A medieval perspective on Scottish independence

21 Feb 2014 15:12:34.137


Thursday 18 September 2014 will be an important milestone in British history when the people of Scotland vote on independence. Debates around the Union, its benefits and disadvantages are already gathering pace in the run-up to this historic referendum.
But what can be learned from previous independence, before the 1603 Union of the Crowns of England and Scotland? How much of the independence debate has a real root in early Scottish history and how should this inform voters’ decisions on the big day?
Experts on the history, material culture and law of medieval times will be debating the differences between the two countries at a public event at The University of Nottingham on Wednesday 26 February 2014.
‘Past and inherited differences: Scotland, England and the union of the crowns’ has been organised by the University’s Institute for Medieval Research as a timely exploration of this topical social and political question.
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On the panel

Giving their expert views and answering questions on the historic Scottish debate will be:
·                     Dr David Caldwell, former Keeper of Scotland and Europe at the National Museums of Scotland
·                     Hector MacQueen, Professor of Private Law at Edinburgh University, also Scottish Law Commissioner
·                     Dr Jenny Wormald, Honorary Fellow in Scottish History at Edinburgh University.
Dr Nicola Royan of the Institute of Medieval Research said: “This event will be a unique opportunity for anyone interested in the modern Scottish independence debate as it will paint a truly vivid and entertaining picture of the historic differences, motivations and aspirations of these two very different countries of the medieval world.

“Before 1603, Scotland and England were separate kingdoms but there were more distinctions than simply royal. Languages were different, each country had its own legislature and its own religious identity. And there were important cultural differences affecting literature, philosophy, art and architecture with as many continental as English influences on Scotland before the Union.

Quid pro quo

“Despite these differences, however, there was of course continual traffic of all kinds between the Scots and the English, in trade, in diplomacy, in hostages and the occasional royal bride. We can trace the circulation of Chaucer’s works, for instance, and identify easily the Scottish source for Macbeth; we can read of James V threatening to despatch his bishops to Henry VIII, and Elizabeth paying James VI a pension.
“Scots and English are largely mutually comprehensible, especially written; since the advent of TV and radio, it is hard to recreate the experience of hearing for the first time an entirely unfamiliar accent of English or Scots. So alongside the differences, there are large similarities. How and whether these similarities and differences could be reconciled prior to 1603 was a significant negotiation in both Scottish and English identity, and has left lasting traces.”
‘Past and Inherited Differences: Scotland, England and the Union of the Crowns’ takes place at 3.30pm on Wednesday 26 February 2014 in the Senate Chamber of the Trent Building on University Park Campus, Nottingham.
Registration is free and available here.
Follow the Institute for Medieval Research on Twitter
Dr Nicola Royan will be blogging on the topic at University of Nottingham Blogs Medieval@Nottingham

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Story credits

More information is available from Dr Nicola Royan, Institute for Medieval Research, School of English, The University of Nottingham, on +44 (0)115 951 5922 nicola.royan@nottingham.ac.uk

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