Theses and Works in Progress

Our current and recent research page gives summaries of both ongoing postgraduate work on aspects of Scottish history and recently completed postgraduate projects. If you wish to offer an abstract for inclusion on this page, this can be emailed to:

Katherine Eleutheria Basanti, University of Aberdeen
The Politics and Ramifications of Crusade Rhetoric in Late Medieval and Early Modern Scottish Statecraft: 1437-1542

This study investigates the politics of crusade rhetoric (bellum iustum et sanctum rhetorica) in late medieval and early modern Scottish statecraft, following the assassination of James I (1394-1437) on 21 February 1437 until the end of the reign of James V (1512-1542) on 14 December 1542. The findings of this research explore the didactic function and sociopolitical ramifications of holy war rhetoric, whether advocating or contesting the crusades, in three key aspects of Scottish statecraft; first, military conduct and martial ethos; second, governance and civic practice; third, diplomatic tactics in relation to ecclesiastical politics. Via the comparative study of parliamentary records, state documents, diplomatic correspondence, and chronicle sources, the conceptualization of authority and intricacy of crown-magnate relations are scrutinized. Crusade rhetoric, in this respect, appears to have facilitated the purpose of instructive interpretations and warnings against the alleged unscrupulous avarice of magnates seen by certain scholars and political thinkers as a potential threat to Church and crown. The purpose of this study is to provide a first full-scale analysis of the triptych of power, politics and piety within the context of a crusade ideological as well as critical framework during fifteenth and sixteenth century Scottish state-of-affairs.


Daliah Primrose Bond, University of Aberdeen
Scottish Chapbooks and Popular Culture 1650-1800

This thesis concerns the significance of Scottish chapbooks in relation to popular culture 1650-1800.  This question is explored by using a database of Scottish chapbooks held in major UK libraries and reassessing their place as a piece of vulgar ballad literature for the uneducated lower classes but looking at the possibility that they were also read by and marketed to the elites.  By looking at the issue of illustration, content and production values we can explore the notion of ‘cheap’ vs ‘luxury’ print. As well as exploring the chapbooks’ usefulness as ‘mirrors of their time’. Additionally, I am also interested in how Scottish chapbooks were distributed by the chapman and to what extent this contribute to their form and content.


Meagan Lee Butler, University of Glasgow
“Husbands without wives, and wives without husbands”: Divorce and Separation in Scotland, c. 1830-1890

This thesis explores divorce and judicial separation as it occurred in nineteenth-century Scotland, from the decades 1830 to 1890, predating the phenomenon it came to be in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.  As Scotland’s history has often been incorporated into a general history of Great Britain, this thesis separates it from the widely researched accounts of marriage and marital breakdown in England to highlight the different approach to regulating marriage, divorce and separation under Scots law.  Applying Scotland’s distinctive legal, demographic and economic context has provided a social history of marital breakdown unique to the country, and filled a historiographical gap for the nineteenth century.  This research will be presented through separate analyses of divorce for adultery, divorce-both official and unofficial-on the ground of desertion, and judicial separation for cruelty, and the more commonly used remedy of criminal courts to resolve marital violence without dissolving the marriage.


Jodi Campbell, University of Guelph
‘To Insult the Church and Ruffle the Magistrates’: Scottish Episcopal Networks of Resistance, 1690-1715

Research on Jacobite networks focuses mainly on Jacobites in exile and their work to return the Stuarts to the throne. Through prosopographical analysis, this project, however, focuses on a network of Scottish Episcopalians and their Anglican brethren in England and Ireland. These men chose to stay in Britain to face down their Presbyterian opponents, highlight what they termed were Presbyterian abuses of power, and push for toleration. Although a great number of Episcopalians were Jacobites hoping, and working for, a Stewart restoration, this thesis stresses the religious persecution of the Episcopalians and their struggle to achieve toleration.


Andy Clark, University of Strathclyde
Women’s Factory Occupations in 1980s Scotland

This research will consider the changing meaning of work, workplace closure and resistance for women in Scotland in the later part of the twentieth-century. Utilising a case-study approach, three factory occupations will form the primary focus of this research: Lee Jeans, 1981; Plessey Capacitors, 1982; and Lovable Lingerie, 1982. The research will utilise a mixed methodology, with a substantial incorporation of oral testimony, allowing the analysis to explore aspects of the occupations unreported or under-reported at the time, along with a consideration of the emotional aspects of employment and prospective joblessness. The role and response of the trade union movement will be analysed, considering the support that women workers received from their own representatives and other rank and file workers.


