Indyref: Five Years On (21 September)


logoINDYREF: 5 YEARS ON is a free public event reflecting on 2014 and the ‘cultural debate’ in particular.

How did Scottish writers contribute to the visions and vocabularies of the independence debate? What are your strongest memories of 2014, and how do you think indyref (as experience, as event) will enter history?  Where did questions of land and place feature in the independence debate, and how does Scottish writing speak to those questions?

Please join us for a day of discussion and conversation on these themes. This event loops back to our 2014 ‘If Scotland…’ event pondering how the indyref would appear to future historians, and also to the Unstated: Writers on Scottish Independence collection.


Saturday 21 September 2019
City of Edinburgh Methodist Church
25 Nicolson Square, Edinburgh, EH8 9BX


10.15am: Introductions, etc

10.30 – 11.30              Writers and Independence, Five Years On

Janice Galloway
Harry Josephine Giles
Jenny Lindsay
Mike Small

(Chair: Liam Bell)

11.30 – 12.30              Indyref in Personal and Public Memory

Sarah Bromage (Scottish Political Archive)
Amina Davidson (Generation 2014, BBC’s youth indyref project)
Alice Doyle (PhD on Archiving Indyref, in partnership with National Library of Scotland)
Sabina Jedrzejczyk (Generation 2014)
Rory Scothorne (PhD project on post-1960s Scottish political history)

(Chair: Scott Hames)

12.30 – 1.30: Lunch (not provided)

1.30 – 2.30                  ‘Here Lies Our Land’: Indyref, Nature and Place

Alec Finlay
Hannah Lavery
Peter MacKay
Roseanne Watt 

(Chair: Katie Ailes)

2.30 – 3.00: Tea/Coffee

3.00                             Concluding Roundtable and Interviews

Exhibition review: ‘Scribes and royal authority: Scotland’s charters 1100-1250’


Exhibition review: ‘Scribes and royal authority: Scotland’s charters 1100-1250’, National Records of Scotland (Matheson Dome, General Register House), 5 April-17 May 2017

The idea of an exhibition examining subtle changes in administrative documents may not immediately appeal to the general public. In a way, this is true: how and why legal documents were written, what patterns are evident and how they reflect an emerging form of scribal standard could be topics at risk of putting off even a determined casual observer. A new exhibition (open for six weeks) at the General Register House, Edinburgh does very well to outline exactly why this assumption is incorrect.

Charter by King Maclcolm IV

Charter by King Malcolm IV

Often the history of twelfth- and early thirteenth-century Scotland is the story of leading monarchs: David I, Malcolm IV, William I. They are credited with introducing out-of-the-box (assembly required) institutions to the kingdom – ‘feudalism’, burghs, reformed monastic foundations, foreign settlers, castles. This ‘Scribes and royal authority’ exhibition turns the focus instead to those individuals and the materials they produced in the phases of transformation of the kingdom.

The exhibition makes no bones about the scarcity of the surviving evidence from this era of Scottish history; the panels accompanying the exhibition outline in admirable though depressing detail how much has been lost forever. The monasteries of the south-west (Dumfries and Galloway), for example, are wholly unrepresented in our reckoning of charters – the legal documents at the heart of this exhibition – in this early period.

The low volume of evidence has not hindered the piecing together of the story of how and through what means Scotland was ruled as a medieval kingdom. A total of fourteen charters from two important landholders in the period (Holyrood Abbey in Edinburgh and Melrose Abbey in the Borders) tell how incidental changes and trends reflect the choices made by the scribes of charters. The large, calm handwriting of monastic scribes, who more often than not penned religious texts instead of legal documents, developed into a more business-like form as they borrowed and mimicked the style of royal scribes. Decorative flourishes, peculiar letter forms or more restrained writing bring out not only these developmental patterns but also the characters and attitudes of the people themselves – several of the charters were by the same scribes. How these changes reflect

The rarity of these documents, and that they have never before been assembled for public view, should be emphasized too. It is fantastic to be able to look at document that are almost 850 years old, and so clearly pick out recognisable and unfamiliar names and places. Seleschirhe for Selkirk, Gilandrea the dapifer (‘meat server’) and Castellu puellar – ‘Castle of the Maiden’, Edinburgh itself. Though the exhibition is small, it is rich in content and worth taking time to experience in its fullest. At £5, the exhibition catalogue is a little flimsy, but is worth the price for the high quality images of the charters on display and the commentary on handwriting.

