The Barbarous North? Criminality in Early Modern Scotland

Anne‐Marie Kilday

in The Oxford Handbook of Modern Scottish History

Published in print January 2012 | ISBN: 9780199563692
Published online November 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191750687 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in History

 The Barbarous North? Criminality in Early Modern Scotland

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The notion that Scotland has long been depicted as a lawless, ‘uncivilized’ nation by its more ‘civilized’ southern counterpart is a historical red herring. Rather, it was not until the nineteenth century, when a general moral panic regarding crime and criminal activity took hold across Britain as a whole, that Scotland, in particular, was portrayed as a bad example to its neighbours south of the Tweed. By the mid-nineteenth century, the link between rising crime and social disintegration was strongly felt in a Scottish context. This article discusses the historiography of crime and criminality (including violence) in early modern Scotland. It also examines the extent to which the nineteenth-century concept of the ‘Barbarous North’ was applicable to Scotland during the early modern era. The article analyses nearly 6,500 criminal prosecutions brought before the Scottish Justiciary Court between 1700 and 1830.

Keywords: crime; criminality; violence; Scotland; Barbarous North; historiography; criminal prosecutions; Judiciary Court

Article.  8343 words. 

Subjects: Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)

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