The coroners of Northern Britain c.1300-1700

Research output: Book/ReportBook

6 Citations (Scopus)


For the last 800 years coroners have been important in England’s legal and political landscape, best known as investigators of sudden, suspicious, or unexplained death. Transplanted early on to Wales and Ireland, the office exists today in a recognisable form over much of the English-speaking world. In contrast, historians have largely ignored, misunderstood, or dismissed the office of coroner in Scotland. Contrary to popular belief, Scotland had coroners, but their functions were quite different from their English namesakes. Against the background of the coroner’s role in historic England, this book explains how sudden death was investigated by magistrates in Scotland. It then explores how Scottish coroners functioned as executive judicial officers, who serviced criminal circuit courts. They were men of action who dealt primarily with living miscreants and their assets, while also having other tasks, including quasi-military roles. The book explains their place in late medieval and early modern Scottish justice and how, over time, they were side-lined by changes in the constitution of courts and in legal procedures, becoming obsolete in the eighteenth century. Finally, it draws intriguing parallels between the distinctive role of coroners in the north of England and Wales, prior to the seventeenth century, and their counterparts in Scotland. It is a study in legal history, which also sheds valuable light on social, administrative, and political formations in the component parts of historic Britain.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationBasingstoke
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages134
ISBN (Electronic)9781137381071
ISBN (Print)9781137381064, 9781349479528
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2014

Publication series

NamePalgrave pivot


  • Coroners
  • Death
  • Suicide
  • Murder
  • Crime


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