Living with the Law: Society and Legal Disputes c. 1200-1700 Conference Report


Photo attrib. Teddie Bridget Proctor, CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

Blog post written by PhD student Sarah White

The Institute of Legal and Constitutional Research at the University of St Andrews hosted a conference over June 27-29, entitled “Living with the Law: Society and Legal Disputes, c. 1200-1700.” The goal of this conference was to provide a number of perspectives on how the practice of both secular and church courts was aided or hindered by the involvement of wider society. The second, perhaps overlapping question, is the effect of social relationships on the actual conduct of the parties to a dispute, both inside and outside the courtroom. The conference took an interdisciplinary approach to these questions by inviting papers on from the perspectives of law, legal history, constitutionalism, literature, and social history over a relatively broad period of time, in order to facilitate wide-ranging discussion.

The conference was organised by two PhD students at St Andrews, (now Dr) Will Eves and Sarah White, and papers were given by research students, early career researchers, and established and senior scholars. Papers covered the medieval and early modern periods, and concerned both the common law and ius commune. The two plenary lectures were given by Professor Paul Brand (“The Law and Social Mobility in Thirteenth-Century England: The Case of the Weyland Family”) and Professor Sir John Baker (“1616: ‘A Year Consecrate to Justice’”). Panels covered “The Manipulation of Legal Process in High Medieval Europe” (Felicity Hill, Kenneth Duggan, and Cory Hitt, chaired by William Ian Miller), “Legal Interpretation and Theory” (Danica Summerlin, Joanna McCunn, and Lorenzo Moniscalco, chaired by Emanuele Conte), “Edinburgh Law School Session” (Hector MacQueen and John W. Cairns, chaired by Colin Kidd), “Law and Legal Practice in Early Modern Europe” (Kelsey Jackson-Williams, Julia Kelso, and Saskia Limbach, chaired by Magnus Ryan), “Lordship, Loyalty and the Law” (Matt McHaffie and Josh Hey, chaired by George Garnett). On the final day of the conference, John Hudson, William Ian Miller, and Magnus Ryan led a roundtable discussion, with a closing summary by Caroline Humfress.

The conference was designed to bring together postgraduate students, early-career researchers and established academics who are working in the field of legal history. The goal was to allow delegates to discuss their work with other historians and legal scholars, and to make connections and draw inspiration from the broad range of research that is presented. The second goal, following from the first, was to promote a sustainable network of support and communication between scholars and research institutions at a number of universities across the UK.

The mix of junior and senior researchers led to interesting discussions and established new connections between the various universities represented by the attendees. Both the panels and the breaks created a good environment for communication and connections between scholars and attendees from outside St Andrews expressed interest in continuing the conference in two years’ time.

The conference also included a chance to see the Marchmont MS of Regiam Majestatem recently acquired by St Andrews, as well a number of interesting legal-themed items from Special Collections in a thoughtful and well-curated display organised by Rachel Hart and Maia Sheridan.

Rab Houston’s ‘History of Psychiatry in Britain since the Renaissance’ Podcast Series

rabhouston.pngThe ‘History of Psychiatry in Britain since the Renaissance’ is the first of two series of weekly podcasts beginning in July 2016. The author of these podcasts is Professor Rab Houston: a social historian of Britain who has published extensively on the history of mental disorders and their cultural, political, legal, and economic context, especially during the period 1500-1850.

This is the first of two series of weekly podcasts beginning in July 2016. The first series of 44 podcasts covers England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland during the last 500 years, looking at continuities and changes in how mental illness was understood and treated, and at the radical shifts in systems of caring for those who were either mad or mentally handicapped during the last two centuries. The coverage is broad, ranging from how mental problems were identified and described in the past through changing ideas about their causes and developing therapeutic practices to important themes such as the reasons behind the emergence of psychiatry as a profession and the rise and fall of asylums as a location of care. The series explores the history of suicide, madness in the media, psychiatry and the law, relations between medical practitioners and patients, and it assesses evidence that the incidence of mental illness has changed over time. It begins and ends with discussion of the value of history and the vital lessons that can be learned by studying the past, not only for psychiatrists, but for all healthcare professionals, welfare policy makers, and indeed anyone with an interest in mental health.

