‘The Communities and Margins of Early Modern Scotland’ was organised by a group of PhD students and early career researchers based in the University of Glasgow, the University of Edinburgh, and the University of Strathclyde. Held in St. Mungo’s Museum of Religious Life and Art, it was hosted within the commercial, religious and legal hub of early modern Glasgow, situated within the precincts of the Cathedral and the remnants of the Tolbooth at Glasgow Cross. With 21 speakers travelling from as far as Canada, the conference aimed to solidify a community of scholars interested in exploring prevalent themes on conventional and marginal communities in early modern Scotland, with interests ranging from godly discipline and public relations in the kirk sessions, to treachery and piracy on Scotland’s peripheries.



Jamie Kelly (University of Glasgow) presenting on the language issue in Highland education, c.1660-c.1754. 


Over the course of two days our overarching theme brought together a range of fascinating research on the wealth of personal interactions in the private and public sphere, with papers exploring the religious, legal, and political communities and factions of early modern Scotland. Four leading historians from our respective institutions presented thought-provoking keynote papers at our conference. Dr. Alison Cathcart’s keynote focused on marginal communities of Scots in Ulster, while Dr. Julian Goodare’s keynote explored how communities can be found in records traditionally used to research the history of witchcraft. Dr. Aonghas MacCoinnich focused on family networks in Highland communities, while Dr. Jamie Reid-Baxter explored the overlooked poetical communities of south-west Scotland. Our speakers collectively uncovered how individuals in early modern Scotland reinforced and transgressed accepted social, religious and moral codes within established and marginal communities. There was also an acknowledgement of how various communities within Scottish history has been uncomfortably placed on the borders of mainstream histories, with little research into Scottish playwrights, musicians, and linguists alongside notable ‘British’ contemporaries.



Tour of the Provand’s Lordship, kindly hosted by Dr. Anthony Lewis (Glasgow Life).


The conference was purposefully highly interdisciplinary, incorporating literary material, history, theology, music, law, and material culture in a symbiotic manner. It was important to the conference organisers to include presentations and performances that demonstrated the wide range of research exploring early modern Scotland within a variety of disciplines. Andrew Bull delighted the audience by performing a variety of James Oswald’s Jacobite tunes on his fiddle, while Dr Jamie Reid-Baxter and Dr. Aonghas MacCoinnich respectively explored poetical and kinship communities in the Scots and Gaelic tongue. With special thanks to Dr. Anthony Lewis from Glasgow Life, we also provided a lunchtime tour of the Provand’s Lordship, the oldest house in Glasgow, situated right across the street from St. Mungo’s Museum. This allowed our speakers and delegates to explore the heart of early modern Glasgow, providing an additional space to contemplate and rethink our understanding of community in early modern Scotland.



Andrew Bull  (University of Glasgow) playing a selection of Jacobite tunes.


The event was a roaring success, an opinion shared by the organisers and the participants alike. We are especially grateful to SGSAH, RHS, Bòrd na Gàidhlig, and the University of Glasgow for funding this event, as it facilitated a much-needed opportunity for researchers from a wide range of disciplines to meet and discuss prevalent and emerging themes in early modern Scottish studies. Without support from our funders, the conference would have been a vision rather than a reality.



Rebecca Mason