Scotland: A European Nation
by Elias Blum
Scottish statehood reached its apogee, and Scottish national identity formed, during the two centuries between the Battle of Bannockburn (1314) to the Battle of Flodden Field (1513). During this time, European Christendom formed a more or less cohesive civilisation, with a common language of learning (Latin), common institutions (the Church, with its papacy and its network of transnational monastic orders and universities), and a common overarching norms and values (both in the church and in the university-trained civil lawyers, who shared a common set of presumptions based on a fusion of Christian and Aristotelian teachings).
English statehood reached its apogee in Tudor times, most notably with Elizabeth I and the defeat of the Spanish Armada. English (as opposed to British) nationhood was formed in contrast to continental Europe, at a time when the cultural unity of Europe had already been shattered by the Reformation and the vernacular Bible.
A member of the late medieval elite who forged Scottish statehood would not have been out of place in a Flanders market, a Spanish monastery, or the law school in Bologna, but out of his depth in India or China. A member of the early modern elite who forged English ‘greatness’ would have been alien in continental Europe, with its cowled monks reduced to the role of oddities in gothic literature – he might as well be in India or China. To the English statebuilder, all the world was equally ‘foreign’, to the Scottish statebuilder, there was a bond of commonality uniting Europe and separating Europe from the world beyond it.