Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Interview: Matthew Hammond and PoMS, Part II

Welcome. I interviewed Matthew Hammond of the University of Edinburgh about the PoMS (Paradox of Medieval Scotland) database via email in September 2011. Here is part two:

Amanda Epperson [AE]: Where was Scotland during this time period, 1093-1286?

Matthew Hammond [MH]: The area under the control of the kings of Scots grew steadily during this period, and we have defined the boundaries of the project according to ‘where’ Scotland was in 1286, when Alexander III died. One of the happy accidents of this fact is it included the Isle of Man, so charters dealing with the Isle of Man are indeed included in the database. While the Hebrides were signed over to the kings of Scots in 1266, the Orkney and Shetland islands remained under the authority of the kings of Norway until the fifteenth century; therefore these areas are not covered. This is a moot point as there are no surviving charters from those areas before 1286 anyway. The border between England and Scotland fluctuated in the twelfth century but was agreed on the Tweed-Solway line in 1237.

Come back next Tuesday for the third and final installment of my interview with Matthew Hammond.

AE: What is the “paradox”?

MH: The ‘Paradox’ was also coined by the late great Professor Rees Davies, an historian who was primarily concerned with the cultural interactions between English and Normans on the one hand, and Welsh and Irish on the other. The paradox refers to the Scottish kingdom, the part of the British Isles which Davies knew least. The idea of a paradox comes from the inability of Scotland to fit models which are based on the ‘domination and conquest’ of Norman and Angevin England over Wales and Scotland. According to this model, it seemed paradoxical that Scotland was the most Anglicized and yet also the only kingdom outside England to retain its independence. This apparent paradox gets at the heart of the questions we wanted to explore with the PoMS project.

AE: Is the “paradox” really not a paradox at all? Does it simply result from misinterpretation of events in Medieval Scotland by previous scholars?

MH: I think you’ve hit the nail on the head.

AE: What is prosopography? Why is it useful in historical research?

MH: Prosopography is the study of networks of human beings. Database technology is perfect for this because it allows us to search large groups of thousands of people. The Poms database has about 15000 people in it, many of whom are interrelated by marriage, friendship, and landholding ties. The research side of the PoMS project was about re-examining these social relationships in a new light, with an eye to issues like feudalism, law, and language.

AE: Were the actions of the Kings of Scots similar to the state-building of other European monarchs of this time period in that they subdued local or regional sources of power in favor of their own centralized authority? Do you think a similar process of “Scotticisation” happened at all levels of society or just at the elite level?

MH: Yes, the actions of the Kings of Scots were very similar to those of other European monarchs at this time. This included the expansion of royal power into peripheral areas which had only recognized loose overlordship previously, such as Galloway, Argyll and the far North. Royal authority was also tied up with patronage of the church, and the kings of Scots established a number of new monasteries, from the Borders to Moray, and supported the increasing power of bishops over centrally organized dioceses. This was underpinned by a network or royal castles, sheriffs and royally-licensed burghs, mainly in the lowland regions.

Generally speaking, ‘Scotticization’ refers to the new, expanded sense of Scottishness, and it is clear that it was attached to this growth in royal power, because all one had to do to be ‘Scottish’ under the new definition was to be a subject of the king of Scots.  My research has been based on evidence to do with a few different groups, including knightly families, professional clerics or people with a career in the church, and merchants and traders, many of whom were working internationally. It seems clear that this new sense of Scottishness was evident at many levels of society. At the same time, this national identity should not be overstated. Regional and local identities continued to be very important throughout the Middle Ages.

AE: How did the Anglo-Normans and other incomers to Scotland during this time period come to Scotland? Invasion? Invitation? Did those who arrived first then become anchors who encouraged the immigration of their countrymen to Scotland?

MH: They came to Scotland by invitation of the Scottish royal house, in dribs and drabs under Macbeth and Malcolm III, and then more steadily under Malcolm and Margaret’s sons in the first half of the twelfth century. David I established some of the most famous families as part of his royal household, including the Bruces and the Stewarts. Knights often came as part of the households of their patrons; this included retainers and relatives of Scottish queens and countesses like Queen Maud de Senlis, Countess Ada de Warenne and Queen Marie de Coucy. We shouldn’t think of the borders as nearly as fixed as a modern border however, and members of these families might spend part of their lives in Scotland before then moving on to some other situation in England or the Continent. There were many different contexts for immigration, but one of the things that makes the twelfth and thirteenth centuries so interesting is that it was a period of improving climate and growing population, and the one period in recorded history when we have many more people moving into Scotland than moving out of it. 

AE: How does the medieval/Gaelic use of clann differ from the modern use of the word clan?

MH: This is a very complicated question which historians and Celticists are still grappling with – ask me again in ten years!

No comments:


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...