Alan MacDonald

Dr Alan MacDonald

Senior Lecturer in History and Associate Dean of Quality & Academic Standards



I am an early modern Scottish historian, with a particular interest in the period between c.1550 and c.1650. I studied at Edinburgh and worked at St Andrews before joining the University of Dundee in 2000.

My teaching looks at early modern Scotland in a British and European context. My current Honours modules are: 'Reading Seventeenth-Century Scotland', a Level 3 module focusing on original sources and their interpretation; and ‘Scotland and Europe c.1530-c.1570’, a Level 4 module on a period when Scotland received more international attention than at any other time before or since, and Mary Queen of Scots.

My current research interest is in Scottish parliamentary history, focusing on the interaction between the localities and parliament. I am also interested in environmental history and the history of everyday life. I could supervise postgraduate research degrees on most aspects of early modern Scottish history.

I make frequent visits to archives and often use what I find there in teaching, allowing new discoveries to be integrated into the student experience, sometimes within days of making them.

View Alan MacDonald's PURE profile



My research concentrates on the political history of early modern Scotland, with a particular focus on parliament. I have also worked on ecclesiastical and environmental history and maintain an active interest in both. My current work on parliament builds upon a major study (published in 2007) of urban Scotland’s relationship with parliament, shifting the emphasis to the rural setting, examining the role, development and significance of the other elected part of parliament, the shire commissioners. Although not created until 1587, the shire commissioners quickly became a key element of the parliamentary setup, playing a prominent role in the political upheavals of the seventeenth century.

I am currently involved in a collaborative project with colleagues from the University of Edinburgh, funded by the Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland, on ‘Agriculture and Teind Reform in Early Modern Scotland’. Its exploration of attempts to reform the valuation and collection of teinds (a tax of one tenth of agricultural produce to support the church), the project encompasses politics, government, social and economic and even environmental history. The principal aims of the project are to trace the making of policy, the implementation of that policy and its impact in the localities, and the relationship of the process to agricultural change.

Postgraduate supervision

  • The Scottish parliament before 1707
  • Religion in Scotland c.1500-c.1650
  • Scottish political history c.1500-c.1650
  • Early modern Scottish urban history

AHRC funded studentships are available in my research area - more details

Research problems

How did the localities interact with the centre?

To what degree were lairds politically dependent on peers?

Was there a Scottish ‘shire community’?

(Why) Did the royal burghs decline after 1660?




  • Records of the Convention of Royal Burghs, 1555, 1631-48, with M. Verschuur (Scottish History Society, 2013).
  • The History of the Scottish Parliament, vol. 3: Parliament in Context, 1235-1707 (Edinburgh, 2010), edited with K.M. Brown.
  • The Burghs and Parliament in Scotland, c.1550-1651 (Aldershot, 2007).
  • The Native Woodlands of Scotland: an environmental history, 1500-1900 (Edinburgh, 2004), with T C Smout and Fiona Watson.
  • The Jacobean Kirk, 1567-1625: sovereignty, polity and liturgy (Aldershot, 1998).


Selected Articles/chapters

  • ‘Scottish Shire Elections: Preliminary Findings in Sheriff Court Books’, Parliamentary History, 34 (2015).
  • ‘The Evidence for Early Seventeenth-Century Climate from Scottish Ecclesiastical Records’, Environment and History, 19 (2013), with John McCallum.
  • ‘Uncovering the Legislative Process in the Parliaments of James VI’, Historical Research, 84 (2011).
  • ‘Consultation and Consent Under James VI’, Historical Journal, 54 (2011).
  • ‘Parliament and the Burghs’ in Brown & MacDonald(eds.), The History of the Scottish Parliament, vol. 3: Parliament in Context 1235-1707 (Edinburgh, 2010).
  • ‘Chancellors, Presidents and Speakers: Presiding Officers in the Scottish Parliament before the Restoration’, in P. Seaward (ed.), Speakers and the Speakership: Presiding Officers and the Management of Business from the Middle Ages to the 21st Century, (Oxford, 2010).
  • ‘Voting in the Scottish Parliament before 1639’, Parliaments, Estates and Representation, 30 (2010).
  • ‘James VI and I, the Church of Scotland and British Ecclesiastical Convergence', Historical Journal, 48 (2005).