Those with an interest in the wider project, of which the exhibition forms one output, should visit

William’s research is funded by the AHRC, in partnership with RCAHMS

Scottishness in Early Sound Cinema, 1927-1933


Last Wednesday the Scottish Studies Research Group met for a fascinating presentation by PhD candidate John Ritchie on ‘Sir Harry Lauder and Will Fyffe: Being Scottish in Early Sound Cinema’. John’s talk was based on his wider research, which focuses on  how Scottishness is represented in films produced during the Transition to Sound period, from 1927 to 1933.
 Will Fyffe
John started by introducing the twin figures of Sir Henry “Harry” Lauder (1870 –1950) and Will Fyffe (1885 –1947). Both were music hall artists that became international stars in the first decades of the twentieth century, as suggested by how American tribute acts to the former preceded his arrival in the United States. John gave examples of how  Lauder and Fyffe were encouraged to record their music hall acts and stage routines for early sound films.

John then explored the performance of Scottishness as central to Lauder’s and Fyffe’s theatre practice. Although Lauder’s personification of Scottishness was more convincing, Fyffe’s too made a point of being identifiable as Scottish. In particular, costume and accent were used to signify Scottishness in music hall and sound film alike. Against a backdrop in which tartan costume became the signifier for nationality,the kilt was the most important element of the mise en scène. As for language, while Lauder’s voice came to represent Scottish language abroad, Fyffe too strove to realise Scottishness through language, but drawing on the east coast vernacular. The ways in which Lauder’s and Fyffe’s personification of Scottishness played to stereotype explains how the former could easily become a target of criticism for Hugh MacDiarmid, who resented  how Lauder’s (hugely popular) performances provided an inaccurate, simplistic and derogatory representation of Scotland.


Sir Harry Lauder

A very interesting interdisciplinary discussion was sparked by John’s presentation, in which we were able to discuss parallels between film critics’ take on Lauder, still influenced by MacDiarmid’s loathing of his performances, and literary critics’ approach to the Kailyard school of Scottish fiction, similarly informed by MacDiarmid’s caustic rejection. We also enjoyed learning more from John about the transition to sound film in Scotland and the state of archival resources around the topic, while hearing some fascinating anecdotes about his research journey and findings.


Our next meeting will take place on Wednesday the 1st of June, at 5pm, Room A7, Pathfoot Building. We will hear from Dr Barbara Leonardi, a post-doctoral researcher here at Stirling, about ‘James Hogg’s The Brownie of Bodsbeck; An Unconventional National Tale’. All members of the Stirling research community, as well as Scottish studies enthusiasts from beyond, are very welcome to attend.


After Culloden


Saturday 16 April marked the 270th anniversary of the Battle of Culloden, which brought to a violent and bloody end the Jacobite uprising of 1745-46. Popular interest in the battle and the ’45 uprising has been reignited by Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander books and the accompanying television series. The story of Culloden is often told, but what happened to the Highlands in its aftermath garners much less attention.


What if we were to take the Jacobite story forward several decades, to the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War? Only thirty years later, Highlanders were viewed not as the enemy but as an essential part of the British military, comprising a significant proportion of the army during the course of the war. Meanwhile, in the Highlands, the first clearances had already occurred by the time of the first shots of the Battles of Lexington and Concord in 1775. The Clearances continued throughout the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, representing a final, fatal break with clanship. What happened in the three decades after Culloden to effect such changes?

Focusing on the military dimension casts considerable light on the wider picture. While the Jacobites enjoyed support from all parts of Britain, Scottish Highlanders provided the majority of their fighting strength in both the 1715 and 1745 risings.


David Morier’s famous painting highlights the strength of government forces at Culloden

During the ’45, British army officers and government officials viewed almost all Highlanders with suspicion despite the fact that a number of Highland clans and individuals fought for the government.[1] This dislike and distrust of Highlanders reflected a common anti-Scottish and, more particularly, anti-Highland sentiment that was common in the eighteenth century. Highlanders were thought to be ‘barbarous savages’ and disloyal subjects, naturally inclined to rebellion against the British state. As a result the British government and army believed it was necessary to civilise the population in order to ensure lasting peace in the region. This led to the violent pacification of the Highlands in the days and months following Culloden, and the implementation of longer-term ‘civilising’ measures throughout the Highlands.


