Self-Organisation of the Lower Nobility

Lairds (the lower nobility) and their role for the organisation of lordship in the late medieval kingdom of Scotland have been neglected by previous research. Merely the rather prominent, ascending families such as Forbes or Erskine have been subject to studies. Since they owed their social ascend to conflicts with the established high nobility they have to be viewed as exceptions rather than the rule.

It is central to this sub-project to show which scopes for action those lairds had, aside from high politics on the level of local administration. Sometimes local interests formed decisions on the formally superior administrative level. Some families were able to rise into the position of locally important decision makers through familiar connections, dynastical discipline amongst the family, and the manning of key administrative offices.

Aside from the question of if and how the lairds thought in strategic terms, a confrontation with limiting factors of their scope of action is part of the project. Those include economical and legal conditions as well as the availability and changing values of land, the central resource of the middle ages. An alignment of both perspectives will add to the understanding of noble self-organisation in Scotland and present the opportunity to develop new research questions including different social strata.

Researcher: Matthias Berlandi