Dec 182015
 

Christmas tree, from ‘Rutherfurd's Southern Counties Register... being a supplement to the almanacs; containing […] much useful information connected with the counties of Roxburgh, Berwick and Selkirk’ Published in Kelso, by J. and J.H. Rutherfurd, in 1858

Christmas tree, from ‘Rutherfurd’s Southern Counties Register… being a supplement to the almanacs; containing […] much useful information connected with the counties of Roxburgh, Berwick and Selkirk’ Published in Kelso, by J. and J.H. Rutherfurd, in 1858 (courtesy of the National Library of Scotland)

Christmas is coming and, while the goose is getting fat, the Edina elves will be sharing some of the festive traditions described in the accounts on twitter and Facebook. As we head into the festive season, we’re also pleased to be able to share here some of our plans for the redevelopment of the Statistical Accounts online service. Our engineers have been working hard over the last few months, and behind the scenes we’ve made great progress on developing a robust technical framework and organising the metadata. We’ve also made significant headway with what will be the new interface. Users of the refreshed service will benefit from:

  • an improved search mechanism, which will be much more flexible than the current search tool, include new features such as ‘related terms’, and offer more efficient ways of filtering and sorting results
  • new map features which allow alternative navigation to and through the accounts, and which help readers to geographically locate the parish they are reading about
  • new modes of presenting contextual information, such as introductions to counties and parishes, and new modes of showcasing the content of the accounts through changing exhibitions
  • revised help texts and case studies that help you get the most out of the service
  • improved citation assistance

We’re currently working on a prototype, which will allow for user testing over the next six months, and we hope to launch the refreshed service in the late summer of 2016. If you’d like to give us feedback on the current service, or to be involved in the user testing of the new service, then please drop us a line at edina@ed.ac.uk.

So with that good news, we wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy Hogmanay!

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Oct 052015
 

A few weeks ago, we took the Statistical Accounts to the Edinburgh Fringe as part of the Beltane network’s Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas. Board member Helen Aiton and EDINA’s Nicola Osborne wrote and presented ‘Back to the Statistical Future’, a delorian-powered tour that brought to light some uncanny parallels between the historical world of the accounts and contemporary Scotland.  We posted about the show at the time, and we’re now pleased to be able to make this recording available.

We hope the video will give you a sense of the rich historical detail to be found in the accounts and prompt you to browse the service to find out more!

We’re keen to introduce as many audiences as possible to the unique resource that is the Statistical Accounts of Scotland:  if you’d be interested in having us come along and talk at an event you are organising, please get in touch.

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Aug 272015
 

As always, August in Edinburgh is abuzz with lots of exciting theatre and shows. We were delighted to have the opportunity to present our own show again this year, once more as part of the Beltane network’s Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas. Written and presented by EDINA’s Nicola Osborne and Helen Aiton, a member of the Statistical Accounts editorial board, ‘Back to the Statistical Future’ explored parallels between the ‘New’ Statistical Accounts of Scotland (1834-1845) and our contemporary cultural and political contexts. The wonderful comedian Susan Morrison was master of ceremonies and ‘minister of the parish’ as the discussion ranging over topics such as education, social deprivation and welfare and libraries.

2015-08-26 15.40.21

Helen Aiton, Nicola Osborne and Susan Morrison on stage.

With the aid of a time machine and the fantastically-imagined ‘hover-board of social policy’ (a reference for the film buffs!) we posed the question of how different Scotland in 2015 is to Scotland in 1835. Might we be returning to a time, we asked, when libraries are only sustained by subscriptions? Is it possible that, as some of our ancestors believed, the poor are being ‘corrupted, by being taught to read and write’? As good education becomes increasingly costly and inaccessible, are our modern ‘lords and gentlemen’ motivated once more by the belief that the masses would be ‘more obedient and dutiful, were [we] more ignorant, and had no education’?

Pondering such subversive suggestions, the audience came up with some rather brilliant proposals including introducing dancing sessions to libraries, building more sustainable energy-driven social housing, allowing ordinary people to sit in parliament, and even taxing celebrities based on the column inches they generate.

Many thanks to all who made it possible, and to those who came and contributed their own dangerous ideas!

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Aug 052015
 

The first blog about the Statistical Accounts of Scotland service described how in May 1790, Sir John Sinclair wrote to every Church of Scotland Minister in each of the 938 parishes in Scotland with a list of 160 questions plus an addendum of 6 further questions. Sir John intended to use the responses to his very thorough range of questions to elucidate the Natural History and Political State of Scotland or “the quantum of happiness” of its people.

