Friday 14 February 2014

Age of Revolution in the Archives

Over 150 level one students undertaking the University’s history module Age of Revolution are currently carrying out a source based exercise which uses material from our collections relating to Dundee in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The sources used include four of our maps, an unpublished history, and extracts from a Dundee Directory. This assessment encourages students to think about issues surrounding primary sources as well as some of the broader issues relating to the impact that the industrial revolution had on Dundee, Scotland and the rest of Britain.  

Crawford's plan of Dundee 1776

Students undertaking this and similar exercises for history and other subject areas, including town planning, often make use of the many other sources we have relating to life in Dundee at this time. We anticipate many of this year's history cohort will visit us over the next fortnight. Some of the collections consulted in the past by students taking this module include:

Photograph from the Carmichael Collection 1870s

MS 11 Baxter Brothers & Co Ltd. The Baxters operated one of Dundee's major textile works. Their extensive archives include many records relating to the business as well as an account of the early days of flax spinning in Dundee written by Charles Mackie, 'an old mill manager'.

MS 17/P The Thornton Collection of Manuscripts and Plans includes material relating to the coming of the railways to Dundee as well as several plans of Dundee and its buildings

MS 102 The Peter Carmichael of Arthurstone Collection. There are many fascinating items to be found in the papers of one of Scotland's great factory managers and engineers, including photographs of Dundee in the nineteenth century, personal correspondence and an excellent autobiographical account of life and trade in the city.

MS 134 Working Class Life in Dundee for Twenty Five Years, 1878-1903. This study by Dr David Lennox includes much material relating to the late eighteenth century and the first half of the nineteenth century in Dundee.
Page from Dundee Infirmary's admission records 1853
THB 1 The Dundee Royal Infirmary Collection has a wide range of useful information on life in Dundee at this time including reports of the work of the hospital and on disease in Dundee, patient admission registers and directors minutes
KLoc The Kinnear Local Book Collection has a number of rare histories of Dundee as well as publications produced in this period such as the Dundee Directories and the Rev. George Lewis's A course of lectures on the physical, educational and moral statistics of Dundee delivered in the Watt Institution Hall in December 1840 and the same author's The State of St David's Parish; with remarks on the Moral and Physical Statistics of Dundee (1841)

The archives also have many other collections which contain material relevant to students of the Industrial Revolution as can be seen from our On-line Catalogue ( and our source lists and subject indexes (

Page from a Dundee Directory

In addition we hold copies of a number of useful texts on the history of Dundee in the industrial period, many of which are available for consultation in the search room. These include:

L. Miskell, C. Whatley & B. Harris (eds) Victorian Dundee Image and Realities 2nd Edition (Dundee, 2011)
C. McKean, P. Whatley with K. Baxter Lost Dundee (Edinburgh, 2008 & 2013)
D. Swinfen, A. Smith and C. Whatley The Life and Times of Dundee(Edinburgh, 1993)
C. McKean, Dundee: An Illustrated Architectural Introduction/Guide(Edinburgh, 1984 & 1993)
C. McKean, C. Whatley and B Harris (Eds) Dundee 1500-1800 Renaissance Burgh to Enlightenment Town (Dundee, 2009)

If you would like to consult the archives we are open Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday from 9-1 and 2-5. It is best to email us to make an appointment on or telephone 01382 384095.

Dr Kenneth Baxter

Valentine's Day in the Archive

...ages seem to have passed since I last went to sleep with your head on my shoulder and you clasped in my arms and I can hardly wait for your comforting presence, oh! Only to hold you in my arms again!
Extract taken from letter by Burt S Paton writing to his wife Helen in 1939 when she was in Bridge of Earn Hospital. Ref: Ref: MS 141/1/6/5​.

This and other love letters, poems, literature and pictures can be seen in the Archive's new display that celebrates love, romance and marriage. You can find it in the basement of the University of Dundee's Tower Building.