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Scotland's Constitutional Past

28 February 2014 - King's College Conference Centre, University of Aberdeen (18.30 - 20.00)

What could it mean to speak about Scotland’s constitutional past? To modern readers, that question will probably bring to mind various stages in the history of late medieval and early modern Scotland. They may think of the Stewart monarchy of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, and individual monarchs such as Mary, Queen of Scots,  who faced various challenges to their personal authority during this period. It is widely held that one writer, George Buchanan, defended those challenges in terms of a popular right to resist tyrannical monarchs, but how widespread were such views at the time, and to what extent did his claims represent the law of kingship among the Scots? To other readers, the question posed above may recall to mind the style of government adopted by James VI, and the changing ideas of sovereignty that manifested themselves at this time. Still others may think of the Parliamentary Union between Scotland and England of 1707, which witnessed the preservation of Scots law.  

The aim of this SCFF event will be to disseminate to the public recent research concerning such elements of the Scottish past. It will simultaneously seek to explain some of the difficulties with describing the historical developments referred to here as collectively representing our “constitutional” past. To say that “constitutionalist” principles were recognised throughout this period would be anachronistic; sixteenth-century writers did not use the term as modern writers do today. Nonetheless, it is hoped that the event will help to clarify in participants’ minds how early modern Scots understood and were influenced by concepts of the right to resist tyrannical power and sovereignty, and how and why they sought to preserve Scots law in 1707.


Dr Julian Goodare, Reader in History at the University of Edinburgh: ‘Sovereignty in pre-Union Scotland’

Dr Andrew Simpson, Lecturer in Law at the University of Aberdeen: ‘Lawyers on the Limits of Royal Power in Sixteenth-Century Scotland’

Professor John Ford, Professor of Civil Law at the University of Aberdeen: ‘The Preservation of the Scottish Legal System in the Parliamentary Union’

To register for this event, please contact Carol Davies.