Research projects

Members of the Centre for Scottish and Celtic Studies pursue a number of research projects, including several major AHRC-funded undertakings with dedicated research teams:

Looking inside the past: CT scanning ancient textiles

PI: Dr Susanna Harris

Micro Computed Tomography (CT) is a three-dimensional x-radiography imaging technique. It derives from medical applications to look inside bodies and object without cutting them open. This is ideal for non-destructive analysis of rare and delicate archaeological artefacts. 


Micro CT images of a modern mixed materials of gold, silver and textiles. Left: 2D slice where the sliver shows most clearly in blue, the textiles are seen faintly top right. Right: 3D volume rendering (Images © S.Harris, A. Douglas).

The Burns Supper in History and Today

Funded by Frank & Susan Shaw (Atlanta, USA)

Over the past 220 years, the Burns Supper has become the quintessential festival of Scottish culture, identity, and gastronomy; it is now celebrated all over the globe, bringing together more than 9 million annual attendees. In February 2020, the Centre for Robert Burns Studies (CRBS) launched a two-year research project, under the direction of Prof. Gerard Carruthers, to investigate this unique, global phenomenon. The project’s first research output, released in January 2021, is an interactive map of contemporary Burns Suppers. This resource, also shared on the Scottish Government’s website, provides the broadest, most detailed database of contemporary Burns Night activities ever made since the nineteenth century, comprising more than 2,500 contemporary Burns Suppers across 150 countries. Later in 2021, the map will be seconded by a special Burns Supper edition of Edinburgh University Press’s relaunched Burns Chronicle. This issue, guest-edited by Dr Paul Malgrati —research assistant on the project— will feature works by key researchers in the field, complementing the map’s data with ground-breaking analyses. Finally, in January 2022, the project will be concluded by the inauguration of a special artwork, commissioned by CRBS to celebrate the Burns Supper phenomenon. Created by a distinguished Scottish artist, this giant collage will be composed of hundreds of photographs collected during the project though public engagement and social media campaigns. After its inauguration, the Burns Supper artwork will be exhibited permanently on university premises.


Mary Queen of Scots Project: ‘In my end is my beginning’

‘In my end is my beginning’, a two-year research network mapping the presence of Mary Queen of Scots (1542-1587) in Scottish heritage collections

The project is funded by the Royal Society of Edinburgh and led by Dr Steven Reid and Ms Anne Dulau-Beveridge at the University of Glasgow. Over the course of seven workshops between 2019 and 2021, the network will bring together over 40 team members to discuss Mary and her cultural afterlife, comprising academics who specialise in Mary and curators from all Scottish museums, archives, libraries and private collections that have Marian objects. Its final outputs will include a small temporary exhibition at the University of Glasgow in 2021, showcasing a handful of the key objects that the project has found. It will also produce a collection of essays looking at case studies of Mary’s cultural memorialisation over the past four and a half centuries.

Scottish Cosmopolitanism at the Fin-de-Siècle

Scottish Cosmopolitanism at the Fin-de-Siècle (a workshop funded by the Royal Society of Edinburgh).

This project explores Scotland’s artistic and cultural links with other countries at the end of the nineteenth century. It is funded by the Royal Society of Edinburgh led by by Matthew Creasy (University of Glasgow) and Michael Shaw (University of Stirling). Three events exploring different aspects of this topic were held during 2020 and 2021. Video recordings, summaries and materials relating to those events can be found on the project website.

