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The Northern Earldoms


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Orkney and Caithness from AD 870 to 1470 by Barbara E. Crawford.

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The medieval earldoms of Orkney and Caithness were positioned between two worlds, the Norwegian and the Scottish. They were a maritime lordship, divided, or united, by the turbulent waters of the Pentland Firth. This unlikely combination of island and mainland territory survived as a single lordship for 600 years, against the odds. growing out of the Viking maelstrom of the early Middle Ages, it became an established and wealthy ptincipality which dominated northern waters, with a renowned dynasty of earls.

This is a story of the time when the Northern Isles of Scotland were part of a different national entity which explains the background to the non-Gaelic culture of this locality, when links across the North Sea were as important as links with the kingdom of Scotland to the south.


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