Research Project Award Scheme: Authority and Texts: Concepts and Use


This project examines religious, historical and legal approaches to authority, taking account of its use and conceptualisations in the areas of law, history, divinity and religious studies.


What constitutes authority and provides authenticity to texts and what is the role of textual criticism? How should authoritative texts (including religious, legal, and other texts), be used and interpreted, and how is this issue determined? Is investigation of the contextual meaning of texts at their time of composition necessary to understanding and respecting their authority, or do different criteria exist which influence readings of texts? When authoritative texts conflict, should there be a dialogue or a competition, and how critical to this are the authorship, age, purpose, and nature of the texts? What functions do authoritative texts have in governance or persecution? What kind of relationship is there among authoritative texts, institutional authority, and leadership? How do traditional accounts and myths interact with texts and to what extent are these authoritative?
This research project has two strands. One examines the nature of textual authority in human culture, particularly relating to theology and religious studies. How do primary texts acquire authority? What is the nature of that authority? How does it function in different cultures? What can be learned about the function of such texts through cross-cultural analysis? Under what circumstances are authoritative texts used to justify discrimination, suppression or violence? How does the increasing digitalisation of culture influence the authoritative status and function of texts? This broad examination of authority will not only yield answers to these important questions, but also provide context to the other research strand.
The second strand will focus on authority in law and governance in Scotland. How was legal authority derived, conceptualised, and used in the governance of late medieval and early-modern Scotland, when ideas on authority were addressed and began to crystallise? How did changing theories of legal authority alter its use by members of the body politic as they participated in, and challenged, royal burghal, university college, and magnate government? Which legal authorities were drawn on by jurists and governing institutions, and how were they used? Did legal authority function differently in the provinces than in jurisdictions which also functioned as seats of national government? Re-examining these issues will enhance our understanding of the legal and political infrastructure in Scotland within the context of governmental development and change. These investigations will allow a greater understanding of the jurisdictional tapestry of Scotland, and provide credible units of analysis and comparison with national and international jurisdictions.
Overall, this project will introduce our doctoral research students into this research environment, allow them to see how an international research network is established, and make them integral to moving the literature forward on a research theme of national and international importance. The Research Institute for Irish and Scottish Studies will provide office space for our students for a cohesive research environment. A seminar series at which the students would present in their second year will give excellent academic training, provide feedback, publicise their research, and prepare them for their viva.

Research and Supervisory Team:
• Dr Adelyn Wilson, School of Law
• Prof. Tom Greggs, Divinity
• Dr Andrew Simpson, School of Law
• Prof. John Ford, School of Law
• Dr Jackson Armstrong, History
• Dr Andrew MacKillop, History
• Dr Michael Brown, RIISS
• Prof. Steve Mason, Divinity
• Dr Chris Brittain, Divinity
• Dr Marie-Luise Ehrenschwendtner, Divinity
• Dr Jutta Leonhardt-Balzer, Divinity
• Prof. Robert Segal, Religious Studies
• Dr Zohar Hadromi-Allouche, Religious Studies
• Dr Lukas Pokorny, Religious Studies

Each award consists of a full fee waiver (three years of full-time PhD study at the Home/EU or Overseas student rate as appropriate) and an annual maintenance stipend of £3,600, paid in monthly instalments, in each of three years of full-time study.

Application Procedure

A normal application for admission to the PhD programme is required and applicants should make explicit note their interest in being considered for a ‘Authority and texts: concepts and use scholarship’ in their application materials.


7th of March 2014

Further Info

Informal inquiries about both strands of the project may be directed to Dr Adelyn Wilson, Lecturer in Law and Legal History, School of Law: E-mail:

Application Docs

Information about application procedures can be found here:


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