Lollardy, Hussitism and the Scottish Inquisition, c.1390-c.1527
By Katie Stevenson
Revue d’histoire ecclésiastique, Volume 110, Number 3-4, 2015
Introduction: The closing decades of the fourteenth century and the first of the fifteenth century saw considerable tensions within the late medieval Church. Pluralism and the abuse of benefices were rife, the protracted Great Schism drove the Church into near-terminal disarray, and European alliances were under strain as adherences and bonds were tested.
It has been well established that in this climate, heterodoxy and heresy flourished, particularly amongst those who sought reform of the Church to resolve its crisis. Considerable scholarly attention has been focused on England and Bohemia, because the principal heresies of late medieval Europe, Lollardy and Hussitism, grew out of these areas. France and Germany, with extensive and flourishing academic interest in late medieval history, have also been examined.
Yet, despite a peculiar constellation of factors that make Scotland in this period quite unique, and because of what can be described as, at best, a patchy and fragmentary archival record, scholars have paid virtually no attention to Scotland when considering those issues that have shaped the historiography of medieval Europe. Moreover, until recent decades historians of Scotland have been introspective and thus much of the evidence has been poorly interpreted or – in the case of heresy – shoehorned into the narrative arc of the Scottish Reformation and not considered in its proper historical contexts.
This article thus seeks to reconsider the evidence for heresy in late medieval Scotland and argues not only that it is more extensive than has previously been supposed, but also that Scotland had a functioning papal inquisition that far exceeded the understanding scholars currently have of the period. Such an analysis, therefore, contributes to recent scholarly projects that place Scotland within the mainstream of European history, rather than on its idiosyncratic margins.