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The setting and practice of open-air judicial assemblies in medieval Scotland: a multidisciplinary study

O'Grady, Oliver J.T. (2008) The setting and practice of open-air judicial assemblies in medieval Scotland: a multidisciplinary study. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Abstract

This study examines the physical settings and landscape associations of open-air judicial courts in medieval Scotland. Outdoor medieval assembly practices represent an ephemeral collective human activity crucial to the understanding of medieval society. A multidisciplinary approach which utilises place-name, historical and archaeological evidence is adopted. Representative case studies are investigated and the results of geophysical and topographical survey presented. Place-names derived from Gaelic, Scots, Old Norse and English indicative of assemblies, and drawn from established studies, are brought together and supplemented by a preliminary survey of additional material. Over 200 place-names are considered. Published historical references to open-air courts relating to the 13th - 16th centuries, are examined, with 18 examples where physical settings can be confidently identified presented in detail. A diversity of open-air court settings are identified, incorporating both natural and archaeological features. Mounds are the most common archaeological setting identified with a widespread distribution which transcends historical linguistic and cultural boundaries. However, a significant number of court settings utilised natural hills, which has implications for the archaeological scrutiny of assembly places. The re-use of prehistoric features such as cairns and megalithic remains for courts is a widespread phenomenon, not restricted to royal centres. The pre-Christian cultic qualities of early historic central places are illustrated and the close association of early church sites and judicial assembly mounds in Scotland is demonstrated. Medieval judicial assembly sites in Scotland are also found in association with territorial boundaries, emphasising their role in inter-community dynamics. The historical material demonstrates a gradual decline in the use of open-air settings for courts from the 15th century onwards. This nonetheless represents significant persistence of customary court venues in Scotland during the progressive centralisation of legal process.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: medieval, Scotland, assembly, assemblies, multidisciplinary, place-name, open-air, judicial, law, legal, court, mound, moothill, reuse of prehistoric remains
Subjects: D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D111 Medieval History
C Auxiliary Sciences of History > CC Archaeology
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts > School of Humanities > Archaeology
Supervisor's Name: Driscoll, Professor Stephen Taffe
Date of Award: 2008
Depositing User: Dr Oliver J T O'Grady
Unique ID: glathesis:2008-506
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 12 Apr 2010
Last Modified: 10 Dec 2012 13:19
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/506

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