The original inhabitants of Scotland were the Picts and the Scots – the Picts were people of Celtic origin, and the Scots came from Ireland. The Picts and the Scots defended Scotland against the Romans. In 120 AD the Roman Emperor Hadrian built a wall between England and Scotland to keep the Scottish out. Hadrian’s Wall can still be seen today, and it is a major tourist attraction.
Scotland was converted to Christianity in the sixth century by missionaries from Ireland. In the ninth century Scotland was united under the same king for the first time, as the country struggled to fight off invasions from the Vikings.
By the tenth century the Scottish had successfully repulsed the Vikings, and so they themselves began to attack Northumbria, but without much success. Then the Scottish king Malcolm II Mackenneth defeated the Northumbrians in 1018. His grandson became his successor as Duncan I. This is the King Duncan of Shakespeare’s play. His reign was not peaceful and in 1040 Duncan was killed by his general, Macbeth. Macbeth ruled until 1057, when he was defeated by Duncan’s son Malcolm III Canmore . Malcolm had spent many years in exile in England, and he eventually married an English princess. This further increased the influence of England on Scotland.
The English King Edward I invaded Scotland in the thirteenth century, and he seemed to have defeated the country. In 1314, however, the Scots rebelled against the English, and their leader, Robert Bruce, defeated the English army at the battle of Bannockburn. After this battle England and Scotland remained separate countries for nearly three hundred years.
Scotland became a Protestant country at the time of the Reformation, although the queen of Scotland, Mary Stuart, was a Roman Catholic. After the death of Elizabeth I of England, Mary Stuart’s son, James VI of Scotland, became James I of England. Ion this way he two countries were united for the first time under the same king, the union was made final in 1707 with the Act of Union, when Scotland became part of Great Britain.
Despite the act of Union the highland families of Scotland opposed English rule in the 1700s. these families were know as ‘clans’, and each was governed by a ‘clan chief’. Each clan wore a distinct tartan by which it could be recognized. The clans rebelled unsuccessfully against the English in 1715 and in 1745. The English treated the rebels with great cruelty, and tried to suppress their traditional way of life. The wearing of tartans was forbidden, as was the use of Gaelic, the traditional language.
Towards the end of the 1700s the clan chiefs realized that they could become wealthy by raising sheep for their wool. Sheep farming requires much less human labour than other kinds of farming. So, the clan chiefs needed fewer people to work the land, and began to force their own people off their Highland farms. This became known as the ‘Highland clearances’. The clan chiefs destroyed the old Highland way of life, and many Highland Scots left the country to settle in America, Australia and Canada.
During the twentieth century the Scottish economy was helped by the discovery of oil in the north Sea. This discovery contributed to a revival of interest in Scottish independence. In a referendum in 1997 most Scots voted in favour of a Scottish Parliament, and in 1998 the Scottish Executive and the Scottish Parliament were formed. Although Scotland is not independent, the Scottish Government and the Scottish parliament has an important tourist industry. Many ‘Scottish Americans’, the descendant of Highlanders who left Scotland during the Highland clearances of the past, come to explore their past. It is also a popular holiday destination for people from all over the world, who come to visit Scotland’s celebrated Highlands, lochs, golf courses, and sample its famous whiskies.