Papers of Professor William Ballantyne Hodgson (1815-1880)

Scope and Content

The Hodgson material is composed of: remarks on essays on political economy, 1874-1875; and, notes on phrenology, 1855.

Administrative / Biographical History

William Ballantyne Hodgson was born in Edinburgh on 6 October 1815. He was educated at the Royal High School in the city. After working briefly at a lawyer's office he entered Edinburgh University in 1829. He did not graduate but did employ himself lecturing around Fife on literature, education and phrenology. In 1839 Hodgson went to Liverpool where he became secretary at a mechanics' institute. In the early 1840s he was offered the editorship of a Liverpool newspaper and another in Manchester, but declined both. In 1844 he became the Principal of the Liverpool Mechanics' Institute and in 1846 he was awarded the degree of LL.D. from Glasgow University. Between 1847 and 1851 he was Principal of Chorlton High School in Manchester. In the late 1840s Hodgson was agitating for the education of women, and in the early 1850s he travelled abroad. In 1853 he returned to Edinburgh giving lectures on physiology after attending classes at the Royal College of Surgeons. Lectures on economic science followed in 1854, at the Royal Institution, London. In 1858, in London, he was an Assistant Commissioner in an inquiry into primary education. While in England he was also an Examiner in political economy at the University of London, 1863 to 1868, and was on the Council of University College. In 1870, Hodgson was in Bournemouth and the following year in July 1871 he was elected as the first occupant of the Chair of Commercial and Political Economy and Mercantile Law at Edinburgh University. In 1875 he was made President of the Educational Institute of Scotland. Professor William Ballantyne Hodgson died in Brussels on 24 August 1880 while attending an education congress there.

Access Information

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

Acquisition Information

Essays on political economy, purchased October 1965, Accession no. E65.47. Notes on phrenology, purchased May 1978, Accession no. E78.13.


The biographical/administrative history was compiled using the following material: (1) Stephen, Leslie. and Lee, Sidney (eds.). Dictionary of national biography. Vol. 9. Harris-Hovenden. London: Smith, Elder and Co., 1908.

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 Hodgson related material (check the Indexes for more details): a letter from Hodgson to Sir A. Geikie, 1873, at Gen. 525; a letter to Hodgson from J. Bright MP, at Dc.4.103; a poem by J. S. Blackie referring to Hodgson, at Dc.4.102; and, a mention in aletter from R. H. Horne to Mrs. W. B. Hodgson, 1881, at Dc.4.102. In addition, the UK National Register of Archives (NRA), updated by the Historical Manuscripts Commission, notes: letters to J. S. Blackie, 1855-1877, National Library of Scotland, Ref. MSS 2624-32, and correspondence with George Combe, 1836-1866, Ref. MSS 7171-7393 Passim.

Corporate Names