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Thread: Statutes of Iona 1609 - the real end of Gaelic Scotland?

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    Default Statutes of Iona 1609 - the real end of Gaelic Scotland?

    Like most, I'd long believed the narrative that Scottish society was largely thriving and historically unaltered until the accession of the Hanoverians marked the point of cultural disintegration, reinforced by Culloden. But the Scottish writer Andrew Greig has a different take on events, placing the blame firmly on James the First/Sixth and his Statutes of Iona for the undermining and disintegration of Scots Gaelic society, with the faultline not between Scotsman and Sassenach, between Highlander and Lowlander. Certainly, the prohibitions on bards, clan traditions, the language and prosleytisation were more rigorously enforced than similar English legislation in Ireland, and combined with James' instigation of the Ulster Plantation, place question marks over his reputation as "the wisest fool in Christendom".
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    Quote Originally Posted by FloatingVoterTralee View Post
    Like most, I'd long believed the narrative that Scottish society was largely thriving and historically unaltered until the accession of the Hanoverians marked the point of cultural disintegration, reinforced by Culloden. But the Scottish writer Andrew Greig has a different take on events, placing the blame firmly on James the First/Sixth and his Statutes of Iona for the undermining and disintegration of Scots Gaelic society, with the faultline not between Scotsman and Sassenach, between Highlander and Lowlander. Certainly, the prohibitions on bards, clan traditions, the language and prosleytisation were more rigorously enforced than similar English legislation in Ireland, and combined with James' instigation of the Ulster Plantation, place question marks over his reputation as "the wisest fool in Christendom".
    I suspect you'll find that the idea of anything that was done anywhere being more severe than what was done in Ireland is not exactly popular in some quarters on P.ie .

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    A lot of James' attitude may be found in two quotes:

    ""The state of monarchy is the supremest thing upon earth; for kings are not only God's lieutenants upon earth, and sit upon God's throne, but even by God himself they are called gods.""

    and

    "This I must say for Scotland, and may truly vaunt it. Here I sit and govern it with my pen; I write and it is done; and by a clerk of the council I govern Scotland now, which my ancestors could not do by the sword."

    Their inflexible belief in the divine right of kings was part of the Stewarts' downfall, while the combination of that attitude with their experience of the rather precarious primus inter pares (first among equals) reality of Scottish kingship meant their sympathy for the Gaelic culture of Scotland was extremely limited.
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    [QUOTE=FloatingVoterTralee;6422866]Like most, I'd long believed the narrative that Scottish society was largely thriving and historically unaltered until the accession of the Hanoverians marked the point of cultural disintegration, reinforced by Culloden. [/QUOTE

    Historically unaltered? Since when? The native languages in Scotland for example had disappeared a few hundred years before, due to pressure from English and Gaelic.
    "Don't blame me, I voted for Kodos."

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    Quote Originally Posted by PeacefulViking View Post
    Historically unaltered? Since when? The native languages in Scotland for example had disappeared a few hundred years before, due to pressure from English and Gaelic.
    What 'native' languages?

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    Provisions

    Amongst the provisions of the statutes were:
    1. The provision and support of Protestant ministers to Highland Parishes;
    2. The establishment of hostelries;
    3. The outlawing of beggars;
    4. The prohibition of traditional hospitality and strong drink;
    5. The education of chiefs’ heirs in Lowland schools where they “may be found able sufficiently to speik, reid and wryte Englische"
    6. Limitations on the bearing and use of arms,
    7. The outlawing of bards and other bearers of the traditional culture
    8. The prohibition on the protection of fugitives

    In the view of some writers, this enaction was "the first of a succession of measures taken by the Scottish government specifically aimed at the extirpation of the Gaelic language, the destruction of its traditional culture and the suppression of its bearers"
    1. Princes throughout Europe were trying to standardise religion, the better to rule their subjects.
    2. Interesting, so presumably hostelries would encourage outsiders into the area and undermine the Gaelic culture.
    3. Like outlawing prostitution...wishfull thinking.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lain2016 View Post
    What 'native' languages?
    He may mean Pictish here, the nature of which language of course, is still up for debate.
    "Only by applying the most rigorous standards do we pay writing in Irish the supreme compliment of taking it seriously." - Breandán Ó Doibhlín.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lain2016 View Post
    1. Princes throughout Europe were trying to standardise religion, the better to rule their subjects.
    2. Interesting, so presumably hostelries would encourage outsiders into the area and undermine the Gaelic culture.
    3. Like outlawing prostitution...wishfull thinking.
    It may have been to accomodate for the loss of traditional hospitality under which any visitor could receive customary free lodgings. We have accounts of such a custom surviving in Ireland up until the 19th century.
    "Only by applying the most rigorous standards do we pay writing in Irish the supreme compliment of taking it seriously." - Breandán Ó Doibhlín.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Riadach View Post
    He may mean Pictish here, the nature of which language of course, is still up for debate.
    Pictish and the Brythonic language.
    "Don't blame me, I voted for Kodos."

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    Quote Originally Posted by ibis View Post
    A lot of James' attitude may be found in two quotes:

    ""The state of monarchy is the supremest thing upon earth; for kings are not only God's lieutenants upon earth, and sit upon God's throne, but even by God himself they are called gods.""

    and

    "This I must say for Scotland, and may truly vaunt it. Here I sit and govern it with my pen; I write and it is done; and by a clerk of the council I govern Scotland now, which my ancestors could not do by the sword."

    Their inflexible belief in the divine right of kings was part of the Stewarts' downfall, while the combination of that attitude with their experience of the rather precarious primus inter pares (first among equals) reality of Scottish kingship meant their sympathy for the Gaelic culture of Scotland was extremely limited.
    I disagree on the last point. James' grandfather James V was probably fluent in Gaelic, and James IV definitely was. The Reformation changed things. It was led largely by English speaking Lowlanders, who had some difficulty converting the Highlands because of the language barrier. As an obstacle to the Reformation, it therefore had to be (as James put it) "extirpated". James' upbringing would also have been a factor. He was separated from his mother as a toddler, and raised by fanatical Protestants who despised the Gaelic language for the aforementioned reasons. It's similarity with the language of Catholic Ireland would also have been a factor in the prejudice against the language, which was increasingly referred to as "Erse" (meaning Irish).

    It is true though that another factor in the 17th century was that the Highland clans tended to be be very independent-minded and that made their assimilation important to the Stuart-absolutist project.
    Last edited by Dame_Enda; 16th February 2013 at 08:14 PM.
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