History of Sweden between 1060 - 1396
The consolidation of Sweden was a long process during which the loosely organized social system consolidated under the power of the king. Unlike the history of Norway and Denmark, there is no agreement on a reliable date for a "unified Sweden". Historians judge differently the sources for the history of Sweden's consolidation. The earliest history blends with Norse mythology. Early primary sources are foreign; secondary sources were written at a later date.
A common definition of Sweden is that it was formed when the Swedes and Geats were ruled by one king. The names Swedes and Geats are attested in the Old English poems Beowulf (written down in the 11th century) and Widsith (from the 8th century) and building on older legendary and folklore material collected in England. In both poems, an Ongentheow (sw. Angantyr) is named as the King of the Swedes, and the Geats are mentioned as a separate people. These names of peoples having formed in present-day Sweden, the Anglo-Saxon references and now lost tales they were attached to must have travelled across the North Sea. The first king who is considered historical and to have ruled over both peoples, is early 11th century Olof Skötkonung. Broadly speaking, Kings of Sweden, and the nobility of the land, have seen Götaland and Svealand (as well as growing parts of Finland) as equally important parts of the kingdom at least since the mid-13th century and, in some cases, considerably earlier.
Rather than the unification of tribes under one king, others maintain that the process of consolidation was gradual. To solve the problem of defining an early history of Sweden that coincides with reliable sources, a group of modern Swedish historians have contended that a real state could only exist, in the Middle Ages, if had the backing of Christianity and the clergy. The same connection between Christianity and consolidation is used in other countries where written sources are less scarce, such as England or Harald Bluetooth's Denmark. The definition is based on the fact that English and German priests would have brought organizational and administrative skills needed for statehood (including by local rulers). The process of consolidation would have required this important ideological shift. While an Iron Age Germanic king would claim the elective support of his people, and the Norse gods, a crowned Christian king would claim that his rule was divinely inspired. According to this definition the unification should be completed in 1210 when Erik Knutsson was crowned by the church, or perhaps in 1247 when the last separatist rising was defeated at Sparrsätra. A major problem sometimes pointed out with that view is that it entails circular proof: we know next to nothing about how the authority of the ruler was envisaged in heathen times, while we know some more of the Christian ideology of kingship, and obviously the Christian kingdom would underline the break with the pagan past, but this does not really allow the conclusion that there could have been no fixed and religiously connected ideas of the authority of the ruler in pre-Christian times. Moreover, we have no solid testimonies fixing it as a fact that the king residing in Central Sweden (the lake Mälar and Östergötland area) was actually recognized as king in all of the area that was called Sweden by the 13th century, when the mist really clears. There may have existed local kings in Western Sweden, even though their names have not been preserved.
Dating from the 15th century, Kisimul is the only significant surviving medieval castle in the Outer Hebrides. It was the residence of the chief of the Macneils of Barra, who claimed descent from the legendary Niall of the Nine Hostages. Tradition tells of the Macneils settling in Barra in the 11th century, but it was only in 1427 that Gilleonan Macneil comes on record as the first lord. He probably built the castle that dominates the rocky islet, and in its shadow a crew house for his personal galley and crew. The sea coursed through Macneil veins, and a descendant, Ruari ‘the Turbulent’, was arrested for piracy of an English ship during King James VI’s reign in the later 16th century.
Heavy debts eventually forced the Macneil chiefs to sell Barra in 1838. However, a descendant, Robert Lister Macneil, the 45th Chief, repurchased the estate in 1937, and set about restoring his ancestral seat. It passed into Historic Scotland’s care in 2000.
The castle dates essentially from the 15th century. It takes the form of a three-storey tower house. This formed the residence of the clan chief. An associated curtain wall fringed the small rock on which the castle stood, and enclosed a small courtyard in which there are ancillary buildings. These comprised a feasting hall, a chapel, a tanist’s house and a watchman’s house. Most were restored in the 20th century, the tanist’s house serving as the family home of the Macneils. A well near the postern gate is fed with fresh water from an underground seam. Outside the curtain wall, beside the original landing-place, are the foundations of the crew house, where the sailors manning their chief’s galley had their quarters.