Scottish Cosmopolitanism at the Fin-de-Siècle

In Search of Robert Bruce

This project is ongoing and to date has largely been supported by Glasgow University’s Chancellor’s Fund. It is a collaboration between Scottish History and the Hunterian Museum at the University of Glasgow, and Face Lab – formerly based at the University of Dundee and now at Liverpool John Moores University – which specialises in facial identification and craniofacial reconstruction. Phase 1 of the project also involved colleagues from Genetics at the University of Glasgow, and Glasgow Museums. Phase 1 was based upon the skull cast held in the Hunterian taken from a skeleton excavated from a tomb within the ruins of Dunfermline Abbey on 5 November 1819. At that time the skeleton was believed to be that of Robert Bruce or Robert I, king of Scots from 1306 to 1329. The aim of Phase 1 was to create craniofacial images of the individual whose skull this was, and to investigate whether these could indeed be accepted as visual likenesses of Robert Bruce. See below for a link to the images, and a list of articles generated by Phase 1. These discuss the process of creating the images; the case for identifying the image with Bruce, including fresh discussion of whether Bruce had leprosy; the location of the tombs of medieval Scottish monarchs at Dunfermline and the implications for the evolution of medieval church building there; and aspects of Bruce’s kingship and personality. The overall conclusion of this research was that the association between the tomb and skeleton excavated in 1819 and Robert Bruce is probably correct; Bruce fits the relevant criteria better than any other known candidate. Phase 2 has funded the creation of a 3-D version of the main craniofacial image, complete with defensive armour and headgear, which will become a part of the Hunterian’s collections and be the subject of a forthcoming ‘Object in Focus’ exhibition, with associated talks by leading authorities. It is also funding the investigation of an artefact which came to light as a result of Phase 1, and which claims to consist of fragments of metatarsal bone and coffin wood taken from the Dunfermline skeleton and tomb in 1819. The bone is currently undergoing DNA analysis by Prof. Turi King of the University of Leicester. The wood fragments will undergo radiocarbon testing at the Radiocarbon Laboratory at the Scottish Universities Environmental Research Campus (SUERC) at East Kilbride, for dating evidence. These investigations may provide new evidence about the identity of the incumbent of the Dunfermline tomb, and, potentially, about Robert Bruce.    

Robert the Bruce at The Hunterian

For further information contact Dr Martin MacGregor, Scottish History:

Editing Robert Burns for the 21st Century: Correspondence and Poetry

'Editing Robert Burns for the Twenty First Century: Correspondence and Poetry' (2017-22) [PI: Gerry Carruthers] will produce two volumes of Poetry and four volumes of Correspondence for the Oxford University Press Edition of the Works of  Robert Burns as well as the Oxford Handbook to Robert Burns (40 critical essays amounting to 240,000 words).

The first phase of 'Editing Robert Burns for the Twenty First Century' produced the work for Nigel Leask (ed.), Commonplace Books, Tour Journals and Miscellaneous Prose (2014), Murray Pittock (ed.) The Scots Musical Museum, 2 vols (2018) and Kirsteen McCue, Songs for George Thomson (forthcoming, 2021).

The two AHRC awards for the Burns edition amount to over £2M FEC.

For more information, see the project webpage or the project blog.

The Community of the Realm in Scotland, 1249–1424: history, law and charters in a recreated kingdom

PI: Alice Taylor (KCL)

Co-I: Dauvit Broun (GU)

Research Associate: John Reuben Davies (GU)

Funder: AHRC

Funding period: 2017–2020

Project website: The community of the realm in Scotland


The Community of the realm in Scotland is an innovative collaborative research project which will show how new ways of representing medieval texts in digital media can yield new understandings of medieval political communities and their written manifestations. The project will (through the expertise of King’s Digital Lab) develop an innovative new way of digitally editing medieval texts, and will be producing a new digital edition of the work known as the ‘Declaration of Arbroath’. COTR is funded by a grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council and is a collaboration between King’s College London, the University of Glasgow and the University of Edinburgh, as well as The National Records of Scotland and Newbattle Abbey College.

The Making of Scotland Historical: Scottish Historiography (1832-1986)

Funded by the Royal Society of Edinburgh, this project involves Catriona Macdonald in extensive research relating to the evolution of Scottish History since the death of Sir Walter Scott. Researching UK, Scottish and local groups and a diverse range of historians and historical novelists, Macdonald will reassess the Romantic legacy, probe the impact of ‘scientific methods’ on the historical community and develop new ways of looking at the professionalization of historical studies in Scotland.

A Digital Framework for the Medieval Gaelic World

PI: Greg Toner (Queen’s University Belfast) and David Stifter (Maynooth University)

Co-I: Jo Tucker (GU)

Funder: AHRC and IRC

Network funding: August 2020 – September 2021

Project website: A Digital Framework for the Medieval Gaelic World


Recent decades have witnessed remarkable advances in the availability and variety of online resources for research into the pre-Modern world. We often think that this will make research easier, faster and more efficient, but there is a recognition that it has also changed the nature of scholarly research and the ways in which the public can interact with it.

This network will focus on the impact of digitisation on research into medieval Ireland and Scotland. We hope that a better understanding of how we currently use digital resources will lead to improved applications of technology in future research and more intelligent, innovative use of resources. The network is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the Irish Research Council.

