Contents
in Death, life, and religious change in Scottish towns, c.1350–1560

Preface and acknowledgements

This book started as a doctoral dissertation at the Centre for Medieval Studies, University of Toronto. The MA and PhD programmes at CMS provide students with training in conventional areas of medieval studies, of course, but they also present many opportunities for a more holistic engagement with the study of the Middle Ages where students are encouraged to do such fun things as act in mystery plays, sing in re-creations of medieval masses, and play Latin scrabble. I hope that both the rigorous interdisciplinary coursework and also the convivial socio-academic environment at the University of Toronto have left some mark on this book, and I would like to thank all who made (and continue to make) the Centre such a special place to study. In particular, I thank my dissertation committee of Elizabeth Ewan, who gave unfailing advice, support, and encouragement while patiently teaching me virtually everything I know about medieval and early modern Scotland; Joe Goering, a historian of intellectual culture, who showed me how not to be afraid of the Great Books and Big Thoughts of the Middle Ages; and Mark Meyerson, who introduced me to theories of social history and historical anthropology while never allowing me to lose sight of the essential humanity of the medieval people I was studying. These scholars are role models all.

The School of Graduate Studies at the University of Toronto, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, and the St Andrews Society of Toronto provided financial support that enabled me to travel across the Atlantic and conduct research in the archives, libraries and churches of Scotland, and I would like to thank the personnel in all these places for going out of their way to help a fumbling student from abroad to locate original documents for historical interpretation unmediated by distance and editors: I will never forget the experience of opening an envelope that contained an otherwise forgotten charter and smelling the unexpected and utterly delightful aroma of beeswax, still sweet after 600 years.

While many authors have an ideal reader in mind as they work, I was so fortunate as to have not just one but three ideal readers for whom to write. I thank each of them humbly for their willingness to devote time from their very busy lives to read and comment on my drafts. Elizabeth Ewan, carrying on her role as primary adviser, continued to be the most generous scholar I know. She shared her knowledge – and even books! – about medieval and early modern Scottish towns, and offered wise and always welcome guidance through the rough patches of research. Hilary Evans Cameron, who commands perhaps the sharpest reasoning skills of anyone I have met, brought her analytical lens into focus on my prose and not only pointed out unsupported claims and lapses in logic, but also applied her keen ability to discern what I was actually trying to say and then suggest better ways of saying it. Whitney Hahn corresponded with me from three different continents to provide the perspective of an intelligent and curious non-specialist. Although she apologised repeatedly for not having much of a background in medieval and early modern Scottish history, her confusion was in fact extremely valuable to me as a guide to determining how much explanation might be required by a sensitive reader with expertise in things other than the scope of this monograph.

As a novice to the book-writing procedure, I would like to thank the staff at Manchester University Press and the anonymous reviewers of the typescript for their patient assistance in getting the book through production, and I would like to thank also my supportive friends and colleagues at the University of Toronto for their patient assistance in getting me through the process.

Finally, I would like to thank my family and friends from outside the academe who have been wonderfully encouraging of my historical curiosity and who, in so being, have endured my many historical rants and raves with remarkably good humour. I would like particularly to thank my parents, John and Norma Cowan, who have always supported me in my education. I thank them also, along with my parents-in-law, Linda and Todd Meyer, for help in caring for my daughter Daphne, who was a gurgling baby when this book began and is now a singing and dancing bilingual schoolgirl. Most especially, I owe much gratitude to my spouse, Chris. For more than half of our lives he has been a sounding board, adviser, and travelling companion to both physical and metaphysical sites of historical interest, and I thank him for listening patiently to my imaginative wanderings, for providing intelligent observations on my nascent ideas, and for accepting my curious ways.

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