People of Medieval Scotland project ministerial launch

Published: 5 September 2012

A new interactive online database, which will make thousands of the oldest documents in Scotland’s history available to the public, is being launched at the University of Glasgow

A new interactive online database, which will make thousands of the oldest documents in Scotland’s history available to the public, is being launched by the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning, Michael Russell MSP, on Wednesday 5 September at an event at the University of Glasgow.

The People of Medieval Scotland (PoMS) project has catalogued over 21,000 individuals mentioned in 8,600 documents. The documents, written between 1093 and 1314, tell the story of Scotland’s transformation from a land of patchwork regions to an established kingdom with fixed borders and modern systems of government.Ragman Roll. Credit: The National Archives, Kew (Manuscript C47/23/5). The Ragman Roll is the name given to the manuscript rolls into which these deeds of fealty came to be copied a few years after the event.

The records are now online and fully accessible to the public through the online database, allowing academic experts and enthusiastic amateurs alike to learn more about the period. The database will also include free software which has been specially developed for use in schools. Special interactive labs will offer history students creative ways to explore the wealth of information stored within the database.

The database is accessible through the following link:

Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Secretary Michael Russell said: “This is a world class resource which will inform current and future historians and members of the public about this important period in Scottish history.

“Learning about our history, languages, literature and culture as well as connecting with Scotland as a place is a vital part of developing a confident, balanced and informed sense of citizenship with perspective on Scotland and our place in the world.It is therefore a pleasure to see partnership working between universities, schools and other key organisations to make this wonderful resource accessible throughout Scotland's education system and beyond.”

Between 1093 and 1314 the growing culture of record keeping meant that systems of royal justice accessible to all freemen had taken root in Scotland. Coins were being minted in nearly every royal burgh and property-rights were now recorded via legal charter; royal government practice was also routinely being conducted in writing with records kept centrally. This legal revolution also formalised, to a large extent, the borders of modern day Scotland, an achievement that was consolidated at the parliament of Cambuskenneth in November 1314 where the new Scottish nobility swore fealty to Robert the Bruce.

Painstakingly researched and indexed over 5 years by researchers from Scottish History at the University of Glasgow, the People of Medieval Scotland database records every time an individual is referenced in a document and the context around this. By indexing these mentions, the team can cross reference each appearance and build up an accurate picture of actual political and social relationships during the period.

Cataloguing the occurrence of individuals across this many documents means that researchers can gain an unprecedented view of how Scotland’s social and cultural landscape evolved.

Dauvit Broun, Professor of Scottish History at the University of Glasgow, who lead the project said: “The period that these documents cover is one of the most fundamental times in Scotland’s past.  

“This was an age where many of the methods and means of governing a country that we take for granted today were evolving and the Scotland of today was being forged. Understanding these documents is therefore hugely important in detailing the foundations of modern Scotland and how the name of ‘Scotland’ and ‘Scots’ came to apply to a distinct country and people.”

  • For more information visit the website or contact Peter Aitchison in the University of Glasgow Media Relations Office: 0141 330 7350.
  • People of Medieval Scotland was supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and involved academics from the University of Glasgow and the Universities of Edinburgh, Lancaster and of King’s College, London

First published: 5 September 2012