The Wider Gaelic World

This two-year project was funded by the European Commission as a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Individual Fellowship and undertaken by Dr Simon Egan. The project sought to investigate the relationship between the emerging ‘British’ state and the autonomous Gaelic-speaking regions of Ireland and Scotland. By 1603 the political power of the Gaelic world (or Gàidhealtachd as it is commonly, though not exclusively, known) had been broken in the face of the recently created British state. Certain Gaelic dynasties such as the Campbells of Argyll and O’Briens of Thomond found accommodation within the new order. Hitherto however, little research has been undertaken on how other, recalcitrant dynasties such as the O’Donnells and O’Neills possessed the capacity to not only (i) resist governmental encroachment; but also to (ii) actively threaten this process of state formation throughout the sixteenth century. By drawing upon a series of case studies, the project charted the fortunes of the more powerful Gaelic Irish and Gaelic Scottish dynasties and by engaging with a broad base of primary material, this project explored the political and military development of the Gáidhealtachd during two key phases of Anglo-Scottish relations. The first phase investigated how certain Gaelic lords manipulated the course of Anglo-Scottish hostilities from 1513-59 in order to enhance their position within ‘British’ politics. The second phase explored how the Gaelic lords reacted to the gradual development of Anglo-Scottish peace and amity from 1560-94. The main objective of this project was therefore to uncover the basis for the strong level of Gaelic political and military resilience within ‘British’ politics throughout the sixteenth century and how significant a factor this was in contributing to the outbreak of the Nine Years War (1594-1603). 

The project will result in a number of outputs, including several articles and book chapters as well as a project monograph. These will be advertised on the project website in due course. In July 2020, the research held a very successful two-day conference via Zoom. The event included twelve speakers from across the UK, Ireland, and North America while delegates from as far afield as Australia, Russia, and Sweden participated in the discussion. The conference proceedings will be published as an edited collection in due course. Further details will be advertised through the link below.  

The Wider Gaelic World

Corpas na Gàidhlig

Corpas na Gàidhlig is a constituent project of DASG. It was founded in 2008 with the following aims:

  • to create a comprehensive electronic corpus of Scottish Gaelic texts for students and researchers of Scottish Gaelic language, literature and culture
  • to provide the textual basis for the interuniversity project Faclair na Gàidhlig (‘Dictionary of the Scottish Gaelic Language’) upon which the future historical dictionary will be based
  • to provide a resource which will facilitate corpus planning and corpus development technology for Gaelic

Click here to find out more: Corpas na Gàidhlig

Sgeul na Gàidhlig | The Gaelic Story at the University of Glasgow

An ongoing project led by Professor Roibeard Ó Maolalaigh, Dr Katherine Forsyth and with Dr Aonghas MacCoinnich as main researcher, explores the history of Gaelic and Gaels at the University of Glasgow.  Gaels have been present at the University since its foundation in 1451 both as students and as members of staff.  Gaelic however, was not taught at the University as a subject which contributed to an MA degree until session 1906-1907.   This project  examines aspects of the story of Gaels and Gaelic connected  to the University over the longer period as well as Gaelic as a subject, under the auspices of Celtic, at the University

A variety of pages on this website aims not only to explore the process by which Celtic and Gaelic came to be taught at the University of Glasgow in the century since the first Celtic lecture in 1901 and the establishment of Celtic as a subject of study in 1906 but also to investigate the largely forgotten experience of Gaelic speakers at the University over the first four and a half centuries, 1451-1901.

Visit the project website.

Iona Research Group

The early medieval monastery of Iona, Argyll & Bute was founded AD 563, and remains to many an icon of the ‘Celtic’ church. Yet Iona is more than about its famous founder St Columba, and even the medieval Benedictine abbey (founded 1203) rests on a 600-year legacy of learning, innovation and pilgrimage.

Thanks to the survival of primary texts produced here, along with an unparalleled survival of archaeological remains, carved stones and Gaelic place-names, the entire island is a rich resource for archaeologists and historians. More than a missionary outpost in the sea, Iona has played a key role in the shaping of Christianity itself.

Researchers across the departments of Archaeology, History and Celtic & Gaelic independently conduct work on various aspects of Iona’s history, producing important articles, monographs and edited volumes as seen in the reading list below. In 2012, we created the Glasgow Iona Research Group to spark collaboration and generate new multidisciplinary projects. Several members attended the Iona Research Conference in April 2012 hosted by Historic Scotland and the Iona Community, the proceedings of which can be consulted online. The research of Dr Katherine Forsyth and Dr Adrián Maldonado on the early sculpture played a key role in the new redisplay of the carved stones in the Iona Infirmary Museum in 2013.

