Stirling Castle, Bannockburn, and the Scottish Wars of Independence


1.  Stirling has been described as "the most strategically important of all the castles in Scotland."  Discuss, considering such things as the Castle's location and its design.  Why was it an important stronghold in the Wars of Independence?

2.  Stirling Castle has a long connection with the Kings and Queens of Scotland.  Alexander I died at the Castle in 1124; James II had William, 8th Earl of Douglas, murdered at the Castle in 1452; Mary, Queen of Scots, was crowned in the chapel royal at the castle in 1543.  Discuss any two monarchs' relationship with the Castle.

The Wars of Independence: Select Bibliography
By Dr. Steve Boardman, University of Edinburgh

Since its first appearance in the 1960s, the standard work for any student of the Wars of Independence era has been G.W.S. Barrow’s Robert Bruce and the Community of the Realm of Scotland (3rd edition  1988). Barrow’s work is far more than a simple biography of the ‘hero-king’. Beyond his generally sympathetic exploration of Bruce’s career, Barrow attempts to explain and trace the impact of the idea of the ‘community of the realm’. For Barrow, the Wars of Independence were fuelled and sustained by the collective emotional and practical attachment of the Scots to the traditions, institutions and independent history of their kingdom. The biography has occasionally been criticised as rather ‘old-fashioned’ in its concern with ‘patriotic’ sentiment and its concentration on ‘great men’. Overall, however, Robert Bruce is a beautifully-written and evocative work of high scholarship which remains the best starting point for any examination of the period.
Barrow’s work can be supplemented by two excellent general histories: R.Nicholson, Scotland: the Later Middle Ages (1974), ch. 1; and A.Grant, Independence and Nationhood (1984), chs. 1, 2. These volumes are written in rather different ways. Nicholson provides a robust, straightforward, sceptical and shrewd political narrative---good for understanding the chronological framework. Grant provides excellent, incisive thematic summaries over a range of topics and has a refreshing and ‘up-beat’ approach to the entire period---good for analysis and the discussion of ideas.

In the last 2-3 years a number of relevant monographs have been published. C.McNamee, The Wars of the Bruces (1997), provides an account of the origin and impact of the war in the context of the British Isles and Ireland. McNamee takes a sceptical view of Robert I and concentrates on the economic and social impact of the Wars of Independence, especially on the vulnerable northern English shires. Readable, it contains a number of statistically based chapters which might be hard work for some. Undermines the ‘glamour’ of medieval warfare by emphasising its impact on a peasantry caught up in a conflict inspired largely by aristocratic ambition. F.Watson, Under the Hammer (1998), is a useful and detailed examination of Edward I’s attempts to  govern Scotland. Rather undermines the myth of the ‘English war machine’ by pointing out the logistical difficulties encountered by Edward and his officials in trying to keep Scotland subdued. Good on the ambiguous nature of attachment to the ‘patriotic’ cause and sympathetic to those trying to steer a path through confused and troubled times. Again some chapters are very detailed, but chapter 1 gives a useful clear introduction to the opening of the Wars. A.Young, Robert the Bruce’s Rivals (1998), is essentially a book about Robert I’s chief domestic rivals, the Comyn family. Last few chapters relevant to the period 1286-1306. Emphasises the prominent role other families played in the ‘patriotic’ struggle between 1286-1306, and the influence of political propaganda produced by the victorious Bruce-Stewart dynasty after 1306 in our modern-day understanding of the period. The wars are also covered from a more general perspective in R.Frame, Political Development of the British Isles, 1100-1400 (1990), chs. 6-7. Useful for its discussion of the wider context in which the wars take place and their long-term significance in re-shaping the political structure of the British Isles. A re-assessment of the wars in terms of their impact on the relationship between Scotland and Ireland is provided by Sean Duffy in ‘The Bruce Brothers and the Irish Sea World, 1306-29’, in the specialist journal Cambridge Medieval Celtic Studies, xxi (1991) and more accessibly in the latest edition of the magazine History Ireland..

For the often forgotten outlook of the English crown see:
M.Prestwich, War, Politics and Finance under Edward I  (1972)
M.Prestwich, The Three Edwards: War and State in England 1272-1377 (1980)