Book Chapter

'By hammer in hand all arts do stand'. The Protection and Projection of Craft Privilege in the Early Modern Scottish Burgh


Bowman S (2016) 'By hammer in hand all arts do stand'. The Protection and Projection of Craft Privilege in the Early Modern Scottish Burgh. In: Buchanan K & Dean LHS (eds.) Medieval and Early Modern Representations of Authority in Scotland and the British Isles. Abingdon: Routledge, pp. 253-272.

Considerations of authority and power tend naturally toward the examination of the influence and social positions of ruling elites – be they royal, landed or religious elites. Power, however, is a relationship: it is relative and often depends on a specific set of circumstances. As a result, individuals occupying a variety of positions on the social hierarchy can wield power and authority. This chapter considers an instance when power and authority were exercised – or at least were perceived by some individuals and groups to have existed – within a particular social and economic context; namely the early modern burgh in Scotland. Specifically, this chapter analyses the ways in which the commercial and social authority of early modern urban craft incorporations was protected and projected in an environment that was not always respectful of their theoretical privileges. It draws upon examples from material culture and includes an original object study of an artefact currently on display in the National Museum of Scotland (NMS) in Edinburgh. The artefact is a heraldic stone panel that belonged to one of Edinburgh’s metalworking artisans, who was a member of the burgh’s incorporation of ‘hammermen’. For that reason, this chapter will principally focus on the experience of the hammermen craft, both in Edinburgh and elsewhere in Scotland. While the hammermen and their fellow artisans were not kings or lords, they nevertheless believed themselves to be in possession of power and authority within the context of burgh society. As this chapter will argue, such power and authority was projected by means of material objects. These projections speak to notions of social status and conspicuous consumption and are best understood in terms of Pierre Bourdieu’s conception of the different forms of ‘capital’ to which societal elites have privileged access and which they are able to accumulate and wield.

FundersNorthumbria University
Publication date31/12/2016
Publication date online27/05/2016
Publisher URL…ok/9781472424488
Place of publicationAbingdon