ISHR workshop: A Laboratory for Improvement? 24 January 2014

File:New Caledonia in Darien.jpgOn Friday 24 January the Institute of Scottish Historical Research hosted a workshop, A Laboratory for Improvement? Scotland in the 1680s and 90s, led by ISHR Visiting Scholar Dr Esther Mijers. It was an opportunity to discuss a planned edited collection of essays on Scotland in the late Restoration and post-Revolution period, as part of Dr Mijer’s project on William Carstares. Dr Mijers said: ‘I have always been struck by the dynamism of the 1680s, both in my work on universities and on Atlantic history, as opposed to the grim situation of the 1690s. I think that this is an area that has suffered neglect over the years and needs reassessment, and this workshop was a first step.’ Topics discussed focused on ideas and examples of ‘improvement’, such as the modernisation of the University of Edinburgh, the attempts by the Privy Council to reinvigorate the economy and ideas of agricultural improvement and landownership, and their development. Comparisons were made with England and the Continent. It was a lively debate which stimulated a lot of new ideas and gave plenty food for thought.

Mediaeval St Andrews day workshop – January 2014

On 14 January the School of History hosted a one-day workshop on mediaeval St Andrews. The workshop was organised by Dr Michael Brown, Dr Katie Stevenson and Dr Alex Woolf, and there were thirty participants drawn from a range of disciplines including history, art history, literary studies, architectural history, archaeology and linguistics. Researchers came from the universities of St Andrews, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Stirling, Guelph and Trinity College Dublin and discussion benefited from the input of postgraduate researchers, professional archaeologists, archivists and other scholars.

The workshop centred on four principal themes – St Andrew, the Church, the burgh and the university – and each session was led by an invited authority, Dr Simon Taylor of the University of Glasgow on St Andrew, Prof. Ian Campbell of the University of Edinburgh on the Church, Prof. Elizabeth Ewan of the University of Guelph (and currently ISHR Visiting Research Fellow) on the burgh, and Dr Norman Reid, Head of Special Collections, on the university.

The organisers’ research interests in mediaeval St Andrews emerged after several years of teaching the honours option ME3309 Mediaeval St Andrews, the first fully team-taught honours option available to History students. The structure of the teaching and assessment for this module encouraged Drs Brown, Stevenson and Woolf to consider the present state of knowledge and understanding of St Andrews from its earliest settlement to the years before the Reformation in 1560. While the School of History prides itself on its research-led teaching, it is also important to recognise teaching-led research; the students of ME3309 past and present have been crucial to the inception of this project.

Over half of the workshop participants are contributing to a forthcoming volume Medieval St Andrews: Church, Cult, City to be published in the St Andrews Studies in Scottish History series with Boydell & Brewer in 2015. The January workshop was generously supported by the School of History and the St Andrews Institute of Mediaeval Studies.

ISHR Visiting Research Fellowship 2014-15 awarded to Prof. Paul Pickering

The Institute of Scottish Historical Research is delighted to announce that the ISHR Visiting Research Fellowship for 2014-15 been awarded to Professor Paul Pickering, Director of the Research School of the Humanities and the Arts at the Australian National University in Canberra.

Professor Paul Pickering is an historian of Britain, Ireland and Australia and is interested in political and cultural history, biography, public memory and commemoration, and the study of reenactment as an historical method. He has written and edited books including Historical Reenactment: From Realism to the Affective Turn (2010); Feargus O’Connor: A Political Life (2008); Unrespectable Radicals? Popular Politics in the Age of Reform (2007); Contested Sites: Commemoration, Memorial and Popular Politics in Nineteenth-Century Britain (2004); Friends of the People: The Uneasy Radicals in the Age of the Chartists (2002); and The People’s Bread: A History of the Anti-Corn Law League (2000). Professor Pickering has published articles in journals including Past & Present, the English Historical Review, Labour History ReviewHistory, and Australian Historical Studies.

Professor Pickering has been the primary investigator on three Australian Research Council major projects, Democratic Voices: The impact of British democrats on political, social and cultural development, c. 1840-2001; Homes for the people: A study of the Peter Lalor Housing Co-Operative, 1974-2004; and most recently Sounds of Empire: Popular Politics and Music in the Nineteenth Century; and secondary investigator on a fourth ARC project, Urban Imaginaries/Cultural Landscapes: An Asia-Pacific Transnational and Cross-Cultural Research Collaboration.

While with the ISHR in St Andrews, Professor Pickering will be working on a project called Lives in Two Hemispheres: A Group Biography of Scottish Radicals in Colonial Australia. This project will consider a group of Scottish migrants who made a sustained contribution to Australia’s political development in the middle of the nineteenth century, including John Dunmore Lang, Australia’s first republican and an outspoken supporter of self-government, democratic reform and separation from the ‘Mother Country’. During his long career, Lang made nine return trips to Britain to promote immigration schemes to Australia. Lang is one of six radicals and reformers at the heart of the project. The others are: Ebenezer Syme; Charles Jardine Don; George Edward Thomson; David Buchanan; and James Service.

Prof. Pickering will present his research to the staff and postgraduate students in the ISHR and the School of History in seminars and workshops during his fellowship in St Andrews.

Call for Applications: ISHR Visiting Research Fellowship 2014-15

st_andrewsThe Institute of Scottish Historical Research at the University of St Andrews invites applications for the ISHR Visiting Research Fellowship in Scottish Historical Studies, to be taken up during either semester of the academic year 2014-15. The fellowship may last between one and five months, with preference given to applicants requesting a longer residency.

