Custom in context: Medieval and Early Modern Scotland and England

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Studying custom and its context gives unique insights into relations of property, production and law in a society. The first part of the article discusses meaning in Scotland, focusing on ‘custom as normative practice, custom as unwritten law, and custom in opposition to law’. The second seeks to demonstrate (using evidence focusing principally on landholding) that custom as legal currency was more restricted for Scots than English. The third sets out the implications for continuity of landholding and for agrarian change in the Highlands of Scotland, an area where custom might be thought strong. The fourth deals with the differential legal development of Scotland and England between the twelfth and eighteenth centuries and its effects on social and tenurial relationships. A final section suggests why custom mattered more as a resource to the English, the domains in which it was important to Scots and the implications for understanding the comparative development of the two societies since the Middle Ages.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)35-76
Number of pages42
JournalPast & Present
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - May 2011


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