Playing By the Rules?: Early Modern Sport and Control in the Northern Mainland Royal Burghs of Scotland

Wade Cormack

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
315 Downloads (Pure)


The history of early modern sport in Scotland, especially in the Lowlands, is beginning to emerge. Impressive works have identified the key sports in Scottish history, including bowls, football, golf, horse racing and shinty, but more research is required to understand their place in society and how they were regulated. This paper focuses on the northern mainland royal burghs of Scotland and examines the roles of the crown, the Scottish Parliament, the burgh councils and the parochial kirk sessions in governing sport during the early modern period. It argues that sport in the north was controlled, from the authorities' perspective, to guarantee the training of useful members of society, to minimise disruptions to communities and to follow moral and religious expectations. They did so by applying both direct and indirect methods of social control. However, this element of social control was not universal, unremitting or entirely oppressive and the urban populace had agency and, at times, resisted the authorities' attempts to govern what, where and when sports were to be played. This paper is divided into four sections to illuminate: what sports were played; how they were governed at the national level; where they were played in the urban environment; and, finally, when they were deemed appropriate.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-23
JournalSport in History
Publication statusPublished - 13 Nov 2015


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