The Institute of Scottish Historical Research was founded in 2007 under the directorship of Professor Roger Mason, and draws together the excellence and expertise of nearly twenty historians of Scotland, including Prof. T.C. Smout, the Historiographer Royal in Scotland.

The ISHR provides an intellectual and social focus for staff and a thriving community of postdoctoral and postgraduate researchers working on all periods of Scottish history from the early Middle Ages to the present. The Institute hosts a number of events throughout the year attracting delegates and speakers from all over the world, including a fortnightly research seminar series, workshops and conferences with an emphasis on new discoveries and directions in historical enquiry.

The Institute has several major collaborative research initiatives under its auspices. Past projects have included the Scottish Parliament Project and the History of the Universities Project. Ongoing and current projects include the Scotland and the Wider World Project, and the Scotland, Scandinavia and Northern Europe Database, and most recently the Scotland and the Flemish People project which commenced in AY2012-13.

The Fellowship is open to any academic in a permanent university post with research interests in any aspect of Scottish history in any period. It covers the cost of return travel to St Andrews from the holder’s normal place of work, together with a substantial subsidy towards accommodation while the holder is resident in St Andrews.

St_Andrews_Castle_ScotlandThe Fellowship carries with it no teaching duties, though the Fellow will be expected to take part in the normal activities of the ISHR during their stay in St Andrews. For more information on the Institute please visit the ISHR website at You will also be invited to lead a workshop, give a research seminar paper or other suitable activities depending on the length of your stay. Fellows are provided with computing facilities and an office, normally in one of the School of History buildings. The university library has an exceptional collection for Scottish historians, including vast electronic resources and excellent holdings in the Special Collections department. Major national libraries and archives are within easy travelling distance, as are the university libraries in Dundee, Edinburgh, Stirling, Glasgow and Aberdeen.

You should send a letter of application by 6 December 2013, together with an outline of the research and/or writing in which you will be engaged during your time in St Andrews.  You should also enclose a CV, together with the names of two academic referees, who should submit their references by the closing date. All correspondence should be addressed to the Director of the ISHR, Dr Katie Stevenson, by email to

The closing date for applications is 6 December 2013.

Further enquiries may be addressed to the ISHR Director Dr Katie Stevenson ( or to other staff in the ISHR.

Listen to the inaugural T.C. Smout Lecture in Scottish History

albrittonjonssonThe inaugural T. C. Smout Lecture in Scottish History took place in St Andrews on 26 September 2013. At the invitation of the Institute of Scottish Historical Research, Professor Fredrik Jonsson (Chicago) spoke on Enlightenment’s Frontier: the Scottish Highlands and the Origins of Environmentalism. The Principal of the University, Prof. Louise Richardson, presented the opening address, and the Historiographer Royal in Scotland, Prof. T. C. Smout, addressed the audience at its end. The lecture can be heard in full by clicking this link.

This Thursday: the T.C. Smout Lecture in Scottish History


This Thursday, 26 September, the inaugural T. C. Smout Lecture in Scottish History will take place at 5:15pm in the New Arts Building Lecture Theatre.


The lecture will be delivered by Professor Fredrik Albritton Jonsson of the University of Chicago, and will be on ‘Enlightenment’s Frontier: the Scottish Highlands and the Origins of Environmentalism’.

Prof. Jonsson will ask what was the place of the environment in the Scottish Enlightenment? This lecture recovers the forgotten networks of improvers and natural historians that sought to transform the soil, climate, flora, and fauna of Scotland in the eighteenth century. The Highlands offered a great outdoor laboratory for rival liberal and conservative views of nature and society. But when the improvement schemes foundered toward the end of the century, northern Scotland instead became a crucible for anxieties about overpopulation, resource exhaustion, and the physical limits to growth. In this way, the rise and fall of the Enlightenment in the Highlands sheds new light on the origins of environmentalism.

All are welcome and the lecture will be followed by a wine reception.

For further information please contact Prof. Roger Mason, St Andrews Institute of Scottish Historical Research.

ISHR launch T.C. Smout Lecture in Scottish History


Prof. T. C. Smout

The St Andrews Institute of Scottish Historical Research is delighted to announce the inaugural T. C. Smout Lecture in Scottish History.

This annual lecture has been established to celebrate Professor Emeritus Christopher Smout’s 80th birthday and his ongoing contribution to Scottish Historical Studies. Prof Smout CBE, FBA, FRSE, was Professor of Scottish History at St Andrews from 1980 until 1991 and was appointed Historiographer Royal for Scotland in 1993. Since the publication of his classic History of the Scottish People, 1560-1830 in 1969, his influence on Scottish historical studies has been unparalleled. In recent years he has played a leading role in the development of environmental history and his latest book, co-authored with Mairi Stewart, The Firth of Forth: An Environmental History (2012), has been widely acclaimed as a model of its kind.


Fredrik Albritton Jonsson

The inaugural lecture will be given by Professor Fredrik Jonsson (University of Chicago) on Thursday 26 September 2013 at 5.15 pm, New Arts Lecture Theatre, University of St Andrews, on “Enlightenment’s Frontier: the Scottish Highlands and the Origins of Environmentalism.” The University Principal, Prof. Louise Richardson, will take the chair. The lecture will be followed by a drinks reception.

During his time in St Andrews, Prof. Jonsson will also lead a workshop discussion of his current research, ‘Cornucopianism 1627-2013: Endless Growth and its Critics’, on Thursday 26 September 2-4 pm (venue to be confirmed). For further details please contact the organiser, Prof. Roger Mason.