As Jockmaggeddon approaches, we are being bombarded with History. Really, really, terrible history – and not all of it the fault of Mel Gibson or the Daily Mail.
Here, then, are seven things you’ve probably not been hearing, to bring some historical sanity before the McBreakup happens and we English suddenly have to rebuild Hadrian’s Wall.
Despite all you’ve heard about William Wallace, in the Middle Ages Scotland and England were both equally awful to each other. It was only under the Tudors that the English became the real bullies, with Flodden, the terrible slaughter during the ‘Rough Woo-ing’, and with the intervention in the Scottish Reformation by Elizabeth I.
For all the terrible things done by the English to the Scots, the Scots have been twice as bad to themselves. The Killing Times, the Glencoe Massacre, the Clearances. All were crimes perpetuated by Scots on Scots. Even at Culloden a large proportion of the ‘English’ army was made up of Lowland Scots.
The Scots were crucial players in the English Civil War. In fact, they invaded England four times. In 1640 their invasion brought down the government of Charles I. In 1643 their troops saved the Parliamentary cause from defeat. Then in 1648 and 1651 Scottish armies invaded in support of Charles I and Charles II. In the first case, the war they started was the main reason behind the trial and execution of the King.
So the ‘English Revolution’ was, in a very real sense, made in Scotland. In fact, the key act that brought about the Restoration in 1660 was an invasion of England by one General Monck. From Scotland.
The initial idea of a Union was proposed by a Scotsman, King James VI and I, in the 1600s, but was roundly rejected by the English parliament, who were worried that Scots would come to dominate at Westminster.
In fact, the first Union between England and Scotland came under the Republic, when the former crowns were united as the ‘Commonwealth of England, Scotland, and Ireland’. Scotland sent five nominees to ‘Barebone’s Parliament’ (1653), and 30 to the Parliaments of the Protectorate (1654-59). In fact, the English Republic had rather a taste for political unions, for it also incorporated Ireland into their unified Parliament, and even – at one point – tried to persuade the Dutch to join.
But when it finally took place in 1707 the Union was largely unpopular with Scots, having been pushed by the English to ensure the succession of – wait for it – a German. The Scottish state in the late seventeenth-century was far more absolutist than England, with the power of the Crown much more secure there than it was in the South. But at least their Parliament sat in Scotland, not hundreds of miles away in Westminster.
Scots were active participants in Empire, but not necessarily disproportionately to their population. We are constantly told that the Scots were central to the British Empire – this is true, but probably no more than you’d expect. The Scottish population was around a fifth of England’s, and Scots – for example – gave 8 out of 38 British rulers of India (a fifth).
Their military contribution was greater. It was a Scot who led the British Army which quashed the Indian War of Independence in 1857, and in the First World War a higher proportion of the Scottish population died than the English. But perhaps this is just part of a pattern that goes way back into history. One estimate, amazingly, has 20 per cent of the adult male population of Scotland going off to fight in Germany during the Thirty Years War (1618-48), despite the British Crown having no formal involvement in the conflict!