David I (1084-1153) reigned as king of Scotland from 1124 to 1153. He is noted for his introduction of Norman institutions into Scotland.

David I came to the Scottish throne when his brother King Alexander I died in 1124 without an heir. David's two wars with England failed to bring northern English lands into his realm. He first marched south on the pretext of protecting the interests of his niece Matilda, daughter of Henry I, against Stephen, who had claimed the English throne. The Scottish army was routed at the Battle of the Standard, fought at Cutton Moor in 1138. David, however, was able to secure recognition of his son, Henry, as holder of Northumberland and Huntingdon, to which David's wife had been heiress. When a second invasion of England in 1140 proved as futile as the first, David gave up his program of expansion and devoted himself to internal Scottish affairs.

David brought a number of Norman nobles and churchmen with him when he traveled from England to take the Scottish crown. Norman nobles displaced Celtic leaders in the north, and their castles began to rise to symbolize the shift of political power. Landholdings based on Scottish customary rights were made subject to Norman charters, and Norman practices in law and administration were introduced. For the man in the field, however, it was a quiet revolution; no one was displaced, and the new system was grafted onto the old in a peaceful way.

Norman influences were especially apparent in the Church. David increased the number of dioceses from four to nine and named Normans as bishops of the new ones. He also founded 10 monasteries, welcoming to Scotland new orders that were popular south of the border, the Cistercians and the Augustinian canons regular. His active patronage of the Church won for David an enduring reputation for piety.

David was truly the father of the city, or burgh, in Scotland. He himself chartered only four or five burghs, but he allowed the development of private burghs under the aegis of his ecclesiastical and lay nobles. The rise of cities was related to a developing commerce, and to help the growing trade David broke new ground by issuing a silver penny, the first Scottish coinage. Within the cities a new class developed, the townsmen.

For Scotland, David was a constructive revolutionary: the language and customs of the Scots gave way to English speech and manners; the Church was organized on patterns akin to those of England and Rome; and the rise of burghs saw the emergence of the Scottish middle class.

Further Reading on David I

David's Normanizing work is covered in R. L. Graeme Ritchie, The Normans in Scotland (1954). A judicious appraisal of David's contributions is in A New History of Scotland, vol. 4: Scotland from the Earliest Times to 1603, written by William Croft Dickinson and George S. Pryde (1962; rev. ed. 1965). An interesting summary of the epoch is provided by Eric Linklater, The Survival of Scotland: A New History of Scotland from Roman Times to the Present Day (1968).