21st Century Book Historian

  • Scottish Women in Early Modern London


    Dr Allan Kennedy explores what life was like for the Scottish women who made their homes in London during the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. 

    Follow Allan on Twitter at:  


    Since 2018, I, in collaboration with Professor Keith Brown (University of Manchester) and Dr Siobhan Talbott (Keele University), have published a series of articles about Scottish migration to early modern England, focused on the period 1603-c.1760. Much of this work, however, concentrated heavily on Scottish men. As we will see below, there are methodological reasons for this gender-bias, but it has had the deleterious effect of privileging the male over the female experience. And that is deeply problematic, not only out of principle, but also for intellectual reasons: there were lots of Scottish women in early modern England, and ignoring their voices blinds us to a significant part of the story. In this post, therefore, I want to let some of these voices be heard by focusing on one part of England in particular – namely London – and from this basis to ask what was distinctive about the female experience of being a Scot trying to make a life south of the border.


    Where were Scottish women?

    In general terms, Scottish women are far more difficult to trace in the sources than Scottish men. Often their identities are subsumed within those of the men around them, principally husbands and fathers, meaning that they become essentially invisible. Nonetheless, they can be found, even if the traces that remain are often frustratingly vague. Take, for example, Barbara Marshall, who appeared as a witness before London Consistory Court in 1702. From this record, we know that Barbara was Scottish, 26 years old, and married to a mariner. We also know that she had been living in St Johns, Wapping for at least ten years – that is, since 1692 at the latest. But beyond this barebones outline, we can glean nothing further about Barbara. Why did she leave Scotland? Did she have any children? What was her job, if she had one? What happened to her after 1702? None of these questions can be answered, and they exemplify the frustrations involved in trying to reconstruct the experiences of Scottish women in early modern England.


    Nevertheless, we can scrape together enough information to suggest that Scotswomen could be found just about anywhere in early modern England: Glaswegian Elizabeth Lawry, for example, turned up as a vagrant in Lostwithiel in 1761, about as deep into England as it is possible to get. In common with Scottish men, however, female Scots tended to cluster in a few parts of England in particular. The northernmost counties – Cumberland, Yorkshire, and especially Northumberland – were popular, but easily the biggest migration-magnet was London. The capital accounted for around 34% of the named women captured in the recent ‘Anglo-Scottish Migration’ project at the University of Manchester, making it the most common destination for Scottish women (the next-most-common, Northumberland, accounted for just over 20% of the total). This is hardly surprising, since London was in the early modern period beginning to emerge as a global metropolis, and was busily proving it capacity for absorbing migrants from throughout the British Isles, and indeed far beyond. It is clear that London was the primary destination for Scottish men moving to England, and the information we have, limited though it is, suggests that the same was true for women.



    Princess Elizabeth at age 7, by Robert Peake the elder.

    But if Scottish women could certainly be found in early modern London, what was their typical profile? Opportunities for migration and settlement were perhaps greatest for elite women. None, of course, were more elite than Dunfermline-born Princess Elizabeth, the later ‘Winter Queen’ of Bohemia, who followed her father, James VI, to London after he inherited the English throne in 1603. There were other women, such as Mary Stewart, wife of James’s favourite Sir Roger Aston, for whom the relocation of the court necessitated settlement in London, but more usually, elite women were drawn to the capital through marriage. Take, for instance, Anne Scott, daughter of Francis, 2nd earl of Buccleuch. Born in Dundee in 1651, she made the move to London in 1661 in order to marry Charles II’s illegitimate son, James Scott, duke of Monmouth. Marriage ties like this quickly ensured that some women of the Scottish aristocracy, particularly among its more Anglicised families, were in fact born in London. One early example was the formidable Anne Hamilton, 3rd duchess of Hamilton, who spent most of her life at Hamilton Palace, but entered the world at the Palace of Whitehall in 1632.

    Of course, only a tiny minority of the Scottish women who ended up in London were aristocrats. For those lower down the social scale, livings had to be made in some other way. A significant proportion of male migrants earned their money in skilled or professional trades. Legal and social constraints meant that this occupational route was far less open to women, but it was clearly not closed entirely. Barbara Molleson and Jane Falconer, both of Aberdeen, entered as apprentice drapers in 1702 and 1703 respectively, both serving the same master, fellow-Scot Gilbert Molleson, suggesting that ethnic and, perhaps, family relationships could open up unusual opportunities. But there were other female apprentices in the capital: Mary Young of Edinburgh began training as a founder in 1681, while Jennet Bell, also of Edinburgh, was taken on by a stationer (interestingly another women, Martha Jole) in 1747. It is not clear if any of these women completed their apprenticeships, let alone went on actually to ply their chosen trades, but the very fact of their entering as apprentices at all suggests that artisanal work was at least possible for Scottish women.


    There were probably many more women working in less regulated trades; people like Jane Forest, who worked as a flax-spinner between c.1690 and 1710, or Isabella Bowman, a merchant operating near the Hermitage around 1750. Others set themselves up in hospitality. Catherine Thompson arrived in London around 1713, when she and her husband began operating an alehouse called The Thistle and Crown in Marigold Court, although the venture apparently failed after a year or so.


    One of the most intriguing examples of a Scotswoman in a trade was Isabella Inglish. She was an apothecary who relocated from Edinburgh to London some time around 1700, and who manufactured a cold medicine known as ‘The Famous Scotch Pills’. From her shop in The Strand, Inglish sold her pills in small boxes sealed with black wax and stamped with a Lion Rampant, continuing in business until at least 1715. Inglish is known only through newspaper advertisements for her medicine – perhaps she was not even a real person, merely a marketing construct. But real or fictional, she is emblematic of the space available in early modern England, or at least London, for Scottish women to carve out independent economic identities.


    Advert for Isabella Inglish’s medicine, from the Flying Post or The Post Master, 26 November 1715.