Prohibited weapon

The Act of Proscription (1746) aimed to destroy the military power of the clans by banning traditional Highland dress, possession of arms and bagpipes – which were deemed to be an ‘instrument of war’. A number of Highland landowners who had supported the Jacobites had their estates forfeited as punishment. Most were sold to pay off debts or raise revenue but thirteen were kept and put under the management of a commission which was to encourage agricultural improvement, introduce industry and develop communication.[2] Thus, penalising military disloyalty fed directly into wider government and landowner-led strategies for ‘modernising’ the region. The commission encouraged economic diversification upon the estates it was responsible for managing. This led to the dismantling of the runrig system of farm management on numerous estates with small tenant farms being broken up and replaced with crofts. This provided a ready workforce for new industry such as kelping and fishing in the coastal regions and linen manufacturing in Highland Perthshire. Crofting became increasingly widespread as clan chiefs throughout the Highlands began to diversify their economies, with little or no consultation with their tenants. Some landowners began to invest in sheep farming or pursued commercial interests such as shooting and stalking on their estates; industries which required large tracts of uninhabited land. It was the common people who suffered. 1792 became known as the ‘Year of the Sheep’ following the first mass emigration of the Clearances.

Although Culloden and its aftermath certainly helped to accelerate these changes, it would be incorrect to argue that they caused the Highland Clearances of the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. As Allan Macinnes has shown, the process of commercialisation had begun in the early seventeenth century and many Highland clan chiefs were eager accomplices in this process, wishing to style themselves more like Lowland landlords than as typical Highland clan chiefs.[3] The aftermath of Culloden provided these chiefs with a welcome opportunity to continue this commercialisation process.


Robert Gibb, ‘The Thin Red Line’ (1881)

The recruitment of Highland soldiers into the British army in the latter half of the eighteenth century played a central role in changing attitudes towards Highlanders. Andrew Mackillop has emphasised that Highlanders were targeted for military service simply because they were seen as an accessible and expendable source of manpower.[4] Highlanders had fought in both regular regiments and independent companies of the British army since before the ’45 but the scale of recruitment during the Seven Years’ War was unprecedented. Upon the outbreak of war in North America in 1754, Highland elites recruited large numbers of men to the army for service in that theatre, using recruitment to integrate themselves within the wider British elite. The economic changes occurring in the Highlands which saw commercialisation begin to dominate over clanship meant there were many Highland men who required a way to supplement their income.[5] Highland regiments quickly gained a reputation for competence and loyalty, and, as the same time as Jacobitism was being romanticised by writers such as Walter Scott, the image of the Highland soldier radically shifted to the embodiment of the brave defender of the British Empire. Emerging during the Seven Years’ War, this imagery became even more pronounced during the American Revolutionary War, when numbers of Highland soldiers increased once again.

By 1755 attitudes towards Highlanders and the Highlands themselves had changed immensely. The policies introduced by the government in the aftermath of Culloden were one in a series of attempts both before and after the ’45 to accelerate change in the Highlands. These changes were part of a long-term decline of clanship in which Highland elites often played an active role. Whilst Culloden did not lead directly to these changes it certainly played its part in the process. Moreover, as the last pitched battle on British soil it marked the end of Jacobitism as a military, if not cultural, challenge to the monarchy. All of these factors have combined to cement the legacy of Culloden and the ’45 in the minds of people all throughout the world. And if the number of people who chose to attend the anniversary commemorations at Culloden this year is any indication – approximately 500 from as far afield as Europe, North America and Australia – that legacy shows no sign of fading.



[1] The Black Watch regiment, a regular regiment within the British army composed of Highland soldiers, was not thought to be trustworthy enough to be deployed in the Highlands during the uprising. Even the Duke of Argyll, who was otherwise well connected in the British government, was subject to a general suspicion against Highlanders upon the outbreak of the rising as he faced delays in being granted permission to call out his Argyll militia.

[2] Annette M. Smith, Jacobite Estates of the ’Forty-Five (Edinburgh: John Donald Publishers Ltd, 1982). The papers of the Commission for the Annexed Estates are held in the National Records of Scotland and they contain a wealth of interesting information about the commission and the measures implemented in the Highlands in the second half of the eighteenth century.

[3] A. I. Macinnes, Clanship, Commerce and the House of Stuart, 1603-1788 (East Linton: Tuckwell, 1996); A. I. Macinnes, “Landownership, Land Use and Elite Enterprise in Scottish Gaeldom: From Clanship to Clearance in Argyllshire, 1688-1858,” in Scottish Elites: Proceedings of the Scottish Historical Studies Seminar, University of Strathclyde 1991-1992, ed. T. M. Devine (Edinburgh: John Donald Publishers Ltd, 1994).

