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Memorialisation of Vikings and National Identity in the ‘Old Statistical Account’ of Scotland, 1791-99

Clare Downham

Viking Settlements and Viking Society
Papers from the Proceedings of the Sixteenth Viking Congress,
Reykjavík and Reykholt, 16th -23rd August 2009

The Old Statistical Account, published between 1791 and 1799, was the first national survey of Scotland. It includes information on the history and antiquities of every parish,and preserves significant number of local commentaries on the Viking Age. This information gives a fascinating insight into attitudes towards the ‘Old North’ before the writings of Walter Scott popularised an enduringly romantic image of Vikings in Scotland’s past. This paper has focused on records from the adjoining counties of Aberdeenshire, Banffshire and Moray. This region of relatively few Scandinavian place-names or antiquities provides a conservative barometer to analyse interest in Vikings across the nation. From the area survives a vivid collection of tales about battles, kings, subterfuge and a wronged princess, interwoven with folkloric explanations of features in the landscape. The account shows how local and national identities in late eighteenth century Scotland were tied together with the memorialisation of Vikings.

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