    Increasingly, however, the most common work for Scottish women relocating to London was domestic service. As an example of this, we might look at Ann Hayes. She moved to London around 1688, at which point she must have been at least in her mid-teens, because she soon got married to a Dutchman (or possibly a German) named William. He died soon thereafter, and so Ann went into domestic service. She seems to have spent most of the next three decades circulating between a succession of masters as a yearly hired servant. In 1717, however, she was hired by James Scott in Vine Street as a live-in servant. She remained with him for ten years, until she was at least in her mid-50s, earning an annual wage of 50 shillings, plus food and lodging. The length of Anne Hayes’ working life probably made her unusual among domestic servants, but nevertheless she demonstrates how this could be one of the most reliable ways for migrant women to support themselves once they arrived in London.


    Women in trouble

    Work of the kind outlined above was largely, though not exclusively, the preserve of young and/or single women. Once they got married, most women would have been expected to give up their jobs, and even if they continued working, this would probably remain hidden from us thanks to the problem of identity-erasure mentioned above. When they become visible again, it was often because they were widowed: this was for instance the sole designation given to London-based Jeane Trotter when she proved her will in 1635.


    But widowhood, in removing the economic support provided by a husband, carried significant dangers. Jane Sinclair was the wife of joiner John Sinclair, whom she married in Edinburgh around 1754. The pair moved to London shortly thereafter, presumably surviving through John’s trade, but he died at the start of 1758. By November, Jane had been apprehended as a vagrant by the authorities of St Margaret’s, Westminster. A similar trajectory was often followed by soldiers’ wives, who could rapidly slip into destitution when their husbands were posted overseas. This was what happened to Ann Flew, of the Scottish settlement of ‘Collinabine’, who was apprehended for vagrancy in 1742 while her husband was on active service in Flanders during the War of the Austrian Succession. Men, however, could occasion a women’s descent into vagrancy even without committing to marriage. Catherine Smith, a 27-year-old Shetlander, was sent to the workhouse of St Martin in the Fields in 1752 because she had conceived an illegitimate child with the soldier Thomas Steuart. The baby, a boy, had been delivered in a grocer’s shop on The Strand, with the proprietor himself, a Mr Trim, acting as midwife!


    Gin Lane, by William Hogarth. A contemporary conception of female degeneracy.

    Vagrancy was not the only form of deviance into which Scottish women might slip: some lived lives of crime. Jane Bowman left Scotland at the age of twelve, and after living for several years in Durham, arrived in London in the mid-1690s. The reasons for her southward movement are unknown, but she seems to have supported herself largely through crime, eventually leading to her arrest and execution for prostitution in 1703, still aged only 26. Only two years later, another young Scotswomen, Jane Dyer, similarly met her end at Tyburn. Not yet 25, she claimed to have indulged in ‘all Sins, Murther excepted’ during her short life, and indeed had already been branded for some earlier felony by the time of her final arrest for theft. Cases like Bowman’s and Dyer’s are a reminder that, while most Scottish women in early modern London seem to have lived fairly mainstream lives, there was a minority for whom the experience of moving south of the border was dominated by marginality, deprivation, and criminality.



    In the study of early modern migration, women are often assumed to have exercised little agency, cast as hangers-on to the men in their lives. And certainly, some of them seem to have conformed to this pattern – women like Marione Monro, wife of Reverend Alexander Monro, who followed her Episcopalian husband to London to escape the ‘Glorious’ Revolution in the 1690s. She remained in London, first as wife and then as widow, until around the 1720s, but seems never to have built an independent life, instead melting in the households of her husband and, latterly, children. As a Scotswomen in London, it was possible more or less to disappear.


    But, as this post has tried to show, not all women were mere bystanders in essentially male stories. While the opportunities available to them were more limited than those on offer to Scottish men, it was nonetheless possibly for them to find a role in London, be it as landlady, artisan, skilled worker or, especially, domestic servant. The metropolis presented hazards too, however, so that slipping into vagrancy or criminality was just as possible for women as for men, and perhaps more so. But whatever their fates, the women discussed in this post need to be recognised as independent actors, capable, within the constraints imposed by their gender, of authoring their own experiences.


    It is to one of these tough, resourceful, independent-minded women that we give the last word. In 1732, James, Lord Aberdour hired a new gardener, Mr Rattray, a Scotsman hitherto resident in London, and arranged for him to be shipped back to Scotland. The gardener’s wife, however, refused to accompany him on the journey. As a witness explained:


    His wife who is a neat usefull woman aboute a family, being a good housekeeper and understands pestrey work, did not go down with him because she will first see what reception and entertainment her husband meets with and if her husband encourages her, she will soon follow him. She gains a good livelyhood by working in silk for the shops, she is allso a Scotswoman born at Lauder.


    Here was a skilled woman of independent means who had clearly carved out her own life in London, and who was not willing simply to give it up without assurances of future prosperity. We do not even know Mrs Rattray’s first name, but she still demonstrates that Scottish women living in early modern London were not to be underestimated.


    Further reading

    References for all the examples mentioned in this post are available via the Anglo-Scottish Migration wiki: http://wiki.angloscottishmigration.humanities.manchester.ac.uk/index.php/Main_Page

    K.M. Brown and A. Kennedy, ‘Land of Opportunity? The Assimilation of Scottish Migrants in England, 1603-ca. 1762’, Journal of British Studies, 57:3 (2018), 709-35

    K.M Brown, A. Kennedy and S. Talbott, “Scots and Scabs from North-by-Tweed’: Undesirable Scottish Migrants in Seventeenth- and Early Eighteenth-Century England’, Scottish Historical Review, 98:2 (2019), 241-65

    S. Nenadic (ed.)., Scots in London in the Eighteenth Century (Lewisburg, 2010)

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  • Patronage and ‘the general taste for Portrait’: David Allan and the Erskine of Torrie Portrait


    In this guest post, Dr Nel Whiting takes a look at the role of gender in shaping the portraiture of David Allan (1744-96), specifically in his family portrait of the Erskines of Torrie.

