Papers of Sir Alexander Kirkland Cairncross, 1911-1998, economist

Scope and Content

  • Glasgow University Lecture Notes 1928-1932
  • PhD Thesis (Cambridge) n.d.
  • Typescript diary 1941-1969
  • Documents and Papers relating to the work of Miss Hill at Board of Trade 1946-1948
  • Publications correspondence 1935-1989
  • Papers relating to: Glasgow University Chair 1953-1961
  • Glasgow University Chancellor 1991
  • Committee of Enquiry on the Police 1978-1979
  • Brewers Society - Tied House Working Group 1970-1971
  • Channel Tunnel Committee 1963-1982
  • Committee on the Working of the Monetary System (Radcliffe Committee) 1957-1960
  • Political and Economic Planning Trust 1947-1954
  • The Scottish Council: Economic Development Scotland 1941-1960
  • West of Scotland Agricultural College c1938
  • Chartered accountants 1936-1939
  • Housing Enquiry 1938
  • Nuffield College Conference 1944-1949
  • Nuffield Foundation into Science Education 1973-1981
  • Board of Trade 1929-1949
  • Organisation for European Economic Co-operation 1948-1951
  • Data on unemployment 1931
  • Reports on anthrax 1957-1959
  • Phillips Committee on Old Age 1953-1954
  • Committee on the Working of the Monetary System 1957-1959
  • Farreu Mission 1945

Administrative / Biographical History

Alexander Kirkland Cairncross was born in Lesmahagow, Scotland on 11 February 1911, 3rd son of Alexander Kirkland and Elizabeth Andrew Cairncross. He married Mary Frances Glynn in 1943 and had three sons and two daughters. He was educated at Hamilton Academy and Glasgow and Cambridge Universities. His academic posts were as Lecturer in Political Economy at the University of Glasgow, 1935-1939 and Professor of Applied Economics there, 1951-1961. He became the University's Chancellor in 1972, a post he held until 1996. From 1969-1978 he was Master of St Peter's College, Oxford.

Cairncross was involved in Government throughout his career, both as a civil servant and as an advisor: Civil Servant 1940-1945; Director of Programmes, Ministry of Aircraft Production, 1945; Economic Advisory Panel, Berlin, 1945-1946; Economic Adviser to the Board of Trade, 1946-1949; Economic Adviser to HM Government, 1961-1964; Head of Government Economic Service, 1964-1969; Chairman, independent advisers on reassessment of Channel Tunnel Project, 1974-1975; Adviser to Minister of Transport on Channel Tunnel Project, 1979-1980. He was on many Government appointed committees: Crofting Commission, 1951-1954; Phillips Committee, 1953-1954; Anthrax Committee, 1957-1959; Radcliffe Committee, 1957-1959; Committee on Northern Ireland, 1971; Committee on Police Pay 1978.

He was a member of the following organisations and bodies: Economic Development Institute (Director 1954-1957); Court of Governors, London School of Economics; Royal Economic Society (President 1968-1970); Council, Institute of Fiscal Studies; President, Scottish Economic Society, 1969-1971; British Association for Advancement of Science, 1970-1971 (President Section F, 1969); Girls Public Day School Trust, 1972; Trustee, Urwick Orr and Partners; Editor, Scottish Journal of Political Economy, 1954-1961. He was awarded honorary degrees by Mount Allison, 1962; Glasgow, 1966; Reading, 1968; Exeter, 1969; Heriot-Watt, 1969; Wales 1971; QUB, 1972; Stirling, 1973. He became an Honourable Member of the American Academy of Arts and Science in 1973. In recognition of his service to the nation, he became a Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George in 1950 and a Knight Commander in the same order in 1967.


The arrangement of this material reflects the original order in which it was received

Access Information


Acquisition Information

Sir Alexander Cairncross: Five deposits Accn 0423 (1982); Accn 0823 (1984); Accn 1041 (1988); Accn 1330 (1994); Accn 1518 (1996). Frances Cairncross: Six deposits Accn 1826, Accn 1839, Accn 1860 (all 1999); Accn 1934, Accn 1968, Accn 1996 (all 2000).

Other Finding Aids

Digital file level list available in searchroom

Manual file level list available at the National Registers of Archives in Edinburgh (NRA(S)) and London (NRA 30897)

Alternative Form Available

No known copies

Conditions Governing Use

Applications for permission to quote should be sent to the Archivist.

Reproduction subject to usual conditions: educational use and condition of documents

Appraisal Information

This material has been appraised in line with standard GB 248 procedures


A further deposit, as yet only partially listed, was received in 2000. If you wish to use the additions for your research, please contact us for advice on current status.

Related Material

Papers relating to Cairncross' career in UN 1955-1956 (MS Enq c4714) Oxford University: Bodleian Library, Department of Western Manuscripts (GB 0161)

Economic Development Institute Archives at The World Bank Archives Services , 1818 H Street, NW Washington, DC 20433, USA.

The Public Record Office (GB 066) have material written by, or about, Sir Alexander Cairncross, which can be searched on the Public Record Office's catalogue


For a list of publications by, and about, Cairncross search Glasgow University Library catalogue

Corporate Names

Geographical Names