Category Archives: History

Scottish History at a Glance: The Marian Civil War

Our History Lecturer, Dr Allan Kennedy, provides an overview of the short but vicious civil war that followed the deposition in 1567 of Mary, Queen of Scots. This article first appeared as part of the ’10 Minutes On…’ column in History Scotland magazine, with whose kind permission it is republished here. The turbulent personal rule

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Leaving the Cold Country

In an exclusive preview of his new book, Professor Graeme Morton explores the rise of meteorological science in the nineteenth century, and asks how it might have related to the Scottish experience of mass emigration. Even when the rain and temperature gauge, the barometer and anemometer were commonly used to record meteorological observations, the popularity

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Imagining Union before the Union

The Union of 1707 did not come out of nowhere; Scots had been discussing the concept almost ceaselessly throughout the 17th century. Dr Allan Kennedy outlines the major models of Union they came up with, demonstrating that the form adopted in 1707 was by no means the only possible version. Follow Allan of Twitter at

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Dying to Invest: Scotland and the Tontine

A plot-point in numerous books, films, and TV shows, the tontine is among the most notorious financial products every devised. But, as Dr Andrew McDiarmid explains, this most infamous of investment schemes had a notable – and broadly positive – impact on Scotland during the early 19th century. Follow Andrew on Twitter at @apmcdiarmid1. From

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The Crook of Devon Witches

  With Hallowe’en nearly upon us, Dr Allan Kennedy gets into the spooky spirit by telling the story of the supposed witches’ coven discovered in Crook of Devon, Kinross-shire, in 1662.   Follow Allan on Twitter at: @Allan_D_Kennedy    Between 1563 and 1736, roughly 4,000 Scots, mainly women, were accused of witchcraft. Of these, perhaps 2,500 were

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The Bandit of Callander: Crime and Marginality in Restoration Scotland

  Dr Allan Kennedy tells the story of the little-known bandit Calum Og McGrigor, who terrorised the Stirlingshire area throughout the 1660s, and asks what his crimes can tell us about deviance and marginality in 17th-century Scotland.   Follow Allan on Twitter at: @Allan_D_Kennedy    Banditry was a major problem in 17th-century Scotland, particularly the Highlands.

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Tales from the Dundas Archives 2

Continuing his exploration of the rich and fascinating papers of West Lothian laird Sir Walter Dundas (1562-1636), Dr Alan MacDonald grapples with an age-old problem: how many legs are there on a goose? Follow Alan on Twitter at @estaitis   In 1616, John Meek was in arrears of rent to the laird of Dundas in West Lothian.

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‘Scotch Songs’ and English Perceptions of Scotland in the Restoration

Dr Allan Kennedy looks at the vogue for Scotland-based popular songs in Restoration England, asking what their subject-matter was, and what they can tell us about English attitudes towards Scotland in the later 17th century. Follow Allan on Twitter at: @Allan_D_Kennedy    The Restoration (1660-c.1688) is well known as an age of exuberant artistic expression in

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Tales from the Dundas Archives 1

  Dr Alan MacDonald delves into the rich and fascinating papers of Sir Walter Dundas (1562-1636), a West Lothian laird whose innovative land-management practices suggest that ‘Improvement’ may have begun in Scotland a good deal earlier than is often supposed. Follow Alan on Twitter at @estaitis   Sir Walter Dundas (1562-1636): Pioneer of ‘Improvement’? When I

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A Kirk Session Coverup

  Samantha Hunter is a PhD student at the University of Dundee, researching governance and social control in seventeenth-century Scotland.   Follow Samantha on Twitter at @sam_hunter95   The records of the early modern period provide wonderful, and often unexpected, glimpses into the lives of the people who lived centuries ago. Not only can they

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