A Text Analytic Approach to Rural and Urban Legal Histories (TALH)

The council registers of Aberdeen, Scotland are the earliest and most complete body of town (or burgh) council records in Scotland, running nearly continuously from 1398 to the present; they are hand written in Latin and (largely) Middle Scots. Few cities in the United Kingdom or in Western Europe rival Aberdeen’s burgh registers in historical depth and completeness.

In July 2013, UN-ESCO UK recognised the first eight register volumes from 1398 to 1509 as being of outstanding historical importance to the UK by including them in the UNESCO UK Memory of the World Register. The registers offer a detailed legal view into one of Scotland’s principal burghs, casting light on administrative, legal, and commercial activities as well as daily life. The registers include the elections of office bearers, property transfers, regulations of trade and prices, references to crimes and subsequent punishment, matters of public health, credit and debt, cargoes of foreign vessels, tax and rental of burgh lands, and woods and fishings.

The records range from 1398 to the present day in the form of manuscripts and printed text.

In July 2013 the TAL4H (Text Analysis for the Humanities) project started to work on the analysis of a number of transcribed manuscripts.

The project was a collaboration between Computing, Legal historians and Aberdeen Council, UK, and funded by University of Aberdeen’s dot.rural partnership resource for digital economy.

Project Objectives

Support Legal Historical Research

(Legal) historians are now able to formulate their research questions and translate these into correlating corpus search patterns whose results may provide indications towards answers..

Analytic Tools

Apply text analytic tools to enrich historical documents with metadata and make the contained information accessible.


Showcase the rich informational structure and the enhanced accessibility of the archival material by means of a metadata layer instantiated by text annotations.


  • Dr Adam Wyner (Principal Investigator), School of Natural and Computing Sciences, University of Aberdeen
  • Dr Jackson Armstrong (Co-investigator), School of Divinity, History, and Philosophy, University of Aberdeen
  • Dr Andrew Mackillop (Co-investigator), School of Divinity, History, and Philosophy, University of Aberdeen
  • Phil Astley, City Archivist (Aberdeen City & Aberdeenshire Archives)
  • Dr. Wim Peters, Research Fellow (Project role: Computational Linguist/Ontology engineer), Department of Computer Science, University of Sheffield
  • Dr. Edda Frankot, Research Assistant, University of Aberdeen
  • Professor David Ditchburn (Medieval History Research Centre, Trinity College Dublin)



Information about the project in the media will appear here.

Project Partners

We are working with the following partners on this project