Magnificence and materiality : the commerce and culture of Flemish luxuries in late medieval Scotland
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This thesis explores the prestige associated in late medieval Scotland with Flemish luxury products, using a material culture-based approach founded on the premise that objects can reveal the beliefs and attitudes of those who used them. Adding to existing scholarship which concentrates on the economic, political, and diplomatic connections between Scotland and Flanders, this research offers a new artefactual dimension to this relationship. It challenges the perception of Scotland as culturally and materially unsophisticated while simultaneously considering how objects were used in the expression of elite power and status. What drives this work is that late medieval Scottish elites were fully immersed in the most highly regarded and fashionable material trends of western Europe and that their consumption patterns fit into a wider mentality which saw Flemish craftsmanship as an ideal. A new model is thus presented, moving away from the traditional concentration on fluctuating wool exports and taking into account the cultural agency of noble, ecclesiastic, and burghal elites. It entails the initial examination of Scottish consumer demand and its impact on the Flemish luxury market. Following this are chapters on gift exchange and the presentation of magnificence, centred around the perception of the Flemish aesthetic as representative of elite status. Finally, this approach is applied to the burghal and clerical spheres, arguing that Flemish church furniture played a role in the formation and maintenance of elite urban identities. The comprehensive examination of artefactual sources, combined with the commercial, ritual, and ceremonial evidence found in written sources, enables the building up of a clearer impression of Scoto-Flemish material culture than has previously been realised. It is demonstrated that the material environment of late medieval Scottish elites was comparable to those of other European polities, constituting a common cultural sphere furnished by the luxury products of Flanders and the southern Low Countries.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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