Lucinda Hazel Stewart Dean (Lucy), University of Stirling
Crowns, Wedding Rings and Processions: Continuity and Change in Representations of Scottish Royal Authority through State Ceremony c. 1214 to c. 1603

Lucy’s thesis bridges the gap between medieval and early modern to address long term continuity and change in representations of Scottish royal authority through three key royal ceremonies: inaugurations/coronations, funerals, and weddings (with consort coronations). It places the ceremonies of death, accession, and royal marriage within the complexities of their political context, including frequent minor accessions, early violent deaths, absentee kingship, and political and religious upheavals in Scotland from c.1214 to c.1603. By offering a detailed analysis of these ceremonies across a broad time period, this thesis illuminates the development of these ceremonies as both reflectors of a distinct Scottish royal identity and representative of their integration within a broader European language of ceremony, and provides the framework from which further research into royal ceremony and its place as essential platform for the dissemination of royal power can be undertaken. For more information see:


Anita R Fairney, University of Western Australia
Jacobite Scotswomen: their roles, identities and agency in Scottish politics, 1688-1788

This thesis will examine the roles and contributions of Jacobite Scotswomen to Scottish politics, from the revolution in which King James II & VII was deposed and went into exile (1688-89), until the death of his grandson, Prince Charles Edward Stuart (1788). It will explore Scotswomen’s agency and motivations for contributing to the Stuart restoration—a treasonous affair—with a close analysis of their multi-layered identities and the manifestation of them as Scotswomen and Jacobites, within Scotland’s national politics and identity.


Jennifer Farquharson, Glasgow Caledonian University
‘Citizen Soldier’: the Marginalised Asylum Patient in Great War Scotland, c.1914-1930

This thesis aims to explore the experiences of the civilian and the ex-service patients in Scotland’s District asylums during the Great War and Inter-war eras, and assess the extent of their marginalisation. As War hospitals were requisitioned, existing patient populations were redistributed alongside servicemen thought incurable or unfit for duty; yet a complex interplay of attitudes towards mental illness, including politico-legal, medical, social and military constructs, impacted upon their institutional experiences in distinctive ways. For example, some key concerns of this thesis include the experience of environment disruption, ‘dehumanizing’ admission procedures, and understanding patient communication. Although inroads have recently been made into examining the ex-service patient, the Scottish dimension of such studies has been non-existent, and little has been done to place the civilian within the same context. Therefore this thesis hopes to redress a significant gap in the knowledge of the patient experience in Scotland.


Derek Janes, Centre for Maritime Historical Studies, University of Exeter
The Business of Smuggling in SE Scotland: John and David Nisbet and their associates, 1740–1790

Derek’s starting point is Gunsgreen House in Eyemouth, designed by John Adam for John Nisbet, a local “merchant” in the early 1750s. The purpose of his work is to seek to understand the nature of trade and smuggling in SE Scotland with reference to the lives and careers of John Nisbet of Gunsgreen House, Eyemouth, and his brother David. It will consider the society in which they operated, their connections, associates and rivals.


Aimée McCullough, University of Strathclyde
On the Margins of Family and Home? Working-Class Fatherhood and Masculinity in Scotland, c. 1970-1995

Aimee’s thesis aims to explore the nature of Scottish fatherhood in late twentieth century Scotland, examine stereotypes and assumptions about Scottish fatherhood in relation to masculinities, and recover the experiences of working-class fathers from the margins of family and home life.  While public and political interest in fathers and fatherhood has intensified in recent years, fathers have largely remained ‘hidden in history’, often neglected in historical studies of the family, and appearing only on the periphery of family life, if at all. In Scotland, the history of fatherhood – and particularly working-class fatherhood – is almost non-existent. It is therefore of fundamental importance to explore men as gendered beings and this research has the potential to inform policy debates about fathers, alter social attitudes about the role of fathers in working-class families, and recover fatherhood to modern Scottish history.


