Scottish Shire Elections: Preliminary Findings in Sheriff Court Books

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    Abstract

    Historians of the Scottish parliament have paid little attention to shire elections because of an apparent lack of local source material. This article explores some of the reasons for this perception and argues that sheriff court records contain considerably more evidence than has been appreciated hitherto. It demonstrates that these records provide details of the electoral process, the regularity of elections, the numbers of electors, external interference in elections and internal divisions within the electorate, local responses to national political events, and attitudes to representation through such things as levying taxes locally to reimburse representatives’ expenses. It challenges the once widely-held view that the lesser nobility, who comprised the electorate, were uninterested in parliamentary participation, suggesting instead that the statute of 1587 by which shire representation was established was reasonably successful. Finally, it considers the potential for further research in these and other records which, it is argued, will provide a much deeper understanding of seventeenth-century Scotland’s parliamentary history in particular and political history in general.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)279-294
    Number of pages16
    JournalParliamentary History
    Volume34
    Issue number3
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 5 Oct 2015

    Keywords

    • Scotland
    • parliament
    • shires
    • elections
    • James VI
    • Charles I
    • Covenanters
    • estates
    • lairds

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