[4] Andrew Mackillop, More Fruitful than the Soil: Army, Empire and the Scottish Highlands, 1715-1815 (East Linton: Tuckwell, 2000).

[5] Many Highland soldiers were persuaded to join up to the army because of the promise of land grants upon their completion of service. These often did not materialise upon the soldier’s return from war. Some former Jacobites used armed service as a way to rehabilitate themselves within the eyes of the British state such as Simon Fraser, son of the Jacobite peer Lord Lovat who was executed in 1747.

Thanks to the National Trust for Scotland for the figure regarding the number of attendees at the anniversary commemorations in 2016.

Nicola is an AHRC funded PhD candidate jointly supervised by the University of Stirling and the University of Dundee. Her research focuses on British imperial attitudes in the period 1745-1775.



John Campbell and the Runaway Slave Advertisement


When John Campbell, a Scottish emigrant to Boston, established the Boston News-Letter in 1704 he became the proprietor of what is widely regarded as the first continuously published American newspaper.[1] Lesser known is that his newspaper would print the first runaway slave advertisement as early as 10 December 1705.[2] These advertisements for fugitive slaves – used by slaveholders to recapture those that they regarded as their human property – became an increasingly common feature of eighteenth and particularly nineteenth-century American newspapers.

Campbell left Glasgow in the late seventeenth century, likely between 1684 and 1695, lured by the prosperity of Boston and the number of Scots already settled there.[3] Assuming the role of postmaster of Boston, Campbell found himself at the centre of a key communication network. Privy to information and printed material brought into Boston by ship-masters and merchants, Campbell’s correspondence with influential individuals such as Governor Fitz-John Winthrop of Connecticut afforded him access to scandals, rumours, and hearsay. This privileged position furnished Campbell with all the information needed to compose his own handwritten newsletter. In time, the newsletter would be printed and circulated, marking a key moment in the development of American print culture.

From the first edition of the newspaper, Campbell welcomed advertisements. On the reverse of the first page, it was stated that “all Persons who have any Houfes, Lands, Tenements, Farmes, Ship Vessels, Goods, Wares or Merchadizes, &c. to be Sold, or Lett; or Servants Runaway; or Goods Stoll or Lost, may have the same inserted at a Reasonable Rate; from Twelve Pence to Five Shillings and not to exceed.”[4] Such advertisements, however, were printed only rarely under Campbell’s editorship. Instead, the Boston News-Letter typically regurgitated information from European newspapers such as the London, Edinburgh, and Belfast Gazettes, as well as information gathered from traders and sailors passing through the colonies’ foremost seaport. In time, the decision not to feature regular advertisements would contribute to Campbell’s financial losses.[5] Early newspaper proprietors were reliant on subscribers and advertisements to subsidise the production cost of their newspapers. The use of the hand press ensured printing was a slow process while further commercial difficulties stemmed from lack of paper, expensive ink, and poor distribution networks in a predominantly rural society. One New Jersey newspaper editor would exclaim in 1802 that “Subsisting by a country newspaper is generally little better than starving.”[6]

It was in this context that runaway slave advertisements would become an increasingly common feature of the eighteenth and nineteenth-century American newspaper. Initially brief and composed of a few sentences of text in a dedicated advertisement section, reserved for the pressing issues of the day such as incoming vessels or escaped cows, the runaway slave advertisement would develop into a distinct genre of newspaper advertising. Printed on behalf of slave masters, overseers, or estate administrators, their intention was to facilitate the recapture of the absconded slave through detailed description of the fugitive and their act of escape. In time, advertisers would combine text and imagery in the form of woodcuts. The circulation of this information was purposefully standardised to facilitate oral transmission and was similar to the “Wanted: Dead or Alive” posters of Old West legend. Few people subscribed to a newspaper. Instead, they were read and discussed in bars, taverns, and local shops, entering an informal circuit of public communication and gossip. (The mass production of newspapers did not occur until the 1830s and the establishment of the penny press.)

