The extent and nature of feuding in Scotland, 1573-1625
Feud is a recurrent theme in Scottish history, but it is
a subject which has received scant regard in its own right
until fairly recently. Sources for an exarrlirwtion of the
Scottish blood-feud are also voluminous and accessible,
particularly in the early modern period, a period which
coincided with the demise of the feud throughout most of
the kingdom. The material evidence and course the feud
itself took during the reign of James VI are the, principal
reasons for concentrating on these years, though in omitting
the civil war of 1567-73 one has not entirely covered that
While the title of this thesis dra\-ls attention to the
extent and nature of the feud, it is the latter 'lhich
receives by far the greater emphasis. In the "Introduction"
the place of the Scottish feud in the wider debate on the
blood-feud is considered, a debate which involves historians
of different centuries and societies" and those like
anthropologists and sociologists who have approached the
subject from the perspective of other disciplines. Here
the extent of the feud in late sixteenth century Scotland
is discussed, with questions of typology, origins, geographic
and social distribution, length and incidence being included.
Following this, the first chapter "Ideals, Violence and Peace"
examines the pature of the feud in the context of these
thr ee themes.
However, the political m. ture of the Scottish feud
necessitated that considerable attention be paid to the
relationship between politics and the feud. One chapter,
therefore, looks at the many issues which caused feuding
both in the rural community and in an urban environment.
This is followed by a very detailed analysis of the course
of one blood-feud in one relatively small locality throughout
the entire period, from royal minority to the implementation
of a crown policy which uprooted feuding. After discussing
politics and the feud in a local context, the focus of
attention then moves to the politics of the court ana central
government, but without losing sight of the very real
connection between events at the centre and in the localities.
Again one chapter is devoted to a more general disc!JSsion of
court politics and the impact of feuding there, before being
followed by another in depth analysis of the major political
feud of the reign between the earl of Huntly and his rivals
in the north of Scotland. The highland nature of much of
this feud, and the lowland envi~onment of the CunninghamMontgomery
feud which forms the subject matter of chapter
three, made it almost obligatory to also devote some time
to a border feud. This is done, therefore, in chapter six,
within the context of a discussion of the government of the
west march and the international sensitivity of the region.
The remaini.ng two chapters attempt to explain how the
feud was uprooted from most of Scotland before the end of
James' reign. In chapter seven the Jacobean legislation
against feuding and the violent environment in which it bred
is the principal theme. Here the laws, their enforcernent
and their success in reducing feuding, controlling the use
of guns, restricting retinues, punishing outlaws, imrpoving
the efficiency of the administration of law and order and
other areas of related concern to James and his government
are detailed and assessed. Finally, the last chapter turns
to the question of who initiated and carried through this
crack down on feuding and lawlessness. The king himself,
the nobility, crown officials and the church are all
evaluated and their individual contribution is analysed.
A short conclusion simply suggests some possibilities for
future research which might be taken up as a continuation
of this thesis.