Statistical Accounts of Scotland

The two Statistical Accounts of Scotland covering
the 1790s and 1830s are among the best contemporary reports of life during the agricultural
and industrial revolutions in Europe. The
Statistical Accounts of Scotland provide a rich record of a wide variety of topics: wealth
and poverty, climate, agriculture and wildlife
and even the model health of the people. The
accounts are of interest to a range of audiences, from academics from a range of subjects,
local historians, family genealogists through to school children studying the history of
their local area. The first accounts were instigated by Sir
John Sinclair, Member of Parliament for Caithness. He
wanted a collection of information about the economic and social activities and the natural
resources of Scotland. He sent surveys containing 166 questions to
nearly 1000 parish ministers in 1790. Some of the ministers’ responses were long
in coming back but eventually, after sending statistical missionaries to
hurry up late entries and a final demand written in red
ink, the 21 volumes of the parish reports were completed nine years later. Sir John was sure that his collection of well-ordered
facts would form an account of a quantum of happiness of the communities of Scotland
and also be a means of future improvement. In
1832, the clergy were once against asked to describe their parishes. It felt that the time was
right for a new addition, because of the great changes which had taken place in Scotland
since the 1790s. The new statistical account was written mostly
in the 1830s, finally being issued as 15 volumes in 1845. The Statistical Accounts of Scotland service
was launched by EDINA ten years ago in 2001. Inside the services, users can search for
information using their parish name. If they’ve got a
particular subject they are interested in, they can do a word search and the information
is shown in context. Once a user has put the information that they’re
looking for, say the parish name, into the search box, they will have
to choose whether or not they use the first or second
account. After that, the information they see is the
digitized image of the account for that parish. It’s possible to look at a transcript of the
parish at the same time which will then allow you to do cutting and pasting. You can print the entire PDF of a parish or
you can print individual pages. The information you can find in the accounts
is surprisingly detailed. For example, in the
Parish of Linlithgow, there’s information about the number of individuals who were employed
in the shoe making industry, about 100. And previously over 24,000 pairs of shoes
a year had been exported to America. Now, times were harder and the shoes were
being sent to the poor of Edinburgh or, in fact, were being sent
to soldiers abroad. As I mentioned previously, users can search
for individual words. Now, tea drinking was
considered to be a pernicious habit amongst ladies in the poorer class during the 1790s. So if
you search for tea drinking, you’ll be able to see examples of the ministers’ disapproval
of this very bad habit set in context. Amongst the additional resources available
within Statistical Accounts service, there are 32
maps that have been included in the accounts. Now, these maps are among some of the
earliest maps produced for Scotland. So in the example that you see, there is a
coloured ma of Linlithgow. Subscriptions to the service can be taken
out by individuals or universities, colleges or any
other organizations in the UK or abroad. The service is invaluable to those interested
in this period of Scottish history. And the level of usage demonstrates its popularity. – 1 –

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