The title of this blogpost refers to a major project involving three UK universities (Glasgow, Edinburgh and King’s College London) with funding from the Arts & Humanities Research Council. According to the project’s website, the main objective was to investigate ‘how a recognisably modern Scottish identity was formed during the period 1093-1286’. The ‘paradox’ of the title is the emergence of a powerful Scotland (and a strong sense of ‘Scottishness’) in a period when the kingdom was exposed to a huge amount of English influence. Responsibility for the barrage of Anglicisation lay with the Scottish kings themselves, an example being David I (reigned 1124-53) whose English connections led to Anglo-Norman nobles being invited north to settle in Scottish lands.
The PoMS project has resulted in three excellent resources being made available online. The main one is a searchable database of charters and other landholding documents. Remarkably, it aims to give biographical information on ‘all known people in Scotland between 1093 and 1286’. Quite an achievement in terms of data-input alone! The other two resources are a collection of twelve essays (under the heading ‘Feature of the Month’) and a book which is scheduled for publication this summer.
The book’s title is The reality behind charter diplomatic in Anglo-Norman Britain. Edited by Dauvit Broun and published by the University of Glasgow. In this context, the term ‘diplomatic’ refers not to ‘diplomacy’ but to the ‘diploma’ or royal charter issued by a monarch to confirm a grant of land. ‘Charter diplomatic’ refers to the formal features of charters and other landholding documents.
The book’s four chapters – each an important study by an eminent scholar – are listed below. These are currently accessible as pdf files on the PoMS website.
Richard Sharpe, ‘People and languages in eleventh- and twelfth-century Britain and Ireland: reading the charter evidence’
John Reuben Davies, ‘The donor and the duty of warrandice: giving and granting in Scottish charters’
Alice Taylor, ‘Common burdens in the regnum Scottorum: the evidence of charter diplomatic’
Dauvit Broun, ‘The presence of witnesses and the making of charters’
I’ve used the database a few times to look up charters relating to lands within the former kingdom of Strathclyde. These searches were a kind of follow-up to my recent reading of Cynthia Neville’s book (above) on the earldoms of Strathearn and Lennox, the latter being one of the lordships created after the Scottish conquest of Strathclyde in the 11th century. I also tracked references to several Paisley Abbey charters cited by Alexander Grant in his paper on the landholdings of 12th century Clydesdale (see ref below). Although the main focus of PoMS is a period outside my pre-1100 ‘comfort zone’, these searches proved useful in casting a few faint beams of light here and there. Strathclyde ceased to be a kingdom c.1060, but I’ve been using PoMS to trace what happened to places that had been important to the Britons, such as the ancient church at Inchinnan near Renfrew.
Regular visitors to Senchus will know that one of my interests is the history of Clan Galbraith, especially the clan’s presumed origins in the old Strathclyde aristocracy. A search in PoMS found a number of charters in which various Galbraiths turn up as landholders in Lennox. The Latin of these documents is formulaic and technical, a daunting prospect to the non-specialist. On the PoMS database they appear in English translation, which is a big help to people like me whose limited Latinity wouldn’t get very far with the original text.
Just to give a bit of context, here’s one example of the type of document I found during my PoMS searches. This is an authentic charter dated 2nd March 1238 which granted land to an early member of Clan Galbraith:
‘Maldoven, earl of Lennox, has given, granted, and established by this his present charter, to William son of Arthur son of Galbraith, three ploughgates of land in the Lennox, namely the two Baldernocks and a third ploughgate of land called Kincaid, with all their pertinents, liberties and easements; to hold and have of him and his heirs by their right bounds, with the advowson of churches, and without any withholding; for an annual render of a half mark at the Glasgow Fair, and doing the forinsec* service of the lord king, for all secular service, exaction and demand. And Earl Maldoven will warrant, acquit, and defend the said lands to the said William and his heirs against all men and women.’
The value of this kind of information depends on what the user wants to do with it, and where his/her interests lie, e.g. in Scottish history, charter studies, medieval law or place-names. Anyone seeking raw data on topics such as lordship, clientship and land-ownership will find much to get their teeth into at PoMS. Merely being able to access this data is a bonus: not everyone has easy access to printed collections of Scottish charters, and not everyone will be aware that Sir Archibald Lawrie’s classic volume is now available online (see link below). The PoMS database opens up this important area of Scottish medieval history to a wider audience as well as providing a major service to students and specialists.
I can’t think of a better way to end this post than by quoting from the PoMS website, which gives an eloquent description of the project’s main resource: ‘it is not first-and-foremost a charter database, but a database of individuals, their interrelationships and identities as seen through the lens of these documents.’
PoMS: The Paradox of Medieval Scotland
Notes & References
Grant, Alexander, (2007) ‘Lordship and society in twelfth-century Clydesdale’, pp.98-124 in Huw Price and John Watts (eds.), Power and identity in the Middle Ages: essays in memory of Rees Davies (Oxford, 2007).
Neville, Cynthia J., Native lordship in medieval Scotland: the earldoms of Strathearn and Lennox, c.1140–1365 (Dublin, 2005).
Lawrie, Archibald Campbell, (ed.) Early Scottish charters: prior to AD 1153 (Glasgow, 1905). Full text online
Scottish charter studies have moved on quite a bit since Lawrie’s time. Professor Geoffrey Barrow is one of the leading modern scholars in this field, with works such as this:
Barrow, G. W. S., (ed.) The charters of David I: the written acts of David, King of Scots, 1124—53, and of his son Henry, Earl of Northumberland, 1139—52 (Woodbridge, 1999).
* forinsec: although it looks like a mis-spelling of ‘forensic’, this old feudal term actually means ‘additional service rendered to the lord’.
Unfortunately I don’t have a picture of a Scottish charter for this post, but Jonathan Jarrett showed a fine example from Catalonia on his blog last month.