Debt, distraint, display and dead men’s treasure: material culture in late medieval Aberdeen
Journal of Medieval History
© 2020, © 2020 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. This paper uses the burgh court records of Aberdeen to explore the material culture of medieval Scottish townspeople. Four main areas are explored: the use of pawning and pledges to facilitate commercial transactions and maintain solvency; the practice of distraint as a means of coercion and debt recovery; the passage of burgesses’ moveable goods to their heirs; and the significance of clothing in public display. Precious metal objects featured prominently among the goods deployed to enable their owners to fulfil their obligations although the poor sometimes had to part with the most basic goods. For some in Aberdeen, the sixteenth century saw a rise in ownership of luxuries, including expensive clothes, although this may not have spread to ordinary people in town and country, and possession itself was, for some, insecure. Nonetheless it is clear that Scotland participated in the growing consumerism evident elsewhere in later medieval and Renaissance Europe.