    Follow Nel on Twitter at @nel_whiting


    Historical portraits are more than likenesses of people from the past; they are artful constructions, imbued with multifaceted meaning.  As such they can tell us much about the attitudes and customs of their time and place. This blog will draw on this quality to explore aspects of elite Scottish family life in the 1780s.


    Portraiture and patronage in the eighteenth century

    In the 18th century portraits were not ‘private’ but existed in the public domain; displayed in the houses of the sitters and their families, which operated as places of business and entertainment, as well as being visited by genteel tourists.  Portraits were also shown in artists’ studios and galleries.  The genre constituted the largest percentage of works submitted to Royal Academy exhibitions between 1781 and 1785; anyone with the inclination, and who could afford the shilling entry fee (in 1771 there were 22, 485 such attendees), could come and gawp. Portraits, of society beauties, military heroes, politicians and others who had achieved fame or notoriety, were also distributed as prints and used to decorate houses across the class spectrum.

    A Royal Society exhibition, by Thomas Rowlandson and Augustus Charles Pugin.

    Portrait painting was a competitive business and patronage was a prerequisite to artistic survival.  It enabled the Scottish artist David Allan (1744-96) to study in Glasgow and Italy.  Returning from Italy he settled in London but was unable to make a living, so returned to ‘my frds in Scotld & found imployment’. While the patronage of his ‘friends’ (a circle of intermarried landowning families) sustained him, it also meant that whatever his artistic aspirations, he was forced to produce the paintings his sponsors required.  Hence, despite wishing to be a history painter, he was forced to earn a living primarily through portrait commissions.  As he bemoaned, the ‘genius of our artists is unhappily forced to accommodate itself to the general taste for Portrait’.

    One such portrait commission is the Erskine of Torrie family portrait executed in the 1780s, reproduced at the top of this post.


    A gendered reading

    The painting is divided into two parts along gender lines; the five female members of the family are squashed into a third of the canvas space, where the males occupy the rest.  The controlled and constrained movements of the females in that tight pictorial space contrast with the expansive gestures of the males in the broad pictorial space.  Indeed, the whole picture reverberates with gender messages about the ‘appropriate’ behaviour for both sexes.  Typical of such views, the philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau stated that ‘men and women are unlike… man should be strong and active; the woman should be weak and passive’. It is as if his words have been made visual here and it is important to recognise portraits as espousing a society’s values as much as any written source.

    The eldest girl, Frances, looks out of the picture at us, as if conscious of being observed and comporting herself genteelly to create the correct impression.  Certainly, she is old enough to have been trained as an object of male desire, to know that in Rousseau’s words ‘woman is specially made for man’s delight’. She is fashionably and decoratively dressed: her large picture hat with feathers and bows, her pale blue dress with ruffles hardly seem appropriate for the outdoor setting.  The tininess of her waist is emphasised by the sash that encircles it and by her stance, with her left hand on her hips.  The youngest girl, Magdalene, cuddles into her mother while her slightly older sisters, Henrietta and Elizabeth, care for a rabbit, one nursing it while then other feeds it.  They are learning what the Scottish writer James Fordyce described as the ‘honourable station’ of motherhood.  He argued that motherhood was ‘a sphere of activity which you all hope to fill, and for which you ought to qualify yourselves as much as possible’. At about five and three, Henrietta and Elizabeth are certainly beginning their qualification early. Portraiture both promoted and reflected this notion and it was a pictorial commonplace to portray girls nursing siblings, dolls or animals; play in life and art imitating expected adult roles.

    Meanwhile, the masculine part of the picture is all striding action. Sir William gestures to his heir, also William, who holds out a fox’s head to his mother and sisters.  The second son, James, shows the fox’s tail to his little brother, John.  This insinuates the boys’ bravery in undertaking such sport and asserts their elite status (the cost of maintaining horses and dogs and the land ownership necessary for hunting putting it out of reach of the common populous).  They are, the picture implies, masterful – learning the self-control and authority their sex and class will require of them as they move into manhood.  Despite the fact John must have stayed with the females as he is not dressed for the hunt, as his father and brothers are, he nonetheless takes his place in the male part of the picture.  He is further aligned with masculinity as he is running energetically and eagerly, arms outstretched towards the spoils of the hunt with a freedom a movement not seen amongst his sisters. Despite his tender years, his masculinity is evidenced by his actions.

    Robert Allan, self-portrait

    Many family group portraits of this period contain not just immediate or extended family but servants and retainers, in this instance the grooms.  They are not equal to their masters, but pictorial props which underscore the elite status of the Erskine men whom they serve.  This is emphasised as their sex ensures their inclusion in the male part of the picture, but their class excludes them from the circle formed by the Erskines.


    Concluding remarks

    Making a virtue out of a patronage-led necessity was a pragmatic skill for an artist; it could be the difference between comfort and starvation.  Until he secured a steady income (as Drawing Master at the Trustees’ Academy), David Allan (left, in a self-portrait) accommodated himself ‘to the general taste for Portrait’ and left behind a body of work which illuminates many of the gendered expectations of life at that time.


    Further reading

    K. Retford, The Conversation Piece: Making Modern Art in Eighteenth Century Britain (New Haven, 2017)
    V. Coltman, Art and Identity in Scotland: A Cultural History from the Jacobite Rising of 1745 to Walter Scott (Cambridge, 2019)
    J. Holloway and J. Leighton, Portrait of the Nation – An Introduction to the Scottish National Portrait Gallery (Edinburgh, 2011)


    Dr Nel Whiting gained her PhD from the University of Dundee in 2019. Her research focuses on portraiture and the gendered nature of the family in 18th-century Scotland.

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  • Spring Poets and Public Parks


    In this guest post, Dr Erin Farley explores how the popular ‘spring poetry’ of 19th-century Dundee celebrated the freeing, invigorating effect of the city’s public parks.

