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Church and civil courts in late medieval and early modern Scotland

School of Divinity, History & Philosophy

About the Project

This project will advance our understanding of the operation of the law, and of legal specialists, in Scotland from the late fifteenth to the early seventeenth century. Aberdeen and the North-East present a rich source-base with which to pursue this theme. Manuscript sources held in the University’s Special Collections Centre and in the Aberdeen City & Aberdeenshire Archives are ripe for the investigation of the range of law courts which functioned in the region, at franchise, burgh, sheriffdom, and church levels. The era of the Reformation brought significant change to the nature of church courts, and the dynamism of the Scottish legal system in this period promoted the emergence and development of a recognisable legal profession. Aberdeen and its region allow for an examination of how the law courts, and lawyers, inter-related and interacted, and from a ‘provincial’ perspective rather than that of the governmental and legal hub of Edinburgh.

This legal history project builds on research recently completed and underway by Dr Armstrong and Dr Wilson. This includes work connected with the wider Aberdeen Burgh Records Project based in the Research Institute of Irish and Scottish Studies (RIISS), the ground-breaking Aberdeen Registers Online: 1398-1511 (, a special issue (ed. Armstrong and Mackillop, 2019 for 2019) of the Journal of Irish and Scottish Studies 9.2 on ‘Scottish urban archives and histories: context and a legal historical perspective’, and on-going work on Aberdeenshire’s barony courts. It also encompasses Wilson’s investigation of Alexander Spalding’s Practicks and the Aberdeen Commissary Court (Wilson, 2016).

Funding Notes

The successful applicant will be expected to provide the funding for tuition fees, living expenses and maintenance. Details of the cost of study can be found by visiting View Website. There is no funding attached to this project.
Selection will be made on the basis of academic merit.

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