Book Chapter

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


Oram R (2019) Fuel Transitions, Supply Crises and Climate Change in Lowland Scotland c.1200-c.1550. In: Mathis C & Massard-Guilbaud G (eds.) Sous le soleil: Systèmes et transitions énergétiques du Moyen Âge à nos jours. Homme et société. Paris: Éditions 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

Title of seriesHomme et société
Publication date04/04/2019
PublisherÉditions de la Sorbonne
Publisher URL
Place of publicationParis
ISSN of series0292-6679