ISHR Seminar – Dr Michelle Brock

The next ISHR seminar will take place on Thursday 13 October (Week 5).  A joint seminar with Reformation Studies, the speaker will be Dr Michelle Brock of Washington and Lee University, who will present ‘”The people readily obeyed the minister”: Life and worship in a covenanting town, 1638-1660’.

The seminar will be held in the New Seminar Room, St John’s House, 71 South Street, St Andrews at 5.30pm.  Drinks and nibbles will served from 5.15pm.

In late summer, 1647, the plague struck Ayr, a royal burgh in southwest Scotland. This was not the first time the disease had afflicted the town, nor was this the worst its people had seen of the scourge. In fact, plague might have come and gone with the usual, resigned response—prevention and quarantine, fasting and prayer— typical of communities familiar with such afflictions. Instead, the comparatively minor episode was parlayed by minister William Adair into a week-long, mass confession revolving around a series of dramatic meetings and sermons. While historians such as Leigh Eric Schmidt and David Underdown have detailed similarly intense moments of repentance and revival in the British world, history has given little more than a footnote to the episode at Ayr, or to Adair, a dogmatic covenanter who served as minister there for a remarkable four decades. This paper explores the events of and surrounding the outbreak of plague in 1647 to suggest new insights into life, worship, and the power of the pulpit in covenanting Scotland.

Michelle D. Brock is Assistant Professor of British History at Washington and Lee University in Virginia, USA. This term, she is also a research fellow with ISHR and Reformation Studies at St. Andrews. She is the author of Satan and the Scots: The Devil in Post-Reformation Scotland, ca. 1560-1700 (St. Andrews Studies in Reformation History, Ashgate, 2016), and is working on a new project on sermons and sermon-going in early modern Scotland.