Professor David Worthington

Biography content


Professor, Head of the Centre for History

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Professor David Worthington is an historian of Scottish (and wider British and Irish) connections with central Europe (c.1500-c.1700). He researches and publishes also on the history of the firthlands of mainland northern Scotland from within a coastal history context. He completed his PhD in the Department of History, University of Aberdeen, in 2000, and, prior to taking up his position at UHI, held the following posts: Irish Research Council for the Humanities and Social Sciences Postdoctoral Fellow at the National University of Ireland, Maynooth (2001-2002); Leverhulme Early Career Research Fellow at the University of Aberdeen (2005-2007); Visiting Professor on two separate occasions at Polish universities, in the cities of Kielce (2004-2005) and Wrocław (2007-2008). On arriving at the Centre for History as a lecturer in July 2008, he led on the development and launch of both the university's first joint honours degree, and was responsible for validating a suite of four online masters programmes in history from 2011-17. Prof Worthington has been head of the Centre since 2011, and was awarded his professorship in 2020.

Research content



Professor Worthington's main research focus is on Scottish (and wider British and Irish) ties with Poland and other parts of early modern Central Europe, while, in recent years, he has researched and published also in a totally new area, coastal history. Emerging from that, in spring of 2016, he hosted the Firths and Fjords conference here in Dornoch, the first ever coastal history conference, and the biggest ever academic gathering to have taken place in the town.

Firths and fjords

Professor Worthington welcomes proposals from current or potential research students in all of the following areas:

  • Scotland and central Europe in the early modern period
  • Early modern coastal history
  • Social and cultural history of the early modern Scottish Highlands 
  • Pre-1707 Scottish engagements and entanglements with European empire and Atlantic slavery
  • British and Irish emigration and travel in the early modern period
  • Scottish-Polish links in history and memory
Publications content




Rev. James Fraser (1634-1709): A New Perspective on the Scotttish Highlands Before Culloden (Edinburgh University Press: Edinburgh, 2023) (see the EUP website for this book) 

British and Irish Experiences and Impressions of Central Europe, 1560-1688 (Ashgate: Aldershot, 2012) (see the Routledge website for the book, which contains extracts from numerous reviews as well as a review from the English Historical Review, an online review from H-Net and another from Seventeenth-Century News)

Scots in Habsburg Service, 1618-1648 (Brill: Leiden, 2003) (see the Project Muse review and Mark Charles Fissel's review)

Edited Volumes

The New Coastal History: Cultural and Environmental Perspectives from Scotland and Beyond (Palgrave MacMillan: London, 2017) (see the Palgrave Macmillan website website and a first review of the book from H-Soz-Kult)

British and Irish Emigrants and Exiles in Europe, 1603-1688 (Brill: Leiden, 2009) (see the Brill website, and a review from The International Review of Scottish Studies.

Selected Journal Articles

'The Multilingual Minister: Languages and Code-Switching in the Life-Writing of Scottish Highland Scholar and Traveller, Rev. James Fraser (1634-1709)', Renaissance Studies, 37(1), (2023), pp.57-74  available open access via the journal website

'Sugar, Slave-Owning, Suriname and the Dutch Imperial Entanglement of the Scottish Highlands before 1707', Dutch Crossing: Journal of Low Countries Studies, 44(1), (2019), pp.3-20 available online via the Taylor and Francis Online website

The Settlements of the Beauly-Wick Coast and the Historiography of the Moray Firth', The Scottish Historical Review, 95(2), (2016), pp.139-163 available via the Edinburgh University Press website (and institutional repository)

'Ferries in the Firthlands: Communications, Society and Culture Along a Northern Scottish Rural Coast (c.1600-1809)', Rural History, 27(2) (2016), pp.129-148 available via the Cambridge University Press website (and institutional repository)

‘"Unfinished Work and Damaged Materials": Historians and the Scots in the Commonwealth of Poland-Lithuania (1569-1795)', Immigrants & Minorities, 20(10) (2015), pp.1-19 available via the Taylor and Francis website (and institutional repository)

'"All our Dear Countrymen"? British and Irish Expatriates East of the Rhine as Recorded in the Triennial Travels of James Fraser of Kirkhill (1634-1709)', Britain and the World, 6(1) (2013), pp. 48-63 available via the Edinburgh University Press website (and institutional repository)

'A Northern Scottish Maritime Region: The Moray Firth in the Seventeenth Century', in The International Journal of Maritime History, 23(2) (2011), pp. 181-210 available via the Sage Journals website (and institutional repository)

‘Migration and Diaspora in European history prior to 1650: The Scottish and Irish Cases’ in Kultura, Historia, Globalizacja, iii (2008) [available online]

‘The 1688 Correspondence of Nicholas Taaffe, Second Earl of Carlingford (d.1690) from the Imperial Court in Vienna’ in Archivium Hibernicum, Journal of the Catholic Record Society of Ireland, lviii, (2004), pp. 174-209 [available via JSTOR]

‘Towards a Bibliography of the Irish in the Holy Roman Empire, 1618-48’, in Archivium Hibernicum, Journal of the Catholic Record Society of Ireland, lvi, (2002), pp. 206-27 [available via JSTOR]

Selected Chapters in Edited Volumes

‘The Scots in Poland in Memory and History’, in Piotr Łopatkiewicz ed., Robert Wojciech Portius de Lanxeth - krośnieński mieszczanin, kupiec i fundator (Robert Portius de Lanxeth: Krosno Resident, Merchant and Benefactor), (Krosno, 2019), pp. 8-28.

