Recipes from Scotland 1680s to 1940s

Explore Scotland's changing relationship with food and drink.

'Recipes from Scotland' highlights the wide differences in diet within society and across the country over the centuries, using material from the National Library of Scotland's collections.

In a series of themes, from soups to drinks, we reveal the myths and traditions associated with the Scots' diet from the 1680s to the 1940s.

Browse the National Library of Scotland's manuscript recipe books online and learn about other resources for food history in our collections.

Diet and health

Scotland has a rich and diverse natural larder with plentiful supplies of fish, game, cereals and fruit. Yet the Scots have been branded the 'sick man of Europe' with the blame placed on their diet.

Before the industrial age, the poor rural Scots were said to be 'remarkably healthy' with a simple, frugal but wholesome diet. For most of them, meat was an occasional luxury and desserts largely unknown.

But, those who could afford to do so ate large amounts of meat and sugar, both of which are now considered unhealthy.

Learn more about food and drink in Scotland, the introduction of new ingredients and methods of cooking, and how tastes have changed and developed over the years.