31 MAY 1930, Page 24

The Antecedents of the Scot - The Social and Economic Development

of Scotland' before 1603. By I. F. Grant. (Oliver and Boyd. 21s.) MISS GRAI■IT does not explicitly state it, but one suspects that she would be inclined to admit that Scotland's social and economic conditions, which she discusses in this iMportant book, were very largely conditioned by natural environment. Here was a country with a bleak climate throughout except on the West, and with but relatively little useful lowland, and that principally in the south-east where it was always liable to invasion from England, as the six English attacks on or captures of Edinburgh too grimly testify; a country,' therefore, which found it difficult to grow enough wheat for its needs` and which was forced duiing the Middle Ages to import it from Ireland, indeed the staple import into the Highlands was grain and its products. The general elevation of most of the surface of Scotland,' excluding the fertile Lothian and' some other productiVe plain-lands, made it fit only for the raising of cattle on the lower slopes and sheep on the loftier uplands. Hence its main exports of wool and hides both of red-deer and oxen, while its inland waters supplied salmon (a Chisholm in the sixteenth century sent salmon to Thomas Cromwell) and the sea herrings. (It is interesting and significant, by the way, to find the , High- landers, when the Lowland fishermen resorted to their sea- lochs after the herring, making a charge for the seaweed used to cover the fish). Scotland had thus but little to give the world and was always a poor country in consequence, and was the more unrestful, in that the land, its only means of support, was mismanaged by feudalism and continually being coveted and stolen by King, nobles' and the Church. Poverty 'of soil has always produced a lawless people, and the history of Scotland up to the time of the union 'of • the Crowns was, but for the so-called Golden- 'Age, "one of chrcinie internal

disturbance in both Highlande and Lowlands-alike. - Into this poorly equipped land, at first, it may be, dwelt in by the Picts alone, was poured an inflammable mixture of races—Britons, Gaels (the predominant element), Angles, Scandinavians and finally Normans and Flemings (the many places called Flemington bear witness to the presence of the last). How these discordant elements were gradually fused into one national type so far as the Lowlands were concerned (for between the Wild Scots north of the Highland line and the Householding Scots a clear distinction was early drawn) is graphically described by Miss Grant. It is one of the puzzles of history that the Gaels, who in Ireland enjoyed a highly 'developed culture, seem after crossing the sea to Scotland to have lost the power to diffuse it. For, whatever may be the truth as to the main blood-stock of Scotland, its culture is not Celtic. Its architecture is Norman and later French, its language northern English and its methods of agriculture largely Anglic. Indeed the occupation of the Lothians by individuals or small groups of Anglian invaders (they did not come in tribes as did the Saxons in Southern England) seems to have leavened the whole cultural lump. Next to the Angles the arrival of the Normans from England (in peace and amity and not in arms) exercised the strongest influence on Scottish social development (the personal names of Grant, Colville, Maxwell, Bruce and many other Norman names are an indication of the fact), for to them was owing the institution of feudalism, which was woven firmly into the social fabric of Scotland. Its ramifications were endless and cannot be touched on here, but one must note that Miss Grant considers that " in practice feudalism and the clan-system were very much alike." In Ireland the Gaelic clan-system and con- ditions of landholding were probably tribal, but it was not so in Scotland, where the clan-system, as we think of it to-day, is largely and comparatively a modern development, and where territorial superiority (the very essence of feudalism) was at least as potent as clan kinship.

Someone has said recently that he was much less interested in the past of a race than in its future. But the past often explains the present and is some guide towards forecasting the future. So while Miss Grant depicts the utter poverty of Scotland in the past (which once enabled Henry VIII to buy up ten of her traitorous nobles for £1,000), its fanatical love of freedom, and its lawlessness inherent in the strong individualism of its people, we can in a measure understand why the Scot has been forced abroad over all the corners of the earth. We can thus perhaps account, too, for the spirit of revolt which pervades Clydeside now ; the deep attachment of the Highlander to the land he occupies lies behind many of the agrarian troubles of the modern crofters ; the brotherli- ness enjoined by the socialist legislation of the early burghs is paralleled by the brotherliness of Scots to-day. But it may be said now, as Miss Grant says of the country immed- iately after Bannockburn, that the social records of Scotland show " how little constructive use the Scots could make of their so dearly bought liberty."

We commend this book as a faithful and a fully documented study of the • antecedent causes which have contributed towards the building up of the Scotland we know to-day. It is the outcome of immense research and most careful examination of material, and claims the attention of all students of Scottish history.