This website may ask your browser to store cookies. See our Cookies Policy for more information about our use of cookies.

Back to previous page

Scotland: History & Identity - A symposium in Edinburgh

Speakers include:
Professor Dauvit Broun
Nick Card, Director
Professor Jane Dawson
Ruth Davidson MSP (Cons)
Professor Sir Tom Devine
David Forsyth, Senior Curator
Dr Anna Groundwater
George Kerevan
Professor Murray Pittock
Professor Tony Pollard
Professor Pamela Robertson
David Torrance


  • Edinburgh.
Navigate tour


The latest in our highly successful series of symposia, Scotland: History & Identity, brings together historians, curators, commentators and a politician or two for a dozen lectures celebrating Scotland’s rich history and culture.

Chosen for their pre-eminence and mastery of their subject, the speakers are well placed to offer perspective on current themes relating to independence, sovereignty and modernity. Given the lively debate surrounding Scotland’s ties to the UK, its relationship with Europe, recent referenda and elections, this promises to be a fascinatingly and timely event.

The symposium takes place at the Hub on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile. Built in the 1840s by the Church of Scotland as a General Assembly, this Gothic Revival building is now the base for the Edinburgh International Festival.

The wealth of historic monuments, museums and galleries in Edinburgh exceeds that of all but a few capitals of a country the size of Scotland. Many of the museums have benefited from renovation and extension in recent years and there is time in the programme to take advantage of them. The symposium has been planned to coincide with the National Museum of Scotland’s major 2017 exhibition, Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobites, the largest on the subject to be held in 70 years. Admission is included.

This is a fully inclusive residential weekend, with four hotels to choose from to suit all tastes and budgets. The package includes breakfasts, mid-session refreshments, a lunch, a dinner and exhibition tickets. There is also a private drinks reception for all guests at the National Portrait Gallery on Saturday evening. A gala dinner in the gallery’s magnificent Allan Ramsay room with a talk by an expert curator is an optional extra.

The speakers

Professor Dauvit Broun has taught at the University of Glasgow since 1990. In 2009 he was appointed to its established chair of Scottish History. Books include Scottish Independence and the Idea of Britain from the Picts to Alexander III and The Irish Identity of the Kingdom of the Scots in the Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries. He specialises in the study of medieval sources and directed the projects that resulted in the People of Medieval Scotland database (

Nick Card is Director of the Ness of Brodgar Excavations at the Orkney Research Centre for Archaeology, University of Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute. His interests lie in the prehistory of Britain and the Highlands and Islands with particular reference to the Neolithic. He co-directed the major excavations at the extensive Bronze Age cemetery of the Knowes of Trotty and the Iron Age complex at Mine Howe.

Ruth Davidson, MSP is the leader of the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party and the MSP for the Edinburgh Central constituency. She has served in the Territorial Army as a signaller and was formerly a producer and presenter at BBC Scotland. She was appointed to the Privy Council in 2016. 

Professor Jane Dawson is the John Laing Professor of Reformation History at the University of Edinburgh and has published extensively on early modern Scottish history. Her recent acclaimed biography of the Scottish Reformer John Knox (Yale University Press) was shortlisted for the Saltire Society History Book of the Year. She is particularly interested in the creation of religious culture and in communication via images, song, material culture and the written and printed word.

Professor Sir Tom Devine is Sir William Fraser Professor Emeritus of Scottish History and Palaeography at the University  of Edinburgh. He is a specialist in the history of the Scottish people at home and abroad since the 16th century, a subject on which he has published widely. A Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, an Honorary Member of the Royal Irish Academy and a Fellow of the British Academy, he is the only historian elected to all three national academies in the British Isles. He was knighted in 2014 for services to the study of Scottish history.

David Forsyth is Principal Curator, Medieval-Early Modern Collections in the Scottish History & Archaeology Department, National Museums Scotland. Responsible for research and interpretation of Scottish history from c.1100–c.1750, he acted as Lead Curator on the award-winning gallery Scotland a Changing Nation and has published on material culture and history. Lead Curator on the acclaimed Mary, Queen of Scots exhibition in 2013, his latest project is Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobites, the largest exhibition on the Jacobites for over 70 years.

Dr Anna Groundwater is a historian of early modern Britain and Scotland at the University of Edinburgh. Her work focuses on the processes James VI and I used to govern the Scottish regions before and after the Union of the Crowns in 1603, in particular the kinship and social networks that connected national government to the Borders. This year sees publication of Scotland Connected: Scotland’s timeline in its global contexts and her book-ending of Jenny Wormald’s Mary Queen of Scots: a study in failure.

George Kerevan was the SNP member for East Lothian from 2015–2017 and currently serves on the Treasury Select Committee. He was Associate Editor of The Scotsman for nine years and lectured in economics at Napier University, Edinburgh, where he specialised in energy. An elected member of Edinburgh Council for 12 years, he was in charge of the capital’s economic development. He has served on the board of the Edinburgh International Festival, founded the Edinburgh Science Festival and is a former chairman of the Edinburgh Tourist Board.

