Barbara Crawford
Barbara Crawford

Dr Barbara Crawford

M.A., Ph.d., F.R.S.E., F.S.A., F.S.A. Scot., Member of the Norwegian Academy

Honorary Reader





Barbara Crawford is Honorary Reader in  History at the University of St. Andrews having spent over thirty years as a teacher in the Dept. of Mediaeval History. Since taking early retirement in 2001 she has continued to pursue her researches into the history and archaeology of the Scandinavian settlements in Scotland, and contacts across the North Sea  in the Middle Ages.

 Recently-completed research projects are
i) The place-names of the Norse-Celtic frontier zone in Northern Scotland (2003)
ii) The ‘papar’ project  (2009)                                     
iii) The cult of St. Clement in England and Scotland and Scandinavia (2008) 
iv) The partial reconstruction of the medieval log-timbered ‘stofa’ (2007-8) which was excavated on the island of Papa Stour, Shetland (1977-90)

Past Research activity:  Her doctoral research was a study of the history of the earls of Orkney-Caithness and their relationships with the kings of Norway and Scotland from the late Norse period until the pledging of the islands to Scotland in 1468.  An interest in archaeology has been developed to form part of an inter-disciplinary approach to Norse studies, as part of which she excavated the site a royal Norwegian farm on the island of Papa Stour in Shetland.

The report of that excavation The History and Excavation of a Royal Norwegian Farm at the Biggings, Papa Stour, Shetland (1999) by Barbara E.Crawford and Beverley Ballin Smith was  published jointly by the Norwegian Akademi and the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland in the Society’s Monograph series (no.15). A volume of Conference papers  Papa Stour and 1299 , edited by Barbara E.Crawford (The Shetland Times-2002) resulted  from a Conference commemorating the 700th Anniversary of Shetland’s first document and the completion of the Papa Stour excavations. This brings together papers by Scandinavian, Scottish and Polish historians and archaeologists which were also published in Norway as a volume of the academic journal Collegium Medievale (2002. vol.15).

The same multi-disciplinary approach underay the successful and innovative study Scandinavian Scotland (Studies in the Early History of Britain. Leicester Univ. Press, 1987, now out-of-print) and an edited book of essays on the place-names of Norse settlement  Scandinavian Settlement in Northern Britain. (Leicester Univ. Press, 1995). She initiated the successful series of Day Conferences at the University of St. Andrews which have focused on ‘Dark-Age’ Scottish themes - again with a multi-disciplinary content- and edited the papers  which have been published as: Scotland in Dark-Age Europe, (St. Andrews. St. John’s House papers no.5, 1994): Scotland in Dark-Age Britain (St. Andrews. St. John’s House Papers no.6,  1996): Conversion  and Christianity in the North Sea World, (St. Andrews. St. John’s House Papers no.8,1998) (all out-of-print): The ‘papar in the North Atlantic: Environment and History  (St. Andrews. St. John’s House Papers no.10, 2002,still available from The Committee for Dark-Age Studies, Dept. of Medieval History, University of St. Andrews, 71, South St., St. Andrews, KY16 9AL. Price £14.+ £2.00p&p).(link to sale web-page)

Recently-Completed Research Projects.
1). THE NORSE- CELTIC FRONTIER IN NORTH SCOTLAND was funded by the AHRB and the place-name research conducted by Dr. Simon Taylor, under Dr. Crawford’s direction. This resulted in a joint paper entitled ‘The Southern Frontier of Norse Settlement in North Scotland. Place Names and History’, published in Northern Scotland 23 (2003), 1-76

2) THE ‘PAPAR’ PROJECT was funded by The Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland, and is an inter-disciplinary comparative study of all the places in northern and western Scotland which have the element ‘papar’ (Old Norse for ‘priest’) incorporated in the name, such as Pabbay and Papay, Paible and Papil.

 It consisted of three elements:
i) Desk-based assessment of the historical and archaeological evidence for all the ‘papar’ places in the Northern and Western Isles (researched by Dr. Janet Hooper)
ii) Linguistic study of the place-names on the Pabbay islands and around  Paible/Bayble places in the Western Isles (researched by Dr. Kristjan Ahronson and Dr. Anke-Beate Stahl)
iii) Soil assessment in certain chosen locations in the Western  Isles for comparison with previous research done on Papa Stour in Shetland (research conducted by Professor Ian Simpson, University of Stirling, and Beverley Ballin Smith, Glasgow University Archaeological Research Division).

The results of this project have been published in two stages on a web-site, hosted by RCAHMS (

Orkney, Shetland and Caithness were completed in 2005, and the Hebrides in 2009, including an Appendix on place-name material

3) The CULT OF ST. CLEMENT IN ENGLAND AND SCOTLAND, for which Dr. Crawford was awarded a Leverhulme Research Fellowship is now completed and published as The Churches dedicated to St. Clement in Medieval England. A Hagio-geography of the Seafarer’s Saint in 11th century North Europe. Scripta Ecclesiastica Tome 1, Serie Supplementaire a Scrinium. Revue de Patrologie, d’Hagiographie Critique et d’Histoire Ecclesiastique(St. Petersburg, 2008).

4) THE MEDIEVAL TIMBER HOUSE (stofa) EXCAVATED ON PAPA STOUR FROM 1977-1990 was reconstructed on the site of the excavation in 2007-8, and is now a significant addition to Shetland’s Norse heritage. Several publications have resulted from this experimental reconstruction:
Barbara E. Crawford and Beverley Ballin Smith, 2008. ‘The stofa reconstruction on the island of Papa Stour, Shetland. From historical research and archaeological investigations to cultural asset’ in C.Paulsen and H.D. Michelsen, eds., Símunarbók. Heiðursrit til Símun V.Arge á 60 ára degnum, (Tórshavn) ,42-57
Barbara E. Crawford, 2009. ‘The “stofa” Project at the Biggins, Papa Stour, Shetland’ in Living Crafts (Maihaugen), 128-37
Ibid. (in press), ‘The Biggins stofa, a feature of north Atlantic colonial society’, (a    paper presented at The 16th Viking Congress in Reykjavik in 2009)

Dr. Crawford is a Member of the Norwegian Academy and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. She was a Commissioner of the Royal Commission on Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland from 1991-2001, chaired The Treasure Trove Advisory Panel for Scotland from 1993-2001, and is currently President of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland. As Honorary Director of the Strathmartine Centre for Scottish History (an independent charitable trust established by the late Dr. Ronald Cant before his death in 1999, for supporting research and education in Scottish History) ( she has been instrumental in encouraging  many different Scottish history research projects. Her book on the “The Northern Earldoms. Orkney and Caithness from 870-1470AD. Joint Earldoms and Divided Loyalties”, which reverts back to the subject of her original doctoral thesis, is currently nearing completion.