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The present sub-divisions of Scotland are the result of a long process of adjustment between different competing systems. The King, the Church, and the Nobles were centres of segregation that tended to group the community in different ways. Yet among these discordant forces the powerful influence of the natural, physical features of the country can often be seen to have shaped the political divisions in harmony with natural regions. Of this fact there is no better example in Scotland than the county of Lanark. The modern county is the division of the kingdom administered by a sheriff, and this system dates back at least as far as the reign of David I (1124-1153). When the crowns were united in 1603, the districts administered by the sheriffs of the king coincided with the modern counties, except that Caithness, Sutherland and Ross were under the jurisdiction of the Sheriff of Inverness.
The shires, that is shares, were originally governed by the great earls of the country, who in many cases took their titles from the districts they ruled. When William I had conquered England, many of the English earls were dispossessed of their lands, which were given to William's companions or comites. Each district was therefore called a comitatus, from which we get the word county. The English feudal system was introduced into Scotland by David I, and the sheriffdom or county of Lanark probably dates from his reign. William Hamilton, of Wishaw, writing about 1710, tells us that "The shyre of Lanark was anciently of greater extent than now it is; for there was comprehended in it the whole sheriffdome of Ranfrew, lying laigher upon Clyde... until it was disjoyned therefra by King Robert the Third, in anno 1402." Since that time the changes in the county boundary have been geo- graphically unimportant. Many meanings of the word Lanark have been suggested, but most authorities are agreed that it is derived from llanerch a clearing in a forest, a word belonging to the Welsh or Cymric branch of the Celtic group of languages.
It has already been stated that Lanarkshire is a good example of the way in which natural physical features have influenced the political divisions of a country. For the county is a geographical unit, namely, the basin of the Clyde, a fact that is well expressed by the old name Clydesdale. The most southerly part of the shire is Gana Hill, and on the slopes of this hill the Clyde rises. To the north-west the county ends just where the river becomes too wide to be bridged or crossed conveniently. Thus while Lanarkshire embraces both banks of the Clyde, nearer the sea the broader river forms the boundary between Dumbartonshire .and Renfrewshire. Naturally the limits of the county do not everywhere coincide exactly with the watershed of the Clyde, yet for consider- able distances the county boundary is absolutely identical with the watershed of the river.
Mort, Frederick. Lanarkshire. Cambridge: University Press, 1910.
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