The Administration of the Burgh of Glasgow, 1574-1586

McGrath, James S (1986) The Administration of the Burgh of Glasgow, 1574-1586. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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This thesis is concerned primarily with the activities of the local civil administration in the burgh of Glasgow between 1574 and 1586. The choice of these years is determined by the nature of the surviving records of the burgh as it is not until the extant minutes of the court and council begin in January 1574 that a detailed study of that administration becomes possible. For twelve years these records maintain an unbroken run and there is the added bonus that they include ten sets of common good accounts. After 1586 there are several gaps in the minutes, while the next set of accounts to survive are those of 1605-1606. All this is not to say that this work adheres rigidly to the topic of administration or to the period 1574-86. Political, social and economic questions are addressed and information is drawn from both the earlier and later periods of Glasgow's development. Equally, while the emphasis is upon the work of the magistrates and council of the burgh, the role of the crown as ultimate superior, of the archbishops of Glasgow as immediate superiors, of the regality officials, the university and the kirk session are discussed so as to present as clear a picture as possible of the administration of late sixteenth century Glasgow in all its aspects. In order to place the main period in context the opening chapter discusses the general development of the burgh from its foundation in the late twelfth century up until the 1570s, special attention being paid to the early evolution of the administration and to the impact of the Reformation. The remaining chapters deal in detail with the civil administration of the burgh of Glasgow during the late sixteenth century, with particular reference to the period 1574-86, in an attempt to assess how that administration was organised, the scope of its activities and its effectiveness in the face of a variety of political, social and economic pressures. The civil local authority functioned on three interrelated levels: the judicial, the legislative and the executive. The burgh court represented the first of these and was central to the administration, having probably been in existence since the inception of the burgh. Through it the national law of the land was dispensed as also those bye-laws or statutes promulgated by the burgh's legislature, the council. Both court and council were served by a variety of executive officials the most senior of whom were the provost, the bailies, the clerk, the treasurer and the master of work. Councillors and officials alike were drawn from the burgess class which possibly represented at most about a quarter of the town's population and, as influence was dependent on wealth, these men tended to be merchants. The administration of Glasgow (in common with that of other burghs) was thus a merchant-dominated oligarchy and close analysis of the elections and appointments effected during the 1570s and 1580s shows that this privileged and influential circle was itself dominated by an inner group of men who were seldom out of office. Yet the range of activities undertaken by the civil administration shows that however oligarchic it was in composition it was not neglectful of its duty to manage the burgh efficiently for the common good not just of the burgesses but of the community as a whole. Such evidence as there is with respect to conditions in the burgh suggests that during the years which followed the cessation of the civil war, Glasgow's markets flourished, its population grew and the built-up area of the town expanded. Inevitably this placed several strains on the magistracy and council, as evidenced by the plethora of minor officials who were authorised to act under delegated powers in a variety of fields of government. Examination of the council's legislation shows a preoccupation with protecting the burgh's economic resources (its markets and its lands) but also a considerable interest in public health. Elsewhere the minutes and other documentation reveal that the civil authorities were concerned that adequate provision should be made for education, while the common good accounts record an earnest desire to improve the overall amenity of the burgh through an extensive programme of public works. If an awareness of the need for social welfare was lacking this was only in keeping with the views which were then prevalent, though it must be conceded that the magistracy and council did not go as far in this sphere as they could have done, choosing instead to leave poor relief administration to the kirk session and preferring to avoid the introduction of a compulsory poor rate for fear of alienating the burgess community. (Abstract shortened by ProQuest.).

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: European history, Public administration
Date of Award: 1986
Depositing User: Enlighten Team
Unique ID: glathesis:1986-77503
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 14 Jan 2020 09:06
Last Modified: 14 Jan 2020 09:06

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