    Follow Erin on Twitter at @aliasmacalias


    For many city residents, especially those in flats or tenements with no garden, our local park has become an essential respite during our daily exercise. In Dundee, we are lucky to have several pockets of green across the city, from the woods surrounding Balgay Hill and the Law to the green spaces dotted along the banks of the Dighty. My own local park is the Magdalen Green, once the traditional venue for protests, radical meetings and mass gatherings in the city.

    Like most of Dundee’s parks, the Magdalen Green became the place we would recognise today during the 19th century. It has been said that, under lockdown, ‘there are two classes of people, those with gardens and those without.’ Victorian industrialisation made for a similar, stark division between those who could afford to live in the outskirts of the city, towards Broughty Ferry or across the river in Newport, and working class people in increasingly densely populated, and increasingly polluted inner city areas. Many of Dundee’s public parks were designated during the second half of the 19th century as a partial remedy to these conditions, and most of them were secured under sustained popular demand.

    The Magdalen Green itself was secured as a public space in 1874, when the Council purchased the land from the Laird of Blackness. This removed the very real danger of the land being made private, but also resulted in it being formalised as a park rather than an ambiguous ‘shared space’, with paths to guide people’s routes, and rules and expectations for behaviour.

    Despite this, the importance of a green space which was genuinely shared is hard to underestimate – working class housing in central Dundee was often crowded, poorly ventilated and afforded little personal space or privacy to its inhabitants, and its ill effects were compounded by working days spent in noisy, dusty mills. Retreating to a park to relax, socialise and stretch your legs became a dearly prized interlude in the day for many. This affection for city parks is reflected in the volume of urban nature poetry published in pamphlets, books and broadsides in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, in which poets reflected on life from the ‘sylvan slopes’ of the parks.

    Were you to be reading one of Dundee’s popular newspapers at this time of year in the 1890s, you would by now have seen plenty of such verses celebrating the advent of spring, the associated renewal in nature, and the transformative effect this had on the human spirit. May Day was a particularly popular time for these. On 2 May 1894, the Evening Telegraph featured a seasonal poem by ‘A.D.R.’ from Monifieth, concluding with these verses:


    We drink our fill of Nature’s sweets,
    Ne’er to be found in busy streets
    With tainted breath

    The Lord’s own presence seems so near
    Our breath we hold as if for fear.
           We hear a voice,

    In accents clear, give the command –
    “Your shoes remove, for where you stand
           Is holy ground.”


    By the end of the century, spring poems had become so popular across the English-speaking poetry world that newspaper editors openly despaired of the floods they received. A correspondent joked in the Weekly News that a tax on spring poets would solve our economic worries, and a cartoon in the Wizard o’ the North in 1912 depicted a spring poet striding up, stack of verses tucked under his oxter.

    ‘The Spring Poet’, from Wizard o’ the North (1912)

    It’s true that there were hundreds of spring poems flooding editors’ desks each year, and that they may not all have been the most original in their subjects and imagery. But they had a meaning and purpose which went beyond this. Working class poets’ enjoyment of nature took place against a background of a world which understood their value only in terms of the hours they spent at a factory machine. By writing about their time away from work, they were celebrating their right to have time to spend outside of work, and to exist in parts of their city which were not the home or workplace, places which they had a shared ownership of.

    In the last years of the 19th century, May Day had acquired an additional significance as a focus for European protests demanding labour rights, specifically linked to the fight for an eight-hour work day. May Day protests were infrequent in Scotland, but Dundee workers would have been well aware of the connection, with details of continental demonstrations reported on in some detail across the Dundee press. There were regular attempts to organise May Day demonstrations on the Magdalen Green throughout the 1890s, with varying degrees of success. In 1892 the Dundee Advertiser reported on 2 May that the Green saw ‘a mass meeting of Dundee millworkers’ protesting a proposed wage reduction the previous day. However, the following year’s demonstration was sparsely attended.

    On May Day 1900, the Evening Telegraph printed ‘The First O’ May’ by George Watson, a popular poet who wrote as ‘The Roper Bard’ because he worked in a rope factory which ran between the Perth Road and Magdalen Green. The poem is not a directly political one, although Watson had published other work explicitly in support of the eight-hour day. It is a celebration of the park’s role as somewhere precious precisely because it is not removed from the bustle of the industrial city, but within it, somewhere where workers can come together to laugh, celebrate and find essential every-day liberty:


    The sichts I see an’ soon’s I hear
           Ayont the Green aside the Tay, 
    Fa’ saftly on my listening ear
           On this the happy first o’ May.

    I hear the blackbird ‘mang the trees
           Fu’ blithely chant his mornin’ lay
    An’ there is balm upon the breeze
           On this the happy first o’ May.

    There’s music in the engine’s din,
           Swift-rattlin ower the metal way,
    As backward doon the shed I spin,
           On this the happy first o’ May.

    Young lads an’ lasses nae a few
           Upon the grass I see an’ hear
    They weet their faces wi the dew
           To mak’ them bonny a’ the year.

    The gardens here look really grand
           Bedeck’t wi floweries fresh an’ gay,
    An’ here I trace the Master’s hand
           On this the happy first o’ May.

    O charmin’, sweet, delightful May,
          Ye ken a secret dear to me
    Ye maunna tell til gloamin’ gray,
           Then love will grant ye liberty.


    Further reading

    K. Blair (ed.), Poets of the People’s Journal (Glasgow, 2016)

    W.N. Herbert and A. Jackson (eds), Whaleback City: The Poetry of Dundee and its hinterland (Dundee, 2013)

    N. Gatherer, Songs and Ballads of Dundee (Edinburgh, 1986)

    If you are interested in discovering more about poetry in Dundee’s newspapers, the Local History Centre at Dundee Central Library holds a large local newspaper collection. Please see http://www.leisureandculturedundee.com/library/histnews for more details.