Christoph Otte, University of Edinburgh
Economic Links and Estate Landscapes in Early Medieval Southern Scotland

At the heart of Christoph’s PhD research is the question of how the rural economy in early medieval southern Scotland worked. It aims to test the models set up by J. E. A. Jolliffe and G. R. J. Jones regarding the shire or multiple estate and whether there is any evidence that this was the dominant estate structure in the Kingdom of Bernicia during the sixth to eighth centuries. To make up for the lack of written source material for that region and period, the thesis is designed to encompass a variety of inter-disciplinary approaches and sources, such as Geographical Information Systems (GIS), archaeology, place-name studies, historical text and map material, palaeoenvironmental studies and anthropology of landscape. By the end of this research, a fuller understanding of the estate and settlement landscape in early medieval southern Scotland will be possible.


Laura Paterson, University of Strathclyde
‘Beyond commodity and consumption’: Human-animal relations in early modern Scotland

The project will examine the nature of the relationship between humans and animals in Scotland during the seventeenth century, focusing on animals that formed the staple of the Scottish diet, cattle and fish, as well as animals regarded as prestige items, such as hawks and hunting dogs. All Scots, whether arable or pastoral farmers, merchants, or the nobility, had a relationship with animals: buying, selling, eating, breeding, hunting or wearing them. This PhD will explore how animals were regarded and the extent to which this depended on the particular type of animal, on location or economic and social standing, and whether this changed throughout the early modern period.


Sarah Phelan, University of Glasgow
T. Ferguson Rodger: ‘social psychiatry’, ‘mad dreaming’, and ‘rethinking mental health’

This PhD will research the contribution to psychiatry of Thomas Ferguson Rodger (1907-1978) who was the first Professor of Psychological Medicine at the University of Glasgow (1948-1973) and a consultant psychiatrist at a number of Glasgow hospitals. Rodger’s career spanned an important period of transformation in psychiatric practice as older “asylum-based” psychiatry was being challenged by emergent general hospital- and community- based psychiatry. This PhD will investigate Rodger’s contribution along three axes: (i) to situate him within a genealogy of humanities-informed Scottish, British and ‘Western’ psychiatry, including as a progenitor of R. D. Laing; (ii) to reconstruct his hybrid psychiatric approach which was neuroscientific and hospital-facing but also “social” and community oriented; and (iii) to disclose the intimacies of his practice. The focus of this exploration is Rodger’s archive held by Glasgow University Archives which contains a wealth of material from Rodger’s career including lecture notes (for students and non-academic audiences), professional reports, war-time records following from Rodger’s involvement in military psychiatry and patient case notes.


Iain Riddell, University of Leicester

Kinship Collation: Trends in 19th Century UK kinship networks evidenced from rural Aberdeenshire

 Based upon continental and global insights that kin-based networks, were a dynamic force in nineteenth century society which, were adaptive to other socio-economic and political forces in society the research drawn from massive amounts of re-purposed data from statutory records worked through with qualitative, empirical and probabilistic approaches explores the:

  • contradictory challenges and advantages that Aberdeenshire intra-household connectedness brought to women who belonged to peasant and capitalist farming familial units
  • retention and impact of kinship relatedness between migrating and non-migrating relatives over multiple lifetimes and generations
  • tensions placed upon the emergence of local democracy by the existence and maintenance of social networks forged by connubial alliances amongst the farming tenantry of the Ellon hinterland

The core research sources are reconstructed genealogies of past individuals and families, of all walks of life, with origins linked to the parishes surrounding Ellon. Methodologically the thesis draws upon continental European insights, which lay aside the urge to pre-identify significant relationships, as to the variety and extensiveness of blood and connubial networks in society. By applying an anthropological approach onto genealogical reconstructions a space is created for past peoples own kin choices to emerge. In this way kinship clusters in localities are identified; as are active networks of relatives across broader territories. These kinship nexus can be identified as having under pinned socio-political and socio-economic activity and in the long-term formed looser kin based social networks; enduring kinship connexions that stretched across time and space whilst often lying quiescent were susceptible to re-activation and re-affirmation. Thus the research takes the approach of exploring from within genealogies whilst being uninterested in the limited insights available through ego-ego genealogical connectedness.

From the topics of matrikinship, migration and democratic participation the thesis highlights the warping effect of the British language of family and the British search for dominant family forms has had upon the historical record and its interpretation. By removing the ideological constraints, of locale, patrikin and household arrangements, upon kinship it uses genealogical reconstructions to raise and interrogate social and economic theories relevant to not just Scotland’s northeast but to the varied communities of Britain and other descendant cultures.


