Courses – Dundee History & Local Interest

THE TURBULENT 17TH CENTURY – the view from Dundee

Tony Cox

Dundee holds the unwanted distinction of being the last major town in mainland Britain to be stormed by siege, at the hands of General Monck’s forces in September 1651. This traumatic event also marked the last major military action of the ‘The Wars of the three kingdoms’, an epoch-making conflict, which will be the major focus of this six -week course. The major topics covered by the course will include looking at the role that Dundonians played in the decisive engagements of the conflict, the royalist uprising of the Marquis of Montrose and his siege of Dundee in 1645, and the last major plague outbreak in Scotland, during the years 1644-8. We will also examine how Dundonians coped with the military occupation of their town, which followed on the heels of Monck’s siege of 1651, and the course will conclude with an investigation of the circumstances surrounding the execution of Grizel Jaffray, the last witch to be burnt in Dundee.

Course Code: 04 202   Monday 2.00/4.00   6 weeks   Starts: 18 January 2021    Fees: £48/£42


THE DUNDEE THREE: Great Thinkers that Changed our World

Keith Skene

Across history, brilliant thinkers are often clustered together, in both time and space. At the end of the nineteenth century, three amazing minds co-existed in Dundee, and their work would transform how we think about some of the most important issues facing us today.  They all worked in University College Dundee at the same time, and radically advanced their fields of study.

In this short course Dr Keith Skene will consider each of these extraordinary individuals, understanding where their inspiration came from and exploring why they once again find themselves at the heart of debate.

Sir D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson: The great zoologist, and a true polymath, Thompson’s On Growth and Form, penned in Dundee, would have huge impacts in fields as widespread as anthropology, architecture and developmental biology, and has undergone a modern revival across these and many other subjects. He challenged Darwinian thinking, setting out a new theory of Structuralism, and inspired a vast number of great thinkers.

Patrick Geddes. An extraordinary thinker, his work spanned ecology, botany, social science and town planning.  Major design projects included Tel Aviv, and inner-city transformations of Edinburgh and many cities in India.  He transformed the subjects of urban renewal and of sociology, setting out a framework that would go on to inspire many urban planners and theorists including Lewis Mumford.

Robert Smith. Born and raised in Forebank Terrace in the Hilltown in Dundee, Smith studied under Geddes and would become the first plant ecologist in Britain.  He died aged 27, from appendicitis, but by then had established ecology as a field of study in Britain, an extraordinary legacy, which his brother, William, saw through to its completion.

Course Code: 04 214   Wednesday 2.00/4.00  3 weeks  Starts: 24 February 2021     Fees: £24/£21




Tony Cox

George Mealmaker remains an almost completely unknown figure to many Dundonians, and to most Scots. He is Scotland’s ‘forgotten radical martyr, who, as a journeyman weaver, was seen as too ‘common’ and too radical to be included on the Calton Hill memorial in Edinburgh, erected in the 1850s, to the so-called ‘radical martyrs’. This small group, which included Thomas Muir of Huntershill, were leaders of the Friends of the People, and were, like Mealmaker, transported to Australia during the 1790s for the crime of demanding universal male suffrage. This course will draw on a wide range of sources to build a picture of the life and times of George Mealmaker, as a first step towards bringing this forgotten radical martyr to wider attention.

Course Code:  04 303        Tuesday 2.00/4.00   5 weeks  Starts: 13 April 2021   Fees:  £40/£35




Tony Cox

This course of five guided tours will seek to investigate the history of Dundee through a series of guided walks. In so doing, we will go behind the modern exterior of the city centre on a journey that will take us from the town’s origins in the medieval period to the very eve of industrialisation. Each guided tour will take around 1 ½ hours and will leave from the Burns statue in Albert Square at 2pm.

Course Code:  04 314   Wednesday 2.00/ 3.30   5 weeks        Starts: 14 April 2021    Fees: £30/£27

NB – This course is dependent on the easing of Covid-19 restrictions.



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