Introduction: Communities, Courts and Scottish Towns

Jackson W. Armstrong, Andrew MacKillop

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This short essay sets the context for the special section on communities, courts and Scottish towns. Scottish burgh records generally, and Aberdeen’s UNESCO recognised collection in particular, are considered in light of their legal character. The changing features of premodern political society between the fifteenth century and the early nineteenth century are introduced as a shared problem for investigation, and an ancien regime framework is examined as a comparative tool in this field. A vital concern of these papers is with the construction and sometimes contested use of vocabularies of law and authority, privileges and liberties, and ideas of urban ‘community’. Courts at the municipal level, and in the world beyond the burgh, are appreciated as legal and governmental fora. The ambition of this special section is to prompt European comparisons, and encourage greater dialogue with and consideration of Scottish urban records in future research.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)358-364
Number of pages7
JournalUrban History
Issue number3
Early online date17 Oct 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2017

Bibliographical note

We wish to thank the Research Institute of Irish and Scottish Studies at the University of Aberdeen which houses the Aberdeen Burgh Records Project, and which funded its pilot study through the Margaret Jones Bequest in 2013–14. See, accessed 3 Jul. 2016. We are most grateful to Mr Phil Astley, City Archivist, Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire Archives, and his team, for their active and ongoing collaboration as partners in the project and for facilitating access to the relevant materials. We also acknowledge the contributions of all the participants in ‘The Burgh in the North’ symposium of November 2013 and in particular that of Professor John Ford, who kindly read one of these papers in draft form.


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