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‘How British is Scotland: Celtic Perspectives on Multiculturism’

Thomas Owen Clancy (Professor of Celtic)

University of Glasgow

This lecture takes its cue from Bede’s famous description of Britain in AD731 as containing “four nations and five languages” (Britons, Picts, Gaels and English, with the fifth language Latin). For Britain, read Scotland, as the lands within the modern borders of Scotland contained in the 8th century the same constellation of peoples and languages. The project of Scotland, unlike the project of England, then, was from its earliest roots one of cultural encounter and negotiation, of rule over and on behalf of peoples of more than one tongue and culture. Within Scotland’s borders, in the early middle ages, are to be found versions of the languages of all four of the nations of the modern United Kingdom, and literature tied to them. This lecture will meditate on what the inheritance of that early multiculturalism means, or could mean, for Scottish and British identity; and what its loss might mean for “Britain without Scotland”.