In the Freethinker's Footsteps

Our In the Freethinker's Footsteps project has been made possible thanks to Publishing Scotland's Go-Digital Fund.

Walk in the Footsteps of the Freethinkers of 17th century Edinburgh with our five-episode podcast, library of banned books, and interactive map. Delve into Edinburgh's fascinating, dark past and discover the strange and sad true story of Thomas Aikenhead, the last man to be executed for blasphemy in Britain. This project was inspired by Heather Richardson's historical novel, Doubting Thomas

The Edinburgh of Doubting Thomas

*The map: Plan of the city and castle of Edinburgh / by Willm. Edgar architect anno 1765. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland.



Freethinker's footsteps Podcast

A five-episode podcast series exploring the religious, political and gender controversies of 17th C Scotland. 


Episode 1: Aikenhead's Last Words

In this episode, Stewart Ennis reads the final words of Thomas Aikenhead, written shortly before his execution for blasphemy on January 8, 1697.

Episode 2: Aikenhead's Edinburgh

In late 17th C Edinburgh it was no longer common to execute people for blasphemy, so what doomed Thomas Aikenhead to that fate? Dr Michael Graham provides key insights into the Aikenhead case and the zeitgeist of 17th C Edinburgh.

Episode 3: Interview with the Author

In Doubting Thomas the devil truly is in the details. In this episode – recorded at the Glasgow launch of Doubting Thomas – author Heather Richardson discusses the themes, characters and real-life story that inspired her novel.

Episode 4: 17th C Women

At Doubting Thomas's centre is a strong female character, Isobel Carruth. In this episode, Dr Catriona MacLeod provides us with some context to enrich our understanding of what a woman's experience would have been like in 17th C Edinburgh.

Episode 5: The Politics of Religion

In the fifth and final episode of our podcast, Dr Alasdair Raffe describes the widespread political and religious conflict in late 17th and early 18th C Scotland, and explores the ways in which it impacted freethinkers like Thomas Aikenhead.

SoundCloud Playlist →

Listen to all of the episodes and bonus clips on our SoundCloud playlist.

Freethinkers' LIBrary

Explore some of the most dangerous books of the 17th Century.