Kim Ross, University of Glasgow
The Locational History of Scotland’s District Lunatic Asylums, 1857-1913

Kim’s thesis looks into the later ‘Asylum Age’ in Scotland, concentrating on the legislation and construction of Scotland’s district lunatic asylums from the passing of the 1857 Lunacy (Scotland) Act, 1857 to the Mental Deficiency and Lunacy (Scotland) Act, 1913. Concentrating on the specific geographies of the asylums, what Foucault refers to as “the space reserved by society for insanity” (Foucault, 1965:251), the thesis weaves a new route between previous radical/critical and progressive/simplistic interpretations of the ‘Asylum Age’, by integrating a Foucauldian interpretation with non-representational theories around the engineering of affective atmospheres. The ideal district ‘blueprint’ for asylum location and design, as put forward by the Scottish Lunacy Commissioners, is uncovered and reconstructed by ‘picking out’ details about the asylum site, grounds and buildings as they were discussed in the annual reports of the General Board. The research then moves to uncover the system ‘on the ground’ as it was constructed in bricks and mortar. As asylum location and architecture was a relatively novel concern, questions of siting and design became more pertinent, and indeed central, in institutional planning during the decades after the mid-century lunacy reforms. Thus, despite periods of waning enthusiasm for the institution as a mechanism for ‘curing’ insanity, ‘fitting the building to its purposes’ continually involved a variety of structural innovations, stylistic refinements and new ways of organising the external and internal spaces of the asylums.


Iida Saarinen, University of Edinburgh
‘Belonging’ in a Roman Catholic Seminary in the Nineteenth Century: A Prosopographical Study of Students and Social Identities at ‘Scots College Paris’, 1793-1878

I am investigating the identifications and lives of the individuals who studied for Roman Catholic secular priesthood, were funded by the Scottish Mission, and spent a part of their studies in any of the affiliated French educational establishments between 1793 and 1878, collectively treated as a continuation of the ‘Scots College, Paris’. The individuals are connected by an experience of senior seminary education in France in the nineteenth century (although not all of them reached their intended goal): the secular priesthood in the service of their funder, the Scottish Mission. I will attempt to identify a full sample of the individuals who meet the criteria and gather not only the key biographical details, but also their socio-economic background, the details of their studies and their later life. This data, coupled with qualitative evidence, will help me to establish how these individuals may have negotiated their sense of belonging affected by the peculiar contexts of the senior seminary.


Lis Smith, University of St Andrews
The First Women at St Andrews, 1877-1892

Lis’ research will examine the role of the University of St Andrews in promoting the higher education of women across the United Kingdom and beyond, through its award of the Lady Literate in Arts (LLA) certificate in the last decades of the nineteenth century and early years of the twentieth century. It will appraise, in the context of the familial and economic backgrounds of women who undertook the course, what influence possession of the LLA had upon their career development, and the significance of their contributions to the social and political structures of the period. Specifically, the issue of whether the existence of the LLA itself was in any form a catalyst in raising the profile of campaigns for female emancipation will be considered. Analyses of the first matriculated women students in the university will be undertaken, and comparisons drawn between outcomes derived from LLA and degree status.


Heather Stewart, University of Edinburgh
The Influence of Economic Ideas and Local Interests on UK Fisheries Policy, 1945-95

Using UK and Scottish government archives, this research analyses the drivers and processes of UK fisheries policy over the period 1945-1995. Through examining the themes of ownership, access and allocation and examining the choices made regarding regulation, the research aims to determine how, and to what extent, the economic and commercial ideas of fisheries management have been used by politicians when making policy. It argues that, historically, fisheries policy in the UK was shaped foremost by changes in the relative abilities of domestic and local interests to influence government, with intra-British regional conflict working to marginalise the impact of economic ideas within the government’s considerations.



Helen Louise Young, University of Stirling
The Small Rural School and Community Relations in Scotland, 1872-2000: An Interdisciplinary History

Adopting an interdisciplinary approach, utilising social theory and combining archival research with oral history interviewing and quantitative analysis, the aim of this ESRC funded research is to provide a detailed historical account of education across rural Scotland as well as focusing down at community level to explore the role that small schools, and their teachers, have played in community life during this period. Comprising three layers of research (a regional case study based around the old school board districts of Fortingall, Killin and Kenmore in Highland Perthshire; a quasi-random sample of rural schools from across Scotland; and a national overview) the study will engage in thematic discussion with a particular focus on: the small rural school as a ‘pillar of the community’, the urbanising influence of education, and the link between citizenship and community relations.