A. A. M. Duncan Memorial Lecture.

Professor Archie Duncan left his library to the Medievalists in order to raise funds. Proceeds from the sale of his books have hence been dedicated to a funding session, the Duncan Memorial Lecture, in his memory at each conference, focusing on issues of interest to Archie.

Archie Duncan (17 October 1926 – 20 December 2017)

Archibald Alexander McBeth Duncan was the son of Christina Helen McBeth and Charles George Duncan, and he was educated at the University of Edinburgh and Balliol College, Oxford. He held lectureships at Queen’s University, Belfast, the University of Edinburgh, and the University of Glasgow, remaining at the latter from 1962 until his retirement in 1993: the longest serving holder of a chair in Scottish history. Duncan’s work on the acts of Robert I, first published in The Scottish Historical Review (1953) and later as a volume of Regesta Regum Scottorum (1988), identified and contextualised hundreds of documents from the king’s reign. Catering to non-specialists too, Duncan wrote Scotland: The Making of the Kingdom (1975) and translated John Barbour’s The Bruce from medieval Scots into modern English (1997). His deep understanding and analysis of primary source material, including royal, legal, and burghal documents, contributed to the establishment of Scottish history as a modern discipline. Alongside Geoffrey Barrow he was among the fifteen founding members of the Scottish Medievalists. In 1954 he married Ann Hayes Sawyer, with whom he had three children.


Dauvit Broun, ‘Obituary – Archie Duncan, historian and professor of Scottish history at Glasgow University’, The Herald (2018); ‘Duncan, Prof. Archibald Alexander McBeth’, Who’s Who 2022 (2018); ‘Obituary: Professor Archie Duncan’ (2018).

Morvern French, May 2022

The Duncan Memorial Lecture


The 1st  A. A. M. Duncan Memorial Lecture: The Battle of Carham, 1000 years on by Neil McGuigan and Dauvit Broun

Neil McGuigan (University of St Andrews): ‘The Battle of Carham: a thousand years on’       

Abstract: 2018 marks the probable millennium of the battle of Carham, a major encounter between the Scots and Northumbrians on the banks of the Tweed in the early eleventh century. The battle is documented in at least three groups of sources: firstly, the northern Anglo-Latin annals (including Historia Regum, Roger of Howden’s Chronica, and the Chronicle of Melrose); secondly, Symeon of Durham’s Libellus de Exordio; and thirdly, the ‘E’ Dál Riata–Scotland king-list from the Poppleton manuscript. None of the sources for Carham, in their surviving forms, predate the twelfth century. There is also a possibility that the thirteenth-century chronicle used by John of Fordun made use of a non-extant source that had discussed the battle. The talk proceeded to discuss the date of the battle. The first two groups of surviving sources give 1018; Historia Regum specifically names Uhtred son of Waltheof as the leader of the Northumbrians. Since at least the nineteenth century historians have noticed that a source written in the 1020s, an annal common to manuscripts C, D and E of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, appears to say that Uhtred had been killed in 1016, leading to the conclusion that the twelfth-century Anglo-Latin sources had come to be in error about the leadership of Earl Uhtred. Eadwulf ‘Cudel’, Uhtred’s brother and his successor in Bamburgh, came to be preferred as the Northumbrian commander. Frank Stenton, in the twentieth century, thought it more likely our northern Anglo-Latin sources had placed the battle under the wrong year than misidentified the English leader, and proposed 1016 as the latest year for the battle. However, A. A. M. Duncan in the 1970s argued that the relevant passage in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle was a ‘parenthetical’ reflective comment that could not be used to date Uhtred’s death to any specific year. This allowed historians to re-embrace both 1018 and Earl Uhtred’s leadership. The presentation summarized this debate, and reflected on some ‘key points’ that, going forward, might help modern historians evaluate the dating and the battle more generally. The presentation ended by reflecting on the potential consequences of the battle and on the long-held suggestion that the battle played a role facilitating Scottish expansion south of the Forth, into ‘Lothian’.

