Scottish history & people

A Better World?

Find out about the immediate impact of the First World War on life in Scotland

A guid cause

The history of the women's suffrage movement in Scotland, with photographs, newspaper reports, diary entries and other sources. Activities for secondary schools. Includes downloadable PDFs

A Scots buik on the plague

Scotland's first printed medical book (1568), written in Scots. Learn the history of the plague in Scotland. Downloadable learning activities

Aiming high

A look at the achievements of seven pioneering women explorers and mountaineers from the 19th to 20th centuries

An Comunn Gàidhealach

Items from 1891 onwards published by An Comunn Gàidhealach, which organises the annual Royal National Mòd

Antiquarian Books of Scotland

Books published after 1640, with a broad range of subjects and languages represented

Biographical dictionary of eminent Scotsmen

Biographies of famous Scotsmen and some women, mostly of the 16th to the 19th centuries. Over 30 engraved portraits

British military lists

Details of officers who served in the British Army, Navy and Air Force in the First and Second World Wars

Broadsides from the Crawford Collection

Explore more than 2,000 broadsides printed between 1501 and 1897 covering a wide range of subjects

Ceòl nan Gàidheal

A dual Gaelic / English overview of historic sources, song, instruments and the Living Tradition of Gaelic music

Chalmers' 'Caledonia'

Five volumes about the counties of Scotland, published in 1887. Includes parish histories and a dictionary of places

Chapbooks printed in Scotland

Small cheap booklets sold on Scotland's streets were essential reading material for the masses in the 18th and 19th centuries

Edinburgh characters by J Jenkins

Edinburgh celebrities and unknown characters in coloured caricatures produced by J Jenkins between 1799 and 1805

Experiences of the Great War

The First World War experiences of four very different people — the General, the Nurse, the Soldier, and the Conscientious Objector

First World War official photographs

Black-and-white photographs mainly of the Western Front during the First World War. From the papers of Field Marshal (Earl) Haig

From shore to shore

Celebrating Scotland's coastal communities with a small sample from the MacKinnon photographic collection from the late 1800s

Gaelic Bards of Keppoch

Songs written by Gaelic bards Iain Lom and Sìleas na Ceapaich. Available in Gaelic and English. Downloadable PDFs for teachers

Gaelic manuscripts of Scotland

Gaelic manuscripts from the 14th to 19th centuries, including songs, medicine, history and legends

Histories of Scottish families

Clan histories, memoirs and histories of Scottish families, mostly published in the 19th and early 20th centuries


Learn about the sinking of HMY Iolaire on 1 January 1919 through Library items and contributions from the Isle of Lewis

Jacobite prints and broadsides

Portraits of people and illustrations of events relating to the Jacobite Rebellions in Scotland in 1715 and 1745 to 1746

James VI and the Union of the Crowns

A look at the union of the Scottish and English crowns in 1603, and the monarch who wanted to lead a peaceful, united Britain

John Francis Campbell of Islay

Journals, watercolours and sketches by Gaelic folklorist, artist, traveller, and scientist John Francis Campbell (1821 to 1885)

Ladies' Edinburgh Debating Society publications

Magazines representing a key moment in Scottish women's history. Published between 1865 and 1880, with general interest articles, fiction and poetry

Lifting the lid

Explore Scotland’s natural larder, from the 17th century to the 21st, using items from our collections. Downloadable PDFs for teachers

Map images

Further your family, local history or school project using this collection of thousands of zoomable maps of Scotland and beyond

Marjory Fleming

Read the diary, letters and poems of Marjory Fleming, adored in Victorian times, who died aged 8 in 1811

Moving Image Archive

Watch films from Scotland's national moving images collection, which preserves over 100 years of Scottish history on film and video

Muriel Spark

Using material from her personal archive, we tell the story of the life and career of one of Scotland's greatest novelists, Dame Muriel Spark

