Common Books in Aberdeen, c. 1398 - c. 1511

William Hepburn, Graeme Small

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


The Aberdeen Council Registers survive almost in their entirety from 1398, offering by far the most complete example of such a record from any Scottish town before the sixteenth century. Aberdeen’s government was dominated by a small merchant elite. This elite was remarkably stable over multiple generations and showed continuing interest in the written word. They came primarily from a small number of families who controlled politics in fifteenth- and sixteenth-century Aberdeen. This chapter argues that the common books of Aberdeen can be situated in a European story of increasing literacy and the proliferation of writing but, just as community was not the inclusive and egalitarian idea it might appear to modern eyes, these common books should not be primarily understood as a means of increasing access to the law and engagement with the written word. The creation and development of Aberdeen’s common books converged with several other developments across this period that served to increase engagement with the written word.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCultures of Law in Urban Northern Europe
Subtitle of host publicationScotland and its Neighbours c. 1350–c. 1650
EditorsJackson Armstrong, Edda Frankot
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)9780429262869
Publication statusPublished - 25 Nov 2020


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