    Dr Erin Farley is the Library & Information Officer for Local History at Dundee Libraries. She works with communities around the city to share stories and ideas about the city’s history, landscape, memory and people, and is particularly interested in the power of creative histories and traditional storytelling.

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  • Charles Maitland, Overlooked Pioneer of Smallpox Inoculation


    Sylvia Valentine is a professional genealogist who is also completing a PhD at the University of Dundee. Her thesis explores opposition to compulsory smallpox vaccination in 19th and early 20th– century Scotland.

    Follow Sylvia on Twitter at @historylady2013


    One of the least recognised figures in the history of smallpox prevention is Aberdonian Charles Maitland, the surgeon who performed the first inoculations for smallpox both in England and Scotland. He died in Aberdeen on 28 January 1748 and was interred in Methlick kirkyard on 7 February. According to the memorial inscription he was buried in the same grave as his parents Patrick Maitland, late of Little Ardoch, (Little Ardo) and Jean Robertson, and several of his siblings.


    Little is known about Charles Maitland’s family. He was aged about 80 at the time of his death, but it is not possible to pinpoint his birth or baptism as the baptismal records for the relevant period, around 1666-68 are missing.


    Obituaries in both the Aberdeen Press and Journal of 9 February 1748 and the Caledonian Mercury (15 February 1748) described his wealth and benevolence. He was estimated to have been worth £5,000 (approximately £770,700 today), ‘a fortune acquired by his own endeavours’. The Caledonian described him as ‘a gentleman justly esteemed by those who knew him’. He left his estate to friends and relations, and also endowed a charity in the parish of his birth, Methlick, by means of a heritable bond, valued at 6,000 merks Scots (a merk being equivalent to two-thirds of a pound).


    Maitland became surgeon to the British ambassador to Turkey in 1717 where he inoculated the ambassador’s son, at the behest of his wife Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, who later championed the cause of inoculation in England. A few years after their return from Turkey in 1721, she asked Maitland to inoculate her daughter Mary during a smallpox epidemic in London. The following year Maitland inoculated six people in Aberdeenshire, but one died, making the procedure unpopular in the county. Inoculation was not without risk. It used lymph from an infected person which then infected the patient. It depended on the skill of the inoculator to recognise that the lymph provider was infected by the milder version of smallpox, variola minor, rather than variola major, which had a higher mortality rate.


    Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, by Jonathan Richardson the younger


    Maitland is known to have inoculated approximately 80 people in England and in April 1722 was involved in the inoculation of the Princesses Amelia and Caroline at the command of the Princess of Wales. He subsequently inoculated their brother Prince Frederick in Hanover in 1724. One newspaper obituary said he was ‘an excellent surgeon and famous for inoculating the smallpox, and was handsomely rewarded for inoculating Prince Frederick’. Maitland was paid £1,000 from the privy purse.


    Maitland also inoculated the children of medical men and aristocratic parents. Among them was Dr James Keith, one of the three physicians who attended to witness the inoculation Mary Montagu. Keith had lost all but one of his children to smallpox and was sufficiently convinced by the procedure to have Maitland inoculate his surviving son Peter. Keith was a fellow Aberdonian and has been identified as a fellow student of Maitland at Aberdeen University, although it has not been possible to categorically verify this. Keith also made Maitland a trustee and guardian of Peter in his will.


    Before the princesses could be inoculated however, an experiment was conducted on six condemned prisoners incarcerated in Newgate Prison, who were promised pardons in return for being inoculated. According to the account of Sir Hans Sloane written some years after the event and eventually published in Philosophical Transactions, initially Maitland was reluctant to perform the inoculations, and it was only after Sloane spoke to him, that he agreed to do so. The experiment was widely reported in the press at the time, including by the Caledonian Mercury and Newcastle Courant newspapers amongst others. The experiment was considered to be a success and the prisoners were duly reprieved and pardoned. Although Sir Hans Sloane reported favourably on the experiment, the Princess of Wales remained a little hesitant. A further experiment was conducted in late February 1722, when the guinea pigs were orphan children from the parish of St. James Westminster. Maitland performed the inoculations, and according to Sloane, the experiment was also deemed to be a success. Following the experiments, the inoculation of the princesses Amelia and Caroline went ahead.


    Princess Amelia, by Jean-Baptiste van Loo


    Charles Maitland had connections both to the British aristocracy and leading members of the medical profession. He was a pioneer, bringing inoculation from Turkey to a wider, if affluent, public in England and Scotland, at a time when many English physicians considered this foreign procedure practiced by old women as an amusing diversion, unworthy of their consideration. Before Edward Jenner made connections between smallpox and cowpox and cowpox lymph became the much safer vaccine of choice, inoculation was the measure which provided protection against the much-feared disease.


    In 2010, Anita Guerrini observed that Charles Maitland was a candidate for the most important figure not to appear in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, surely something that needs correction.


    Further reading

    Ian Glynn and Jenifer Glyn, The Life and death of Smallpox (London, 2004)

    Genevieve Miller, The Adoption of Inoculation of Smallpox in England and France (Philadelphia, 1957)

    Peter Razzell, The Conquest of Smallpox (Firle, 1977)

    J.R.Smith, The Speckled Monster (Chelmsford, 1987)

    Gareth Williams, Angel of Death, The Story of Smallpox (Basingstoke 2010)

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  • Torture in Early Modern Scotland


    Dr Allan Kennedy explores ideas and practice around the use of judicial torture in early modern Scotland. 

    Follow Allan on Twitter at:  


    When we discuss crime and punishment in the past, we often instinctively think about torture. Grisly images of broken, brutalised bodies worm their way into our imaginations, especially when we’re thinking about Scotland, whose judicial system is popularly assumed to have been particularly bloodthirsty. In reality, however, the use of torture in Scottish History has been much more limited, and much more controversial, than we might expect.