The aims of the podcasts are to provide a balanced and historically reliable account of the development of both medical and social understandings of madness, against a background of dramatically changing political, scientific, economic, legal, and cultural environments. In addition, it wishes to inform all branches of medicine and social work about the history of one increasingly important branch of their profession: mental health. The podcast also hopes to raise awareness of attitudes towards mental health and the care of those suffering from mental disorders or disabilities, not only among the caring professions, but also the general public, including sufferers and those close to them. The significance of a knowledge of history to the makers of policy on social welfare will be emphasised, through an exploration of what lay and professional people did to help the mad over the last five centuries. History provides concrete questions, comparisons, and alternatives, and helps us to arrive at workable solutions.

The second series of 26 podcasts will start broadcasting early in 2017. These podcasts will be entitled ‘The voice of the mad in Britain from the Renaissance to the present day’. The series will feature extracts from the autograph writings of those with mental problems or from podcasttheir reported speech, to explore a range of mental disorders ranging from autism and depression to schizophrenia and obsessive stalking. Through transcribed original historical manuscripts and printed sources, the series documents individual, family, and social crises related to mental disorders, including suicide, crimes of violence, protection of vulnerable adults, religious mania, and admission to lunatic asylums and the experience of living in them. These podcasts will give a sense of what it was like for sufferers to cope with being mad or being thought mad. Moreover, they will show how those who came into contact with mad people coped in their turn with words, moods, and acts, which they struggled to understand.

Every week, new episodes of the podcast series will be released. You can visit the website or follow the project on Facebook and Twitter for the weekly podcast updates and more information on the history of psychiatry since the Renaissance.

Monthly Round Up: May and June


Dr Shanti Graheli was awarded a three months residential fellowship by the Fondazione Cini in Venice, for the project ‘Italian antiquarian booksellers in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries and the rarity of the book’. This will be taken up in spring 2017.

Dr Heidi Mehrkens and Dr Kelsey Jackson Williams will be leaving St Andrews. Dr Mehrkens will be joining the University of Aberdeen as a lecturer, and Dr Jackson Williams will be joining the University of Stirling as a lecturer.

Dr Aileen Fyfe has joined with Professor Ineke De Moortel of the School of Mathematics and Professor Sharon Ashbrook of the School of Chemistry, to launch the booklet ‘Academic Women Now’.

Staff Activity

On 7th May, Dr Emily Michelson gave a paper, ‘Christian preachers and Jewish critics in early modern Rome,’ at the annual peripatetic Venetian Seminar, held this year in Edinburgh.

Professor Guy Rowlands wrote the article ‘Versailles: why world leaders should heed warnings from the fall of the French court’ for the Conversation.

Dr Aileen Fyfe was interviewed by the PLOScast  about the history of publishing and peer review.

Dr Camilla Mork Rostvik was interviewed by Research Fortnight about her work on the refereeing process at the Royal Society in the 1950s and 1960s – and especially its gendered elements.

On 30th May, Dr Shanti Graheli gave a talk entitled ‘Translatio imperii, translatio studii. Renaissance translations of the classics between Italy and France,’ at the conference Renaissance in Translation, held at the Polish Academy of Science, Warsaw.

Dr Tomasz Kamusella delivered two talks on the invitation of the University of Ljubljana. Both lectures are available online. He was also interviewed on Radio Slovenia.

chivalryRecent Publications

Tomasz Kamusella, James Bjork, Timothy Wilson, and Anna Novikov (eds.), Creating Nationality in Central Europe, 1880-1950: Modernity, Violence and (Be) Longing in Upper Silesia, (Routledge, 2016) 

James Palmer, ‘Apocalyptic outsiders and their uses in the early medieval West’, in W. Brandes, F. Schmieder & R. Voss (eds.), Peoples of the Apocalypse: Eschatological Beliefs and Political Scenarios, (Berlin & Boston, 2016), pp. 307-20.

