Category Archives: Scotland

Welsh Differences in 13th Century

From A Great and Terrible King: Edward I and the Forging of Britain, by Marc Morris (Pegasus, 2015), Kindle pp. 26-28:

Geographically, of course, there were similarities between Wales and Scotland that a first-time visitor would have readily appreciated, and this meant that economically, too, they had certain similarities – Wales, like Scotland, was poor in comparison with England. Culturally, however, Wales was very different from both its near neighbours. Perhaps most obviously, the Welsh spoke Welsh, even at the highest social levels. This was a source of pride to the Welsh themselves, but to the French-speaking kings and nobles of England and Scotland it sounded like so much incomprehensible babble.

More perplexing still for English and Scottish onlookers, and far more problematic, were Welsh social attitudes, which stood in sharp opposition to their own. Take, for instance, the rules governing inheritance. In England and Scotland, and indeed almost everywhere else in western Europe, the rule was primogeniture: firstborn sons inherited estates in their entirety. This was hard on any younger brothers or sisters, but had the great advantage of keeping a family’s lands intact from one generation to the next. In Wales, by contrast, the rule was ‘partibility’: every male member of the family – not just sons and brothers, but uncles and nephews too – expected his portion of the spoils, and rules of precedence were only loosely defined. This meant that the death of a Welsh landowner was almost always followed by a violent, sometimes fratricidal struggle, as each male kinsman strove to claim the lion’s share.

The result of this idiosyncratic approach to inheritance was that Welsh politics were wont to be tumultuous. The fact that partibility applied at the highest levels was one of the main reasons why there was no single political authority in Wales as there was in England and Scotland. Welsh poets spoke of their country as if it were neatly divided into three kingdoms, but this was a broad simplification; the reality was a complex patchwork of petty lordships. Occasionally one ruler might, through force of arms, diplomacy or sheer good luck, contrive to establish something greater. But such constructs were always temporary. When a successful Welsh ruler died, his work was swiftly undone by the general carve-up that inevitably followed.

Such cultural and political differences meant that the English found it difficult to do business with the Welsh as they did with the Scots. Inherent instability meant that amicable relations were hard to sustain. The king of England could marry his daughter to the king of Scots, safe in the knowledge that her rights would be guaranteed; but he would not give her away to a Welsh ruler, no matter how great, for who knew how long his greatness might last?

And yet, if the English found the practice of partibility baffling, they were far more troubled when the Welsh showed any signs of abandoning it. From the start of the thirteenth century, up until the time of Edward’s birth, there had been a worrying (from the English point of view) movement in the direction of pan-Welsh political unity. Gwynedd, the most remote and traditional of Wales’s three ancient ‘kingdoms’, had extended its power from the mountains of Snowdonia to cover much of the rest of the country. When, therefore, the architect of this expansion, Llywelyn the Great, had died in 1240, Henry III had been quick to intervene and undo his work. In the years that followed, Gwynedd was torn down to size, and its pretensions to leadership were crushed. Llywelyn’s descendants were forcibly persuaded to follow traditional Welsh practice and share power among themselves. Lesser Welsh rulers who had formerly acknowledged Llywelyn’s mastery were disabused, and obliged to recognise that their proper overlord was, in actual fact, the king of England. Most contentiously, Henry confiscated and kept for himself a large and comparatively prosperous area of north Wales. Known as Perfeddwlad (middle country) to the Welsh, and as the Four Cantrefs to the English, this region between the rivers Dee and Conwy had been contested by both sides for hundreds of years, but Henry was determined that from that point on the English would retain it for good. The Four Cantrefs, he declared, were an inseparable part of the Crown of England, and to give force to this assertion he built two new royal castles there, one at Dyserth, the other at Deganwy. At the same time, lordship in the region was made more exacting. From their base at Chester, royal officials introduced English customs and practices, including more punitive financial demands. By 1254, when the Four Cantrefs (or ‘the king’s new conquest in Wales’, as they were now also being termed) were handed over to Edward as part of his endowment, the castles were complete, and the process of anglicisation well advanced. At the time of Edward’s visit two years later, his officials there were in a supremely confident mood. According to chronicle reports, his chief steward boasted openly before the king and queen that he had the Welsh in the palm of his hand.