    The use of torture

    While there are some suggestions that torture was used during the Middle Ages – the assassins of King James I (d.1437) may have undergone it, for example – the ‘golden age’ of judicial torture in Scotland was the early modern era, and in particular the 17th century. But even during this period, its use was heavily regulated. In order to torture a suspected or convicted criminal – or at least, in order to do so legally – you needed to have a specific warrant from Parliament or the Privy Council. And these were rarely granted: between 1591 and 1708, only 39 warrants were issued, covering fewer than 50 individuals.


    Why was torture so comparatively rare in Scotland? In part, no doubt, it was to do with exactly the same ethical qualms that animate people today – although, given how ready the Scottish judicial system was to inflict vicious physical punishment on criminals, this should not be pushed too far . More pertinently, the authorities were often sceptical about how effective torture was as a judicial tool. As George Mackenzie of Rosehaugh, a prominent late-17th-century lawyer and twice Lord Advocate, put it: ‘Some obstinat persons do oftentimes deny the Truth, whilst others who are frail, and timorous, confess for fear, what is not true’. The ineffectiveness of torture was particularly stark, Rosehaugh and others felt, when it was being used to extract confessions, the evidential value of which was widely regarded as suspect.


    George Mackenzie of Rosehaugh, by Godfrey Kneller


    If judicial torture was felt to be so problematic, why was it used at all? We can get a good sense of this from considering one case from 1680, when two men, John Spreull and Robert Hamilton, were put to torture. They were accused of plotting to murder the king, Charles II, and in particular the government was looking for answers to three questions. One: who had recruited them into the plot? Two: did the plot herald a coming rebellion? And three: Who were their co-conspirators? What the torturers were not asked to do was to extract confessions from Spreull and Hamilton, and indeed the government was at pains to point out that they were being subjected to torture only after they had freely confessed to involvement in the plot. What this case neatly reflects is that torture was generally seen not as a means of solving crimes, but as a tool of last resort for uncovering urgently-required information, to be used only when weighty matters of state or security were at stake. In that sense, torture in Scotland was less a judicial tool than a political one.


    Judicial torture was particularly associated with the Restoration (1660-89), a period during which concerns about order and security, not least in the face of Presbyterian opposition, were especially acute. Indeed, torture was listed as one of the ‘grievances’ justifying the deposition of James VII in 1689, and it seems to have been used rarely, if at all, thereafter. The practice was formally outlawed as part of the Treason Act, passed by the British Parliament in 1708.


    Methods of torture

    Torture thus had a limited, highly-regulated place within the Scottish judicial system. But what did it actually look like in practice? Anybody who has visited a place like the Edinburgh Dungeon will be painfully familiar with all the weird and wonderful methods of torture that governments of the early modern period came up with: water torture, strappado, stretching on the rack, nail-removal, rat torture – the list is a long one. In Scotland, though, torture, on the rare occasions it was sanctioned, was rather less theatrical, with two devices predominating. The first, and marginally less terrible of these, was the thumbscrews, or as they were sometimes known in Scotland, the ‘thumbikins’. This form of torture generally involved trapping the victim’s thumbs in a vice and then slowly tightening it, squeezing and, eventually, crushing both digits. The precise design of thumbscrew apparatus could vary widely, but the basic principle remained the same, providing a simple but very effective means of inflicting pain.


    Examples of Scottish thumbscrews (David Monniaux / CC BY-SA (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)


    The thumbscrews were ghastly. But they were as nothing compared to the second of Scotland’s characteristic torture devices, the Boot. There were countless variations on this torture throughout Europe, but the version favoured in Scotland, sometimes known as the ‘Spanish Boot’, involved two phases. Firstly, the victim’s lower leg was placed in a tight, stiff sheath, usually made of metal or wood, which completely encased the leg, much like a boot – hence the name. In the second stage, wedges of wood were hammered into the space between sheath and leg, lacerating the flesh and, ultimately, breaking or crushing the bones. The Boot tended to be used against especially dangerous criminals, with a good example being the bandit leader Patrick Roy MacGregor. MacGregor has run riot in the Banffshire area during the 1660s, stealing, pillaging, killing and generally causing mayhem prior to his capture in 1667. Once he was in its hands, the government promptly put him through two episodes of torture-by-Boot, partly to extract a confession, but more particularly because they wanted to find out who his accomplices were. Needless to say, MacGregor broke under the pressure of the Boot, admitting his guilt and naming the Earl of Aboyne as his chief sponsor. For MacGregor, as no doubt for many of the other unfortunate Scots forced to wear the Boot, this was a form of torture well-placed to loosen even the most stubborn of tongues.


    There was one more method of torture commonly used in Scotland, but it needs to be treated separately from the first two. The thumbscrews and the Boot were formal, government-sanctioned mechanisms. On occasion, however, torture was imposed unofficially, and therefore illegally, by people working with the more local courts or even with Church authorities. To get away with that, you had to make sure you used a method that could go undetected and which was deniable, and that mostly, although admittedly not exclusively, meant sleep deprivation. Not letting a prisoner sleep for days on end was an especially favoured means of extracting confessions from suspected witches; we know, for example, that a group of reputed witches in Pittenween in 1643 were ordered by the local kirk session to be kept perpetually awake with a view to making them admit their witchcraft. The association between sleep deprivation and witchcraft largely came about because of the procedural oddities of witch-prosecution in Scotland – put simply, you usually could not prosecute a witch without special leave from central government, and you generally could not get such licence unless you already had a confession. Sleep deprivation was a method of securing the necessary admissions of guilt, but which was easily deniable after the fact and which could be argued, albeit tendentiously, not to constitute ‘torture’ at all. Sleep-deprivation probably helped inflate the size of the Scottish witch-hunt, especially during the huge panic of 1661-2, but it also contributed to the decline of witch-prosecutions: the knowledge that confessions were often extracted under torture was one of grounds upon which the government became increasingly reluctant to sanction witch-trials from the mid-1660s onwards.