Since then, the project team has continued to work together to develop new research projects concerning the monastery of Iona as well as the history and archaeology of the rest of the island.

The most recent project is currently under way in the department of Archaeology, where Dr Ewan Campbell is writing up the unpublished Russell Trust excavations on Iona by Charles Thomas in 1957-1963, thanks to generous funding from Historic Environment Scotland. This will involve limited re-excavation of some of Thomas' trenches on Iona in May 2017.

For more information, visit the webpage.

Iona's Namescape: place-names and their dynamics in Iona and its environs

PI: Prof. Thomas Owen Clancy
CoIs: Prof. Katherine Forsyth and Dr Alasdair Whyte
Researchers: Dr Mairi MacArthur and Gilbert Márkus
This 3-year, AHRC-funded project will be surveying the place-names of Iona, one of the locations in Scotland where names have extraordinary time-depth (owing to the founding of the monastery there in 563), but also complexity, owing to the variety of communities who have lived on and interacted with the island over the past two and half centuries (crofters, tourists, artists, heritage bodies). As well as a full and detailed survey of the place-names of Iona, and also Staffa, the project team will investigate other key aspects: the names in the earliest records of Iona; the names of Iona's monuments; the relationship between Iona and Mull; and the problems of authority and authenticity in place-names, and the way in which place-names might be treated as artefacts in need of curation by heritage bodies.
To find out more please visit the Glasgow Iona Research Group webpage. 

Place-Names of the Coalfield Communities

PI: Prof. Thomas Owen Clancy
Researcher: Dr Eila Williamson
This project is run under the auspices of the Coalfield Communities Landscape Partnership a Heritage Lottery Funded project in East Ayrshire, primarily the valleys of the Doon and the Lugar waters. Our project will provide a survey of the place-names of the whole of five parishes (Auchinleck, Dalmellington, Ochiltree, Old Cumnock and New Cumnock), and parts of three others (Straiton, Dalrymple and Coylton). We will work with the Landscape Partnership and community groups on this survey, and also in disseminating knowledge of and interest in place-names to local communities. There will be a website with the survey database, and a variety of other outputs.

Place-Names of the Galloway Glens

PI: Prof. Thomas Owen Clancy
CoI: Dr Simon Taylor
Researcher: Gilbert Márkus
This project, which has been ongoing since 2018, is under the auspices of the Galloway Glens Landscape Partnership, a Heritage Lottery Funded initiative. It has create a survey of all the place-names of seven parishes in Kirkcudbrightshire (Carsphairn, Kells, Dalry, Balmaclellan, Balmaghie, Parton and Crossmichael). A web recourse with the full database has been created and there are further outputs envisaged. 
Visit the website for more information at Place-Names of the Galloway Glens

Ainmeannan-àite Mhuile & Ulbha | The Place-names of Mull & Ulva

Làn-sgrùdadh air ainmeannan-àite Mhuile agus Ulbha (2019– ). 

Prìomh amasan:

  • Tuigse reachdmhor fhaighinn air ainmeannan-àite ionadach
  • Riochdan Gàidhlig nan ainmeannan a thoirt am follais
  • A’ chiad làn-sgrùdadh air ainmeannan-àite ann an sgìreachd air Gàidhealtachd na h-Alba fhoillseachadh 

Bheirear sùil air mar a tha ainmeannan-àite fighte fuaighte le:

  • Àiteachas, cleachdadh-fearainn agus tarbhachd-fearainn
  • An àrainneachd
  • Àrc-eòlas
  • Beul-oideas
  • Co-thadhal chànan
  • Cruinn-eòlas
  • Dual-chainnt
  • An Eaglais
  • Geòlas
  • Luachadh-fearainn
  • Tuineachadh

Prìomh-Rannsaiche: Dr Alasdair C. MacIlleBhàin



A comprehensive survey of the place-names of Muile/Mull and Ulbha/Ulva (2019– ).

Principal objectives:

  • Establish a firm understanding of local place-names
  • Establish normative Gaelic name-forms for local place-names
  • Publish the first comprehensive place-name survey of an area within the Gàidhealtachd (Gaelic-speaking area) of Scotland as part of the Survey of Scottish Place-Names

The project will investigate the intersection between place-names and:

  • Agriculture, land use and land capability
  • Archaeology
  • The Church
  • Dialect
  • Environment
  • Folklore
  • Geography
  • Geology
  • Land assessment
  • Language contact
  • Settlement

Principal Investigator: Dr Alasdair C. Whyte