Neil McGuigan


Thesis title:
Middle Britain from the Tenth to the Twelfth Century
Supervisor: Dr Alex Woolf

For my first degree, I studied classics and history at the University of Edinburgh and the University of Washington. My undergraduate dissertation, possibly still the most enjoyable thing I have ever researched, was on the “Myth of Cranes and Pygmies” and was supervised by Dr Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones. I argued, very roughly, that we should reject an ethnographic provenance for the story and understand it instead as a folk myth related metaphorically to the seasons. At Edinburgh I completed a research masters under Dr Steve Boardman and Dr James Fraser. This was on the relationship between language and identity in medieval Scotland.

Now, overseen by Dr Alex Woolf, I am at St Andrews, having been inspired initially to follow up loose ends from my master’s thesis. My doctoral research looks at ‘Middle Britain’ (a convenient term for the territory between the English and Scottish kingdoms) from the tenth to the twelfth centuries. As well as examining evidence for the frontiers of the two realms, I am looking at the chronology and nature of the political structures important in the region, including noble families and ecclesiastical institutions as well as the relevant kingdoms.

My research interests, chronologically and geographically, are in insular history in the period between the seventh and fourteenth centuries, most especially the eleventh and twelfth centuries. Thematically, I am most interested in the creations and destructions of political and social order, cultural encounters, language and ethnicity, and the forces which underlie the use of myth (including historical writing, ancient and modern). I am also interested in ‘big history’, and try to keep my preoccupations as broad as possible, to capture and build upon insights offered by different disciplines treating similar subject matter.


  • ID1004: Great Ideas 2 (2011, 2012, 2013), intellectual history covering theories of reality, cosmology, origins of life, and rights and justice
  • ME1003: The Fall of Rome and the Origins of Europe, 400–1000 (2013)
  • ME1004: East and West, The Mediterranean in the Middle Ages (2010)
  • ME1006: Scotland and the English Empire, 1070–1500 (2012, 2014)
  • ME2001: British Isles from the Ninth to the Thirteenth Centuries (2011)
  • Scottish Studies Summer School 2013, lecturer on early and central Middle Ages


  • “The Anglo-Scottish frontier before the 12th century: a review of the evidence”, Institute of Scottish Historical Research Seminar (St Andrews, December 2009)
  • “Reading between the lines: the last decades of ‘Middle Britain’”, Institute of Mediaeval Studies Postgraduate Seminar (St Andrews, November 2010)
  • “Are Anglo-Norman accounts of the Viking-Age Northumbrian episcopate reliable?”, Institute of Mediaeval Studies Postgraduate Seminar (St Andrews, May 2012)
  • “The Church in Lothian before the Scoto-Norman era”, Plantations amidst Savagery? Reformed Monastic Orders in North Europe c.1100-c.1600 (Stirling, July 2013)
  • “The Politics and Legend of Viking-Age Middle Britain”, Institute of Scottish Historical Research Reading Weekend (The Burn, March 2014)
  • “The Legacy of Ivar and Ælla: English Politics in the Viking Age”, Institute of Mediaeval Studies Postgraduate Seminar (St Andrews, April 2014)


  • “Review of The Faded Map: The Story of the Lost Kingdoms of Scotland by Alistair Moffat”, Scottish Historical Review, vol. 91.2 (October, 2012)
  • “Review of Kings, Mormaers, Rebels: Early Scotland’s Other Royal Family by John Marsden”, Scottish Historical Review, vol. 92.1 (April, 2013)
  • “Review of The Legends of Scottish Saints, ed. Alan Macquarrie”, Kelten: Mededelingen van de Stichting A. G. van Hamel voor Keltische Studies, no. 59 (August, 2013)
  • “Review of The Northern Earldoms: Orkney and Caithness from AD 870 to 1470 by Barbara Crawford”, Scottish Archaeological Journal (forthcoming)
  • “Review of The Battle of Brunanburh: A Casebook, ed. Michael Livingston”, Scottish Historical Review (forthcoming)