    Where, then, does all of this leave us in terms of understanding torture in Scotland’s past? In many ways this was a minor aspect of the Scottish judicial system, imposed rarely, and exclusively on especially dangerous individuals. Mainly its role was to secure intelligence and information, rather than to extract a confession. Perhaps because of the relative scarcity of its use (or at least, of its formally-sanctioned and recorded use) torture in Scotland never quite reached the heights of sensationally creative cruelty that it attained in parts of continental Europe – although that is certainly not to deny the horrors of both the thumbscrews and the Boot, or, indeed, of the subtler but equally unpleasant art of sleep-deprivation. None of this implies that Scots in the past were unusually gentle or squeamish. But it does mean that we have to be careful before jumping to the conclusion that justice in the past was simply a question of brutalising those accused of crimes. The system was rather more sophisticated than that, and so, while we can shake our heads as the use of torture in Scottish History, we should always remember that it was never a central, nor even a particularly important part of the story.


    Further reading

    Stephen J. Davies, ‘The Courts and the Scottish Legal System 1600-1747: The Case of Stirlingshire’ in V.A.C. Gattrell, B. Lenman and G. Parker (eds.), Crime and the Law: The Social History of Crime in Western Europe since 1500 (London, 1980), 120-54

    Clare Jackson, ‘Judicial Torture, the Liberties of the Subject, and Anglo-Scottish Relations’ in T.C. Smout, (ed.), Anglo-Scottish Relations from 1603 to 1900 (Oxford, 2005), 75-102

    Brian P. Levack, ‘Judicial Torture in the Age of Mackenzie’, in H.L. MacQueen (ed.), Miscellany IV, Stair Society (Edinburgh, 2002), 185-98

    George Mackenzie, The Laws and Customs of Scotland, in Matters Criminal (Edinburgh, 1678)

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  • The Scottish Privy Council, 1692-1708


    The Centre for Scottish Culture has partnered with the University of Stirling for a major, three-year research project entitled ‘The Scottish Privy Council, 1692-1708: Government from Revolution to Union’.


    Funded by the Leverhulme Trust, the Scottish Privy Council Project will research one of the most important institutional branches of Scottish government in the early modern period. No published records exist for the Council in the years from 1692 to 1708 and the key aim of the project is the creation of an online digital record, combined with a simultaneous programme of research. Working with this exceptional record, the themes of law and order, national security, social cohesion and disruption, social control in support of the church, the prevalence of economic distress, the nature of micro and macro-economic policy, the qualities of institutional cooperation between the Council and other national and local bodies, and the character of foreign relations with England and continental Europe, reflects just some of the avenues of research that can be investigated.


    Led by Dr Alastair Mann (Principal Investigator), Dr Alan MacDonald (Co-Investigator) and Dr Allan Kennedy (Manager), the project involves an ambitious programme of publications, conferences and public-engagement events, alongside its core academic content.


    Find out more at our website, which is coming soon. In the meantime, you can follow us on Twitter @ScotsCouncil

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  • Marking Conscientious Objectors Awareness Week in Dundee: 18th & 19th May 2018

    Great War Dundee and Abertay Historical Society are marking Conscientious Objectors Week with a series of collaborative events, which will take place on Friday 18th and Saturday 19th May. These are free and open to all. Click here to download the full programme. Highlights include:

    Abertay Historical Society & Great War Dundee Evening Lecture

    Cyril Pearce

    ‘Communities of Resistance: Some new thoughts on British War Resisters 1914-1918′. British Conscientious Objection at the time of the First World War

    Dalhousie Building, Lecture Theatre 1, University of Dundee

    Friday 18 May – 6.30 to 20.15 (lecture starts 7.00 pm prompt)

    Registration (free) via Eventbrite.


    Conscientious Objectors Awareness Day Event Dundee

    War, Conscription and Conscientious Objection 1914-1919

    Dalhousie Building, Room 1LG03, University of Dundee

    Saturday 10.30-3.00 May 19, 2018

    Free including refreshments and light buffet lunch

    Registration via Eventbrite.

    In Association and Partnership with:

    Abertay Historical Society

    Centre for Scottish Culture, University of Dundee

    Commemoration, Conflict and Conscience  (A festival of hidden histories of WW1) University of Bristol Law School

    Edinburgh Peace and Justice Centre

    Everyday Lives in War Engagement Centre

    Gateways to the First World War Engagement Centre

    Workers Education Association Scotland

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  • What has 17th-century printing got to do with pie? 21st-Century Book Historian: Printing

    This guest post comes from Suzanne Black, second-year PhD candidate in English literature at the University of Edinburgh, who attended a recent event in our 21st-Century Book Historian series. The series is a collaboration between the Universities of Edinburgh, Stirling and Dundee which provides PhD students with hands-on training in the History of Printing, Publishing and Authorship. Dundee will be hosting the next event, Authorship, on Thursday 26th April – sign up here.In the first in a series of three events organised by Dr Katie Halsey (University of Stirling), Dr Daniel Cook (University of Dundee) and Dr Tom Mole (University of Edinburgh) and funded by the Scottish Graduate School for Arts & Humanities, graduate students from all over Scotland gathered in Stirling on the 21st of February 2018 to learn about the history of printing and how it can be approached and understood by contemporary book historians. Aimed at those who work with early texts and those who are just curious about the field, the afternoon offered a history of early printing techniques, a talk on the methodological difficulties in assigning provenance to incunabula (really old books from before 1501) and, the part that I was most excited about, hands-on learning.


    As a doctoral researcher who specialises in print and digital fiction from the 21st century, I was keen to learn about book history in order to better understand the situation of 21st-century publishing in a continuum of changing technologies and media, and I was not disappointed.

