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Elgin Cathedral. Photo: Judit Bermúdez Morte, FlickrElgin Cathedral. Photo: Judit Bermúdez Morte, Flickr

Medieval Scots document sources now available online


The most comprehensive database ever compiled of any European kingdom’s inhabitants in the central Middle Ages has now been published online thanks to a grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).

The multi-faceted database contains information on every person mentioned in more than 6,000 documents from Scotland between 1093 and 1286. It shows not only who they were, but gives an insight into how they related to each other as individuals, as different parts of society, and as Gaels and non-Gaels.

Professor Dauvit Broun, the Principal Investigator, University of Glasgow said:  “The database will allow scholars across the world as well as anyone with an interest in Scottish history to study the people of a mediaeval kingdom in unprecedented detail.”

Paradox of Medieval Scotland website header

Paradox of Medieval Scotland website header

He went onto say, “The project focuses on the 12th and 13th centuries as this is the period when ‘Scotland’ and the ‘Scots’ first began to mean what it does today. By the end of this period it seems to have been taken for granted by the king’s subjects that the kingdom consisted of a single country whose inhabitants were a single people: the Scots. But this contrasts with the beginning of this period when the king was thought of as ruling a number of regions and peoples.

The project focuses on the 12th and 13th centuries, as this is the period when ‘Scotland’ and the ‘Scots’ first began to mean what it does today.

“The way Scotland and Scots came to be so radically redefined in this period cannot be explained simply by the deeds of powerful men. Its secret lies in the history of the people at large who created this new identity for themselves and that is what makes this period so fascinating to study. The ‘paradox’ is that, at the same time, Scotland was becoming more English, with Government, church, economy, law, language and culture became much closer to England than before. However, the result was not simply an extension of England in the north. Instead, this new identity was connected umbilically to a self-conscious awareness of Scotland’s status as an independent kingdom.”

The database – located at – has been produced by the Glasgow-led AHRC-funded project, ‘The Paradox of Medieval Scotland, 1093-1286’ which also includes researchers from Edinburgh and King’s College, London.

The success of the project has attracted further funding from the AHRC for a new three year collaborative project – with researchers from Lancaster, Edinburgh and King’s College, London – developing the database to study cross-border society and Scottish independence during the years 1216–1314.

The project focuses on the period beginning with the failure of Alexander II’s short-lived revival of a ‘Scoto-Northumbrian realm’ in 1216-17, and ending with the formal abolition of cross-border landholding by Robert I in November 1314 following his victory at Bannockburn.

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