Reassessing the Scottish Parliamentary Records, 1528-1548: manuscript, print, bureaucracy and royal authority

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This article for the first time correctly identifies a manuscript previously identified as an ‘official record of parliament’ as a draft of the first printed statutes of the Scottish Parliament, the Actis and Constitutionis of 1542. This discovery has a number of implications for our study of parliament in the period 1528 to 1548, encompassing the personal rule of James V and the beginning of his daughter, Mary Queen of Scots's, minority, which the original manuscript covered. Careful attention to these materials exposes a sophisticated administrative culture, characterised by reviewing and repromulgating statutes, as well as revealing the ghosts of further, now lost, records. Considering the printed text, meanwhile, suggests that parliament and the law played as important a role as history and ceremonial in the assertion of James V's kingship in the years 1540–2: indeed, this should not surprise us given that James's administrators were also his poets. While the Actis of 1542 have hitherto provoked little interest from among historians, they emerge as an important influence on the much better known publication of Scottish statutes from James I to Mary in 1567. The administrators who produced this later volume evidently saw themselves as working within the same tradition as their predecessors of 1542: an increased appreciation of the administrative expertise, careful record-keeping, attention to the dissemination of statute and the ways in which this bolstered the power of the crown suggests that we ought to do likewise.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)417-422
Number of pages26
JournalParliamentary History
Issue number3
Early online date11 Oct 2021
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2021


  • James Foulis, clerk register
  • James V, king of Scots 1513–42
  • Mary, queen of Scots, 1542–87
  • Parliament
  • Public administration
  • Statutes
  • Treason


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