Katie Stevenson and Barbara Gribling (eds.), Chivalry and the Medieval Past, (Boydell Pres, 2016)

Laidlaw Interns: Meg Hyland and Marnie Adamson

Screen Shot 2016-06-01 at 1.51.01 pmMeg Hyland

My name is Meg Hyland, and I have just finished my third year as a Single Honours Mediaeval History student. I am fortunate enough to have become an intern in the Laidlaw Undergraduate Internship in Research and Leadership. My project is entitled ‘Memories of Scottish Fishing Music’, and I will be working closely with the Scottish Fisheries Museum to research what sorts of songs people sang while they did fishing work. My supervisor is Stephanie Bunn in Social Anthropology.

When my family moved from the USA to Scotland in 2013, I spent a year volunteering at the Scottish Fisheries Museum in Anstruther. The museum is an excellent institution and I would recommend it to anybody, but I noticed that there was very little about music in fishing communities on display. I did come across passing references to how the herring girls – the women who followed the fishing boats to gut and pack the herring – would always sing while they worked, and the fishermen would sing while hauling the nets. However, I realized it would take further digging to find out what exactly they were singing.

Once at St Andrews, I took advantage of the liberal allowance for exploring other subjects awarded to second year Mediaeval History students and took a module in Scottish Music. I became very interested in the work of William Lamb, who has studied the rhythms in Gaelic work songs. My work in the Scottish Music module and the Fisheries Museum stayed in the back of my mind until one day last summer, the idea to combine these interests hit me on a sunny morning at my desk in a German seminary.

My research will involve sifting through archives of the Fisheries and other museums in order to find transcripts or recordings of Scottish fishing worksong. I will also be interviewing people in the local area and Stornoway, to find out what they can remember of the songs people sang while chasing after the silver darlings.

photoMarnie Adamson

I am Marnie Adamson, a third-year Modern History and English student, and over this summer, I will be working with Professor Karin Fierke on my project, entitled  “‘Could I do that?’: The Ideological Shifts That Occur in the Minds of Conflict Personnel Which Allow Them to Commit Atrocities in War’. My Laidlaw internship will focus on the situational factors and the cultural conditioning through which men and woman come to be able to commit and excuse violence that in ordinary circumstances they would dismiss as inhumane. It is by no means my intention to pass any judgement on military personnel and the actions they take. I merely hope to examine what turns humans into killers, however temporarily, and to answer the question of whether I, in the right social and cultural conditions, would also be capable of such actions.

In examining this phenomenon, I will look at how war is ‘marketed to societies through the media. The United States and the War on Terror will act as a study, so looking at representations of this conflict in popular culture and the news will form part of my research and analysis. In addition, I will also examine military blogs and training manuals, as well as academic theory, to examine the extent to which new military troops, through a process of humiliation and degradation, are remade to fit the values and ideologies of the military institution. Analysis of mass-killings and conflict-related violence recognise dehumanisation of the enemy, moral justification, anonymity and deindividuation as a key factors in enabling servicemen and women to shoot to kill.

I am really looking forward to beginning my research in the summer. This kind of self-motivated, self-directed rigorous research really appeals to my skills and to my interests. Having just completed my first leadership weekend, I can say that the leadership training is certainly interesting and caused me to reflect on my typical role both in a group and as a leader in a way I would not have done so. It was also a great way to meet some of the other Laidlaw Interns and to learn about their varied and fascinating projects.

Historians on the Run: The Hairy Haggis Team Relay

Blog post written by PhD student Richard Meyer Forsting

The early start – 10 AM on a Sunday – meant an even earlier start to the day, as we met up and left town at 7 AM that morning. We felt cautious about our prospects and agreed to set our targeted pace at a not-too ambitious four hours. Despite the weather forecast promising glorious sunshine, the day began in typical Scottish fashion: overcast, cold and rather grey. It turned out that these conditions were near ideal for long-distance running and the sun even made an appearance after the first stage of the race.


