrested and imprisoned, they refused to eat, which led to force-feeding, which in turn led to public outcry. Militancy climaxed when the Scottish Suffragette Emily Davidson threw herself in front of the king’s horse at the Epsom Derby in June 1913. These tactics raised the issue and generated a massive amount of publicity for the cause, but in the end, the public became sickened by these excesses. Militancy got women nowhere. Indeed, in Scotland, the strategy never claimed widespread support, even from women. Most people took the attitude that if you wanted to be a lawmaker, you couldn’t be a lawbreaker. Most of those women who went to prison were middle or upper class, which raises the question of whether it was simply a campaign for votes for rich women – privileging the already privileged. Some historians have argued that the working-class woman was conspicuous by her absence. But that view seems to ignore that the women’s suffrage movement broadened its appeal as the decades went by, and it got backing from female jute workers in Dundee, as well as from female weavers in Lancashire. It even drew closer to the emerging Labour Party. Some historians point out, however, that, although working women were accepted into the various suffrage societies, it was on the basis that they were the foot soldiers – the officers or leaders like Elsie Inglis and Lady Francis Balfour were from the upper ranks of society. In 1914, Britain and Germany went to war, and many suffrage groups decided to suspend campaigning until the war was over. Women made a vital contribution to Britain’s war effort. Some people believe that as a result of their war work, women were given the vote in 1918 – but remember it was women over the age of 30. So, it was mainly married women who were enfranchised, and they could theoretically be relied on to vote as their husbands did. The younger women who had borne the burden of the war work were still without the vote. It took another ten years before women had the vote on the same basis as men. But democracy finally triumphed: The suffrage campaigners finally won the argument.

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The Vikings as You’ve Never Known Them Before

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

When you think of Vikings, you probably picture longhaired warriors who raped and pillaged everywhere they went. Most Vikings, contrary to appearance, were farmers not warriors. Raiding was a seasonal thing, but the farm was a year-round concern. The farm was the property of the extended family, and it was the basis of Viking society. Children, parents, and grandparents all lived together. If the farmer kept workers, servants, or slaves, they usually lived in the family house. The Viking diet was dictated by what was available locally from their farms, the sea, and the forests; meat and fish were the staples. The Vikings liked a drink, and their favourite tipple was ale or beer, although the better-off Vikings drank wine, which they picked up on their raiding expeditions. Where you stood in terms of the social hierarchy was dictated by family membership. It was virtually impossible to transcend this. Basically, there were three classes in the Viking world: At the top were the Jarls, or noblemen, from whom the king was chosen; below them came the Karls, or freemen, whose ranks included farmers, craftsmen, landowners, and other freeborn people; and, finally, at the bottom, were the Thralls, or slaves, who were easily recognised because they wore slave collars around their necks and had short-cropped hair. As you can imagine, the Thralls did all the back-breaking jobs and ate the worst food. In spite of being a hierarchical society, the Viking culture was also progressive in a number of ways: Viking women had more rights than most women in the rest of Europe during this period. Wives had a right to share the wealth their husbands gained. Viking women could own land or other property. Viking law permitted married women to have a divorce anytime they wanted. Viking society was more democratic than most other societies. Although the Thralls had no say, laws were made by the ‘Thing’, an assembly that met weekly at which all freemen could have a say in the governance of the land. The powers of the Thing allowed it to set taxes, decide who was king, and deal with arguments over marital affairs and property. Today we think of the Vikings’ appearance as rather scruffy and hairy, but one of the attractions for native Scots women may have been the Vikings’ close attention to personal hygiene. An English chronicler of the 13th century complained that the Vikings were always combing their hair, taking baths, and changing their undergarments, which apparently gave them an unfair advantage when competing with the native male population for the affection of local maidens! They also bleached their beards to saffron-like yellow and maybe their hair, too. Indeed, grooming kits that included tweezers, ear scoops, and nail scrapers have been found in the graves of men and women in Viking sites.

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