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  The Scottish Sheriff Court in the Seventeenth Century

   School of Humanities, Social Sciences and Law

   Sunday, June 30, 2024  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

Sheriff courts were the key regional nodes of both civil and criminal justice in early modern Scotland, but neither they nor their work have been subject to sustained modern analysis. The goal of this project is to address that lacuna through detailed investigation of surviving sheriff court records. Key questions to be explored as part of the project include:

* What role did sheriff courts play in criminal justice?

* How did sheriff courts interact with other judicial structures, both local and national?

* How far, and in what ways, did sheriff courts facilitate wider participation in the judicial system?

* What was the relationship between sheriff courts' criminal and civil functions?

* What was the administrative role of sheriff courts?

* How did sheriff courts contribute towards the governance of Scotland?

The project will be based primarily on systematic analysis of surviving sheriff courts records, but will also take in other relevant materials, such as central government records, correspondence, local administrative documents, and private estate papers.

For informal enquiries about the project, contact Dr Allan Kennedy,  

For general enquiries about the University of Dundee, contact

Our research community thrives on the diversity of students and staff which helps to make the University of Dundee a UK university of choice for postgraduate research. We welcome applications from all talented individuals and are committed to widening access to those who have the ability and potential to benefit from higher education.


Applicants must have obtained, or expect to obtain, a UK honours degree at 2.1 or above (or equivalent for non-UK qualifications), and/or a Masters degree in a relevant discipline. For international qualifications, please see equivalent entry requirements here:

English language requirement: IELTS (Academic) overall score must be at least 7.0 (with not less than 7.0 in reading, listening, speaking and in writing). The University of Dundee accepts a variety of equivalent qualifications and alternative ways to demonstrate language proficiency; please see full details of the University’s English language requirements here:



Step 1: Email Dr Allan Kennedy,  to (1) send a copy of your CV and (2) discuss your potential application and any practicalities (e.g. suitable start date).

Step 2: After discussion with Dr Kennedy, formal applications can be made via our direct application system. When applying, please follow the instructions below:

Candidates must apply for the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree in History (3 year) using our direct application system.

Please select the study mode (full-time/part-time) and start date agreed with the lead supervisor.

In the Research Proposal section, please:

-         Enter the lead supervisor’s name in the ‘proposed supervisor’ box

-         Enter the project title listed at the top of this page in the ‘proposed project title’ box

In the ‘personal statement’ section, please outline your suitability for the project selected.

History & Archaeology (19)

Funding Notes

There is no funding attached to this project. The successful applicant will be expected to provide the funding for tuition fees and living expenses, via external sponsorship or self-funding.

Register your interest for this project

Where will I study?