Cosmo Innes and the sources of Scottish History c. 1825-1875

Marsden, Richard (2011) Cosmo Innes and the sources of Scottish History c. 1825-1875. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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This thesis examines how primary sources were used to build conceptualisations of the Scottish past during the nineteenth century. To achieve this it focuses on the work of the record scholar and legal antiquary Cosmo Innes (1798-1874). Innes was a prolific editor of source material relating to parliament, the burghs, the medieval church, family history and the universities. He was also an authority on Scotland‘s legal history, an architectural antiquary, a practising lawyer, a university professor and one of Scotland‘s earliest photographers. Through an investigation of these activities, this thesis explores the ways in which Scots perceived their own history during the period of what Marinell Ash calls the 'strange death of Scottish history‘.

What differentiates this study from previous investigations is its emphasis on the presentation and associated interpretation of primary sources, as opposed to institutional frameworks or secondary narratives. Innes put particular types of source to specific uses in an attempt to rehabilitate the tarnished reputation of Scottish history. However, he was not a radical operating on the intellectual fringes, but a respected mainstream figure who worked within the traditions of Enlightenment and the boundaries of Romanticism. He relied upon an institutional interpretation of history which placed abbeys, bishoprics, burghs, universities, families and the apparatus of law and government within broader narratives of national progress. Yet he also used both documentary and architectural sources as the basis for an imagistic and imaginative evocation of the textures of the past.

Whilst Innes‘s work illustrates how conflicted Scottish historiography was in the period, it also shows how a prominent antiquary sought to heal those historiographical wounds. The thesis will demonstrate that many of his attempts met ultimately with failure, particularly those which tried to imbue the Scottish past with an ideological validity derived from Whiggism and Enlightenment. However, it will also argue that Scottish historical Romanticism, to which Innes was an important contributor, provided the basis for a broad consensus about the value of Scottish history in the later decades of the century. The significance of this romantic consensus has been neglected by recent scholarship, and the study therefore sheds new light on the 'strange death‘ that occurred in the 1840s and 1850s.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Scottish national identity, nineteenth century, intellectual history, historiography, antiquarianism, medieval sources, Romanticism, Enlightenment, civil society, publishing clubs, record scholarship, early photography
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts > School of Humanities > History
Supervisor's Name: Broun, Professor Dauvit and Kidd, Professor Colin
Date of Award: 2011
Depositing User: Dr Richard Marsden
Unique ID: glathesis:2011-2347
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 04 Jul 2011
Last Modified: 04 Jul 2014 15:41

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