BNL Ad One

A little over a year and a half after the first version of the Boston News-Letter was published on 24 April 1704, Campbell would print what appears to be the earliest slave runaway advertisement to feature in an American newspaper. The notice for a “Negro Man Slave” depicted Peter, a slave who had run from his master, William Pepperil, in Kittery in the province of Maine. Peter was aged “about 20”, “of a pretty brown complexion” and of “middle stature” and able to speak “good English.” No specific reward for recapture is stated, nor is any particular motive for escape. Information from the advertisement below Peter’s states he was not alone. Peter had been “seen in Newbury,” accompanied by an “Indian Man” named Isaac Pummatick, a deserter from Her Majesty’s service in the province of Maine, under the command of Captain Joseph Brown.[7] These men had escaped together with the outcome unknown, at least for several months. Eight lines of cluttered text in the 22 April 1706 edition of the News-Letter would reveal their fate:

BNL Ad Two

In December last, There was Advertisements of a Negro man Slave, and an Indian’s Running away from Mr. William Pepperil of Kittery in the Province of Main, desiring they might be apprehended where every they came, and by virtue of said Advertisements coming (in the News Letter) to South-Carolina, whither the said Negro and Indian had travelled, the Governour of said place has secured the said Runaways for the Owner.’[8]

Carried most probably by vessel from Maine to South Carolina, likely attempting to reach Florida, our knowledge of this brave attempt to reach freedom is only ascertainable from the runaway slave advertisement.

Considering that this is amongst the earliest, if not the earliest, example of such an advertisement, it has attracted surprisingly little scholarly discussion, with the exception of a very brief comment by Professor Ian K. Steele.[9] It was one of the hundreds published in newspapers annually to preserve an American system of human exploitation through perpetual enslavement. While the advertisements commonly amount to but a few sentences, they are rich sources full of insight into slavery and early American print-culture.


[1] Publick Occurrences Both Forreign and Domestick was the title of the first multi-page newspaper and was published in 1690 by Benjamin Harris. The newspaper was supposed to be published monthly however only a single edition was ever printed.

[2] Boston News-Letter, 10 December, 1705.

[3] Marsha L. Hamilton, Social and Economic Networks in Early Massachusetts: Atlantic Connections (Penn State Press: 2009).

[4] Boston News-Letter, 24 April, 1704.

[5] Edd C. Applegate, The Rise of Advertising in the United States: A History of Innovation to 1960 (Scarecrow Press: 2012), p. 7.

[6] Unnamed New Jersey newspaper editor cited in Thomas C. Leonard, Power of the Press: The Birth of American Political Reporting (Oxford University Press: 1986), p. 55.

[7] Boston News-Letter, December  10, 1705. P.4

[8] Boston News-Letter, April 22, 1706. P.4

[9] Ian K. Steele, The English Atlantic, 1675-1740: An Exploration of Communication and Community (Oxford University Press: 1986).

Shaun’s research is funded by the ESRC. Edited by Victoria Hodgson

A common curriculum? School textbooks in early nineteenth-century Scotland


How and what children are taught in school continues to be a key societal concern, with debates around national curricula and exam results never far from the headlines. Yet, despite this enduring interest people rarely take more than a cursory historical view of the issue. Eager to show the relevance of history to current policy discourse, this blog explores the use of printed materials in schools across Scotland during the early nineteenth century and highlights the potential for further research.Schoolmasters image

Drawing on analysis of a quasi-random sample [1] of Scottish rural schools, which forms the core part of an ESRC-funded doctoral study of the small rural school and community relations in Scotland from 1872 to 2000, particular reference is made to the Schoolmasters’ Return of 1838 (published in 1841) which includes details of the textbooks utilised by teachers at this time.[2]

Prior to the Education (Scotland) Act of 1872, the education system in Scotland was far from uniform. With a mix of different schools, ranging from the parochial to private adventure, inconsistencies in provision became a paramount concern during the nineteenth century and provided the rationale for a national system of public schools. Instituted by the 1872 Act, this state-governed system quickly led to the standardization of educational policy and practice across Scotland and impacted on all aspects of provision, including teacher training and curricula. Under the direction of Her Majesty’s Inspectorate and with the threat of loss of revenue, schools were rapidly brought in line with national standards and uniformity prevailed. While the contrast with the earlier situation is clear, a closer look at the schools of the early nineteenth century suggests that they had more in common with their successors than is often understood. In terms of the subjects being taught this is certainly the case and an examination of the 1838 survey of schoolmasters reveals that a select number of textbooks were being used by parochial and non-parochial teachers alike.