‘“Men of Noe Credit”? Scottish Highlanders in Poland-Lithuania, c.1500-1800’ in T.M. Devine and David Hesse eds., Scotland and Poland: Historical Encounters, 1500-2010 (Edinburgh, 2011), pp. 91-108.

‘Leslies in Central and Northern Europe During and After the Thirty Years’ War’, co-authored with Steve Murdoch, Alexia Grosjean and Paul Dukes in Ivo Barteček, Miloš Kouřil and Zdeněk Šamberger eds., Ad Honorem Josef Polišenský, 1915-2001 (Prague, 2007), pp. 350-369.

‘Aspects of the Literary Activity of the Irish Franciscans in Prague, 1620-1786’, co-authored with Mícheál MacCraith OFM., in Thomas O’Connor and Mary Ann Lyons eds., Irish migrants in Europe after Kinsale, 1602-1820 (Dublin, 2003), pp.118-34.

‘“On the High Post-Way between Vienna and Venice”: The Leslie Family in Slovenia’ in Polona Vidmar ed., Zapuščina rodbine Leslie na ptujskem gradu (Ptuj, 2002), pp. 81-6.

‘Alternative Diplomacy? Scottish Exiles at the Courts of the Habsburgs and their Allies, 1618 to 1648’, in Steve Murdoch ed., Scotland and the Thirty Years’ War, (Leiden, 2001), pp. 55-71.

Teaching content



Since joining UHI, Professor Worthington has taught on upwards of twenty modules. As a programme leader from 2009-18, he led on the validation and launch of the BA (Hons) History and Politics (2010), and also Scotland's first ever online masters-level history degree, the MLitt History of the Highlands and Islands (2011). Following that, he oversaw the creation of the MLitt History and the MLitt History and Archaeology of the Highlands and Islands (2014) and another new degree, the MLitt Coastal and Maritime Societies and Cultures (2017), the first degree of its kind, which was validated as part of the taught-postgraduate History scheme that same year.

As of 2022, he is Module Leader for:

  • Third-Year - 'Scots in Poland, Poles in Scotland'; 'Alps, Hills and Plain? Central Europe to 1918'
  • Fourth-Year - 'Reform, Rupture and Resistance: Late Medieval and Early Modern Ireland'; 'The Scottish Highlands Before Culloden: 1603-1707'
  • MLitt - 'Darkness, Division and Discord? The Highlands, 1603-1707'; 'Rivers, Ports and Coasts in European History'; 'Sport in Highland History'.
Additional activities content

Additional activities

Additional activities

Polish road sign

Current plans include continuing his public history work on the Reverend James Fraser of Kirkhill (1634-1709), and exploring another project looking at memory relating to Scottish emigrants in late medieval and early-modern Poland (this connects also with the Facebook page, Scottish-Polish historical links / Związki historyczne Polski i Szkocji and its Twitter equivalent Scottish-PolishLinks). Professor Worthington's work on sport in the Highlands and a further project - involving public talks, teaching, research and publications - on the Coastal History of the Moray Firth, overlap.

In spring of 2016, he hosted 'Firths and Fjords' the first-ever coastal history conference and the biggest and most ambitious academic conference ever to have taken place in Dornoch. It was a community-focused event which explored historical communities situated along adjacent, or near adjacent littorals, attracted considerable media and press activity, aided by extensive use of the #firths2016 hashtag. This inspired the development of the 'Firths and Fjords' blog and website, the 'Firths and Fjords' Facebook page, the 'Moray Firth History' Facebook and Twitter pages, and will lead to further publication, public lectures and knowledge exchange in this area, from a comparative perspective. In the spring of 2018, in Dornoch, he hosted Dr Julie Brown, a scholar of coastal and maritime literature from Clatsop Community College in Oregon, USA. Funded by the Fulbright Specialist Programme, Julie gave seminars, school workshops, public lectures, film screenings (in Balintore, Dornoch and Inverness) and student mentoring, in the field of public history, as well as on coastal and maritime culture and literature of the sea. In 2020, he instigated the Coastal History Network, a regular, global, online gathering of what is now 170-plus scholars.

Coasts are the location where people's engagement with (and capture of) the Atlantic Salmon has been most profound. In October 2017, he became lead supervisor for Jane Thomas, holder of an ESF-funded PhD studentship exploring historical and archaeological evidence for the commercial and cultural position of salmon in the Scottish Highlands and Islands, c.1500-1800.

Within UHI, Professor Worthington sits on:

  • Academic Council (Teaching Staff Representative)
  • Subject Network Committee for Humanities & Gaelic 
  • Research and Knowledge Exchange Committee
  • UHI - High Life Highland (HLH) advisory group.

He also chairs the UHI-HLH sub-group for the 'Inverness Castle Project' the largest heritage development in the Highlands for over a century, and sits on the overall Castle Project delivery group, chaired by Highland Council. Externally, Professor Worthington is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, a member of the Scottish Parliament's Cross-Party Group on Poland, a Peer Assessor for both the Carnegie Trust and for the Scottish Graduate School for the Arts and Humanities (SGSAH), a member of the editorial board for Northern Scotland, and an Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Aberdeen.

Prof Worthington was elected a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society (RHS) in 2023.