'Now of little significancy'? The Convention of the Royal Burghs of Scotland, 1651-1688

  • John Toller

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    Historiographical understanding of the Convention of the Royal Burghs of Scotland in the late seventeenth century has advanced little since a spate of interest in the institution in the early twentieth century. This is despite the development of research in other, related areas of Scottish history in the same period. This thesis helps to resolve this problem in demonstrating the importance of the convention in the period 1651- 1688 in two main areas whilst having much wider significance for understanding later seventeenth-century Scotland. Firstly, it shows that the royal burghs were committed to cooperative action. Although the crown was increasingly assuming responsibilities previously held by the convention, the burghs continued to see the importance of membership and participation in it, despite its inability to respond decisively to their increasing economic difficulties, a situation on which this thesis sheds much light. Their collective stance protected their relative independence, despite losing some of their privileges to an aggressively acquisitive landowning class. The burghs carefully used and regulated Edinburgh’s dominant position within the convention to ensure that they could be as effective as possible in these areas without allowing Edinburgh to always have its own way. Secondly, the thesis demonstrates that the convention played an important part in national politics despite an apparent decline in influence. Under the English occupation in the 1650s it was one of the very few national institutions to survive and it was successful in lobbying for the burghs’ interests and also as a consultative body for the regime. It continued to play an important role in national politics after the Restoration, enabling the burghs to present a single voice in parliament and before the king and his privy council, officers of state and commissioner. Although it was not always successful, it was even willing to take a stance in direct opposition to the crown, and its influence is demonstrated as increasing crown intervention in burgh affairs, often taken as a sign of royal absolutism, was accompanied with concessions aimed at ensuring urban support for royal policy.
    Date of Award2010
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorAlan MacDonald (Supervisor)


    • History

    Cite this