Courage, fear and the experience of the later medieval Scottish soldier

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This article examines aspects of the experience of the later medieval Scottish soldier, in particular courage, fear and the factors that shaped these responses. In many respects the story sketched fits into wider patterns of warriors’ lives elsewhere in Latin Christendom. Similar influences served to encourage the soldier and the prospect of similar afflictions might spread fear. There are also particularities in the Scottish case. The Scots had especially acute problems to overcome, notably in comparison to their regular enemies, the English, in maintaining fortitude in armed forces that featured a relatively wide social spread, with attendant implications for protective equipment and rudimentary training for the occasional soldiers who usually made up the majority of the Scottish host. The circumstances of Scotland's wars with England, meanwhile, led to greater than usual dangers of captivity, injury and death, and a greater level of equality of risk across the social spectrum in Scottish armies. Full-scale battlefield encounters with England brought the most acute challenges to the collective courage of Scottish soldiers and it is testament to their severity that even a renowned figure like William Wallace suffered a failure of resolve when faced with battle at Falkirk in 1298.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)179-206
Number of pages28
JournalScottish Historical Review
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2013


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