Collection of Manuscripts relating to Nova Scotia

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 237 Coll-335
  • Dates of Creation
  • Language of Material
  • Physical Description
      1 manuscript volume, 49 letters bound in one volume.
  • Location
      Dc.1.15; Gen.2027

Scope and Content

The collection is composed of: a descriptive sketch of Nova Scotia, dated 1783 on the spine of the item; and, letters relating to Nova Scotia including some from the politician Henry Dundas (1742-1811), 1st Viscount Melville, on the defence of the province in the event of war with America.

Administrative / Biographical History

Nova Scotia is one of Canada's Maritime Provinces - the others being New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island. It comprises the Nova Scotia peninsula, Cape Breton Island, and some adjacent islands. It has a population of around 899,900 (in 1991) and Halifax is the provincial capital. The name of the province was applied by Scottish settlers.

Nova Scotia was the site of the first permanent North American settlement north of Spanish Florida. It was established at Port Royal (now Annapolis Royal) in 1605 by the French, although the territory was also inhabited by the semi-nomadic Algonquian Indian tribes of the Abnaki and the Micmac. Colonial rivalries between France and Britain throughout the 17th and 18th centuries led to instabilities in Nova Scotia and it passed backwards and forwards between the two until the Peace of Utrecht 1713 when it was retained by Britain. Cape Breton Island was kept by France. The opportunity of acquiring free land attracted many new settlers from Britain, especially from Scotland, and from New England to the south of the territory. During the American Revolution and afterwards, many United Empire Loyalists from New England came to the province.

In 1769, Prince Edward Island split away from Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick followed in 1784. In 1820, Cape Breton Island was reunited with Nova Scotia. It was one of the four British colonies federated into the Dominion of Canada in 1867 - Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec, and Ontario.

In today's Nova Scotia, only around one eighth of the population can claim descent from the French settlers. The bulk of the population is descended from British or New England settlers, though there is a very small percentage descended from Irish and German settlers. Other minorities include small numbers of Dutch, Italians, and Hungarians, who arrived after 1945. English is spoken by some 90 per cent of the population. Around 8 per cent are bilingual with French and English.

Nova Scotia has been something of a pioneer in Canadian history with the country's first printing press in 1751, the first newspaper in 1752 (the Halifax Gazette), the first university in 1788-1789 (King's College, Windsor), and the first British colony to achieve cabinet government responsible to the people through elected representatives.

Access Information

Generally open for consultation to bona fide researchers, but please contact repository for details in advance.


The biographical/administrative history was compiled using the following material: (1) The new encyclopaedia Britannica. Micropaedia. Ready Reference. 15th edition. Chicago: Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1991. (2) Nova Scotia. In The Columbia Gazetteer of the World. Full-text [online, text-only version].  The Columbia Gazetteer of the World [Accessed 21 January 2002].

Compiled by Graeme D Eddie, Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections Division.

Other Finding Aids

Important finding aids generally are: the alphabetical Index to Manuscripts held at Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections and Archives, consisting of typed slips in sheaf binders and to which additions were made until 1987; and the Index to Accessions Since 1987.


Check the local Indexes for details of any additions.

Related Material

The local Indexes show other references to Nova Scotia (check the Indexes for more details) in the Laing Collection: statement of the relative members in the province belonging to the Church of England and to the Dissenters, late 18th century, La.II.678; and, letter on behalf of the baronets of Nova Scotia to Lord George Germaine claiming acknowledgement of the right to their estates in the province, 1777, La.II.498.

Geographical Names