Models of authority: Scottish charters and the emergence of government 1100-1250

Lead Research Organisation: University of Glasgow
Department Name: School of Humanities

Abstract

This project is about government and the way it emerged and developed in the middle ages. Government as we would think of it today can first be recognised in western Europe during the twelfth century. But was it the natural result of increasing royal power and authority; or was it a response of kings to disorder? Understanding the emergence of medieval government has to be based on understanding the main source of evidence - charters - and it is in the twelfth century that charters begin to survive in large numbers. This project's new approach is to focus on understanding and interpreting the most distinctive features of charters -the appearance of their handwriting and the formulaic aspects of their prose.

Charters are artefacts of authority: the content of their text and the style of their script is significant for understanding the authority they embody. But charters are not only artefacts of authority; they acted as models of authority too. Seeing how royal charters served as models for non-royal ones is important if we want to examine the emergence of government and the role of kingship in its development.

The handwriting and prose of charters are a huge untapped resource for tracking the increasing profile of kingship as a source of social authority in relation to the growth of government. It would be a mistake to assume that this was simply a 'top down' process. Scribes were usually guided in their work by styles of handwriting and prose. At the beginning of this period there was a lot of variation in how charters were written. Later, non-royal scribes chose more and more to follow the evolving and increasingly innovative style of royal scribes. In Scotland this was not because royal administration was growing rapidly: unlike England, royal bureaucracy was limited. It was, instead, because royal charters were being adopted as a model of authority by non-royal scribes. This aspect has not been investigated before, in Scotland or elsewhere. It offers a new way to investigate the emergence of government, one that can allow us to see this process from the perspective of non-royal scribes.

Digital images of a large number of original charters from Scotland will act as our case-study. Scotland is best placed to be the case-study because of its unparalleled corpus of digital images of charters from a range of medieval archives. It is a corpus small enough to be manageable but large enough for the analysis of their handwriting and prose to give significant results.

Such research is now possible because new tools for the digital analysis of medieval handwriting have been pioneered in the DigiPal project by Co-I Peter Stokes. DigiPal has an online framework for analysing early medieval English bookhand by linking portions of images of handwriting to structured information about the text, context, and handwriting itself. 'Models of Authority' will break fresh ground by investigating how the DigiPal tools can be adapted in the fundamentally different environment of cursive writing, where letter-forms are inherently less stable and linked to other letters. Instead of analysing letter-forms individually, they will be investigated in the context of words and groups of words. We shall then be able not only to identify details that are shared in many charters, and when and where they were used, but also to establish how far they correlate with a specific situation. We should then be able to see how far the emergence of government was anticipated by an increasing emphasis on royal models in non-royal charters, and investigate the contexts in which this first occurred.

The contexts in which non-royal scribes were prone to mimicking royal scribes are unlikely to be unique to Scotland. If the profile of kingship as a model in charters could grow in Scotland, where royal administration developed late, then we can ask whether the emergence of government elsewhere might have been as much, or more, 'bottom up' than 'top down'.

Planned Impact

During the project's lifetime, the wider beneficiaries of its research will be:
(i) The National Archives and National Records of Scotland, who are project partners.
(ii) Members of the public visiting The National Archives and National Records of Scotland between mid-January and mid-April 2017 (TNA) and mid-April to mid-July 2017 (NRS).
(iii) Schools in Scotland
(iv) Schools in England

(i) The National Archives and National Records of Scotland will benefit through hosting the project's exhibition between mid-January and mid-April 2017 (TNA) and mid-April to mid-July 2017 (NRS). The project's theme of the emergence of government relates directly to the core function of both TNA and NRS as the guardians of the records of central government in England and Scotland. The project exhibition will offer a fresh insight into how these central records came into being. It will also, at the same time, highlight charters from the period 1100-1250, an important part of the holdings of both TNA and NRS. The exhibition will provide an opportunity for TNA and NRS to showcase their function as depositories of central records and charters, and the antiquity and significance of their records and charters, by completing the exhibition through the display of specimen original central records and charters from their collections.
(ii) Members of the public visiting the exhibition in TNA and NRS will learn about the project's research chiefly through (a) appreciating the changing visual impact of the handwriting of charters, and participating in activities that reinforce this, and (b) by gaining hands-on experience of the formulaic nature of charters (e.g., by allowing people to use reproduction charters, chopped up into set phrases, to create their own charter text, showing how the choice became increasingly limited). (Both these interactive ideas are inspired by aspects of the Bess of Hardwick exhibition, designed by the same company as will be used for the project's exhibition.) There will also be podcasts and social media associated with the exhibition in TNA and NRS as well as via the project website.
(iii) Schools in Scotland will not only benefit from the exhibition in NRS in Edinburgh, and through NRS's engagement with schools, but also through the ability of the project, by providing bespoke material on the web, to respond to opportunities provided by Curriculum for Excellence. Content up to age 15 is determined by teachers in line with levels of attainment in Social Studies. The schools section of the website will tailor material from the project to meet these specifications.
(iv) Schools in England will benefit from the project through school visits to the exhibition in TNA, the 'schools' section of the project website, and http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/education/, all diected at Key Stage 3 in England.

