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.

The Life and Afterlife of Mary Queen of Scots HIST5160

  • 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

Mary Queen of Scots was an active ruler of Scotland for just six years (1561-1567) yet her reign has attracted more attention and debate than that of any other monarch in Scottish History. This course will provide an overview of Mary's life, reign and legacy and of all the major historiography associated with her. It also examines Mary's long cultural afterlife, focusing on the numerous ways she has been portrayed in texts, media and in objects over the centuries, and what these portrayals say about Scotland's ever-evolving relationship with the 'daughter of debate'.


14x1 hour lectures; 6 x 2hr seminars over 10 weeks as scheduled in Mycampus

Requirements of Entry

Standard entry to Masters at College level

Excluded Courses





Essay, 40%, 2500 words, x2

Oral presentation with handout, 20%. oral presentation of up to 10 minutes; Handout, 500 words, x1

Course Aims

This course aims to:

■ Engage students in independent and original analysis of a complex range of evidence, including source materials, thereby developing intellectual skills which will be of benefit in a wide range of careers;

■ Show students how a professional historian works;

■ Exhibit through source criticism, a wide range of problems of interpretation arising from different usages of language, underlying meanings and intentions, differing standards of objectivity, and the variety of purpose and intent associated with historical evidence (written, visual or other);

■ Appraise the relative validity of alternative historical interpretations;

■ Encourage students to develop the confidence, imagination, skills and self-discipline required to master a similarly demanding brief in the future, whether in historical research or in any sphere or employment where these qualities are valuable.

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

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

■ Apply a deep and broad knowledge of the personality of Mary Queen of Scots and of the major events and issues connected to her life and reign;

■ Evaluate the major developments in political, cultural and religious life in Scotland between c.1542 and c.1587 using sources in a variety of media to do so;

■ Appraise the myriad ways in which Mary has been memorialised in popular culture from her own time to the present day;

■ Analyse the relevant primary and second sources and the problems of interpretation arising from these sources;

■ Judge multiple interpretations of complex historical debates and sources relating to Mary, her reign, and her cultural afterlife.

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.