Dauvit Broun (University of Glasgow): ‘Southern Scotland as part of the Scottish kingdom: the evidence of the earliest charters’


The 2nd A.A.M. Duncan Memorial Lecture: Matthew Hammond (King’s College London), ‘The evolution of the Mac- surname in the Gaelic world’

Abstract: Looking at the historiography of surnames, there have been two main approaches taken in Western Europe as a whole. The first we might call the English school, as exemplified by Richard McKinley and P. H. Reaney. Their conceptual framework was a typological structure, diving surnames into types like ‘locative’ and ‘occupational’. The second we might term the French school, and is represented by the Genèse Médiévale de l’Anthroponymie Moderne project of the late 20th century. They incorporated typological elements, but subsumed within an evolutionary structure, which was based on the form rather than the use of the second names. This approach did not account for single individuals using multiple forms, a practice that was common in the twelfth century, nor for the adoption and use by a family group over time. The ‘stages’ proposed by GMAM do not adequately describe the way changes in naming practices looked on the ground.

Kinship terms have not always been defined clearly enough in the historiography. The broadest term is the ‘second name’: it may be applied by authority figures without the knowledge or consent of the individual; it may be used only once or many times; it was unlikely to be thought of as hereditary or all-encompassing. The term ‘surname’ is hereditary, but may restrictive in its use, for example, only applying to landholding member of the family. The ‘family name’ denotes a clearer sense of family identity, encompassing women, family members in clerical careers, and sometimes illegitimate children.

There is unequivocal evidence for a shift from single names to double names, happening in most places in the eleventh and early twelfth centuries. These second names were coined in creative and dynamic ways, and were not thought of at the time of their coining as ‘surnames-in-waiting’. Many of them did not go on to become surnames.

Surnames developed first in Ireland by around 1000 and in Normandy shortly thereafter: both processes had direct effects on Scotland. Beyond those affected by these two trends, surname development in Scotland did not begin until the late twelfth century. In Ireland, the Ua (Ó) surname was in use by 1000, followed by the Mac meic surname in the eleventh century, which was shortened to just Mac by around 1200. Most known Scottish Mac-surnames developed in the thirteenth century and later. New surnames tended to emerge as segments broke off and wished to establish a new identity. This is well-known among Gaelic-speaking dynasties: for example, the descendants of Somerled used the term Mac Somairlid in the mid-thirteenth century, but split into MacDougalls, MacDonalds, and MacRuaris by around 1300. Families of European origin sometimes did the same thing, two high-profile examples being the Sutherlands, who broke off from the Murrays, and the Menteiths, relatives of the Stewarts. Despite the change in identity, however, families also sought to retain the identity of the deeper lineage, a tendency reflected in heraldry and genealogies.

Prosopographical analysis of the use of surnames by various families makes clear that for most Scots, surnames were not ‘brought’ from abroad but developed, as it were, in situ. For landholding families, this process was in full swing in the first half of the thirteenth century, and encompassed families of various ethnolinguistic backgrounds and of various surname types. The adoption of family names should not be viewed as representing a ‘modern’ perspective. The importance of the three-generation familial unit is reflected in naming practice: a large number of landholders of English, French, Flemish and Gaelic background used three-generation name forms, especially in charters dealing with the alienation of land, perhaps suggesting a mentality whereby landholders saw themselves as representing families with broader perceived rights in the ownership of the land.


The 3rd A.A.M. Duncan Memorial Lecture:  John Gillingham ‘From Scotland to Bohemia: The Culture of War on the Periphery of Frankish Europe in the Eleventh and Twelfth Centuries’

Abstract: Beginning with Archie Duncan’s observation that before the thirteenth century ‘a sense of regnal community’ was created by ‘the command of kings’ in war, I argued that in the few instances in which Scottish historians have discussed the disappearance of slavery in Scotland, they have paid insufficient attention to the phasing-out of slaving warfare during the twelfth century – a natural response to the fact that from the 1130s onwards the early extant narrative sources were English, all composed by authors inclined to judge Scots, particularly – but not only – Galwegians, as barbarians. In this paper I argued first: that Richard of Hexham’s account of David I’s raids into England, although plainly propagandistic, was composed by an exceptionally well-informed historian; second, that Scottish warfare of the time should not be seen as essentially ‘Celtic’, but as typical of the pre-chivalric warfare that was once practised everywhere, and in the twelfth century was still characteristic of the Bohemians, Poles and Hungarians, even when at war with fellow Christians.