Professor Murray Pittock FRSE is Pro Vice-Principal of the University of Glasgow. He is Scottish History adviser to the National Trust for Scotland and to the National Galleries, and a prizewinner of both the British Academy and the Royal Society of Edinburgh. He has held visiting appointments at Yale, New York University, Notre Dame, Trinity College, Dublin, Charles University, Prague, South Carolina and other institutions. In 2013 he wrote and presented ‘The Roots of Scottish Nationalism’ series for BBC Radio 4. His books include Scottish and Irish Romanticism, The Road to Independence? Scotland in the Balance and The Myth of the Jacobite Clans and Culloden.

Professor Tony Pollard is Professor of Conflict History and Archaeology and Director of the Centre for Battlefield Archaeology at the University of Glasgow. He has worked on conflict sites across the world and has written widely for popular and academic audiences. He first brought battlefield archaeology to public attention with the BBC television series Two Men in a Trench, presented with Neil Oliver. The pair appeared again in the BBC’s The Quest for Bannockburn in 2014.

Professor Pamela Robertson FRSE, FSA is Professor Emerita of Mackintosh Studies at the University of Glasgow and former Senior Curator at The Hunterian. An acknowledged expert on the work of Charles Rennie Mackintosh, her publications include editions of Mackintosh’s letters and architectural writings, studies of his watercolours and interior design, and a catalogue raisonné of his architecture. She has curated numerous exhibitions, including the award-winning retrospective organised by Glasgow Museums in 1996. She is a past Chair of the Mackintosh Society and former Governor of Glasgow School of Art.

David Torrance is a freelance journalist, writer and broadcaster. He writes a regular column on politics for the (Glasgow) Herald and contributes to a range of publications including The Times and New Statesman. He has also written or edited around a dozen books on Scottish and UK history, biography and politics, including unauthorised biographies of the SNP politicians Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon. He lives in Edinburgh.

Friday afternoon session, 3.00pm–6.45pm

Nick Card
Ness of Brodgar: the true heart of Neolithic Orkney

Professor Dauvit Broun
Rethinking Scottish Origins: Scotland and Britain

Refreshment break

Professor Tony Pollard
A Battle Lost, A Battle Found: the archaeology of Bannockburn (1314)

Professor Murray Pittock
The Road to Independence? Culture, Sovereignty and Scotland in the World Today

Evening at 8.00pm

Dinner at hotels for all participants.

Saturday morning session, 9.30am–12.15pm

Professor Jane Dawson
John Knox, Scottish Culture and the Reformation

Dr Anna Groundwater
James VI & I: tensions at the heart of the Union of the Crowns

Refreshment break

George Kerevan 
Title to be confirmed*


Afternoon session, 1.30pm–3.00pm

David Forsyth
‘Ye Jacobites by Name’: the history of the Jacobite cause through objects

Professor Murray Pittock
Scottish Romanticism in Global Culture

Evening, 6.30pm–7.30pm

Private reception in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery

This is followed by an optional gala dinner (booked in advance)

Sunday morning, session 9.30–1.00pm

Professor Pamela Robertson
Charles Rennie Mackintosh: heritage, origins and legacy

Ruth Davidson, MSP
Title to be confirmed*

Refreshment break

Professor Sir Tom Devine
A Puzzle from the Scottish Past: why did the Scottish Enlightenment happen?

David Torrance
Title to be confirmed*



*In order to reflect current affairs, the titles of these talks will be announced nearer the time.


Room and breakfast for two nights, admission to all talks, refreshments at the conference, dinner on Friday, a buffet lunch on Saturday and evening drinks reception in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery. Entry to Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobites at the National Museum of Scotland.

There are four packages to choose from, with prices varying according to hotel.

Optional Gala Dinner

The dinner on Saturday evening will take place following the drinks reception at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery. The three course dinner, in the Allan Ramsay room, includes special access to some of the galleries and a talk by Dr Lucinda Lax, Senior Curator of 18th Century Collections. It is priced at £90 per person.

Accommodation, prices (per person)

A. Motel One, Edinburgh Royal. A large, no-frills hotel located less than 5 minutes’ walk from Edinburgh Waverley station and 10 minutes from the Hub. Bedrooms are plain and simply furnished. All rooms have walk-in showers.

Double/twin (two sharing): £530
Double room for single occupancy: £590

B. The Radisson Blu. A contemporary 4-star hotel close to the Hub on the Royal Mile. Recently restored, the décor is modern and rooms are spacious. 

Standard double/twin (two sharing): £710
Double room for single occupancy: £820

C. The Principal. Recently renovated, this characterful 4-star hotel occupies five Georgian town houses and the former offices of the Caledonian Insurance Company. Period and modern touches nod to the literary associations of the buildings’ former occupants. Located in the New Town it is a 20 minute walk to the Hub.

Standard double/twin (two sharing): £780
Double room for single occupancy: £920

D. The Balmoral. The historic 5-star Balmoral is one of the finest hotels in Britain outside London. Belonging to the Rocco Forte group, it enjoys a prime location at the corner of North Bridge and Princes Street, a 10 minute walk from the Hub. There are welcoming public areas and spacious bedrooms, with a hint of Art Deco in the elegant décor. There are two restaurants, including Michelin-starred Number One.

Standard double/twin (two sharing): £920
Double room for single occupancy: £1,090


Extending your stay. Please contact us for a quote for extra nights either side of the weekend.



Map for Edinburgh Festival.