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Alexander Selkirk’s Rescue, 1709

The Republic of Pirates: Being the True and Surprising Story of the Caribbean Pirates and the Man Who Brought Them Down, by Colin Woodard (Mariner Books, 2008), Kindle Loc. 1058-1081:

Selkirk had been stranded on Juan Fernández Island for four years and four months, indeed ever since William Dampier’s ill-fated privateering mission had passed through these parts in the latter part of 1704. Selkirk, a Scotsman, had been the mate aboard Dampier’s consort, the Cinque Ports, whose captain and officers had lost faith in their commodore’s leadership and sailed off on their own. Unfortunately, the Cinque Ports’ hull was already infested by shipworm, so much so that when the galley stopped at Juan Fernández for water and fresh provisions, young Selkirk decided to stay—to take his chances on the island rather than try to cross the Pacific in a deteriorating vessel. According to the extended account he gave Rogers, Selkirk spent the better part of a year in deep despair, scanning the horizon for friendly vessels that never appeared. Slowly he adapted to his solitary world. The island was home to hundreds of goats, descendents of those left behind when the Spanish abandoned a half-hearted colonization attempt. He eventually learned to chase them down and catch them with his bare hands. He built two huts with goatskin walls and grass roofs, one serving as a kitchen, the other as his living quarters, where he read the Bible, sang psalms, and fought off the armies of rats that came to nibble his toes as he slept. He defeated the rodents by feeding and befriending many of the island’s feral cats, which lay about his hut by the hundreds. As insurance against starvation in case of accident or illness, Selkirk had managed to domesticate a number of goats, which he raised by hand and, on occasion, would dance with in his lonely hut. When his clothes wore out, he stitched together new goatskin ones, using a knife and an old nail, and grew calluses on his feet as a substitute for shoes. He was rarely sick and ate a healthful diet of turnips, goats, crayfish, and wild cabbage. He’d barely evaded a Spanish landing party by hiding at the top of a tree, against which some of his pursuers pissed, unaware of his presence.

Although Selkirk greeted Rogers’s men with enthusiasm, he was reluctant to join them after learning that his old commodore, William Dampier, was serving with them. Cooke wrote that Selkirk distrusted Dampier so much that he “would rather have chosen to remain in his solitude than come away with [Dampier] ’till informed that he did not command” the expedition. Dr. Dover and his landing party were only able to rescue the castaway by promising they would return him to the island were he not satisfied with the situation. Selkirk, in turn, helped them catch crayfish, piling them into the ship’s boat before they rowed him out to the Duke. On seeing Selkirk for the first time, Rogers said he looked wilder than the original owners of his goatskin coverings. “At his first coming on board us, he had so much forgot his language for want of use that we could scarce understand him, for he seemed to speak by halves,” Rogers wrote in his journal. “We offer’d him a Dram, but he would not touch it, having drank nothing but water since his being there, and ’twas some time before he could relish our victuals.” Selkirk was remarkably healthy and alert at first, but Rogers noted that “this man, when he came to our ordinary method of diet and life, though he was sober enough, lost much of his strength and agility.”

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Medieval English and Spanish Colonial Expansion

From Empires of the Atlantic World: Britain and Spain in America 1492-1830, by John H. Elliott (Yale U. Press, 2006), Kindle Loc. 437-457:

Medieval England pursued a policy of aggressive expansion into the non-English areas of the British Isles, warring with its Welsh, Scottish and Irish neighbours and establishing communities of English settlers who would advance English interests and promote English values on alien Celtic soil. The English, therefore, were no strangers to colonization, combining it with attempts at conquest which brought mixed results. Failure against Scotland was balanced by eventual success in Wales, which was formally incorporated in 1536 into the Crown of England, itself now held by a Welsh dynasty. Across the sea the English struggled over the centuries with only limited success to subjugate Gaelic Ireland and `plant’ it with settlers from England. Many of the lands seized by the Normans in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries were recovered by the Irish during the fourteenth and fifteenth; and although in 1540 Henry VIII elevated Ireland to the status of a kingdom, English authority remained precarious or non-existent beyond the densely populated and rich agricultural area of the Pale. With the conversion of Henry’s England to Protestantism the effective assertion of this authority over a resolutely Catholic Ireland acquired a new urgency in English eyes. The reign of Elizabeth was to see an intensified planting of new colonies on Irish soil, and, in due course, a new war of conquest. The process of the settlement and subjugation of Ireland by the England of Elizabeth, pursued over several decades, absorbed national energies and resources that might otherwise have been directed more intensively, and at an earlier stage, to the founding of settlements on the other side of the Atlantic.

In medieval Spain, the land of the Reconquista, the pattern of combined conquest and colonization was equally well established. The Reconquista was a prolonged struggle over many centuries to free the soil of the Iberian peninsula from Moorish domination. At once a military and a religious enterprise, it was a war for booty, land and vassals, and a crusade to recover for the Christians the vast areas of territory that had been lost to Islam. But it also involved a massive migration of people, as the crown allocated large tracts of land to individual nobles, to the military-religious orders engaged in the process of reconquest, and to city councils, which were given jurisdiction over large hinterlands. Attracted by the new opportunities, artisans and peasants moved southwards in large numbers from northern and central Castile to fill the empty spaces. In Spain, as in the British Isles, the process of conquest and settlement helped to establish forms of behaviour, and create habits of mind, easily transportable to distant parts of the world in the dawning age of European overseas expansion.

The conquest and settlement of Al-Andalus and Ireland were still far from complete when fourteenth-century Europeans embarked on the exploration of the hitherto unexplored waters and islands of the African and eastern Atlantic. Here the Portuguese were the pioneers. It was the combined desire of Portuguese merchants for new markets and of nobles for new estates and vassals that provided the impetus for the first sustained drive for overseas empire in the history of Early Modern Europe. Where the Portuguese pointed the way, others followed. The kings of Castile, in particular, could not afford to let their Portuguese cousins steal a march on them. The Castilian conquest and occupation of the Canary Islands between 1478 and 1493 constituted a direct response by the Crown of Castile to the challenge posed by the spectacular expansion of Portuguese power and wealth.

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Manchurian Roots of Korean Protestantism

From Born Again: Evangelicalism in Korea, by Timothy S. Lee (U. Hawai‘i Press, 2010), pp. 10-11:

From the beginning, the history of Korean Protestantism is characterized by many people who were attracted to the faith primarily for its message of salvation. Already in the spring of 1886, one year after his arrival [Horace G.] Underwood was sought out by a man known as No Tosa (probably a pseudonym for No Chun-gyŏng), who had become interested in the missionary religion after reading a Chinese translation of the Gospels of Luke and Mark He now came to Underwood for further instruction in the religion. On July 18, 1886, he was baptized by Underwood, with assistance from [Henry G.] Appenzeller—a baptism the missionaries performed only after careful consideration, since the injunction against proselytizing [in Korea] was still in force. As it turned out. No was not the only Korean who came to Underwood around that time seeking baptism, unsolicited. By the end of 1887, Underwood had baptized twenty-four more unsolicited Koreans.

