The Kelso Abbey cartulary: context, production and forgery.
PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.
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Very little critical work has been done on collections of charters surviving from medieval Scotland. Using cutting-edge methodologies, this study deconstructs the largest of these collections, namely the Kelso Abbey cartulary, and attempts to answer questions such as when, why and how was it produced, and is its content authentic? Ultimately, it concludes that the manuscript is not a straightforward, objective transcript of the monastery’s charters, and evidence to support this is presented in four chapters, a conclusion and two commentary sections. Chapter one demonstrates that the production of the cartulary was tied to a specific period in the abbey’s history and was certainly produced as part of a campaign to rebuild after the wars of the early fourteenth century and their ramifications. These ramifications included the destruction of the monks’ charters, the destruction of their home and property, and the upheaval of the native landholding establishment by King Edward I and King Robert I. Chapter two reinforces the above suggestions by dating the production of the manuscript between 1321 and 1326 - i.e. the precise years in which King Robert was working to help many of the religious houses in Scotland to reassert themselves after the war. Apart from contextual considerations, chapter two also establishes that the cartulary is not a completely accurate representation of the documentation in the monastery’s archive. Among other things, portions of the manuscript appear to be missing, and the scribes who produced it adopted selection criteria which led to the omission of charters or of diplomatic. Thereafter, chapters three and four evaluate the authenticity of the material in the manuscript. Chapter three demonstrates that there are severe problems with the information, diplomatic, witness lists and other features found in a number of its charters, and chapter four demonstrates that these items share a number of conspicuous features in common, including their locations, conditions and the circumstances which appear to have led to their production. In combination, chapters three and four build a strong case against the authenticity of a number of items in the manuscript, and both of these discussions are complemented by exhaustive commentaries which discuss each of the problematic charters in detail. Finally, this study concludes by demonstrating that certain features of the Kelso Abbey cartulary appear to call into question the veracity of several well-established paradigms, including the notion that cartularies were created for the sole use of the inhabitants of religious communities. It also suggests that the consequences of the Anglo-Scottish wars in the early fourteenth century may be comparable to the consequences of the Norman Conquest of 1066 in terms of inspiring religious houses, like Kelso, to forge charters, and it builds a strong case that this needs to be an area of future inquiry.
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