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Scottish Independence and the Idea of Britain

From the Picts to Alexander III

Dauvit Broun

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When did Scots first think of Scotland as an independent kingdom? What did they think was Scotland’s place in Britain before Wallace and Bruce?

The answers put forward in this book provide a fresh perspective on Scotland’s relationship with Britain. Broun challenges the idea that the Scots were an ancient nation whose British identity only emerged later on, in the early modern era, and provides new evidence that the idea of Scotland as an independent kingdom in actual fact predated Wallace and Bruce. This leads him to radically reassess several fundamental issues: the fate of Pictish identity and the origins of Alba; the status of Scottish kingship vis-à-vis England; the papacy’s recognition of the independence of the Scottish Church; and the idea of Scottish freedom. He also sheds new light on the authorship of John of Fordun’s 'Chronicle' – the first full-scale history of the Scots – and explains, in historical terms, the widespread English inability to distinguish between England and Britain.

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Preface and Acknowledgements
Chapter 1: Writing about Scottish aspirations to independence before the age of Robert Bruce and William Wallace
Chapter 2: Ancient kingdoms and island histories: the historiographical portrayal of ultimate secular authority from the eleventh to the thirteenth centuries
Chapter 3: Alba as 'Britain' after 900 and the Pictish antecedents of the kingship of the Scots
Chapter 4: The Church and the first struggle for Scottish independence: from the Council of Windsor and the submission of Abernethy (1072) to Cum universi and the Quitclaim of Canterbury (1189)
Chapter 5: Whose independence? Bishop Jocelin of Glasgow (1175-99) and the achievement of ecclesiastical freedom
Chapter 6: The inauguration of Alexander III (1249) and the portrayal of Scotland as a sovereign kingdom
Chapter 7: From client king to sovereign: royal charters and the status of Scottish kingship in the reigns of William I (1165-1214) and Alexander II (1214-49)
Chapter 8: The principle source used by John of Fordun for his Chronicle of the Scottish People
Chapter 9: The Scots as ancient and free: 'Proto-Fordun', 'Veremundus' and the creation of Scottish History
Chapter 10: The idea of Britain and the origins of Scottish independence.

About the Author

Dauvit Broun is Professor of Medieval Scottish History at the University of Glasgow. He is the author of 'Scottish Independence and the Idea of Britain: From the Picts to Alexander III' (EUP, 2007).


This study provides a thoughtful, skilful and challenging view of the development of Scottish identity in the period preceding its great test.
- Michael Brown, The International History Review