Please note: there may be some adjustments to the teaching arrangements published in the course catalogue for 2020-21. Given current circumstances related to the Covid-19 pandemic it is anticipated that some usual arrangements for teaching on campus will be modified to ensure the safety and wellbeing of students and staff on campus; further adjustments may also be necessary, or beneficial, during the course of the academic year as national requirements relating to management of the pandemic are revised.

Sin and the Courts: Social and Cultural Conflict in Early Modern England HIST5150

  • Academic Session: 2022-23
  • School: School of Humanities
  • Credits: 20
  • Level: Level 5 (SCQF level 11)
  • Typically Offered: Either Semester 1 or Semester 2
  • Available to Visiting Students: No
  • Available to Erasmus Students: No

Short Description

The English church courts provide insight into a wide range of social, cultural and religious themes in early modern England. This course will consider the effectiveness of these courts and what their records reveal about social tensions and parish politics in the period, including investigation of religious and social change, crime, social control, gender, sexuality, and community.


Two hours per week, as scheduled in MyCampus

Requirements of Entry

Standard entry to Masters at College Level

Excluded Courses





Essay (3500 words) - 70%

Book Review (1500 words) - 20%

Seminar Contribution - 10%

Course Aims

This course aims to

■ introduce key themes in early modern English social, religious and cultural history;

■ develop advanced skills in the formulation of research questions, pursuit of independent research and critical

■ analysis of primary and secondary sources, including engaging with problems of selective source survival and with the manner in which institutional processes frame the evidence;

■ introduce specialist skills appropriate to detailed study of early modern sources, including data handling and paleographical skills;

■ prepare students to write a dissertation on a topic in early modern history.

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

By the end of this course students will be able to:

■ evaluate historians' use of evidence from church courts and other records to study historical themes such as religious conformity and nonconformity, social control and regulation, popular sexual and recreations, interpersonal relations and conflict, gender, community, and the effectiveness of the courts;

■ design and implement appropriate research methods for analysing court and associated records, addressing the limitations and biases of these sources;

■ critically evaluate and compare interpretations of early modern English social, religious and cultural change in the light of current historiography, including writing a book review which summarises and critiques its arguments, evaluates its use of evidence, and contextualises it with other publications on the subject;

■ present clear and concise written arguments, incorporating different kinds of substantiating evidence from an appropriate selection of primary and second sources.

Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits

Students must submit at least 75% by weight of the components (including examinations) of the course's summative assessment.