Early Britain eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 175 pages of information about Early Britain.

One act of Dunstan’s policy, however, had far-reaching results, of a kind which he himself could never have anticipated.  He handed over all Northumbria beyond the Tweed—­the region now known as the Lothians—­as a fief to Kenneth, king of Scots.  This accession of territory wholly changed the character of the Scottish kingdom, and largely promoted the Teutonisation of the Celtic North.  The Scottish princes now took up their residence in the English town of Edinburgh, and learned to speak the English language as their mother-tongue.  Already Eadmund had made over Strathclyde or Cumberland to Malcolm; and thus the dominions of the Scottish kings extended over the whole of the country now known as Scotland, save only the Scandinavian jarldoms of Caithness, Sutherland, and the Isles.  Strathclyde rapidly adopted the tongue of its masters, and grew as English in language (though not in blood) as the Lothians themselves.  Fife, in turn, was quickly Anglicised, as was also the whole region south of the Highland line.  Thus a new and powerful kingdom arose in the North; and at the same time the cession of an English district to the Scottish kings had the curious result of thoroughly Anglicising two large and important Celtic regions, which had hitherto resisted every effort of the Northumbrian or West Saxon over-lords.  There is no reason to believe, however, that this introduction of the English tongue and English manners was connected with any considerable immigration of Teutonic settlers into the Anglicised tracts.  The population of Ayrshire, of Fife, of Perthshire, and of Aberdeen, still shows every sign of Celtic descent, alike in physique, in temperament, and in habit of thought.  The change was, in all probability, exactly analogous to that which we ourselves have seen taking place in Wales, in Ireland, and in the Celtic north of Scotland at the present day.

CHAPTER XVI.

THE AUGUSTAN AGE AND THE LATER ANGLO-SAXON CIVILISATION.

The slight pause in the long course of Danish warfare which occurred during the vigorous administration of Dunstan, affords the best opportunity for considering the degree of civilisation reached by the English in the last age before the Norman Conquest.  Our materials for such an estimate are partly to be found in existing buildings, manuscripts, pictures, ornaments, and other archaeological remains, and partly in the documentary evidence of the chronicles and charters, and more especially of the great survey undertaken by the Conqueror’s commissioners, and known as Domesday Book.  From these sources we are enabled to gain a fairly complete view of the Anglo-Saxon culture in the period immediately preceding the immense influx of Romance civilisation after the Conquest; and though some such Romance influence was already exerted by the Normanising tendencies of Eadward the Confessor, we may yet conveniently consider the whole subject here under the age of Eadgar and AEthelred.  It is difficult, indeed, to trace any very great improvement in the arts of life between the days of Dunstan and the days of Harold.

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Early Britain from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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