How did this come about? Did these Koreans come to the missionary even though no one had reached out to them, even though they had not heard the Gospel? The fact of the matter is that they had heard the Gospel message several years earlier—delivered by converts of Scottish missionaries working in China, specifically Manchuria. Three missionaries figure importantly here: Alexander Williamson, John McIntyre, and especially John Ross—all affiliated with the Scottish Presbyterian Church. It was Williamson who persuaded [Robert Jermain] Thomas to board the General Sherman for the fateful voyage of 1866 and persuaded Mclntyre and Ross to come to Manchuria as missionaries. In 1865 and again in 1867 Williamson visited a Manchurian border town called Korea Gate (Koryŏmun), the official gateway between China and Korea, evangelizing among Korean residents and sojourners there. Influenced by Williamson, Ross also visited Korea Gate in 1874 and 1876. During the latter visit he met Yi Ŭngch’an, who agreed to collaborate with him on a variety of translation works. Ross, with the help of Yi, published the Corean Primer (1877), The Corean Language (1878), Yesu sŏnggyo mundap (Bible Catechism; 1881), and Yesu sŏnggyo yoryŏng (Outline of the New Testament; 1881). In 1877 Ross and Yi began translating the New Testament, later aided by Mclntyre and several other Koreans, including Sŏ Sangyun and Paek Hongjun. In 1882 Ross published the Gospels of Luke and John, the first Gospels to be translated into han’gŭl. This was two years before Mark was independently translated by Yi Sujŏng, a Korean sojourning in Japan, and published in Japan; copies of the translation were later brought to Korea by Underwood and Appenzeller. Then in 1887 under the initiative of Ross, the first complete translation of the New Testament was finally published in Korean.

In 1879 Ross was on furlough in Scotland, where he published History of Corea: Ancient and Modern with Description of Manners and Customs, Language and Geography, Maps and Illustrations, the first history of Korea in English. That same year, McIntyre, while supervising Ross’ work in Manchuria baptized four Koreans, who thereby became the first Koreans to receive Protestant baptism. Only two of these men’s identities are known with certainty: Yi Ŭngch’an (Ross’s collaborator) and Paek Hongjun (who, upon being baptized returned immediately to his hometown in Ŭiju to evangelize). In May 1881 Ross returned to Manchuria, initially to Newchwang (the next month he would move to Mukden). There he met Sŏ Sangyun, an erstwhile ginseng peddler who had fallen deathly ill a couple of years earlier and was brought back to health owing to McIntyre’s help. McIntyre sought to introduce Sŏ to the Christian faith giving him a copy of the Chinese Bible, only to meet a polite rebuff—So had been steeped in Confucian learning. But becoming curious about the Bible, Sŏ read and reflected upon it for a year or so, before seeking out Ross for further instruction. Under Ross’ guidance, Sŏ underwent conversion and was baptized in May 1881.

After his conversion. Sŏ became an indefatigable evangelist, working closely with Ross as a colporteur. Between 1882 and 1885, Sŏ smuggled copies of the Bible into Korea, given to him by Ross, and distributed them in Sorae, his hometown in Hwanghae Province, and in Seoul. He was never just a seller of religious literature; he sought ardently to impart to his interlocutors the conviction of salvation he experienced in the Christian faith. Consequently, by the end of 1883 he was already able to report to Ross that he had thirteen persons ready to receive baptism. A year later, the number of prospective baptizees So reported to Ross had climbed to seventy. By that time, his younger brother Sŏ Kyŏngjo (also known as Sangu) had converted and, with the help of Sangyun had established a Protestant community in Sorae—that is, before the arrival of Allen. In March 1885, Sŏ was back in Manchuria, in Mukden asking Ross to come down to Korea and baptize the men he had led to the faith—a request Ross turned down reluctantly, owing to the inauspicious political circumstances. A month later Underwood and Appenzeller arrived in Korea. Near the end of 1886 Sŏ visited Underwood and asked him to go with him to Sorae to baptize the new believers. This request was also declined, since Underwood was prohibited from traveling inland. Consequently, in January 1887, Sŏ brought several of the believers from Sorae to Seoul, to be examined by Underwood for baptism.

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Indian Travel Tales from Vilayet, 1765

The [French] houses in the country are built of stone slabs, with roofs of terra cotta tiles. As the bamboo doesn’t grow here the scaffolding for the roofs is built of wood. The poorer classes live on a diet of broth and barley-bread and wear coarse wool or clothes woven from hemp, of which ropes are also spun. Most of them cannot afford leather shoes. Paris, the capital of France, is several hundred miles from either Calais or Nantes. Frenchman and foreigner alike sing high praises of the buildings and gardens of that city, its artistic innovativeness, scientific and technological advancement, the polished manners, cultivation, well-spokenness and wit of its inhabitants. In these respects it far surpasses all other cities in the Firinghee world.

