Crossing the Border: a study of the Scottish military offensives against England c.1369-c.1403

Crossing the Border: a study of the Scottish military offensives against England c.1369-c.1403

By Alastair J. Macdonald

PhD Dissertation, University of Aberdeen, 1995

Battle of Otterburn (1388). Miniature from Jean Froissart, Chroniques BNF, fr. 2645, fol. 351.

Abstract: From 1369 a series of Scottish military offensives was launched against England. I suggest that there was governmental control and organisation behind these efforts. There was wide involvement of the Scottish political community In attacks and they were invariably launched at times of either domestic upheaval in England or English involvement in foreign war. During the reign of Robert II the Scots cooperated closely with France in their attempts to exploit these circumstances. The Scottish offensives resulted in the reconquest of most of the remaining English-occupied areas in southern Scotland, and the achievement of success in diplomacy. A powerful local military ascendancy was established in the Anglo-Scothsh borders.

As a result, Scothsh self-confidence grew to the point where the Scots were willing to engage in attacks on England beyond the ambition of their French allies. Only in the reign of Robert Ill did this policy lead to military disaster, with heavy defeats of the Scots in 1402. From this point the Scots realised that they could not force a political settlement on the English state by military means. Extreme political unrest in northern England in the years after 1402 ensured that the English government reached a similar conclusion with regard to the Scots. Relations between the realms were never to be so consistently conflictual again.

War was not fought, however, with only political objectives in mind or other ‘rational’ factors such as the quest for financial gain. The Scots went to war, and their leaders organised it, for emotive reasons also, such as hatred of the English and enjoyment of martial endeavour for its own sake.

There is no sign that the impact of war in the years under consideration led to the development of a distinctive set of attitudes and mode of social behaviour among the Scottish borderers. In contrast to the English borders, where such features can be discerned throughout the fourteenth century, fugitive national loyalties, excess criminality and their possible causes cannot readily be discerned until the early fifteenth century.

Click here to read this thesis from the University of Aberdeen

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