Prose collection (1)

Encompassing fifty-nine rural parishes from across Scotland, including lowland and highland areas, the sample is intended to give a national perspective on local experience, and analysis of the 1838 return offers a rare glimpse of educational practice in the small rural schools at this time. Across the sample, sixty-three replies were received from parochial schoolmasters (all of whom were men) and sixty from non-parochial teachers (with a small number of women in their ranks).[3] The schools under their charge varied from scholarly establishments aspiring to set local lads on the path to university to dame schools providing infant care and instruction. Unsurprisingly, most sat somewhere in-between, offering rural scholars a basic but seemingly beneficial education. With no uniform system in place and no prescribed curriculum, beyond the use of core religious texts such as the Shorter Catechism, schoolmasters and mistresses had a degree of freedom in choosing how and what to teach. Although limited by the requirements of their employers, who ranged from parish officials to parents and had varying ideas about what should be taught, teachers therefore played an important role in shaping the curriculum within their schools.

A key part of this was the selection and use of textbooks and other printed works. A vast array of literature was in circulation in the early nineteenth century, and numerous volumes aimed at the instruction of the young had been printed. Yet, distribution across Scotland was in no way uniform, and access to such materials in the more remote, rural areas would have been limited.


For the non-parochial teachers in particular, books would have been an expensive luxury, and even in the parish schools a supply of appropriate printed resources was in no way guaranteed. The prohibitive cost of books was certainly a common frustration, and this was expressed by a number of teachers including the parish schoolmaster of Dornock, Dumfries, who felt that ‘a better and cheaper set of books is much wanted’, and the teacher of Borerary Society School in Duirinish, Inverness, who regretted that he had ‘found it impracticable to introduce a regular set of elementary books, owing chiefly to the poverty of the people’. In light of this, it seems reasonable to assume that instruction varied widely between schools, with no common curriculum beyond the Biblical texts. Yet, while the replies to the 1838 questionnaire do reveal a kaleidoscope of schools and teachers across rural Scotland, they also show that a select number of academic textbooks were in widespread use by the 1830s.

According to the return, the most common subjects taught were English reading, writing and arithmetic, but a considerable number of teachers also offered book-keeping, mensuration (the measurement of shapes), geography, mathematics and Latin. Gaelic was taught in most of the Highland schools (25 of those sampled), and in some parishes navigation and land-surveying were also considered of value. Interestingly, in contrast to the parish schools, most non-parochial establishments did not teach history as a distinct subject, an omission which a teacher in Fintry, Stirling, put down to the fact that ‘the parents seem unwilling to purchase text-books for history’. While some schools were clearly better resourced, with numerous books being used across a wide range of subjects, most had access to some primers and the same titles appear time and time again.

The following table shows the number of schools using textbooks for the different subjects.


Breaking these figures down by county does show some variation across Scotland, with those in the more remote counties, and certainly the insular parishes, being less likely to have a selection of textbooks, and the schools in Forfar and Haddington being particularly well-resourced.[4] Nevertheless, access to core English and arithmetic texts was near universal. To give some examples, the most popular texts for English were the Parochial Schoolmasters’ series produced by the Scottish School Book Association, Lennie’s English Grammar and spelling books, and Dr Thomson’s reading lessons. For arithmetic, the books of Bonnycastle, Gray, Hamilton, Melrose, Ingram, Davidson, and Hutton were in widespread use, and Playfair’s expression of Euclid seems to have been a favourite of parochial schoolmasters.

In those schools offering Latin, Ruddiman’s Rudiments was commonly to be found and geography books by Ewing, Murray, Reid and Stewart were favoured by most teachers. Where history was taught, Goldsmith’s abridgement of the histories of England, Rome and Greece was the most used text, but similar works focusing on history of Scotland were also referenced. One of these, pictured below, charted this history from the origin of the Scots to the ‘accession of James to the throne of England’, and dwelt almost exclusively on the manoeuvres, marriages and misfortunes of the monarchy.


While the presence of textbooks in schools tells us little about how they were used or the way in which the content was conveyed to pupils, the fact that both parochial and non-parochial teachers across the country had access to similar texts is undoubtedly significant. Of course much more in-depth analysis of the material in question and its application (which is particularly hard to glean from the sources) is needed to understand the true educational impact of this. However, the very suggestion that there was something of a common school curriculum decades before a national system was introduced, and years before Her Majesty’s Inspectors of Schools began to exercise influence, is enough to whet the appetite for further research.


[1] Quasi-random essentially means being as close to a random sample as you can get for this kind of data. A list of rural school board districts was compiled and sorted alphabetically by county and name. Every 10th one was then selected for the sample.