The French claim that they have taught music and horsemanship to the English. Wealthy Englishmen send their children to French schools to polish up their manners and taste. The French say that the present excellence of the English in the arts and sciences, trade and industry, is the result of French education; in the past, when they lacked this education, they were ignorant like the mass of Indians. However, even the French admit that the English have always been outstanding soldiers.

The French say that the lower classes of Englishmen do not go to foreign countries to seek trade or employment because, being stupid and without any skills or business acumen, they would fail to earn a decent livelihood….

The [Scottish] Highlanders wear a jacket and a cap, but neither breeches nor boots. The lower part of the body is covered by a skirt called a kilt, but the knee is bare and cotton stockings are worn on the legs. Instead of shoes they wear wooden sandals fastened to the feet with leather straps. They carry a double-edged sword. I was told that their courage was beyond compare. But they are also simple-minded and doltish.

A Highlander who had gone to London was sightseeing about the bazaars, followed by a curious crowd of Englishmen and boys. One of the Englishmen in sport lifted the skirt of the Highlander’s kilt from behind. He was overcome with shame at this, but at the same time his wrath was inflamed and with a stroke of his sword he cut off the offender’s head. The Police and townspeople surrounded him but could not force him to surrender. He undauntedly stood his ground, prepared either to kill or die: He wounded many people, and on whichever side he charged they fled before him. No one had the courage to approach him, far less seize him. Word of this strange situation eventually reached the King, who sent a courtier to summon him. The Courtier went before him and said, ‘His Majesty has sent for you.’ On hearing the King’s name the Highlander immediately bowed his head and followed the royal envoy. When he appeared in the royal presence the King asked why he had heedlessly murdered a man. The Highlander knelt on one knee, according to the custom of Vilayet, bowed his head and after making obeisance, replied in a respectful tone, ‘When that man exposed a shameful part of my body I felt my honour had been ridiculed, and therefore in a state of rightful anger I struck him dead. But when I received your royal summons I hastened to surrender myself to you and I feel proud to have been permitted to kiss your threshold. Otherwise none would have been able to capture me alive.’ The King was impressed by this simple and courageous man’s defence and pardoned him.

There are amusing stories about the English too, particularly their country people, who are ignorant and stupid. One of them went to town where he was feted by a friend. He greatly relished a sheep’s liver kebab, which he had never tasted before, and took down its recipe. Before returning home he went to a butcher and bought a sheep’s liver, which he tied in a napkin and carried in his hand. A pie dog came up from behind, snatched the liver, napkin and all, and scampered off. The rustic shouted jeeringly after the dog, ‘You silly beast, you’ve got the raw liver, but the recipe is in my pocket!’.

Such stories only prove the truth that Allah did not create all five fingers equal. There is no country in the world where there are no stupid and ignorant people. In fact, everywhere they are the majority.

SOURCE: Other Routes: 1500 Years of African and Asian Travel Writing, edited by Tabish Khair, Martin Leer, Justin D. Edwards, and Hanna Ziadesh (Indiana U. Press, 2005), pp. 322, 325-326

See Wikipedia for the various meanings of Vilayet.

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Unglamorous Scottish Glamour

Virginia Postrel posts a bit of Scottish etymology:

In his poem “The Lay of the Last Minstrel,” Sir Walter Scott introduced the word glamour into English from Scots, where it meant a literal magic spell that kept the subject from seeing things as they really are:

And one short spell therein he read:
It had much of glamour might;
Could make a ladye seem a knight;
The cobwebs on a dungeon wall
Seem tapestry in lordly hall;
A nut-shell seem a gilded barge,
A sheeling [a shepherd’s hut] seem a palace large,
And youth seem age, and age seem youth:
All was delusion, nought was truth.

The last bit certainly applies to much of modern syntax, if not grammar more generally.

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