Tracing the emergence of royal government in medieval Scotland is a difficult task: the main body of government records were lost at sea in the 17th century. Other surviving sources can, however, give us an insight into how royal authority was experienced by those living at the time.
From January until March, there will be a free exhibition at The National Archives called ‘Scribes and Royal Authority: Scotland’s Charters 1100–1250‘. This exhibition is part of an AHRC-funded project (2014–2017): Models of Authority: Scottish Charters and the Emergence of Government 1100–1250.
The exhibition focuses on the handwriting of scribes from this period. A number of original documents will be on display in the Keeper’s Gallery. Some of the key themes of the exhibition are outlined in this blog.
The National Archives and the emergence of government
Government as we recognise it today first emerged in Western Europe in the 12th and 13th centuries. An early example of a highly developed bureaucracy was England.
The National Archives can trace the origins of its collections to a series of brilliant innovations in the 1190s and early 1200s that established systems of administration and record keeping in England which lasted in some cases into the 19th century.
By contrast, Scottish royal government in the 13th century was more intimate and depended more on the kingdom’s elite than on professional administrators. Records of government administration were kept, but they are now lost. Continue reading »