After the project ends, these web resources will be the main vehicle for impact not only for schools but the wider public.

The project's chief impact is likely to be through its main theme, the emergence of government--crucial to our understanding of the origins of nations. It is widely assumed that this was centrally driven. The project offers a way of interrogating and challenging that assumption. The project will introduce the interested public and schools to the idea that the emergence of government involved the aspirations of people more widely than simply those in royal administration. Instead of seeing people outside the inner circles of royal power as performing a passive role in this process, this project could encourage the view that they played an active (even a vital) part in making government come into being. 'People' here cannot be understood in a modern sense. The mere suggestion that the process was not only centrally driven, however, will raise important questions about the nature of government and the nation-state today. Quite how vivid this perspective might be will depend on the project's results.
 
Description New methods, tools and terminology for researching the handwriting of charters, particularly the development of cursive writing.
New methods and tools for researching the prose of charters.
New understanding of scribal choice in development of aspects of style in handwriting and deployment of key phrases in charter prose.
New understanding of the emergence of standardisation in the prose and structure of royal charters.
New understanding of royal charters as a source for the origins of government in Scotland.
New understanding of the nature of statehood and lordship in Scotland at the beginning of the period, and formulation of a new theoretical approach to this.
Exploitation Route The new tools, methods and terminology for researching handwriting and charter prose are, or will soon be, freely accessible to all scholars, with a potential for application in other bodies of similar material.
The results on the development of cursivity, and the emergence of standardisation in charters, is a model for future research and comparative perspectives.
The new theoretical approach to statehood can be potentially developed and applied generally, particularly in approaches to the issue from the perspective of Arts and Humanities rather than Social Science
Sectors Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections,Other
URL http://www.modelsofauthority.ac.uk/
 
Description Talks to general public at BL and TNA, and in a school Exhibition at TNA (Jan-March 2017) and NRS (April-May 2017) Blogs and other publicity associated with the exhibitions
First Year Of Impact 2017
Sector Education,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections,Other
Impact Types Cultural
 
Description International Partnership and Development Scheme (NB: PI is John Reuben Davies, RA on project.)
Amount £9,968 (GBP)
Organisation British Academy 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK)
Start 09/2014 
End 08/2015
 
Title Lightbox 
Description Tool for searching and comparing palaeographical features 
Type Of Material Data analysis technique 
Year Produced 2015 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Ongoing 
URL http://www.modelsofauthority.ac.uk/lightbox/
 
Title Searchable database of texts and images of NLS charters 
Description Searchable database of texts and images of 32 charters from Edinburgh, NLS Adv. MS 15.1.18 
Type Of Material Data analysis technique 
Year Produced 2015 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Still ongoing 
URL http://www.modelsofauthority.ac.uk/digipal/search/facets/?page=1&result_type=images&img_is_public=1&...
 
Description IMC 2015 Roundtable 
Organisation University of Exeter
Department Department of Modern Languages
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Contribution to roundtable at IMC Leeds 2015 on (Mis-)Using Digital Tools in the Digital Palaeography Age
Collaborator Contribution Organising the roundtable
Impact None
Start Year 2015
 
Title DigiPal Framework for the Analysis of Script and Decoration 
Description The DigiPal framework was originally developed for the ERC-funded DigiPal project but has received significant extensions and improvements through the AHRC-funded 'Conqueror's Commissioners' and 'Models of Authority' projects. It comprises freely-available generalised software for the online presentation of images with structured annotations and data which allows users to search for, view, and organise detailed characteristics of handwriting or other material in both verbal and visual form. Designed primarily for the palaeographical analysis of handwriting, it has been extended to incorporate texts, codicological structure, an improved interface, and the ability to download and run the software on a desktop computer for private study. 
Type Of Technology Webtool/Application 
Year Produced 2017 
Impact The software is now being used by over twenty different research projects, in the UK, France and the United States. Examples of its use online include: * The ERC-funded DigiPal Project: https://www.digipal.eu * The AHRC-funded Conqueror's Commissioners project: http://www.exondomesday.ac.uk * The AHRC-funded Models of Authority project: http://www.modelsofauthority.ac.uk * The Marie Curie funded ViGOTHIC project: http://litteravisigothica.com/visigothicpal-year-ahead/ and http://cordis.europa.eu/project/rcn/195243_en.html * The Polices de caractères et inscriptions monétaires project at the Bibliothèque nationale de France * A prototype on the manuscripts of Marcel Proust, in collaboration with the Équipe Proust at the Institut des textes et manuscrits modernes (ITEM: ENS/CNRS, Paris) * Numerous uses by individual researchers and PhD and MA students in the UK, France and US, on topics including bilingual Greek/Latin inscriptions, the script and decoration of Hebrew bibles, early West Semitic script, halos in renaissance Dutch painting, and the Bayeaux Tapestry. It has also been awarded the inaugural Digital Humanities prize from the Medieval Academy of America. 
URL https://github.com/kcl-ddh/digipal
 
