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Dr. Sharon Adams (01.07.2011-31.05.2013)

Credit and friendship in early modern Scotland

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Sharon Adams




 Credit and friendship in early modern Scotland.


The terms ‘friend’ and ‘friendship’ were in common currency in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Scotland. This research project aims to explore these terms and ascertain how early modern Scots understood them, used them and reacted to them between c. 1550 and 1690. A particular aim of this project is to evaluate to what extent and why the meaning and conceptualisation of friendship changed in this period. Friendship was often linked with the concept of ‘credit’, in the sense of derived value, esteem or benefit. Friendship, especially in terms of the extent to which it offered social or political advantages, obviously cannot be divorced from other early modern social relationships. Indeed Scottish historians have long recognised the importance of family and patronage to Scottish society. This project will not, however, focus on kinship, client-patron relations and relations predicated on superiority and dependency, but on the horizontal relationships between early modern Scots which were not governed by family relationships or patronage, i.e. the types of relationship which early modern Scots captured by the terms ‘friend’ and ‘friendship’.


The first part of this research project explores the meaning of friendship in early modern Scotland. My initial task is to analyse and explain what was meant by and understood by the concept of ‘friendship’ in the various contexts in which it was used in early modern Scotland. What did early modern Scots mean when they used the words ‘friend’ or ‘friendship’? What different levels of relationship does this represent? What was the role of personal or ‘genuine’ friendship? This section of the research project will then explore attitudes to friendship in early modern Scotland. Was it seen as a positive or negative social force? Did it create interest groups paralleling those created by kinship and patronage? Was it seen as socially cohesive or divisive? Did friendship give rise to partiality in the same ways as kinship and patronage? To what extent did the fact that friendship was not a concrete and definable relationship and was not always readily identifiable from outside the relationship impact on how it was perceived? How was it viewed in legal discourse? How did the presbyterian church in Scotland view friendship? This theoretical, foundational section of the research will then be built on and complemented by more focused studies of friendship in early modern Scotland. These case studies will consider friendship within the framework of social networks or communities e.g. spiritual friendships (including male/female friendship), networks of friendship within a specific local community and professional friendships in the legal profession.

  • Postadresse:

    Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg
    DFG-Graduiertenkolleg 1288
    c/o Historisches Seminar
    Rempartstr. 15 - KG IV
    79085 Freiburg 
  • Besuchsadresse:

    Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg
    DFG-Graduiertenkolleg 1288
    Erbprinzenstraße 13
    79098 Freiburg
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