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  • Writer's pictureRebekah Day

Learning palaeography in lockdown

Going into lockdown in the UK, following the outbreak of the Covid-19 coronavirus this year, meant that for months on end many of us were restricted to our homes with far too much free time.

At first this was a depressing change from the usual bustle of daily life and I realised that without a definite end in sight to the government restrictions, I would need to find something that was mentally stimulating to do regularly if I wanted to prevent imploding from boredom. Which is what led me to scrolling through courses available at Future Learn, where I found one delivered by the University of Glasgow titled: Early Modern Scottish Palaeography: Reading Scotland's Records.

One of my uni modules in this past year was supposed to cover some similar topics and skills that the Future Learn course explores, but the term had been cut short and several lessons abandoned thanks to staff strikes and the coronavirus. So naturally, I felt that this online course might offer an interesting replacement to the learning I'd missed out on.

Learning to decipher handwritten manuscripts for myself, rather than solely relying on translations provided by others, will be a really useful skill to use going forward in my studies, and focussing on this specific topic has provided fascinating insight into the function of the church within Scottish communities in the Early Modern period.

One lesson that inspired me featured a glossary of terms that regularly featured in the minute books kept by Scottish churches that held court sessions (known as kirk sessions) in the early modern period (roughly defined as the years between 1500–1800 AD). As someone with a short memory who benefits from visual learning techniques, I thought it would be useful to arrange these terms into an easy-to-refer-to poster. I found that even the action of simply writing them out when designing the poster to be a really helpful method of familiarising myself with the terms.

I hope someone out there finds this helpful too, so feel free to download and save the image and definitely check out the Furture Learn course here:

P.S. Did you or anyone you know indulge a ridiculously specific hobby or random interest during lockdown? I'm genuinely keen to hear what has kept you motivated!

Terns used in kirk session minute books
Scottish terms used in early modern church court documents

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