Photo attrib. Moyan Brenn, CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

The first leg – run by me– started on Regent’s Road in the beautiful surroundings of Carlton Hill. More importantly I selfishly put myself forward to run this stage because it began downhill and was sheltered from what could be some ugly crosswinds on the coast. Always the over-confident runner, I began by going full pace on the downhill, only to realise the uphill bits were harder than perhaps anticipated. The beautiful views and great support along the road was inspiring and at the 8.3 mile mark I handed over to Maria Christina, who was eagerly waiting in the first relay changeover point.

By now the race had left the city and followed the coast passing through Musselburgh and heading toward Port Seton. While the second leg was shorter at 5.5 miles, it included some tricky uphill sections. During her run Maria Christina managed to make friends with some fellow runners, who happened to come from her small hometown in Northern Italy. Driven on by her ambition to do well in her first competitive run, Maria Christina ran a personal best and swiftly completed the handover to Will.

We were now past the half-way mark and Will took on the dreaded 8 mile out-and-in leg, which took him into East Lothian and along Scotland’s picturesque golf coast. Will started off at a good pace and sped up further when he realised he still had the legs past the turn that led back into Port Seton and toward the third changeover. Additional motivation was provided by the support along the road, with one memorable poster reading, “If Trump can run, so can you!” – the most compelling argument for completing a marathon I have come across so far.


Photo attrib. Kellas Campbell, CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

It fell to Jo to complete the final sting of the relay, the so-called Glory Leg, which led past the famous Musselburgh Links, the oldest golf course in the world, and toward the finish in Pinkie Park. By this point the sun had come out and hundreds of spectators had congregated in the park to greet the finishers. Undeterred by rising temperatures, the burden of being the last one to run and encountering some more competitive and aggressive runners on her way to the finish, Jo ended strongly to come in with the clock showing just under the four hours we had aimed for.


After spending some time relaxing and stretching in the afternoon sun, we decided we had earned ourselves a pub lunch and a pint in the City Centre. We exchanged stories, the odd experiences one makes while running and agreed that it had been a fantastic day out. That same evening we found out that our official time had been even better than we expected: we completed the course in a very respectable 3h 46m 47s – more than 10 minutes below our initial target. Whatever the finishing time, the experience of running together with departmental colleagues, sharing the famous 26.219 miles and taking part in the event, was immensely rewarding and will hopefully inspire others to make a St Andrews History Team a yearly tradition.

Laidlaw Interns: Siân Burkitt and Tadek Wojtych

sianburkittSiân Burkitt

My Laidlaw project, called Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, supervised by Dr Aileen Fyfe, hopes to explore the social, cultural and economic history of the Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, the scientific journal of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. The questions I wish to answer with this project (through exploring the archives of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in summer) are concerned with two aspects of the journal. The first relates to its editorial practices; in particular the way in which the Edinburgh journal was organised in comparison to its equivalent at the Royal Society in London. The other key question relates to the ways in which the Royal Society of Edinburgh funded and supported the journal.

The most exciting aspect of the project for me personally is the fact that the research I carry out over the summer will be making a contribution to Dr Aileen Fyfe’s project, ‘Publishing the Philosophical Transactions: the Social, Cultural and Economic History of a Learned Journal, 1665-2015’. It is a three year project, being carried out as part of the Royal Society’s 350th anniversary, which hopes to trace the history of the Philosophical Transactions and their larger impact in society.

