Man Rent or Land Rent?

Significance and function of land transfer for the practice of lordship of kings, lay lords and ecclesiastics in north-east Scotland in the late middle ages.  


A new research project under supervision of Prof. Dr. Jörg Rogge will examine the significance and function of property transfer in Scotland, in Aberdeenshire, Perthshire and Fife in the later middle Ages (14th/15th century). Source material will be evaluated from the perspective of the most important protagonists in these regions: the Scottish kings, the earls of Fife, important lairds and the bishops and chapters of St. Andrews and Aberdeen. The practice of property transfer and land distribution is examined by two dissertations, one concerned with the strategies of lay nobility, the other with that of the clerical nobility. Thereby, differences and similarities in the territorial policies of the two groups can be carved out. The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) backs the project with 350.000 Euros.

The involved researchers are especially interested in four central questions. We explore how land-distribution and property transfer correlated with political interests, and its contribution to the self-organization of the landed nobility. It will be examined whether or not by this self-organization some kind of political order was established, and whether or not transfer of property was more important to the protagonists than personal loyalty, expressed by the bonds of manrent.

The regional scope offers the possibility to find evidence for the increasing centralisation under the Stewart-Kings James I, II, and III. Aside from that it will be asked, in how far the lower nobility and the church were instrumentalised and functionalised by the king – at times directly aimed against magnates – in order to assert royal authority in the different regions of Scotland. Next to the higher nobility, lairds and clerics were important agents in the examined regions. They provided officials for the administration and offered military and economic potential enabling the high nobility to establish political control of regions. The medieval nobilities’ authority was based on disposition of land and its income. This holds true for late medieval Scotland. It is striking that neither practices of allocation and distribution of land nor territorial policies of the late medieval high nobility, lairds or ecclesiastical prelates have been studied.

Newly discovered and unpublished sources from the archives in Aberdeen, Perth, St Andrews, Edinburgh and Hawick will be examined supplemented by the published tradition. Especially the charters of the lower nobility are ascertained in the archives, but transcription, analysis and edition of the material still remains. Since lands and their respective transfers are central to the project, the focus will be on charter sources but other material such as chronicles or administrative writs are included in the study.


Contact us:

Prof. Dr. Jörg Rogge
Arbeitsbereich Mittelalterliche Geschichte
Historisches Seminar
Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz
55099 Mainz
Tel. +49 6131 39-22433

Matthias Berlandi M.A., Sebastian Weil M.A.
Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz
55099 Mainz