Description '"This is Not a Book": New Lives of Old Books in the Digital Age', International Association of University Professors of English (IAUPE) Triennial Conference, London 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Talk to approx. 25 English professors from around the world about digital applications to book history, including discussion and demonstration of AHRC-funded projects.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www.ies.sas.ac.uk/sites/default/files/files/events/conferences/IAUPE/IAUPE%20Abstracts.pdf
 
Description 'Bringing Codicology to DigiPal', International Congress on Medieval Studies (ICMS), Kalamazoo (MI) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Talk given to the International Medieval Congress, the largest conference in medieval studies, on developments in the AHRC-funded project. The talk was reported widely on Twitter, reaching an even larger audience, and resulted in follow-on work as well as questions and discussion afterwards.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description 'How to Benefit from Each Other in Historical Document Analysis', Workshop at the École Pratique des Hautes Études, Paris 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Approx. 15 experts from France and internationally met to discuss issues of historical document analysis, with a view towards establishing an international standard for data sharing.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description 'Presentation of the project, 'Models of Authority: Scottish Charters and the Emergence of Government, 1100-1250' 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact 'Presentation of the project, 'Models of Authority:
Scottish Charters and the Emergence of Government, 1100-1250'at the
University of Pisa on 24 September 2014, as part of the Conference
'Burocrazia, amminstrazione, contabilità e scritture corsive:
morfologia, tecniche, riflessioni teoriche', 23-24 September, Archivio
di Stato, Lucca and Dipartimento di Civiltà e Forme del Sapere,
Università di Pisa

Stimulated discussion
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description 'Vers DigiProust', Journée D'Étude : Proust Numérique, Proust Imprimé : L'Édition des Manuscrits Aujourd'hui, Institut des textes et manuscrits modernes (ITEM), Paris 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Presentation (in French) to audience of French and international academics, demonstrating the tools and methods developed through the AHRC-funded research as a 'proof of concept' for future work in Proust studies.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description 'What is Digital Palaeography, Really?', International Medieval Congress (IMC), Leeds 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Talk on epistemological nature of digital palaeography given to international audience of approx. 50 academics which sparked significant discussion and audience reporting changes of view regarding the nature and history of the field.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description British Library Labs Roadshow, March 2016 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Getting Medieval, Getting Palaeography: Using the DigiPal Framework to Study Medieval Script and Image
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description British Library, Lunchtime Lecture Series, 2014 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Building a Framework for Evidence-based Palaeography
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Fondation des Treilles workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Invited participant in five-day international workshop at the prestigious Fondation des Treilles, comprising experts in digital palaeography in order to identify new directions for future research. AHRC-funded IP was a significant part of this discussion.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www.les-treilles.com/digital-paleography/
 
Description Introducing the 'Models of Authority' project: Scottish charters c.1100-c.1250 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact Paper at international academic conference

Stimulated discussion
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Models of Authority Twitter 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact There are 344 followers and our tweets have been viewed by 171,054 people. The most successful tweet was the image of a reunited chirograph which was viewed by 24,498 people and received 132 retweets and 164 likes.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015,2016
URL http://www.modelsofauthority.ac.uk/
 
Description Mozilla Festival, Greenwich Peninsula, November 2015 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Using DigiPal and the Models of Authority to Study Medieval Manuscripts
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Nancy Reuben Primary School, London, June 2015 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Medieval Manuscripts and Medieval Handwriting
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description The National Archives, Kew, September 2014 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Towards a Model of Authority: Extending DigiPal for Medieval Scottish Charters
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description http://www.modelsofauthority.ac.uk/ 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Total number of page views: 10,317. There have been 5,179 sessions by 3,816 users.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015,2016
URL http://www.modelsofauthority.ac.uk/