Scottish History

The Survey of Scottish Witchcraft

previous surveys  

George F. Black
In 1938, G.F. Black published his Calendar of Cases of Witchcraft in Scotland, 1510-1727. This listed all the cases he could collect from a wide range of published sources. Based in New York, he did not attempt to examine manuscripts. His Calendar contained about a thousand entries, most of which were references to specific trials (sometimes of more than one witch). Black's work made no claim to be comprehensive, and could not be used for statistical analysis. However, it had a straightforward and convenient chronological arrangement, and contained a paragraph or two of text summarising each case. For this, and for its survey of local published sources, it has remained useful.

Christina Larner, Christopher Hyde Lee and Hugh V. McLachlan
In 1977, Christina Larner et al. published their Source-Book of Scottish Witchcraft, the fruits of a research project funded by the then Social Science Research Council. This was the first attempt to gather trial records systematically. A great deal of new information was uncovered, particularly from central manuscript sources, and raising the total number of cases to 3,069. The entries for each case provided little detail—10 basic fields, containing less information than Black—but Professor Larner et al. were able to run some elementary statistical queries, using the mainframe computer on which the Source-Book's data was originally compiled. However, the data was not made available electronically; the published Source-Book was simply a printed book with a list of cases and some attached tables.

Stuart Macdonald
In the 1990s, in the course of his doctoral research, Stuart Macdonald produced a revised version of the Source-Book. He corrected many of the Source-Book's numerous errors, and collected additional cases—particularly in Fife, the county on which his doctoral research concentrated. This raised the total of cases to 3,230, though this figure included numerous duplicates inherited from the Source-Book. He also entered the Source-Book's data onto a modern computer database, increasing the number of fields from 10 to 21 while retaining the basic scope of the data. He issued this Scottish Witch Hunt Data Dase (SWHDB) on CD-Rom, and also kindly made the data available to the present Witchcraft Survey. The SWHDB itself has now been superseded by the Survey.


Survey of Scottish Witchcraft,
Scottish History, School of History and Classics,
The University of Edinburgh,
17 Buccleuch Place,
Edinburgh, EH8 9LN

Page last updated by Kaye Brewster
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