Out of Africa: The Kirk papers

An overview of the personal papers of Sir John Kirk, a British Consul in Africa who explored the Zambesi with David Livingstone

Pencils of light

Delve into photographic history with 300 images taken in the 1840s by the Edinburgh Calotype Club - the world's first photography society

Publications by Scottish clubs

Historical texts from the 12th-19th centuries, edited by Scottish clubs, including manuscripts, church records, diaries, legends and literary texts

Rare items in Gaelic

Books, pamphlets and chapbooks printed in Gaelic between 1631 and 1900. Includes songs, poetry and religious books

Recipes from Scotland

Discover how the Scottish diet has changed over the centuries, read manuscript recipe books, and watch Sue Lawrence bake a cake

Rise of literacy

Books and pamphlets on education and the founding of libraries, printed between 1460 and 1900

Robert Burns

The life, work and legacy of Scotland's Bard, together with fascinating detail about original material in the Library's collections, and short song clips

Robert Louis Stevenson

A biography of story-teller and poet Robert Louis Stevenson, along with digitised early editions of 'Kidnapped' and other works

Rolls of honour

Scottish listings of casualties and those who died while on active service during the First World War

Scotland's News

A small sample of newspapers from across Scotland, printed during the 18th to 20th centuries

Scotland's pages

Move along the timeline of key events in Scottish history, and discover along the way some of the 'treasures' held by the Library

Scots abroad

Read and hear six stories of Scots who emigrated to start a new life between the 1770s and the 1930s

Scottish history in print

Two major Jacobite sources are online as keyword searchable files, together with details of thousands of works published by historical clubs

Scottish History Society publications

Original source material illustrating Scotland’s history from the 12th to 20th centuries, published by the Scottish History Society, with authoritative commentaries

Scottish Post Office directories

Find where people lived and traded in Scotland between 1774 and 1911 by searching and browsing over 700 Post Office directories

Scottish school exams

Scottish school exam papers from 1888 to 1963, education development information, and original creative 're-sits' of old exam questions

Scottish Science Hall of Fame

A tribute to 10 great Scottish scientists of the past. Read transcripts of letters, papers and published works about or by them

Sir Walter Scott

Manuscripts of novels by Sir Walter Scott (1771 to 1832), including "Waverley" and "Rob Roy", along with letters and poems

The 1715 Jacobite Rising

A guide to the 1715 Jacobite rising, which changed Scotland. Includes interactives and resources for teachers

The Bartholomew Archive

Read about the remarkable record of mapmaking and printing by the world-famous Bartholomew firm in Edinburgh from 1820 to 2002

The Duncan Street Explorer

Photos, audio recordings, floor plans and more help tell the story of the famous Bartholomew mapmakers of Edinburgh

The last letter of Mary Queen of Scots

Read, in English and French, the last letter by Scotland's 16th-century queen, written only hours before her execution in Fotheringhay Castle

The Lyon in Mourning

A contemporary account of the Jacobite rising of 1745 to 1746 using eye-witness interviews and letters

The Scottish Enlightenment

Explore the spirit of enquiry, debate, and improvement which characterised the Scottish Enlightenment during the 18th century

The travels of Henrietta Liston

Henrietta Liston's travel journals covering North America and the West Indies (1796 to 1801) and the Ottoman Empire (1812 to1820)

The word on the street

Discover early news stories and ballads that informed and entertained Scots between 1650 and 1910 as you browse around 1,800 broadsides

The works of Robert Burns

A commonplace book and letters by Robert Burns (1759 to 1796), and the first printed edition of his poems

Theatre posters 1870-1900

A glimpse of the theatre in 19th-century Edinburgh — posters and photos of shows, pantomime characters, and actors and actresses of the day

Thomas Annan's Glasgow

Photographs of Glasgow taken by Thomas Annan in the 1860s, with related maps and downloadable learning activities

Wee Windaes

This site charts the continuum of the Scots language in printed form, from the 15th century to the present day