Final Reflection

Reflection Post – Chloe Fergus
A) What have been the major obstacles you have faced in putting a research project together?
– The obvious major obstacle has been with libraries being shut due to Covid-19 restrictions as well as the Stirling library not holding the required books.
– Having to meet with tutors online has also been somewhat challenging due to technical difficulties but I also feel that in-person conversations offer more clarity and are more engaging.
– Having to somewhat narrow down my question and not stray from my topic or try and take on too much.

B) What strategies have you adopted to overcome these obstacles?
– I have been fortunate, and my assigned tutor sent me over some e-books. Due to libraries being closed and the university not stocking my required books, it has encouraged me to look wider for resources and I managed to obtain articles/ebooks online that I originally thought I would only be able to find in the national library.
– Regarding meeting with my tutor, I have been writing out questions prior to get the most out of online meetings as I can. Also, my tutor has been very friendly and approachable, and I have been able to email them with queries to aid in my understanding and make me feel more confident in approaching my proposal.
C) What has this taught you about approaching your dissertation?

– That organisation is key, and I need to have contingency plans in place in case I am unable to access the national library for material.
– That maintaining regular contact with my tutor is important as they can offer insights or advice I do not know about and that I should not worry about asking for help and in fact reach out for guidance as needed.

D) Which aspects of the 9X6 module have been the most useful in helping you get your project ready to start?
– The module as a whole has been useful in helping me get my dissertation project started and has made me feel more comfortable with the process. Being given rough dates for when the first chapter will be due, and the penultimate deadline is useful for me setting personal targets. Also, being able to look at previous students work has been helpful and seeing what merits a first result has been beneficial. Furthermore, submitting the annotated bibliography near the beginning of the semester has been useful in looking back upon and aided in the methodology paper and dissertation proposal as it already outlined a good base of knowledge on sources, therefore this was a very helpful task.

Chloe Fergus – Annotated Bibliogrpahy

My dissertation topic is going to be focused on Viking settlement in Northern Scotland in areas such as The Shetlands, Orkney and The Hebrides. My dissertation will examine whether the settlement was harmonious and there was assimilation or whether it was annihilation. I will use a wide variety of sources including primary and secondary however, there is a lack of plentiful primary material on the subject. I will also draw on archaeological evidence. Viking settlement in Scotland lasted over centuries, arguably from the 9th to the 15th therefore I will focus my dissertation from 850-1000 roughly.

Primary Sources:

Bressay Stone – 9th century.
This stone is significant primary evidence dating back to the 9th century and was uncovered in the Shetlands. It is an example of Pictish art and the symbols on the stone include two monks, various beasts including a boar as well as a cross. It also features a Ogham inscription which combines Norse and Gaelic names and words together which can be used as evidence to argue that Viking settlement in Scotland, particularly the North, had not been as violent as it is often assumed.

2. Somerville, Angus., and McDonald, Andrew. The Viking Age: A Reader. Toronto: University of Toronto, 2014. This source was used extensively throughout the HISU9V5 module from last Autumn and it combines a large selection of primary sources that have been translated and well-formatted. I will use this source predominately as a way of accessing primary evidence from the Viking Age.
Source 20.4 – Unn the deep-minded takes control of her life.
This source is interesting as it shows the inhabitants of Scotland in contrasting lights. Firstly, it depicts them as hospitable and welcoming to Viking incomers – Ketil Flatnose and his family. However, his grandson, Thorstein the Red immediately went raiding and broke the peace. This can act as evidence that it was the Viking settlers who were the first agitators and provoked unrest. Thorstein was victorious in his forays all over Scotland and a treaty was made in which he gained half of Scotland and became king. Furthermore, he did not marry a native Scot but chose a Norse bride which furthers the theory of some Vikings being unwilling to assimilate. The Scots betrayed the truce, and he was murdered in Caithness. This gives insight to discontent amongst the Scots and their unhappiness at being ruled by a foreign and power-hungry king. This source is interesting as it hints at what could have been a harmonious blend of people and cultures turned into a hostile feud because Thorstein had a tyrannic regime. This source will be pivotal in my dissertation as it shows Scottish-Viking relations initially and why they sour. Although both sides broke the peace, the Viking settlers are depicted as being the agitators.

John White’s popular depiction of a Pict warrior -16th century. (image taken from ‘The British Museum – images’ website).
Whether this could count as primary evidence or not I am not sure, and it is also just an interpretation as to what Picts looked like however there is substantial evidence left from the Picts in stone carvings of themselves as to how they appeared. The consensus is that they were large limbed, red haired and semi-naked/naked people who sported symbols and art on their bodies and wore war paint. The Romans referred to them as ‘Picti’ meaning painted or tattooed people. This painting was produced between 1585-1593 and shows a practically nude warrior whose body is stained/marked with symbols such as birds, a serpent and other animals. Equipped with a scimitar (a curved blade) and clutching a dead man’s head which gives insight and supports the theory that the Picts were ruthless and savage in war and combat.

Secondary Sources –

Smith, Brian. 2001. “The Picts and the Martyrs, Or Did the Vikings Kill the Native Population of Orkney And Shetland” 36.
This journal article will be very helpful in my dissertation and Smith has a clear stance that the native population of Orkney and Shetland were ‘killed’ by Viking invaders. Smith diminishes any prospect of social integration or blend between the two groups. He also rules out the theory of native enslavement and claims it was nothing but a genocide that happened in Northern Scotland and to the Picitsh communities in Shetland and Orkney. Smith’s theory of genocide has received many counter arguments which I will also investigate, but this journal article is effective in arguing for annihilation.

Jennings, Andrew. 1998. “Iona and the Vikings Survival and Continuity” 33.
This journal article focuses on the significance and importance of Iona which is a holy island which in the 9th century had been a target for Vikings raids, yet it withheld them and survived. It had survived conflict between Dal Riata and Pictland before the Viking invasions and was a prominent and identifiable source of wealth in the Hebrides as well as a political symbol. This article is effective in arguing potential assimilation as it oversees a ‘peaceful’ era from 825-986 when it remains free from pillage. This could suggest is had a powerful influence over Norse inhabitants, particularly as some Norse Hebrideans had adopted Christianity by 870’s. Furthermore, in 1098, Iona was spared by Magnus Barelegs who burned and slaughtered for miles but left Iona untouched. This article will be useful in my dissertation and can draw on religion as being a reason for assimilation and in accessing the significance of Iona politically and why the Vikings went from seeing Iona as treasure to be pillaged to something that needed to be protected.


Chloe Fergus – Introduction

Hey everyone!

My name is Chloe and I am from the outskirts of Edinburgh and my degree is ‘Scottish History’ so my dissertation topic must fall within that. I am deeply interested and fascinated by the Scottish struggle for independence and the roles of Wallace and Bruce however, after doing my Vikings module last semester I am now considering doing my dissertation on Viking settlement in Scotland (Orkney, Shetlands and areas such as Caithness) and assess whether or not there was assimilation or conflict as it is heavily debated! Regarding online learning I’ve struggled a bit as I am quite a luddite with technology and initially nervous when it comes to talking on teams however it has saved me a fortune on petrol and getting up super early to get to Stirling so that is a positive.