My interest for this project comes from my interest in the history of science in general. Last semester, I studied the development of the atomic bomb, which drew my attention to the history of science. What I found particularly fascinating was the way in which scientists worked together across national borders, and identified themselves as being part of a global scientific community. This transnational element of science truly captured my attention and sparked my interest for my Laidlaw project. The scientific community is a global network that relies on journals such as Transactions to broadcast its ideas to the widest audience possible. Piecing together the history of this particular journal will therefore shed some light on the particular way in which scientific knowledge has been shared all over the world, regardless of borders, from the Enlightenment until the present day.


tadek.jpgTadek Wojtych

In a time of budget airlines, open borders, and Erasmus student exchange, most of us take study abroad opportunities for granted. Yet less than 30 years ago, with the iron curtain stretching from Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, attending a foreign university was much more challenging. My project (Not so iron curtain. Interactions between international students and local people in Gdynia during the communist period, 1945-1989), supervised by Bernard Struck, is about the youths who plucked up the courage to apply, and about the people they encountered.

Communist Poland was a country with relatively closed borders. The society was ethnically homogenous, and a foreigner was not a common sight. My objective is to analyse the encounters between local people and the handful of international students in the city of Gdynia in the communist era. By carrying out archival research and conducting interviews with alumni and their lecturers, I want to find out how life in a racially, linguistically and religiously homogenous society affected the attitudes of Poles to foreign students. How did these contacts shape the identity of both students and locals? How was the Polish society perceived by incomers from more diverse countries (Canada, the USA), or from regions which had recently experienced foreign occupation (Korea, Vietnam)? My project aspires to be part of the broader reflection on how Europeans have treated ‘the Other’, how attitudes towards immigrants have been formed, and how contacts with foreigners affect the formation of local, national and transnational identities. Furthermore, insight into the historical background of intercultural communication can provide a meaningful contribution to the current debates about economic migration and the refugee crisis.

In the past few weeks I had a chance to meet the rest of the Laidlaw cohort and some of the last year’s interns, including my mentor, Alice Zamboni. We all represent a wide range of disciplines, and so the conversations that we had made me look at my plans and aims for the summer from new perspectives. I am grateful for the encouragement I received from those who took an interest in my project. In particular, I would like thank my supervisor, Dr Bernhard Struck, for his kind support and unfailingly inspiring discussions.


Monthly Round Up: April


Dr Rory Cox has been appointed to a Caltech-Huntington Library Humanities Collaborations Fellowship for the academic year 2017-18.

Dr Katie Stevenson has recently been appointed as the new Keeper of Scottish History and Archaeology at National Museums Scotland.

Staff Activity

Dr Bess Rhodes and Dr Will Eves consulted on the BBC article ‘Patrick Hamilton: Recreating the Trial of the First Scottish Martyr’ about the execution of Patrick Hamilton in St Andrews.

Dr Chandrika Kaul discussed the rise of the Sikh Empire under Ranjit Singh on a recent episode of BBC Radio’s ‘In Our Time‘.

Professor Carole Hillenbrand was the organiser of the conference, ‘The History of Syria 1099-1250: Conflict and Co-existence’, held on 31st March to 2nd April at University of St Andrews.

On 19 April, a Manuscript Workshop was held to discuss a new book draft just completed by Tomasz KamusellaThe Forgotten 1989 Ethnic Cleansing of Bulgaria’s Turks which was joined by Kelsey Jackson Williams, Nikolaos Papadogiannis, Konrad Lawson, and Tim Wilson.

A discussion workshop on ‘The Politics of Academic Publishing since 1950’ was held at the Royal Society, London on 22 April. It was organised by Camilla Mork Rostvik and Dr Aileen Fyfe, as part of the Philosophical Transactions project.dryislandbuffalojump

On April 25th, Dr James Palmer presented a paper at All Souls College, Oxford, entitled, ‘Climates of Crisis: Apocalypse and Nature in the Early Medieval World’.

The Dry Island Buffalo Jump band performed in a sold-out concert for the University of St Andrews charities campaign on April 26th.

Recent Publications

C. S. Peacock, Sheila R. Canby, Deniz Beyazit, Martina Rugiadi, Court and Cosmos: The Great Age of the Seljuqs (Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2016).


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