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The Late Medieval Landscape of North-east Scotland (Paperback)

Renaissance, Reformation and Revolution

P&S History > Archaeology > British Archaeology P&S History > Archaeology > Landscape Archaeology & Geoarchaeology

By Colin Shepherd
Imprint: Windgather Press
Pages: 288
Illustrations: B/w and colour
ISBN: 9781914427046
Published: 10th August 2021
Casemate UK Academic



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The landscape of the north-east of Scotland ranges from wild mountains to undulating farmlands; from cosy, quaint fishing coves to long, sandy bays. This landscape witnessed the death of MacBeth, the final stand of the Comyns earls of Buchan against Robert the Bruce and the last victory, in Britain, of a catholic army at Glenlivet. But behind these momentous battles lie the quieter histories of ordinary folk farming the land - and supping their local malts.


Colin Shepherd paints a picture of rural life within the landscapes of the north-east between the 13th and 18th centuries by using documentary, cartographic and archaeological evidence. He shows how the landscape was ordered by topographic and environmental constraints that resulted in great variation across the region and considers the evidence for the way late medieval lifestyles developed and blended sustainably within their environments to create a patchwork of cultural and agricultural diversity. However, these socio-economic developments subsequently led to a breakdown of this structure, resulting in what Adam Smith, in the 18th century, described as 'oppression'.


The 12th-century Renaissance, the Protestant Reformation and the Industrial Revolution are used here to define a framework for considering the cultural changes that affected this region of Scotland. These include the dispossession of rights to land ownership that continue to haunt policy makers in the Scottish government today. Whilst the story also shows how a regional cultural divergence, recognised here, can undermine 'big theories' of socio-political change when viewed across the wider stage of Europe and the Americas.

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About Colin Shepherd

Colin Shepherd is an honorary research fellow at the University of Aberdeen and Associate of the Chartered Institute for Archaeology. For the last ten years he has been heavily involved with the Bennachie Landscapes Project, jointly developed by the Bailies of Bennachie and the University of Aberdeen. Background comparative research and archaeological excavations for that project have contributed greatly to this volume.

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