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The Elect and the Damned: the material culture of belief in post-Reformation Scotland, 1560-1750

Last updated: 8 February 2022

About the research

Molly InghamThis doctoral project examines religious material culture produced and used in the centuries following the Scottish Protestant Reformation. Religious practice and doctrine were central in shaping the everyday lives of early modern society in Scotland as elsewhere in Europe. Using National Museums Scotland's collections of objects associated with the practice and performance of religious belief in Scotland, this project investigates the impact of the seismic changes of the Reformation on the material culture used in public ritual and private devotion, as well as in the official regulation of religion. It considers too such objects held in regional museums, and contained within Treasure Trove data, to evaluate how representative the national collection is of the complexities of religious practice in post-Reformation Scotland. In doing so, it will review NMS’s interpretation of these collections, to consider their relevance within the religious diversity of today.

The historiography of post-Reformation Scotland has historically been dominated by a Presbyterian narrative - integral to understandings of early modern national identity - of Scotland as the kingdom of the ‘Elect’. Recent research challenges that narrative’s hegemony, and this project will nuance arguably overly-Protestant narratives within the NMS’s collections and displays. It will suggest new curatorial strategies for communicating a more heterogeneous picture of religious practice, in the redevelopment of the Scotland Galleries of the National Museum in Edinburgh. It will consider too how these narratives might encompass non-specialist understandings of Scotland’s religious past, and its current resonances.

Doctoral research project details

Project title

The Elect and the Damned: the material culture of belief in post-Reformation Scotland, 1560-1750


Molly Ingham

Project active

2021 - present


AHRC Scottish Cultural Heritage Consortium (SCHC) – Collaborative Doctoral Partnership

University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh College of Art Supervisors

Dr Catriona Murray and Professor Carole Richardson - History of Art

National Museums Scotland Supervisors

Dr Anna Groundwater and David Forsyth - Scottish History & Archaeology

Research theme

Scotland's Material Heritage

Email icon Dr Anna Groundwater

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