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Online course

Early Modern Scottish Palaeography: Reading Scotland's Records

Travel back in time through Scottish history by examining early modern Scottish handwriting.

What’s the difference between a free course and an upgraded course?

Free:

  • Access to the course for its duration + 14 days, regardless of when you join (this includes access to articles, videos, peer review steps, quizzes)
  • No certificate

Upgraded:

  • Unlimited access to the course, for as long as it exists on FutureLearn (this includes access to articles, videos, peer review steps, quizzes)
  • A Certificate of Achievement when you complete the course

Find out more

Early Modern Scottish Palaeography: Reading Scotland's Records

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Explore Scottish history and learn more about using historical sources

Palaeography is the study of ancient handwriting and a vital skill in the historian’s toolkit. It is essential when conducting research on early modern Scotland – a period of profound political, religious and social change the effects of which can still be felt today.

On this course you’ll travel back through Scottish history by studying material from the National Records of Scotland. You’ll explore diverse topics in Scotland’s past, get an introduction to various forms of historical sources and develop your own palaeography skills.

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Skip to 0 minutes and 7 secondsSCOTT SPURLOCK: Paleography is the study of old handwriting, which is of particular interest to students of history, genealogists, family historians, and those who are working on local history. Early modern Scotland produced some of the most detailed and robust records of any European nation. While their survival is not comprehensive, it's estimated that approximately 2 million pages of highly-detailed local records survive for the period 1560 to 1750, in the weekly Kirk Session meeting minutes alone. These records represent a wealth of detail pertaining to marriages, births, deaths, legal disputes, witch trials, famines, floods, and the list goes on.

Skip to 0 minutes and 50 seconds This level of detail and the robust nature of these records is pretty impressive when we consider that the population of Scotland during this period peaked out at about 1 million people. I'm Doctor Scott Spurlock. And in this course, my colleagues Doctor Lionel Glassey, Dr. Neil McIntyre, and myself will introduce to you the basics of paleography including letter shapes, common contractions, and the configuration and style of sources.

Skip to 1 minute and 16 secondsNEIL MCINTYRE: In addition to the practicalities of deciphering the handwriting itself, this course will also provide an overview of early modern Scottish history in order to describe the society and its structures that produced these invaluable records including church, court, and legal documents. Lionel has five decades of experience teaching paleography and has unlocked the secrets of older handwriting for undergraduate and post-graduate students and members of the general public. He is regularly called upon by scholars and archives to provide advice on particularly difficult documents. I am an early modern historian, and I have completed my doctorate on the early covenanters I've designed the Scottish history overview within the course.

Skip to 1 minute and 59 seconds Scott teaches Scottish church history in the theology and religious studies department here at the University of Glasgow. He has been teaching Scottish history for two decades, and like the rest of the team, with historical Scottish documents on a daily basis.

Skip to 2 minutes and 15 secondsSCOTT SPURLOCK: This course is brought to you in collaboration with the national records of Scotland. And we're grateful for their generosity in allowing us to use materials for the teaching of this programme. We hope you'll enjoy the course as much as we've enjoyed developing it.

What topics will you cover?

  • Learn to read and interpret early modern manuscripts.
  • Obtain specialist skills required to transcribe documents.
  • Develop an understanding of how historical research is conducted.
  • Knowledge of politics, religion and society in early modern Scotland.
  • Become familiar with extant records stored in Scottish archives.
  • Develop expertise in handling the kirk session records of the Church of Scotland.

When would you like to start?

  • Date to be announced

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you'll be able to...

  • The ability to read and interpret early modern manuscripts.
  • The specialist skills required to transcribe documents.
  • An understanding of how historical research is conducted.
  • Knowledge of politics, religion and society in early modern Scotland.
  • Familiarity with extant records stored in Scottish archives.
  • Expertise in handling the kirk session records of the Church of Scotland.

Who is the course for?

This course is for anyone interested in the history of Scotland, but will be of particular interest to local historians and genealogists.

Who will you learn with?

Scott Spurlock

I am lecturer in Scottish Religious Cultures at the University of Glasgow. My primary area of expertise is the religious and cultural history of early modern Scotland.

Neil McIntyre

I am a Research Assistant in the School of Critical Studies at the University of Glasgow. My doctoral thesis explored the social dynamics and ideological development of the Covenanting movement.

Who developed the course?

Founded in 1451, the University of Glasgow is the fourth oldest university in the English-speaking world. It is a member of the prestigious Russell Group of leading UK research universities.

What’s the difference between a free course and an upgraded course?

Free:

  • Access to the course for its duration + 14 days, regardless of when you join (this includes access to articles, videos, peer review steps, quizzes)
  • No certificate

Upgraded:

  • Unlimited access to the course, for as long as it exists on FutureLearn (this includes access to articles, videos, peer review steps, quizzes)
  • A Certificate of Achievement when you complete the course

Find out more

Get extra benefits, upgrade this course. For $54 you'll get:

Unlimited access

Upgrading will mean you get unlimited access to the course.

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  • Take the course at your own pace
  • Refer to the material at any point in future

If you’re taking a course for free you have access to the course for its duration + 14 days, regardless of when you join. If you upgrade the course you have access for as long as the course exists on FutureLearn.

Certificate of Achievement

Upgrading means you’ll receive a Certificate of Achievement when you complete the course.

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  • Prove your success when applying for jobs or courses
  • Celebrate your hard work
  • Display on your LinkedIn or CV

To receive a Certificate of Achievement you need to mark 90% of the steps on the course as complete.

Upgrade


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