Robert the Bruce (1274-1329) was the famous unifier of Scotland and defeater of the English at Bannockburn - the legendary hero responsible for Scottish independence. In this new biography, Michael Penman retells the story of Robert's rise - his part in William Wallace's revolt against Edward I, his seizing of the Scottish throne after murdering his great rival John Comyn, his excommunication, guerilla war against the English, and devastating battles against an enemy Scottish coalition - climaxing in his victory over Edward II's forces in June 1314. He then draws attention to the second part of the king's life after the victory that made his name. These fifteen years were crucial. Robert faced a slow and often troubled process of legitimating his authority, rewarding his supporters, accommodating former enemies and controlling the various regions of his kingdom, none of which was achieved overnight. Penman investigates Robert's resettlement of lands and offices, the development of Scotland's parliaments, his handling of plots to overthrow him, his relations with his family and allies, his piety and court ethos, and his cultivation of an image of kingship through the use of ceremony and symbol. In doing so, Penman repositions Robert within the context of wider European political change, religion, culture and national identity, showing how great a monarch, as well as military man, Robert actually was.
I have a wide range of Scottish historical interests having taken my MA in Scottish History at the University of St Andrews (1995) followed by a PhD (1999) there on one of the major historiographical gaps in medieval Scottish history, the reign of David II (1329-71), son of Robert the Bruce. This work was heavily influenced by the detailed political studies-in-the round of Dr Norman Macdougall and other St Andrews historians.
However, in the course of this research my interests have branched out and I have become particularly fascinated by the topic of medieval lay piety in Scotland, especially the patterns of worship of late medieval Scottish kings and their subjects. This has drawn me in turn to themes such as saints' cults and images, liturgy, pilgrimage, monastic identity and cartulary records, and commemoration. I have tried to explore many of these topics for Scottish history by making direct comparisons with contemporary England, Ireland and continental Europe (helping me 'fill-in-the-gaps' by analogy in the often patchy Scottish evidence): this is an approach I hope to encourage in my postgraduate students.
But I have also returned to a number of my earlier historical loves: national identity and the (de-)construction of iconic reputations, late 18th/early 19th century civic society, and above all the Great War, the latter first inspired by a visit to the battlefields while in High School and a 14th birthday gift of the Illustrated Press History of the Great War (13 volumes, £20 from Oxfam, with school certificates from someone named Haig from the 1920s left inside!).
Finally, I am also a member of a number of academy bodies, including the Scottish Medievalists and the Scottish History Society, as well as a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society.