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Significant Scots
Peter Hume Brown

Here is a memoir of Peter Hume Brown taken from the Scottish Historical Review and written by C H Firth.

You can read this memoir in pdf format here

Read his History of Scotland in three volumes


IN accordance with the plan of the Series to which this book belongs, it should have dealt with Scottish history mainly during the last four centuries. In the case of Scotland, however, there was a special reason for departing from this plan. There is not in existence a compendious history of Scotland which at once supplies a consecutive narrative of events, and seeks to trace the gradual consolidation of the various elements that have gone to the making of the Scottish people. It is as an attempt to meet this want that this book was conceived and written.

But there was another reason which seemed to justify a preliminary volume exclusively devoted to early and mediaeval Scottish history. Since the publication of the works of Dr Hill Burton and Dr Skene considerable additions have been made to our knowledge regarding various periods dealt with in the present volume. On many points, also, the latest critical opinion constrains us to reject or modify conclusions accepted even by such recent authorities as Burton and Skene. To adduce a single instance, though an important one—Dr Skene’s elaborate account of the Roman occupation is largely rejected by the highest modern authorities. On the other hand, the researches of Dr Skene have superseded the portion of Burton’s History which treats of the centuries that followed the Roman occupation; and the same remark applies in a considerable degree to the period between the coming of the Saxon Margaret and the death of Alexander III. In my own account of Celtic Scotland I have availed myself of the original authorities brought together by Dr Skene in his Chronicles of the Picts and Scots and his Collectanea de Rebus Albanicis, as well as of other sources, and have endeavoured to construct a narrative as intelligible as the scanty materials would permit. So scanty, indeed, are the materials for Scottish history from the invasion of Agricola to the death of Alexander III that, if authorities be critically construed and theories be set aside, the following narrative is nearly as full as is justified by ascertained facts.

During recent years our knowledge of the period of the War of Independence has been both corrected and extended; but even with the fresh material at our disposal, a detailed and trustworthy narrative is still impossible. Though the number of contemporary documents is considerable, they are inadequate to form the basis of a comprehensive history of the period; while the Scottish and English Chronicles are at once so conflicting, meagre, and untrustworthy, that the work of reconciling them is probably beyond the ingenuity of criticism. In consistency with the nature and aim of the present work I have confined myself to what seems to be indisputable fact.

It is from the middle of the reign of David II onwards that the following narrative will be found to differ most materially from previous histories of Scotland. It is not too much to say, indeed, that from the materials that have come to hand in recent years this period of the national history had virtually to be rewritten. Yet even with regard to this period we experience, though in a less degree, the same difficulty as in the case of the earlier times: while at certain points our information is surprisingly full, at others it is so fragmentary that it is difficult to follow the mere sequence of events. It is necessary to emphasize this fact, as it explains why the events of one reign are, for no apparent reason, related with so much greater fulness than the events of another. The reign of James I, alike from its importance and from the personality of James himself, is one of the most interesting in Scottish history, yet from the information we possess we are unable to treat it on the scale which it would demand. On the other hand, it is with increasing amplitude that we can recount the reigns of his immediate successors—those of James IV and James V supplying materials of special abundance and value. It has been my endeavour to guard as far as possible against the misconceptions likely to arise from this unavoidable disproportion of treatment.

It should perhaps be added that the bibliography at the end of the volume is not meant to be exhaustive. Such as it is, however, the list of authorities given may be of service both to the general reader and to the student who may wish to investigate a particular period. The copious table of contents will to a large extent supply the place of an index which is reserved for the concluding volume.

I here take the opportunity of thanking Dr James Macdonald, Rhind Lecturer for 1897, for his invaluable assistance in connection with the chapter on the Roman occupation of North Britain. To Sheriff Mackay and Professor Mackinnon, of the University of Edinburgh, I am also indebted for information on points regarding which they are recognized authorities. Through the great kindness of Mr Matthew Livingstone, Deputy Keeper of the Records, I was enabled to examine a mass of unpublished Charters, extending from the reign of Malcolm IV, which he has been engaged in transcribing for some years past; and by the courtesy of the Rev. John Anderson, of the Register House, Edinburgh, I had the privilege of inspecting the Laing Collection of Charters, a calendar of which is about to be published under his supervision. Finally, I have to express my great obligation to Professor Prothero, the Editor of the Series, to whose wide knowledge and experience I am indebted for valuable suggestions in the course of his revision of my proofs.

P. H. B.
December, 1898.

Volume 1 | Volume 2 | Volume 3

Scotland before 1700
From Contemporary Documents edited by P. Hume Brown (1893) (pdf)

"The historians have told us about the kings who reigned and the wars carried on. But if we desire to obtain some exact and reliable knowledge of the social condition of the people, say during the reign of the 1 peaceful king ' Alexander III., and thus be able to estimate the degree in which the country was impoverished and the progress of civilization checked, for at least a hundred and fifty years, by the troubles that followed, the historians help us but little. And it is to the writings of such early travellers as Mr Hume Brown has dealt with, along with any inedited records that may yet be made available, that we must look for the desired light." — Free Press, Aberdeen.

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