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Appears in Collections:History and Politics eTheses
Title: Holistic methodologies in the study of Scotland’s early stone castles and landscapes (c.1050-c.1350 CE) with reference to the Earldom of Orkney and the Lordship of Galloway
Author(s): Wyeth, William J E
Supervisor(s): Oram, Richard
Dixon, Piers
Keywords: castle
castle studies
castle landscapes
middle ages
Historic Environment Scotland
buildings archaeology
11th century
12th century
13th century
14th century
Issue Date: Jul-2018
Publisher: University of Stirling
Abstract: The historiography of Scottish castles was dominated, until the 1960s, by great works which defined the field for generations of historians and archaeologists. Since then several major excavations, intensive wide-ranging fieldwork and most recently, targeted topographic surveys, have brought a new body of evidence to the discussion. Familiar themes, however, still dominate how castles are understood: the dichotomy between ‘native’ and ‘newcomer’, the debate over function and form, for example. This thesis brings to bear the new body of evidence alongside a specific focus on castles and their landscapes for the period of c.1050-c.1350. It begins, firstly, with an examination of the full body of castle sites and contemporary secular power centres, following the typology-oriented categorisation of sites by RCAHMS (now HES). Included in this are sites in the formal typology of crannogs, brochs and duns, which evidence suggests were occupied for some or all of the period under discussion. The 12th to 13th centuries demonstrated the peak of first phase of castle occupation. There is a resultant impact on what might be expected from landscapes of lordship, borne out in the second section of the thesis, the regional studies. The first regional study examines the evidence for castles in the Earldom of Orkney, which conventional thinking suggests is home to Scotland’s earliest stone castle. Contemporary parallels are established with Norwegian and Swedish castles. Study of the landscape context suggests that the builders of castle sites in the 12th-century Earldom relied not on terrestrial, landed wealth but political authority and kinship with the comital family. Substantial wealth, derived from maritime exploitation, is also likely. The second regional study, of the Lordship of Galloway, looks at the emergence of stone castles there in connection to the political developments within the polity. Landscape assessment hints at a function of castle sites in the Lordship in relation to transhumance practice and fishing. The diversity of architectural expression of lordship is discussed. Study of the place-name context, useful in determining the status of farms or townships, reveals the unparalleled linguistic (and cultural) complexity of south-west Scotland, with resultant impact on underlying structures of local lordship. In the cases of Orkney and Galloway, trends are apparent which argue for the early stone castles of Scotland to be considered within highly contingent personal, political and social terms. Though they represent evidence for larger historical and architectural trends, the most compelling interpretation of these monuments frames their appearance in relation to their builders’ histories, connections, ambitions and preferences. Where physical evidence is lacking for castles, landscapes around known castle sites provide the material to understand lost monuments by their imprint on their surroundings.
Type: Thesis or Dissertation
Affiliation: Department of History

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