ISHR Reading Weekend 2017



Photo attrib. Ellen Colingsworth, CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

On April 7, the members of the Institute of Scottish Historical Studies traveled from various places to the Burn in Edzell for the highly anticipated ISHR Reading Weekend 2017. Mlitt students, PhDs, postdocs, professors and former lecturers were all part of this fantastic event, and with the sun shining brightly upon arrival, the weekend was off to a great start.

The Friday started gently, as after tea, cakes and dinner, the Mlitt students associated with the Institute presented their preliminary plans for their theses. Sarah Minnear spoke about her exploration of gendered bloodfeud in Scotland, especially the role of women in these conflicts. In examining both urban and noble contexts, a fuller picture of this violent practice will emerge. Daniel Leaver talked about his research about the early twentieth century Scottish National Party, analysing the extent and variety of ideas the party had about Scottish Independence. By studying party leaders’ documents and other political writings, a clearer idea of the legacy of this period for the SNP’s thought can be discussed. After probing questions had been answered, the group dispersed to play games, have a drink and catch up with one another.

On the Saturday morning after a hearty breakfast, the group was ready to listen to more fascinating papers. Peryn Westerhof Nyman highlighted some aspects of her research on livery clothing in late medieval Scotland. In her paper ‘Appearance and Association: Livery Clothing in Late Medieval Scotland’, she showed how specific textiles were used during international marriages to represent the Scottish royal house. Following her, Dr Morvern French examined how manuscript evidence, especially miniatures, can provide insights about the actual clothing of the lower classes. The talk ‘Fantasies of an Aristocratic Milieu? Clothing, Colour, and Illumination in Late Medieval Scotland’ discussed how the colours of clothes as perceived in illustrated manuscripts aligned with the historical reality.


Photo attrib. Chelsea Reutcke, CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

On the same day, Chelsea Reutcke in ‘Restoration Catholic Print Culture’ assessed how Catholic printers in the Restoration period were in contact with one another, and how their networks were spread throughout England and Scotland. She also spoke in more detail about one printer, Matthew Turner, whose connections lead all the way to the king himself. Afterwards, Dr Bess Rhodes in ‘Reformation by the Sword? Protestantism and Violence in Scotland, 1557 to 1567’ argued how violence should be seen as an essential aspect of the Scottish Reformation, and that martial actions were vital to understanding how urban centres were changed and affected by this religious movement.

After a morning of great papers, the group descended upon the House of Dun for the customary cultural outing. During an excellent guided tour, the historians saw a multitude of fantastic objects, from a collection of whips to intricate embroidery, and from water colour paintings to a carved chest. It will surprise nobody that because of the many questions to the tour guide, the tour lasted twice as long as initially planned. Due to the continued good weather, many members took a stroll through the grounds, visiting the remains of the Tower House and stopping to look at an old cemetery.

When everybody had returned to the Burn, Dr Norman Reid gave a workshop about the ‘Fundamentals of Funding’: an aspect of academia everybody is familiar with! During this skills session, he provided helpful tips and tricks in order to ensure that your grant application would be honoured by the funding body in question. After this enlightening workshop, it was time for the annual ISHR Pub Quiz, the legendary knowledge test as written by Andrew Carter. Questions ranged from crimes against bishops to the Founding Fathers’ singing roles in the Hamilton musical, and the prompt to name as many Scottish royal burghs as possible was particularly trying. The well-deserved winners were Team Flighty, and they will carry the eternal one-year honour of conquering the infamous quiz.


Photo attrib. Chelsea Reutcke, CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

The last day of the weekend started with Paul Malgrati in ‘Fighting over Scotland’s voice: the Burnsian reformation of the 1910-1930s’, who analysed how the reception of Robert Burns’ poetry changed in the early twentieth century, examining how the appropriation by Burns Clubs became increasingly criticised by outsiders. Afterwards, Sarah Leith, who will start her PhD in September, spoke about the legacy of Scottish history teaching at St Andrews, and addressed the immense impact of Ronald Gordon Cant. In ‘’The subject should receive formal recognition’: Ronald Gordon Cant and the Establishment of Scottish History Teaching at the University of St Andrews’, Sarah explored Cant’s  influence at the University of St Andrews, the town itself and the wider scholarly world.

The weekend came to a conclusion with a fantastic lecture by Dr Claire Hawes, a former St Andrews PhD student now working for the Law in the Aberdeen Council Registers 1398-1511 project. Analysing the public nature of fifteenth-century Scottish politics, she advocated for a new approach to understanding the spheres of nobility, crown and burgh. Instead of dividing late medieval Scotland into separate strata of society, Claire argued that there was a clear idea of a public space, in which ideas about rule were up for discussion.

With the tenth anniversary of ISHR approaching next year, this Reading Weekend assured everybody that the future of Scottish historical studies is in safe hands. As the various papers showed, new and fascinating research is being undertaken at the University of St Andrews, and we hope that next year’s talks will be equally great!

About standrewshistory
With over forty fulltime members of staff researching and teaching on European, American and Asian history from the dawn of the Middle Ages to the present day, the School of History at the University of St Andrews has one of the finest faculty and diverse teaching programmes of any School of History in the English speaking world. The School boasts expertise in Mediaeval and Modern History, from Scotland to Byzantium and the Americas to South Asia. Thematic interests include religious history, urban history, transnationalism, historiography and nationalism. The School of History prides itself on small group teaching, allowing for in-depth study and supervision tailored to secure the best from each student. Cutting edge research combined with teaching excellence offer a dynamic and intellectually stimulating environment for the study of History.

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