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University of Glasgow

Early Modern Scottish Palaeography: Reading Scotland's Records

University of Glasgow via FutureLearn


Explore Scottish history and learn more about using historical sources

Palaeography is the study of ancient handwriting and a vital skill in the historian’s toolkit. It is essential when conducting research on early modern Scotland – a period of profound political, religious and social change the effects of which can still be felt today.

On this course you’ll travel back through Scottish history by studying material from the National Records of Scotland and other archives. You’ll explore diverse topics in Scotland’s past, get an introduction to various forms of historical sources and develop your own palaeography skills.

This course is for anyone interested in the history of Scotland, but will be of particular interest to local historians and genealogists.

While the Educators themselves aren’t available to facilitate this run, we encourage you to engage with other learners and there are opportunities to do this throughout the course.


  • Early Modern Scotland
    • Introduction to the course
    • Introduction to early modern Scotland
    • Introduction to early modern palaeography
    • The church in Scotland
    • Abbreviations and contractions in early modern palaeography
    • Summary
  • The Kirk Session
    • Welcome to week 2
    • Numerals and the early modern alphabet
    • Exploring the kirk session records
    • Variant letter shapes in early modern handwriting
    • Reading the kirk session records
    • Summary
  • Transcription
    • Welcome to week 3
    • Transcription techniques
    • Transcribing the records
    • Putting your new skills into practice
    • Conclusion

Taught by

Scott Spurlock


4.8 rating at FutureLearn based on 171 ratings

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