Richard of Hexham’s account is a uniquely important one. He is the only European chronicler to combine description of the brutal dynamics of slaving warfare – kill men, carry off women and children – with a dramatic expression of the newly emerging norm of non-combatant immunity in the form of a papal legate prostrating himself before David at Carlisle in September 1138. Although this seems to support the widely-held assumption that the church led the way in opposing slave-raiding, I argued that churchmen had nothing to say on the subject until after the practice itself had vanished from the countries in which they were brought up – as it did from tenth-century Francia and then from England after 1066. The English too managed to forget about slaving in their own past; once gone, it was soon forgotten. Instead, other alleged changes consequent upon the Norman Conquest came to dominate the historiography, notably the introduction of feudalism – despite the absence of any good evidence for it. And then, as a belated Anglicisation, to dominate the historiography of twelfth-century Scotland.


The 4th A.A.M. Duncan Memorial Lecture: Fiona Edmonds ‘The medieval diocese of Sodor and Man: evidence from Furness Abbey’

Abstract: In 1134 Óláfr I, king of the Isles, granted to Furness Abbey the right to elect a bishop for the diocese of Sodor. Historians have long known the texts pertaining to Furness Abbey’s right to elect, but the format of the key document has never been fully explored. It is a thirteenth-century dossier of material that the monks of Furness apparently compiled as evidence of their unusual privilege. This paper considered the possible contexts for the production of this document, pointing especially to the Treaty of Perth (1266) and Furness Abbey’s negotiations with King Alexander III. In doing so, several themes emerged that resonated with Professor Duncan’s work: the links between Scotland and northern England, and the relationship between the Isles and the kingdom of the Scots.


The 5th A.A.M. Duncan Memorial Lecture Paul Gething : ‘The Perfect Sword: Forging the Dark Ages’

In 2000, archaeologist Paul Gething rediscovered a sword, an unprepossessing length of rusty metal, which had been left in a suitcase for thirty years. Specialist tests revealed this to be possibly the finest, and certainly the most complex early medieval sword ever made, which had been forged in seventh-century Northumberland by an anonymous swordsmith.

This talk explored the material properties of the sword, and the processes needed to forge a replica. It also explored the wider archaeological contexts of Bamburgh, particularly a contemporary elite burial ground excavated over several decades. Discussion was also made on the literary evidence of the warrior society that produced the blade, and broader comparisons to other warrior societies.


The 6th A.A.M. Duncan Memorial Lecture Alan Macquarrie: ‘A Tale of two Series: the Calendar of Papal Letters to the British Isles and the Calendar of Scottish Supplications to Rome’

The Vatican Archives were first opened to scholars by Pope Leo XIII in 1883, and it is to that pope’s credit that he decreed that scholars of all denominations and none were welcome to study in its vast resources.  Scholars from all across Europe flocked to the Vatican to study there, and to extract their nations’ materials from the records.  The Public Record Office sent an archivist, William H Bliss, to extract systematically material relevant to the British Isles, and from 1893 onwards a series of volumes of relevant papal letters, and one volume of papal supplications, appeared under the imprint of HMSO.  Owing to a change in policy at the PRO in the 1960s, the series of papal letters was taken over by the Irish Manuscripts Commission, and from 1978 onwards an important series of volumes has been published in Dublin.  A volume appeared in 2018 and two others are very close to completion.

Papal letters constitute the routine out-tray of the pope’s correspondence.  The in-tray was recorded in the Register of Supplications, and here Scotland has been very fortunate. The fact that Scottish supplications to the pope have been extracted in huge numbers is largely thanks to the industry and perseverance of a small number of individuals.  Annie Dunlop, Charles Burns, Ian Cowan, and a team working with him (including Norman Macdougall, Thomas Graham, Thomas Smythe, and Alan Macquarrie) have extracted all Scottish supplications down the 1560s, and many of these have been published by the Scottish History Society, the University of Glasgow Press, and most recently the Scottish Record Society.  Ireland has been fortunate in the publication of financial records, largely thanks to the work of Fr Michael Costello. 

The present paper compares the two approaches to the process of work on the Calendar of Papal Letters and the Calendar of Scottish Supplications – original, transcription, translation and publication, all quite distinct stages, and describe the story and purpose behind their publication.

We are celebrating the appearance of another volume in their series in 2023.  Covering the years 1534-1549, Calendar of Scottish Supplications to Rome, volume 9, contains some 2490+ items with an index of 3235 terms.  It is more than 1000 pages in length, packed full of information of interest to musicologists, economic and social historians, legal historians, and students of theology and church history.  The evidence which it presents will greatly help to fill in some of the detail of our picture of the Scottish church in the years leading up to the Reformation.