Whilst researching the origins of the first Statistical Accounts for a performance at the Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas on the Edinburgh Fringe, myself and Nicola Osborne from EDINA discovered an additional five questions in the next very persuasive circular letter from Sir John Sinclair, which the Ministers received in January 1791, 8 months after the initial request.

SIR,

   IT is with infinite pleasure I have the honour of acquainting you, that by the zeal and patriotism of the clergy of Scotland, I have already in my possession materials for drawing up a Statistical Account of a considerable part of the whole kingdom…

..But I am anxious that the Clergy of Scotland should not only do it well, but quickly; so that the state of the whole country should be known, if possible, at nearly the same period of time.  I therefore hope, Sir, that, for the honour of our national church, you will make every exertion in your power to send me as full, and as accurate an account, as possible of your  parish…

…In the queries formerly sent, some particulars were omitted, of which I should be glad to be informed, even from those gentlemen who have already favoured me with their answers: as,   

1. What is the state of the schools in the parish; the salary and perquisites of the schoolmaster; and the number of his scholars?  

2. What is the number of alehouses, inns, &c.; and what effect have they on the morals of the people?  

3. What is the number of new houses or cottages which have been built within those ten years past; and how many old ones have been pulled down, or have become uninhabitable?  

4. What has been the effect of employing cottagers in agriculture, or of working by hired servants in their stead? and,  

5. What has been the number of prisoners in any jail in the district, in the course of the year 1790; and for what causes were they imprisoned?   

Tables of births, marriages, and deaths, kept in any particular parish would be very desirable.  Nor can the information respecting all points connected with the population of the country, be too accurate and minute.

 

We are not aware of what the “patriotic and zealous” Parish ministers thought when they received this request for yet more information, especially those who had already responded very promptly! It would be a further eight years before all of the twenty-one Volumes of the First Statistical Accounts of Scotland were published.

These questions, along with images and transcripts of the first 166 questions can be found within the Related Resources Section of the Statistical Account Service.

– Helen Aiton June 2015

Helen Aiton and Nicola Osborne present ‘Back to the Statistical Future‘ as part of  The Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas at the Stand Comedy, Edinburgh. 

How different is Scotland in 2015, to Scotland in 1835?

As good education is increasingly costly and inaccessible to the poor, are we seeing our modern ‘lords and gentlemen’ believing we will be ‘more obedient and dutiful, were [we] more ignorant, and had no education’?

Might our poor potentially be ‘corrupted, by being taught to read and write’? Might we be returning to a time when libraries are only sustained by subscriptions?

Join us for a whistle stop hover-board ride through the bizarre parallels between modern Scotland and the ‘New’ Statistical Accounts of Scotland (1834-1845).

@CODIfringe

 

We hope you have enjoyed this post: it is characteristic of the rich historical material available within the ‘Related Resources’ section of the Statistical Accounts of Scotland service. Featuring essays, maps, illustrations, correspondence, biographies of compliers, and information about Sir John Sinclair’s other works, the service provides extensive historical and bibliographical detail to supplement our full-text searchable collection of the ‘Old’ and ‘New’ Statistical Accounts.

 

 

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Jun 252015
 

We are pleased to report that the County Surveys of Great Britain 1793 – 1817 project, which is related to the Statistical Accounts, has now released an online bibliographic search tool. This is a key output of this pilot project and will be of wide interest to historians and researchers in many fields.

Here we re-post of the County Surveys blog announcement:

We are delighted to announce that our bibliographic search tool is now live and accessible from the ‘Search’ tab in the menu above.

Our demonstrator includes bibliographic data from some of the best collections of the surveys and, where possible, provides links to library catalogue entries and  digital editions. Researchers can search by modern county name, by series, by county and by author. Results are presented in a new tab after each search, so that you can compare multiple search results by toggling between pages. There are also detailed analyses of collections, revealing the extent of holdings and coverage, and indicating which surveys would be needed to complete each collection.

demonstrator2

 

We hope that the demonstrator will be a useful finding aid and discovery tool for those interested in the County Surveys, the history of statistical reporting and British history more broadly. We would welcome any feedback on the tool, and would be very keen to hear about how it is used or whether it could usefully offer other features and information. If you have ideas, please get in touch with us at edina@ed.ac.uk.

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