Department of Scottish History and Literature

Scope and Content

  • Student records 1926-1971
  • Leaflets 1992

Administrative / Biographical History

History had been taught at the University of Glasgow since the sixteenth century. On becoming Principal Regent, Andrew Melville in 1574  included in the new curriculum a 'view of universal history'. In 1692  , William Jameson was appointed as lecturer in History, the first person in the University's history to be responsible for the teaching of History alone. However, History was not seen as deserving of a Chair of its own and was instead included in the Divinity and Humanity classes.

The Professor of Humanity gave lectures on Ancient History, and in 1716  the Chair of Ecclesiastical History was founded within the Divinity Faculty, with William Anderson being its first professor. One of the additional responsibilities of the Professorship was to give lectures on Civil History, although this was as often as not neglected by successive holders of the post. History was also taught in the Law faculty and was a compulsory subject for the LL.B. degree. In 1878  a Lectureship on Constitutional Law and History was established, dealing with the main principles and bodies of the English constitution and tracing their development from the Anglo-Saxon era to Queen Victoria. Among the more prominent holders of the lectureship were Alexander Ure , later Lord Strathclyde and Solicitor-General for Scotland, and William S. McKechnie .

There were also a number of History prizes set up including the Ewing Gold Medal for the best essay on a prescribed historical subject, and the Luke Historical Prize, founded in 1863  , awarded after examination in Ancient History. In 1880  Gladstone's election as Lord Rector was commemorated by the establishment of the Gladstone Historical Prize. Glasgow University also produced a number of prominent historians during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, including George Finlay , the historian of Greece, and John Gillies , Historiographer Royal for Scotland.

Although History had been taught at Glasgow University prior to 1892  , it was not recognised as a subject at all in the Arts Faculty, its natural home. This was resolved in 1893  with the establishment of a Chair of History in the Faculty of Arts, its first professor being Richard Lodge ( 1894-1899  ). A full list of the University's professors from 1451  to 2001  can be found at  . Lodge's first task was to establish an Ordinary Class, which he did with the added innovation that women students were included on an equal footing with the male students. In order to form an Honours Group in History, Lodge united History with English Language and Literature to form the Honours Group English Language, Literature and History. A second Honours Group of History and Constitutional Law and History was also established. In 1901  changes were made to the curriculum of both the Honours and Ordinary Classes to include the study of Medieval History.

The early twentieth century saw the rise of Scottish History as an independent subject. In 1909  , through an anonymous donor, the University Court was able to establish a Lectureship in Scottish History and a Lectureship in Scottish Literature, each tenable for one year. Six courses of lectures, open to the public, were thus provided during the years 1909-1912  . In 1913  the Chair of Scottish History and Literature was founded, with An endowment of about twenty thousand pounds sterling provided partly by a grant of GBP15,000 from the surplus receipts of 'The Scottish Exhibition of National History, Art and Industry', 1911  , partly by contributions from the Merchant's House , Glasgow, and partly by funds collected by a Citizen Committee. Its first professor was Robert S. Rait ( 1913-1930  ), who would later become Historiographer Royal for Scotland and Principal of the University. His successor John Duncan Mackie ( 1930-1957  ) would also become Historiographer Royal for Scotland.

The outbreak of the First World War brought major changes to the teaching of History at Glasgow University. It was felt that the study of modern History was more useful at this time of national emergency, and as a result the Ordinary and Higher Classes went over completely to modern History, although an expansion in teaching staff still made lectures in Medieval History possible. There was also an expansion of the Honours School, with Scottish History being added, and Constitutional Law and Constitutional History being separated from each other.

In 1955  the Chair of Medieval History was founded, its first professor being Edward Lionel Gregory Stones ( 1956-1978  ). The following year the title of the Chair of History was change to Modern History. In 1971  Scottish History and Literature became separate departments, although the Chair remained as Scottish History and Literature. In 1997  The Department of History was formed after members of the three Departments of Medieval, Modern and Scottish History agreed to merge. The Department of History is also part of The School of History and Archaeology, which was established in 1992  .

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University of Glasgow

Subfonds level description compiled by Natalie Milne, archives assistant, January 2002  and John O'Brien, archives assistant, October 2002  .