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Annals of Ulster of the Early Middle Ages AD 500-1000
By Shannon Gunn
The Celtic Guide, Vol.1, Issue 8 (2012)
Introduction: Annals are records of events noted down year by year by monks in monastic scriptoria (writing rooms): the death of bishops, abbots, battles, sieges and raids. Although often brief, they are the best source for the history of the Early Middle Ages in Scotland and elsewhere. But that doesn’t mean they are totally accurate. Quite the contrary.
The monks incorporated local legends and myths with Biblical material for the period before they became Christian. In Ireland and Scotland the monks invented a connection between the peoples of the Bible and the Gaels of Ireland and Scotland; they invented a genealogy which ‘proved’ they were descended from an Egyptian pharoah’s daughter called Scota. This myth of origin was used in the Declaration of Arbroath of 1320 to justify Scotland’s independence from England.
You can follow the introduction of Christianity to the west of Scotland in the most accurate parts of the annals produced by Christian monks; St Columba (Colum Cille) is particularly wellrepresented. You can read about the arrival of the Vikings and the creation of the kingdom of Alba, whose people were strong enough to resist conquest by the Norse.