The present work is the fruit of seven years' research into the
history of the earldoms of Orkney and Caithness. No excuse of birth or
long acquaintance with northern Scotland can be offered as a reason for the
choice of this research topic. An intellectual explanation for the study
of the history of these two earldoms in the Middle Ages is that a peculiar
problem is provided by their political situation. They were divided between
two kingdoms, and the earl of Orkney and Caithness owed dual allegiance, a
position which became increasingly anomalous as the Middle Ages advanced.
The problems which this situation posed for the earls provide an intellectual
rationale for the study of these earldoms during this period. But this
is an explanation which can only be offered now after several years' research
work and an increasing understanding of northern history. The original
reasons for the choice of topic were more empirical and dictated by circumstances
and the limitations imposed by academic requirements.