Religious women and their communities in late medieval Scotland

Religious women and their communities in late medieval Scotland

By Kimberly Ann Curran

PhD Dissertation, University of Glasgow, 2005

Abstract: The traditional view of historians is that Scottish female religious establishments were not worthy of study due to the ‘scanty’ sources available for these women, by these women or their convents. This study will challenge this preconceived notion that Scottish female religious were unimportant to the overall study of monasticism in Scotland. It demonstrates that by using a wide range of sources, Scottish female religious in Scotland were successful both economically and locally and had varying connections to the outside world.

The aim of this study is to examine the relationships between Scottish convents, their inhabitants and Scottish families, kin-groups and locality. Firstly, will be a discussion of how the outside world and their connections to convents began by looking at the grants and further patronage of these religious communities. Further contacts between the two were varied ranging from the foundation and granting of gifts to these religious communities, the challenging of conventual rights and privileges, external conflict like warfare or the suppression of a convent. Secondly, an assessment has been carried out of the origins of Scottish nuns and the identifying of female religious: the outcome of this has been the construction of a database of all known Scottish female religious. Prosopographical analysis has been applied to show their links to local families, former patrons or founders and their relations to one another.


The next part of this study discusses the organization and governance of Scottish convents by examining the role of Scottish prioresses in their religious and secular communities. The office of the prioress has yet to be fully evaluated as an important role in the monastery or in her local community and this section will highlight her many-faceted roles. In addition, how prioresses succeeded to office prioress and monastic elections will be discussed further.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Defining Communities: History and Historiography of Scottish Female Religious

Chapter 2: Convents in the Community: Contacts with the Outside World

Chapter 3: A Community of Nuns: Family, Social and Local Connections

Chapter 4: The Role of the Office of Prioress: Scottish Prioresses in Historical Context

Chapter 5: Succession to the Office of Prioress: Scottish Prioresses and Their Interactions with Family, Kin and Local Communities

Conclusion and Appendices

Click here to read/download this thesis (PDF file)


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