Images of early-modern Scottish culture are confusing and sometimes contradictory. On the one hand, there is a picture of a popular and a polite culture impoverished and ruthlessly repressed by the reformed church. The Scots are justly proud of late-medieval makars (poets) like William Dunbar (c1460–c1520) and Robert Henryson (c1420–c1490). By comparison Scotland’s artistic and literary achievements in the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries can seem limited. Yet from the same period comes an image of a system of education unusually effective for its time producing levels of literacy which were high by European standards. Scottish popular culture in the early-modern period is a difficult topic to discuss because the evidence is fragmented and has yet to receive systematic study. Nevertheless it is clear that the impact of the Reformation on popular culture was more subtle, less stultifying, than has sometimes been thought. The superiority of the Scottish education system over that of England in the past as well as in recent times has been one of the pillars of Scottish self-esteem. Recent research has, however, suggested that reality was somewhat different.