Community and public authority in later fifteenth-century Scotland
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This thesis offers a reassessment of the political culture of Scotland in the later fifteenth century, from c. 1440 to c. 1490, through an examination of communitarian discourses and practices. It argues that the current understanding of political relations is limited by too great a focus upon personal relationships. While these were undoubtedly important, it is necessary also to consider the structures of law and governance which framed political interactions, and the common principles and values which underpinned action, in order to gain a fuller picture. In particular, it is argued that the current model, which assumes a more or less oppositional relationship between crown and ‘political community’, ought to be replaced with a public domain in which claims to authority were asserted and contested. This approach allows the familiar political narrative to be firmly connected to the ideas expressed in contemporary advice literature, while also situating political authority spatially, by asking how it was experienced as well as how it was projected. The focus upon language and space allows for clear parallels to be drawn between different local political cultures, and allows connections and contrasts to be made between those cultures and the norms of kingship and lordship. It argues that reforms to civil justice made during James III’s reign have played a far more important part in the turbulent politics of the time than has been appreciated, that both royal and aristocratic authority could be presented as acting both for the common good and for the interests of the crown, and that Scotland’s towns not only had a vibrant political culture of their own, but were an important part of the politics of the realm.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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