the last two decades of the 16th century, England and Scotland were
officially at peace. However the border between England and Scotland
was in constant dispute between the two crowns.
the last quarter of the 16th century organised lawlessness had increased
to such an extent that by the late 1580's and 1590's there existed
what can fairly be described as a reign of terror.
downward spiral into lawlessness in the border region can be explained
by the particular history the border area had endured. Raids, rebellion
and war between England and Scotland were bitter and long-drawn
out. The border region was the playing field of this upheaval. War,
physical hardship and repeated devastation had shaped the border
people and their country, and left the legacy of gang warfare and
Reiv - means to steal. The Reiver period is roughly categorised
as 1450 - 1610. The movement came to its height in the late 1500's
and ended around 1610. The reiver history is a mixture of fact and
folklore. The English crown destroyed almost all of the documentation
relating to reiver life and so the reiver's story has passed down
through oral history and folk traditions, rather than formal documentation.
As a result, it is hard to untangle the mythological from the material
when describing the reiver movement.
reivers were clans who lived in the border territories. The Armstrongs,
the Humes, the Watsons and the Grahams were some of the 200 or so
clan families who occupied the border areas. Due to this constant
upheaval border life was fast and furious.
clans were pragmatic survivors who would turn any circumstance to
their advantage. Some historians would say that the reivers lifestyle
developed as constant violent upheaval of the border meant that
people were pushed into reiving as a retaliation for their lands
being invaded, and pillaged by enemy armies.
others say that the clans were just gangs who deliberately cultivated
a lifestyle of reprobates.