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History Workshop at Stirling University



Workshop 1: The Poor

In recent years social historians have been very interested in the conditions and lives or the poorest in society as a reaction against the domination of the elite in the historical record. But surprisingly we find in medieval and early modern Scotland that the elite was much exercised by the problem of the poor.


Workshop 2: Clothing & Dress


At first sight dress and clothing hardly seem a priority for kings or parliaments. However, dress was not just a matter of free choice in the medieval and early modern periods. Dress was a mark of social rank, status and wealth. The government and crown felt it necessary to legislate for national standards of dress for particular levels of society and to help ensure that clear differences were maintained between specific social groups. These acts were sumptuary laws controlling the market in clothes and also the departure of gold and silver from the country when clothing was to imported. Furthermore, statements of the lamentable state of the clothes of the general population shows that such a condition was seen to reflect badly on the international reputation of Scotland and created a bad impression for overseas visitors.


Workshop 3: Censorship


The crown and parliament of medieval and early modern Scotland, as for all nations and governments then and since, struggled to control the production and distribution of ‘undesirable’ manuscript and printed material. Many types of writings were banned and suppressed from immoral and blasphemous tales to treasonous tracts that attacked the religion and government of Scotland and even the king himself.


Workshop 4: Markets, Fairs & Burghs


Comparatively few new royal burghs, the old seats of trade with a monopoly of overseas trade and where the landed superior was the crown, were founded in the entire sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, a total of 21 between 1560 and 1707, and only two after 1650. However, the growth in burghs of barony and regality, that is burghs where the superior was a landed individual rather than the king, was remarkable. From 1450 to 1707 no less than 350 burghs of barony were created by the crown and ratified by parliament. 110 of appeared between 1660 and 1707 although perhaps a third of these were not viable, were created for reasons of landed rivalry, flourished briefly then declined, never flourished at all or were only sought so that a market of fair could be held near existing rural settlements. Indeed, the rights to hold annual fairs and weekly markets were repeatedly sought after 1660 and almost a quarter of the legislation passed by the parliament in the 1660s and 1670s related to the confirmation of rights to various superiors or burghs for additional or new markets and fairs. The fragile boom in Scottish trade in these decades was encouraged by the willingness of parliament to award such privileges.


Workshop 5: Images of Parliament


There are not a large number of images of the Scottish parliament, but what does exist provides a useful indication of where and how the Scottish parliament met. Details of the locations and working of parliament can be found in other sections of this website, and those illustrations referred to are numbered. In addition most of these illustrations can be found in the website of the Scottish Parliament Project at St. Andrews University. Some images of the records of the parliament are also provided.
This page contains five suggested themes for class study. Click on the links to open the workshops, which contain extracts of government and parliamentary records, along with a few supporting documents.
All are ‘translated’ from Scots or Latin in a more modern English style in order to increase understanding, although the linguistic feel of the period has been retained.
A small glossary of Scots terms (most identified by an asterisk) is provided at the end but standard English dictionary use may be necessary.
The longer extracts provide ample opportunity for teachers and students to cut and paste a few lines of particular interest.