    After introductions from Dr Halsey, Dr Kelsey Jackson Williams (University of Stirling) and Dr Dawn Hollis (University of St Andrews), who are the two lead printers of the Pathfoot Press, provided an introduction to print culture and methods, augmenting their scholarly knowledge with practical experience gained from trying to recreate letter press publications on the Press’s beautiful 19th-century Columbian press, an elaborately-wrought, hefty piece of apparatus topped with an extravagant bald eagle counterweight.

    Drs Jackson Williams and Hollis talked us through the labour-intensive process of how a printer would create lines of type from individual letters (compositing), compile multiple lines of type into a frame (or chase) and secure them so that the whole (called a forme) could be printed without letters falling out of place, as well as correctly orient multiple pages from different parts of the book on one large sheet of paper (tricky), proofread to identify errors, dry the sheets, fold them (to create the desired orientation, such as folio or quarto) and finally bind them (although this was often done elsewhere).

    I was surprised to find out the origin of some current printing terms, for example, the type for the individual capital and lowercase letters was often located in separate rows of cases, which led to the designation of ‘uppercase’ and ‘lowercase’. If you were wondering, Garamond is the contemporary font or typeface closest to those used by 17th-century printers.

    After walking us through the theory, we were able to get our hands dirty arranging lines of moveable type (single letters) which, being fiddly and with the letters appearing reversed, is not easy and our best efforts led to some unfortunate typos! Working the two-person Columbian press was also a challenge as strength, accuracy and delicacy are needed to align paper, forme and weight to ensure a uniform print. Luckily, with Dawn and Kelsey supervising, we were all able to produce a printed sheet by the end of the afternoon and, as a special bonus, we were also able to use a table-top letter press from the 1920s to print a beautiful souvenir bookmark, designed by Pathfoot Press intern Mhairi Rutherford (pictured at the top of this post).

    While I was feeling flush with my newfound appreciation for printed books, Jamie Cumby (University of St Andrews) gave a talk on older texts (incunabula) and the difficulties of ascertaining their publication and ownership histories. Combined with Daryl Green’s additional comments on provenance research, I came away from the event with a greater understanding of the materiality of books over the last few hundred years and, inspired by the Pathfoot Press, at least a few of us were already plotting to undertake our own letter press printing.

    And where does pie come into it? Well, it’s usually spelled ‘pye’ and refers to jumbled up piles of movable type, perhaps created by dropping them on the floor, something that, under the excellent tutelage of Kelsey and Dawn, we were able to avoid.

    Suzanne Black is a second-year PhD candidate in English literature at the University of Edinburgh. She is interested in how digital fictions, such as fanfiction, and representations of the digital in printed contemporary fiction can be understood in the contexts of intertextuality, narratology, digital media, feminist theory and digital humanities techniques. @suzannerblack on Twitter.

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  • Writings from Scotland Before the Union

    Now in its second year, Writings from Scotland Before the Unionis a one-day conference, hosted by the Centre for Scottish Culture at the University of Dundee, which seeks to further understand how Scotland saw herself in literary terms before formal union in 1707.

    Registration opens at 09:30 on April 21st in the Baxter Suite in the Tower Building on the Nethergate in Dundee before the first panel begins at 10:00, running through the day and culminating with a dramatic reading of Henryson’s Testament of Cresseid performed by the JOOT theatre company.

    The event is free and open to all (including lunch and refreshments) but registration via Eventbrite is ESSENTIAL.

    There will also be a conference dinner at the end of the day which will be between £20-5 at a local restaurant. Please indicate whether you would like to attend the dinner by registering your interest to preunionconf@dundee.ac.uk

    Our keynote speaker is Professor John J. McGavin of the University of Southampton who will deliver a lecture titled Records of Early Drama Scotland: Joining Dots and Colouring in.Our other papers include:

    • Nina Fiches, University of Bristol
    ‘The Scottish Once and Future King: The stakes of King Arthur for the national identity of Scotland’

    • Dr Nicola Royan, University of Nottingham
    ‘Archibald Whitelaw, Hector Boece and the Performance of Scotland in early Scottish humanism.’

    • Dr Emily Wingfield, University of Birmingham
    ‘ane raa buke to the Quene’: Margaret Tudor and her books

    • Lucy Hinnie, University of Edinburgh
    ‘Conquering the querelle in the Bannatyne MS (c. 1568)’

    • Dr Rhiannon Purdie, University of St Andrews
    ‘Scottish heroes old and new: Hary’s Wallace, Lyndsay’s Meldrum and the seductions of biography’

    • Dr Elizabeth Elliott, University of Aberdeen
    ‘David Lyndsay and Scots Drama in the Eighteenth Century’

    • Graeme S. Millen, University of Kent

    a real distaste of the country and the service…’ Maj-Gen Hugh Mackay’s Memoirs, the Scots-Dutch and Identity during the Highland War, 1689-1691

    • Dr Sebastiaan Verweij, University of Bristol
    ‘Remembering Alexander Montgomerie’s Cherrie and the Slae

    • Dr Jamie Reid-Baxter, University of Glasgow
    To justify the wrath of God to men” – Irae divinae in Scotiam accensae: God’s wrath poured out in Latin verse, 1652.

    Registration is available via the following link: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/writings-from-scotland-before-the-union-2018-tickets-43977342415

    For any further information, please do not hesitate to contact the organisers at preunionconf@dundee.ac.uk

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  • Who were the Jacobites and what did they want for Scotland? Inaugural History Scotland Lecture 24 April 2018 from 6:30pm

    The inaugural entry in The History Scotland Lectures was a debate between Professor Murray Pittock (University of Glasgow) and Professor Christopher Whatley (University of Dundee) on ‘Who were the Jacobites and what did they want for Scotland?’. Professors Whatley and Pittock are two of Scotland’s leading experts on the 18th century, and in this debate they discussed the nature of Jacobitism and the movement’s thinking on Scotland and Britain. The lecture took place at the Apex Hotel in Dundee on Tuesday 24 April 2018.

    A video archive of this and subsequent lectures can be found on The History Scotland lectures page of this site.

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