Project History

Scoping

Initial scoping for Mapping the Scottish Reformation began in 2017. Seedcorn funding from W&L University and Newman University, Birmingham, allowed for two student researchers to extract datapoint from volume one of Hew Scott’s Fasti Ecclesiae Scoticanae. Data was extracted relating to names of clerics and details their careers.

Using Palladio to visualise early datasets

Free-to-use services like Palladio allowed us to make create some basic visualisations of this data (read more about this process here). Ultimately, this scoping exercise proved the feasibility of a larger study that used evidence taken from manuscripts to obtain more detailed insights into clerical lives.

Stage 1

Funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, Stage 1 gathered data from over ten thousand pages of manuscript material housed in the National Records of Scotland. Stage 1 took a sample area — the Synod of Lothian and Tweeddale — that included over 120 parishes and almost 900 individuals.

An extract from NRS, CH2/424/1: one of thousands of pages of manuscript material we parsed in Stage 1

Stage 1 culminated in the Project Team exploring different data structures. In January 2020, the project moved, en masse, to Wikidata, an open repository for structured data. Use of the Wikidata Query Service allowed us to build bespoke queries of our data in SPARQL and develop our very first custom visualisations.

Custom visualisations produced by the Wikidata Query Service: this example shows clerical migration patterns

Stage 2

Funded by the Strathmartine Trust, Stage 2 attempted to build the first pilot user interface. Armed with data files extracted in JSON format from Wikidata, we teamed up with the Interactive Content Team at the University of Edinburgh to develop our first public-facing website. After three months of intensive development, Stage 2 concluded with the successful launch of our v.1.0 of our website (maps.mappingthescottishreformation.org) in December 2020 and, following user feedback, a revised website (v.1.1) that launched in January 2021.

Stage 3

With the lessons learned from Stages 1 and 2, Stage 3 will significantly expand the project’s scope and depth: moving out of the Synod of Lothian and Tweeddale to cover all of the regions of early modern Scotland.