Undergraduate Scholarship to honour Professor Elizabeth Ewan

Professor Elizabeth Ewan

The Department of History and the Centre for Scottish Studies at the University of Guelph has announced the establishment of a scholarship to recognize the accomplishments of Professor Elizabeth Ewan who is due to retire from the Department of History at the end of 2020.

Named The Elizabeth Ewan Scottish Studies Scholarship, and awarded on the basis of academic merit, it will support an undergraduate Scottish Studies student with $1,000 annually for five years. Its goal will be to nurture and support scholars as they progress through their degrees and encourage them to embrace Scottish history with the rigor and the energy that Elizabeth Ewan has always evinced. To donate to this initiative please click here.

As professor of Medieval and Early Modern Scottish History at the University of Guelph, Elizabeth Ewan is a trailblazer in the history of medieval and early modern Scotland. A scholar of international repute who is an authority on Scottish gender and women's history, co-editor of the ground-breaking The New Biographical Dictionary of Scottish Women, and mentor to countless scholars, including many who have established themselves as stars in the academic firmament, Elizabeth Ewan has contributed mightily to the University of Guelph's reputation as a leader in the field of Scottish history. The glowing testimonials from some of her graduates reflect the esteem in which she is held, and the influence she had over their learning and their lives.

She is the author of several books, including Town Life in 14th-Century Scotland (1990) and Finding the Family in Medieval and Early Modern Scotland (2008), and over 20 papers published as book chapters or articles in academic journals. She has also developed an extensive scholarly website called Women in Scottish History (with the charming acronym WISH).

Her research has received major funding support, including seven grants from the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada. She has been a visiting fellow at Cambridge University, the National University of Australia, and the University of Edinburgh (twice). As well as being the recipient of two University of Guelph teaching awards, she has been named distinguished professor at the University of Guelph three times.

After graduating with a B.A. from Queen's University (Kingston, Ontario) in 1979, Elizabeth moved to Edinburgh to complete her PhD on social life in fourteenth-century Scottish towns. Writing about her career, she explained that... "My journey towards the history of Scottish women began shortly after I had left Edinburgh University for Canada in 1985, having completed my PhD. Some women featured in my research but it did not occur to me to give them more than a passing mention. Interest in the history of women was only beginning to develop at the time in Scotland and had not made much impact on the academy, despite the efforts of some early pioneers. It was my first academic position, at the University of Western Ontario, in London, Ontario, which opened my eyes to women's history. In the next office was a colleague who worked on the history of women, a field which was considerably more developed in North America than it was in Scotland. Suddenly I became aware of a whole new field of historical enquiry. I organised conferences on the history of medieval women at both Western and in my next position at the University of Victoria in British Columbia. When I moved to the University of Guelph in 1988, I was able to bring together my twin interests in Scottish history and women's history.

"Working at Guelph has provided opportunities which I was unlikely to find elsewhere in North America. The graduate programme has included Scottish history among its fields of emphasis since first being established in the mid 1960s by the Scottish historian, William Stanford Reid. Since 2004 with the appointment of the first endowed Scottish Studies Foundation Chair, Professor Graeme Morton, (followed by Professor James Fraser in 2015 and in 2020 by Professor Kevin James), there has been a Centre for Scottish Studies. As a result, Guelph has always included a lively cohort of Master's and Doctoral students working on Scottish topics, including several from outside Canada, with many of them studying the medieval and early modern periods. This has provided an ongoing vibrant intellectual atmosphere from which I (and I hope the students!) have benefited greatly. The History Department itself includes many staff with interests in gender history and this has been very valuable in providing a comparative context for those who work on Scottish history. Since the 1990s, the Guelph graduate programme has been part of the Tri-University Graduate Program with the nearby Universities of Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier, giving graduate students access to the expertise of over 50 historians during their studies.

"In the last decade especially, interest in medieval and early modern Scottish women's and gender history has increased among the graduate students at Guelph. PhD and MA thesis topics have ranged from women and crime in medieval Scotland and in early modern towns, to servants' lives, the making of marriage in early modern Scotland, medieval marriage contracts, early modern women's economic roles, the role of speech in the witchhunt, women's ambition, masculinity in the twelfth to fourteenth centuries, aristocratic women and queens. One of the joys has been working with the students on publications. As well as the annual open-access journal International Review of Scottish Studies The Centre for Scottish Studies produces a series of volumes, Guelph Studies in Scottish History, which are co-edited by staff and current or recent graduate students. These will shortly be available as open-access publications. Shaping Scottish Identities (2011) co-edited with Jodi Campbell and Heather Parker included several articles on gender topics, and Gender and Mobility co-edited with Sierra Dye and Alice Glaze is due to appear this year. Several Guelph students have contributed entries to The Biographical Dictionary of Scottish Women (2006) and also to the new expanded edition (2018). I have also benefited from the work of many students over the last decade in compiling and updating the online bibliography and resource WISH (Women in Scottish History) Many of our students have gone on to teach Scottish history elsewhere, including in the UK, Australia, and many of the different provinces in Canada. Through this new generation of scholars, many more students than ever before are being introduced to the field outside Scotland.

"In the age of the internet, being based in Canada no longer means relative isolation from the academic community in Scotland (and indeed the rest of the world). Our students have access to scholars and resources in Scotland, both online and through research visits. Much of my own work has been focussed on bringing together both new and established scholars from around the globe to produce co-edited collections on new fields in Scottish history including volumes on medieval and early modern women (1999), the family (2008), children and youth (2015), and most recently masculinities in Scottish history medieval to modern (2017). I have also been able to work with Women's History Scotland on collaborative projects such as The Biographical Dictionary and with other groups. One of my favourite projects was working with the developers of The Real Mary King's Close on Edinburgh's Royal Mile in 2003 to bring to public attention the story of Alison Rough (c.1480-1535), a middling-class Edinburgh woman whose unusually-well documented life came to a tragic end. Since then Alison has been portrayed in processions of Edinburgh notable historic characters, an advent calendar projected on Edinburgh City Chambers, and even a tea towel and a coffee mug! For me, Alison Rough is my own Black Agnes, brought back from historical oblivion, creating a stir, and always at the gate."

For more information about Elizabeth please visit the posting on the University of Guelph's website: https://www.uoguelph.ca/arts/history/people/elizabeth-ewan