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Fuel Transitions, Supply Crises and Climate Change in Lowland Scotland c.1200-c.1550

Oram R Fuel Transitions, Supply Crises and Climate Change in Lowland Scotland c.1200-c.1550. In: Charles-François Mathis et Geneviève Massard-Guilbaud (ed.). Mobiliser et dépenser l’énergie. Une histoire sociale et environnementale, du Moyen Âge à nos jours, Paris, Publications de la Sorbonne.

This paper explores the evidence for fuel transitions affecting three of Scotland’s major lowland urban communities – Aberdeen, Perth and Edinburgh – from c.1200 to c.1500. It examines the historical record evidence for pressure on the traditionally preferred fuel, wood, by the early 1200s and for the increasing importance of peat as the main fuel for domestic and industrial activities through the thirteenth century. This discussion includes a consideration of the wider impact of regional availability of wood in the context of all three urban centres. The principal focus of the paper is on the peat to coal transition that began to occur in the central lowlands in the fourteenth century and which became increasingly evident in the fifteenth. Discussion concentrates on the regional differences in response to fuel supply crises by urban authorities, principally through prescriptive legislation and market regulation, and to the development of long-distance trade in bulk fuel to regions with limited naturally available resources. This discussion is further informed by consideration of the impact on such efforts of climatic deterioration across the same period and weather-related factors affecting choices in fuel-use.

Fuel transitions; energy use; wood; peat; coal; fuel-supply; Lowland Scotland; medieval.

EditorCharles-François Mathis et Geneviève Massard-Guilbaud
AuthorsOram Richard
PublisherParis, Publications de la Sorbonne
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