Overview of Edinburgh

History of Edinburgh

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Scotland's early history is foggy as repeated glaciation's destroyed much the evidence of human habitation. It is believed that the first post-glacial groups of hunter-gatherers arrived in Scotland around 12,800 years ago. The later discovery of a 4,000 year old tomb near Perth displays the wealth an growing importance of the early Scots. Perth was the capital of a Pictish Kingdom in the 8th and 9th century's AD and the burial treasures at Forteviotis are of unrivalled historical importance in Britain. It appears that Scotland was part of a Late Bronze Age maritime trading-networked culture called the Atlantic Bronze Age and included the Celtic nations of England, France, Spain and Portugal.

These first people cultivated the goods of the land uninhibited and worked on the sea, forming small village communities, till the Romans arrived in 55 BC. Fronted by Julius Caesar, the Romans claimed England and Wales as a province called Britannia. The Caledonians resisted, and attacked Roman forts. In a surprise night-attack, the Caledonians nearly wiped out the 9th Legion until it was saved by Agricola's cavalry. The resistance was put own by general Gnaeus Julius Agricola in 83-84 AD. The Caledonian leader, Calgacus, is said to have given a speech where he called his people the "last of the free". Despite their defeat, within 3 years the Roman armies had withdrawn to the Southern Uplands. The Romans erected Hadrian's Wall to control the many tribes, one of the most famous Roman remains in the world. Limes Britannicus became the northern border of the empire. Their influence can still be seen around Scotland, but the entirety of Roman military occupation of northern Scotland was limited to a total of about 40 years.

The complete withdraw of the Roman Empire was completed in AD 411. This was followed by the Dark Ages. Scotland was oddly unaffected when compared with the rest of the UK. The absence of the Romans now created a vacuum and hordes of invaders arrived on the lower half of the island. However, battles with the English and Vikings did shape this period. The Shetland Islands still retain a strong Viking cultural identity.

Battles with the English dominated much of Scottish history. Skirmishes and battles were never-ending. In 1502, James VI signed the Treaty of Perpetual Peace with Henry VII of England, ending some of this animosity. He also married Henry's daughter, Margaret Tudor. James eventually made the decision to invade England, in support of France, under the terms of the Auld Alliance. He died in battle, the last British monarch to do so.

The Auld Alliance was short-lived, and was ended by the Treaty of Edinburgh. France agreed to withdraw their forces in 1560. At roughly the same time, John Knox convinced the Scottish parliament to revoke papal authority in Scotland and Mary, Queen of Scots, a Catholic and former queen of France, was forced to abdicate in 1567. This was followed by the Union of the Crowns in 1603 as the Scottish King, James VI, inherited the English throne after the death of Queen Elizabeth I. In 1707, the Parliaments of Scotland and England were formally united, creating Great Britain.

In the 18th century came the Scottish enlightenment. There was vast industrial expansion and Glasgow became a major trading port. It was informally declared the "Second City" of the British Empire. Some of the oldest universities were founded at this time in Scotland and Scottish inventors created the television, the telephone and penicillin. Voltaire was quoted saying "We look to Scotland for all our ideas of civilisation."

At this time, there were the last of Great Britain's interior battles. The deposed Jacobite Stuart remained popular in the Highlands. Two major Jacobite risings were launched in 1715 and 1745, but failed to remove the House of Hanover from the British throne. The Battle of Culloden was the last battle, an it was decisive in the defeat of the Jacobites. This opened up politics and civil service to the people. Historian Neil Davidson notes that "...after 1746 there was an entirely new level of participation by Scots in political life, particularly outside Scotland."

Scotland played a major role in the British effort in the First World War with Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig as Britain's commander on the Western Front. The country supplied manpower, ships, machinery, fish and money. The shipbuilding industry expanded by a third, but was hit by a serious depression in 1922. The population was at 4.8 million in 1911 and Scotland sent 690,000 men to the war. About 74,000 died in combat or from disease.

After the first World War ended, the country suffered from economic stagnation and high unemployment. A sense of dislocation and despair was among the people. Young Scots left in droves and a dependence on industry and mining was a central problem. In retrospect, that may have prepared business and political leaders to accept centralized government economic planning. The second War brought renewed prosperity. Attacks by the Luftwaffe destroyed parts of the country, but also resulted in the invention of radar by Robert Watson-Watt.

Unfortunately, after the war Scotland's situation became progressively worse. Overseas competition and industrial disputes were swiftly eating away at Scotland's economy. Slowly, the country turned the situation away through a resurgence in financial services industry, electronics manufacturing, and the North Sea oil and gas industry. Margaret Thatcher's government came in 1989 and instituted the Community Charge (widely known as the Poll Tax). The Scotland Act was passed by the United Kingdom Parliament in 1998 and established a devolved Scottish Parliament and Scottish Government.

In the 20th century, Scotland has embraced greater autonomy from London. The country has continued its proud tradition of creativity and invention. It has fully embraced the powers of green energy and its economy continues to expand in new directions. What has been called "Scotland's greatest export", the people, have brought renewed pride and worldwide attention to the country to the north. The Scotland of today is home to New Scots - immigrants from around the globe who have come to live and work in Scotland. National pride is at a new high and there are even calls for full independence.


Now sometimes called "Athens of the North", was called "Dun Eideann" in the past. Gaelic for "Fort of Eidyn". The term Din Eidyn first appeared in the "Y Gododdin", a poem from the mid to late 13th century. By the 1170s, King William the Lion was using the name "Edenesburch" and from there the name was further refine into today's Edinburgh.

The first evidence of a settlement is from the Bronze Age. The town was influenced by Hallstatt and La Tene Celtic cultures from central Europe. The arrival of the Romans at the beginning of the 1st millennium AD also had a strong influence on the development of the town The Romans defeated the Pictish leader Calgacus at Mons Graupius in AD 84, but could not master Caledonia. The Scots finally reclaimed their own city while battling around AD 950 when Indulf, son of Constantine, lost control. The Germans did leave their mark on the name, adding the Germanic suffix "burgh" to the name.

The city was well developed by the 12th century, finding it's iconic site on the castle rock. In 1603 when King James VI of Scotland succeeded to the English and Irish thrones, he left for London and only once returned to Edinburgh.

In the 17th century, a defensive wall was built around the city. This was to protect the city from English invasion. This forced the city to develop upwards an downwards rather than outward. Buildings of 11 stories were common and there are records of buildings as high as 15 stories.

The Jacobite rising of 1745 resulted in a brief occupation of Edinburgh. Following their defeat, there was a period of reprisals directed at the Catholic Highlanders. The Hanoverian monarch attempted to gain favour by supporting new developments to the north of the castle, naming streets in honour of the King and his family: George Street, Frederick Street, Hanover Street and Princes Street, named in honour of George III's two sons.

During the Scottish Enlightenment, Edinburgh was the epicentre of the movement. Celebrities occupied the city, and many went out into the world, making a name for the Scots and the people of Edinburgh. The Scottish intellectual elite were renowned for leading both Scottish and European intellectual thought.

Sections of the Old and New Towns of Edinburgh have been named World Heritage Sites by UNESCO since 1995. In 2004, Edinburgh became the first member of the UNESCO Creative Cities initiative. In a 2009 poll, Edinburgh was voted the most desirable city to live in the UK. It's reputation as a world city is indisputable.

Update 8/04/2011

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