Born: January 18, 1942;

Died: December 9, 2015


JENNY Wormald, who has died aged 73, was one of the most influential and prolific researchers, writers and teachers of Scottish history of her generation, with a reputation UK-wide and beyond.

The author of many books and articles, she taught the subject for almost 20 years at the University of Glasgow and a further 20 at Oxford University (St Hilda's College) where she broadened her brief to cover modern history as a whole.

Until her death, she was an Honorary Fellow of the School of History, Classics and Archaeology at the University of Edinburgh. Having started teaching Glasgow students in her early 20s, she became something of a grande dame of Scottish and British history at Oxford and, indeed, among historians of Scotland wherever they may be.

Dr Wormald was an expert on Scottish history throughout the ages but her teaching and writings tended to focus on the late medieval era and what historians call "early modern Scotland" -- from the early 16th through the mid-18th Century. Her most ground-breaking research was on bloodfeud in Scotland and one of her best-received books was on Mary Queen of Scots, although it never won her the fame that the same subject did for Lady Antonia Fraser in the late 1960s. Mrs Wormald remained a proud academic, historian and tutor rather than a literary figure.

She was still teaching at Glasgow when she wrote the breakthrough Bloodfeud, Kindred and Government in Early Modern Scotland (1980), chronicling how bloody, often barbaric feuds took place into the 17th Century, long after the "civilizing process" had reached most other European countries. She wrote not only about kin-based and often clan-based feud, but the gradual pacification of feud, something which changed the face of Scotland for ever. She wrote of the interaction between the justice of feuding kin and the justice of the state through the legal system.

Another historian, Alexander Grant, wrote of Ms Wormald's Bloodfeud: "it is not only one of the most important (writings) on Scottish history but also -- through its wider significance -- probably the most widely cited; and over 30 years later it reads as powerfully as ever."

She had moved down south to teach history at St. Hilda's College, the University of Oxford, when she published, in 1988, the book Mary Queen of Scots: a Study in Failure. The book shocked many -- historians and other Scots brought up to look up to Mary Stewart -- by debunking many old myths about the lady who was beheaded on February 8, 1587. Ms Wormald described Mary as a spoilt, capricious child and an inept and irresponsible, though charming woman. She was, nevertheless, according to Ms Wormald, a monarch of European importance and standing.

Jennifer Mary Tannahill was born in Glasgow on January 18, 1942, daughter of Dr Thomas Tannahill, a well-known figure in the city at the time. She first married Dr A.L. Brown, now deceased, and later Patrick Wormald, who was a leading historian of Anglo-Saxon England. She met him when he was lecturing in medieval history at the University Glasgow from 1974-89. They were divorced, in 2001 and Patrick Wormald died in 2004.

Ms Wormald taught at Glasgow from 1966-85 and at Oxford from 1985-2005, where she was Fellow and Tutor in Modern History at St Hilda's but also served as Fellow Librarian and Senior Tutor. In 1981, while still teaching at Glasgow, she wrote Court, Kirk and Community: Scotland 1470-1625, covering Scotland before and during the Reformation, and the rise of protestantism in this country. Again, it shocked many of her peers. Two years later, she wrote James VI and I: Two Kings or One? The title was based on the fact that although James VI and I was one person, he was treated differently by his Scots and English subjects, creating a historiographical tradition which in many ways has lasted to the present day.

In 1985, Ms Wormald published Gunpowder, Treason and Scots, about the famous Englishman Guy Fawkes "Gunpowder Plot" to kill King James VI and I. Fawkes said he wanted to "blow you Scotch beggars back to your native mountains." While at St Hilda's, she edited and contributed to Scotland: a History for the Oxford University Press, with other contributors including Katherine Forsyth of the University of Glasgow and Richard Finlay of the University of Strathclyde. The book tried to dig deeper than the classic tales of Bonnie Prince Charlie, William Wallace or Robert the Bruce "to go beyond the old myths, legends and romance to the much more rewarding knowledge of why Scotland was a remarkably successful, thriving and important kingdom of international renown," according to its publicity blurb.

Jenny Wormald was a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society. She died in Portobello, Edinburgh, after what her family called "an illness bravely borne." She is survived by her children Andrew, Tom and Luke and her grandchildren Jamie, Rosie, Adam and Lily.