Living History

By Sarah Chamberlain

The major reason that I decided to study abroad in the UK three years ago was that I study British history. I figured that I would be able to learn much more about my concentration if I examined its history in the place where it happened. It turned out that I had no idea how right I would be. Edinburgh is a city full of amazing history spanning centuries, and bits and pieces of that history are woven into the fabric of this place and its people.

cowgate - by jaakko.hakulinenA great example of this is the Cowgate, a street in the Old Town which used to be the road down which cattle were driven down to the port at Leith. These days, the Cowgate is lined with clubs, and Saturdays on the street are full of drunken revelers and echoing with the crashes and screams of broken bottles and broken hearts. A meat market in more ways than one.

flodden-wallA short walk from the Cowgate, and you come to a high wall, one built from a mix of older and newer stones. A brass plaque along its top edge marks it as the Flodden Wall. In my Scottish History lecture, I learned about the Battle of Flodden, one of the milestones of the long rivalry between the English and the Scots. Scottish casualties included the king, James IV, and the scions of dozens of noble families from across Scotland. The Flodden Wall delineated part of the outer barrier of Edinburgh just after this calamitous battle, which will have its 500th anniversary in 2013. This was, and still is, amazing to me on so many levels. One of the reasons for that is the sheer age of the stones; the wall was built only a few decades after Columbus arrived in the New World. Another awe-inspiring fact was the change that has occurred since then; what was then the southern border of a tiny city on a ridge has become part of the heart of a medium-sized metropolis, and now stands across the street from modern apartment blocks, including the author’s old student flat. There is something endlessly fascinating about this combination of the new and old co-existing together, despite the many centuries lying between them.

Or maybe it’s just because I’m a history major!

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Gulliver helps students Study Abroad. Our blog covers: current issues in Study Abroad; featured posts by Study Abroad students; and Gulliver updates, news, and behind-the-scenes peaks. Thanks for reading!

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