I was recently made aware of a brilliant online project from independent publisher Vagabond Voices called In The Freethinker’s Footsteps and wanted to share a bit about it with you.
With In The Freethinker’s Footsteps, you can experience a taste of Edinburgh’s murky past. The project has grown out of Heather Richardson’s novel, Doubting Thomas, which is inspired by the fascinating true story of Thomas Aikenhead, the last person to be executed in Britain for blasphemy. Using an interactive map of the city, you can uncover soundbites, historical trivia, and stories of sex, drugs and religious outrage at every turn.
There’s a live tour of Thomas Aikenhead’s Edinburgh led by Doubting Thomas author Heather Richardson taking place on 27th November which I have booked on and am very much looking forward to. It’s free but you do need to register as space is limited – register here.
The interactive map of Thomas’s Edinburgh is not only accompanied by audio clips and quotes, but by a five-episode podcast series exploring different elements of the book. In the first episode – available now online – Stewart Ennis reads Thomas Aikenhead’s final words, written shortly before his execution in 1697. Upcoming episodes will feature discussions with Heather Richardson, Dr Michael Graham (The Blasphemies of Thomas Aikenhead), and Dr Catriona MacLeod, an expert on women in 17th Century Scotland.
The site also features a library of banned books – The Freethinkers’ Library. If you wonder which ideas would have thrown you in jail next to Thomas, you can poke your nose into a clutch of licentious and strange texts, from Christianity Not Mysterious, to the very pamphlet that may have sent Thomas to his death: his classmate Mungo Craig’s A Satyr Against Atheistical Deism: An Account of Mr. Aikenhead.
The project is available here:
There is also more information about the project in this article on Books From Scotland:
This is a story of sex, drugs and blasphemy in late seventeenth-century Edinburgh experienced through four viewpoints over fifteen years: Dr Robert Carruth, his wife Isobel, and university students Mungo Craig and Thomas Aikenhead.
After participating in the particularly gruesome autopsy of a pregnant prisoner, Robert is unable to consummate his marriage to Isobel. He buries himself in work, and his overzealousness contributes to the demise of a down-at-heel apothecary named James Aikenhead. Fifteen years pass and the apothecary’s son, Thomas, appears at the Carruths’ door seeking recompense for his father’s death. At his side is Mungo Craig, a cunning poet with dubious loyalties. The two insinuate their way into Robert and Isobel’s life, freshly exposing old fault lines in the Carruths’ marriage and subjecting them to dangerous new pressure.