[2] Answers made by schoolmasters in Scotland to queries circulated in 1838, by order of the Select Committee on Education in Scotland, Parliamentary Papers, 1841 Session 1 (64).

[3] A further twenty schools were sent the queries but did not reply (nine parochial and eleven non-parochial), and this unfortunately means that there is no information for four of the parishes.

[4] As the sample sizes for each county vary, it is difficult to make direct comparison between them. However, this does give an indication of the distribution of books. Analysis of the complete dataset would clearly be worthwhile.

Edited by Katy Jack.

Workshop: Scottish Emigrant Literatures in the Long Nineteenth Century (14 March 2015)

Saturday 14 March 2015, University of Stirling

This workshop is funded by the Division of Literature and Languages, University of Stirling. Registration is free but numbers are limited: participants should contact Kirstie Blair at to reserve a place.

Draft Programme

9-10am Coffee

10-12 Session 1

Kirstie Blair (University of Stirling), ‘Emigrant Poetry and the Scottish Popular Press in the Victorian Period’

Mary Ellis Gibson (University of Glasgow), ‘John Leyden: Poetry, Patronage and Linguistic Cosmopolitanism in India’

Jason R. Rudy (University of Maryland), ‘Sounding the Scottish Diaspora’

12-1 Lunch

1-2:15 Session 2

Marjory Harper (University of Aberdeen), ‘Adventure or Exile? The Scottish Emigrant in Fiction’

Honor Rieley (University of Oxford), ‘Superfluous Persons or Empire Builders?: Debating Emigration in the Scottish Romantic Novel and the Periodical Press’

2:15-2:45 Coffee

2:45 – 4 Session 3

Julia Reid (University of Leeds), ‘“O, why left I my hame?”: Robert Louis Stevenson and Scottish Emigration Narratives’

Lesley C. Robinson (Northumbria University), ‘“The arrival of the mail!”: Emigrant correspondence between Scotland and Asia’

4-5 Session 4

Concluding remarks by Tanya Agathocleous (Hunter College, CUNY) and general discussion.

Participants are invited to join the speakers for drinks and dinner in Bridge of Allan after the close of the workshop.

What will be the history of now?



After years of looking forward, we grow weary of possible tomorrows. With history about to pick a side – and as both sides try to make history – fevered minds turn to the politics of the past-in-prospect. The result on September 19 will profoundly colour the meaning and memory of everything leading up to it. On the cusp of that verdict, our current moment seems emptied of its own ‘live’ significance, awaiting the roar of impending retrospect. In the words of a James Kelman story, ‘not too long from now tonight will be that last time’ – a time we inhabit but cannot know.

History as a living and made reality is at its most liquid, but in a few weeks the facts will freeze textbook solid. Explanation will quickly usurp speculation. And so the indyref imaginary begins to pivot, worrying forward to dream back. See Martin Kettle’s wistful invitation to ‘Remember 2014, the last golden summer of the old Britain’, projecting us into a surreal and scrappy post-Yes reality, then puzzling out the complexity (and ultimate nullity) of post-British wrangling from a jaded 2024.

Alongside musings of the future-past, the empirical mania of what the Lallands Peat Worrier (playing hipster correspondent for The Drouth) fittingly deems ‘archival fever’, whereby no campaigning experience ‘is adequately authenticated without having been documented’, curated, catalogued.

What of this impulse to collect and record everything? Simply a nod to what is self-evidently historic about what’s unfolding – whatever it might soon mean –with the occasional dash of I-was-there self-regard? As with the rash of DIY polls, there is a powerful thirst to make your own evidence – owing much to a bristling mistrust of those taking the measurements and writing the first draft of this history. So capture ALL the facts (and spin) for later scrutiny: some clear-eyed scholar of the future will be equipped to see and evaluate everything – finally, and naturally, coming to vindicate our own view here and now.

There is something lively and brittle in the public memory this weather, beginning to wonder seriously how this – and we – might eventually come to look.

So go on, take a speculative selfie. Imagine that we’re looking back on the hectic present from a few decades into the future. How do we look here in 2014 — prescient? Foolish? Admirably sober? Het up about nothing?

On August 23-24 the If Scotland: Posting 2014 conference will explore just this premise, asking how the indyref will be remembered, historicised and understood a few decades from now – whatever the result.

