Date of Award


Document Type

Undergraduate Honors Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts (BA)



Advisor/Committee Chair

Patrick Nold, Ph. D.

Committee Member

Michitake Aso, Ph. D.


This paper explores the link between King Robert the Bruce and the evolution of the Scottish nation in the early fourteenth century. While many Scottish people today, and in the centuries since his life, believed that Bruce was the primary driving force of a consolidation of the Scottish nation and its independence, this paper will show that Bruce was only able to succeed to his position as monarch and to gain recognition of Scotland as a sovereign kingdom due to the actions of earlier peoples. Specifically, I examine the foundations of Christianity within Scotland and how the Church’s insistence to be independent from the English bishoprics set the initial ideas of an independent Scotland. I also examine the few Scottish monarchs who shirked the tradition of swearing allegiance to the English king as a matter of proclaiming their sovereignty. Rather than entirely eschewing his achievements, the paper highlights the fact that Bruce was a shrewd politician who was able to expertly weave pieces of earlier precedents to strengthen his relatively weak claim to kingship. My thesis argues that Bruce’s more unsavory actions—such as the murder of his primary competitor for the throne and his penchant for siding against the Scots alongside the English just prior to his reign—were calculated and necessary steps for the ultimate success of the country rather than the chaotic choices made by a power-hungry madman. Most significantly, my paper shows that Bruce was not a “Great Man of History” but rather the beneficiary of being the right man at the right time and place.