Alan MacDonald

Dr Alan MacDonald

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



Before joining the University of Dundee as a lecturer in October 2000, I spent five years at the University of St Andrews as a research fellow on an environmental history project and then with the Scottish Parliament Project.

My teaching focuses on early modern Scotland in a British and European context. Next year I will be offering two Honours modules: 'Reading Seventeenth-Century Scotland' (which focuses on original sources); and a Level 4 specialist subject on parliament in early modern Scotland.

I have recently been specialising in Scottish parliamentary history, focusing on the interaction between urban Scotland and parliament in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. I am also interested in the measurement and regulation of time and its impact on society. I could supervise postgraduate research degrees on most aspects of early modern Scottish history.

Because my research interest is in Scotland's history, I can make frequent visits to archives and often use what I find there in my teaching. My work on early modern towns and parliament naturally feeds into the modules I teach, and ensures that new discoveries are always being integrated into the student experience.

View Alan MacDonald's PURE profile

Teaching interests

Teaching interests

Undergraduate Modules

  • Parliament and Society in Early Modern Scotland
  • Reading Seventeenth-Century Scotland




My research concentrates on early modern Scotland, its political, religious and cultural history, all of which contributed, for better or for worse, to making Scotland what it is today. My recent work on parliament explored what the towns of Scotland thought about parliament and how they used it to further their collective and individual interests. I have just completed a number of spin-off projects from this research, including an examination of voting and an investigation of the nature of conventions of the estates and the impact of the union of 1603.

Much research results from chance discovery. When I found olive oil in a sixteenth-century account book, it led me into my next major research project: clocks and the regulation of people's lives by measured time. The olive oil was a lubricant. There were no mineral oils in this period, animal fats were too sticky, so olive oil was imported for precision machinery.

Time is of immense importance and through an investigation into its application, we can gain insights into social and intellectual developments. In Aberdeen in the 1550s, craftsmen broke into the town house, climbed the tower and threw the clock down into the street below because they resented regulation of their lives by their social superiors. The regulation of time introduced a new dynamic and new tensions into social relations in the early modern period. Quite what these were is the historical question I am trying to answer.

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 significant was measured time to early modern people?

How effectively was legislation implemented locally?

What was the condition of the pre-Reformation church? Was Protestantism popular before the Reformation?

How did the localities interact with the centre?

Why did the royal burghs decline after 1660?

Did burghs embrace religious change before 1560? How closely were the lives of urban people controlled by local and national government?




  • The Burghs and Parliament in Scotland, c.1550-1651 (Aldershot, 2007).
  • The Jacobean Kirk, 1567-1625: sovereignty, polity and liturgy (Aldershot, 1998).
  • The Native Woodlands of Scotland: an environmental history, 1500-1900 (Edinburgh, 2004). Written jointly with T C Smout and Fiona Watson.

Selected Articles/chapters

  • ‘Consultation and Consent Under James VI’, in Historical Journal, 54 (2011).
  • 'James VI and I, the Church of Scotland and British Ecclesiastical Convergence', in Historical Journal, 48 (2005).
  • 'Mapmaker or Minister? Timothy Pont's ecclesiastical context', in Northern Scotland, 22 (2002).
  • 'Deliberative processes in Parliament c.1567-1639: multi-cameralism and the Lords of the Articles',Scottish Historical Review, 81 (2002).
  • 'Ecclesiastical Representation in Parliament in post-Reformation Scotland: the two kingdoms theory in practice', in Journal of Ecclesiastical History, 50 (1999).