  • What will our children find puzzling, appalling, banal about what we’re gripped by today?
  • Who and what will future historians be chortling at?
  • What will veterans of 2014 struggle to get across to a future generation of the uncomprehending – Scots who can barely fathom a country different to what they know (independent or otherwise)?




The conference will explore all facets of this question at one remove from the cross-fire of the campaigns – looking forward to a moment when current divisions have faded, and it matters a bit less which side anybody was on. Naturally the conference will explore both post-Yes and post-No futures – and future pasts reflecting on what came after 2014. The whole weekend is FREE to attend for all but salaried academics, and boasts a stellar line-up including:

– Lesley Riddoch, looking back on 2014 from 2034, reflecting on the cultural shift that came with independence. (Teaser: Charlotte Square is now Margo’s Market.)

– Ken MacLeod on the ‘New Improvement’ that followed a decisive No vote

– set-piece debates (post-Yes and post-No) featuring David Torrance, Kirstin Innes and Aileen McHarg

– a literary discussion event with Jenni Calder, Meaghan Delahunt, Kerry Hudson and Hannah McGill

– historian Catriona Macdonald on conjecture and Scottish memory

– Amy Westwell, Andrew Tickell (Lallands PW himself), Jenny Morrison and Ewan Gibbs on the politics of future Scotland(s)

– a letters workshop with Dearest Scotland

– Gerry Hassan on how Scotland became a democracy (unless it didn’t)

– literary debate with Ewan Morrison, Nicola White and Alan Wilson

– Robert Crawford on 2016’s game-changing moment in Scottish fiction

– online activists from both sides of the debate comparing notes

Plus plenary lectures from Professors Michael Keating and Cairns Craig, a So-Say Scotland gaming session, a retrospective exhibition on Scotland in 2044, and dozens of academic papers on everything from the language question(s) to the ‘high-rise kailyard’ of the future.

All this, and a specially commissioned bit of youth theatre with BBC Scotland’s ‘Generation 2014. If there is a more thought-provoking event anywhere in this debate, we’d like to hear about it.

Entry is FREE but you need to email to register for catering purposes.   (There is a limited number of places, so be quick!) You can check out the full conference spiel and programme at the If Scotland website. Not too long from now it will be the last time.

Twitter: @ifscotland

Facebook event

(With thanks to our sponsors the University of Stirling, the Saltire Society, and the Stirling Centre for Scottish Studies)

Conference: IF SCOTLAND: POSTING 2014, 23-24 August

The Stirling Centre for Scottish Studies is very proud to host IF SCOTLAND: POSTING 2014, a two-day conference and festival exploring how the indyref will be remembered and understood a few decades from now – once the uncertainties of September 2014 have set and hardened into historical facts.

The event will consider a wide range of post-Yes and post-No possibilities, and is aimed at the general public as much as academics and postgraduates.

Confirmed speakers include Lesley Riddoch, Ken MacLeod, Jenni Calder, Michael Keating, Catriona Macdonald, David Torrance, Kirstin Innes, Aileen McHarg and Cairns Craig – and many other distinguished scholars, activists and commentators.


In addition to lectures, papers and debates, the programme features:

  • special panels on the future of Scottish literature and politics

The registration fee is £80 for salaried academic delegates, and much less for postgraduates, independent scholars and members of the public (£20). Lunches on both days are included in the fee.

The Call for Papers closes in late June, and online registration is open now.  Full details, and news of further confirmed speakers and collaborations, at the conference website:

Facebook Event

Twitter: @ifscotland

Conference: Battle of Bannockburn, 25-26 June 2014



On 25-26 June, Stirling will mark the 700th Anniversary of Robert Bruce’s victory over Edward II of England at the battle of Bannockburn by holding a two day conference. Set to take place at Forth Valley College’s new Drip Road campus the event will bring together scholars working on the military, archaeological, environmental, literary and heritage history of the battle and should be of interest to scholars, students, heritage practitioners and interested members of the public alike.

A book fayre is also planned with relevant publication on display from Brepols, Brill, Birlinn, Ashgate and Shaun Tyas press, including conference organiser Michael Penman’s new book, Robert the Bruce: King of the Scots (Yale University Press). This work, along with a number of the conference papers, focuses on the events of Bruce’s reign as King after Bannockburn and challenges a number of assumptions, not least where he was born, how he died and where his body was buried.

Conference fee: £55 waged, £35 student/retired (including lunches).

Further details, registration forms and an outline programme at the conference website; to register or enquire please email