Papers of James Wilkie Nisbet

Scope and Content

Nisbet's papers include lecture notes, as well as research material on Wilkie and Nisbet family history, and on the economic writings of Thomas Chalmers and William Paterson.

Administrative / Biographical History

James Wilkie Nisbet (1903-1974), served the University of St Andrews as Lecturer, Reader and latterly as Professor of Political Economy from 1947 to 1970. He came to St Andrews after a brilliant undergraduate career at Glasgow University having gained a double first in Economic Science and Philosophy and an LL.B. with distinction. He was selected as Assistant to WR Scott, Adam Smith Professor of Political Economy (1926-31) and lectured in Political Economy until he moved to St Andrews in 1935.

Once in St Andrews he was promoted to reader after only three years and was the obvious choice to fill the Chair of Political Economy when it was created in 1947. He devised a broad course which emphasised the historical and political background to economic policy and thus offered a useful education to generations of non-specialists while teaching the future professional economist to take some responsibility for devising realistic policy measures.

From 1935-45 he offered an appointments service in the University and from 1945-68 he was Convenor of the Appointments Board. From 1937-45 he was identified with the O.T.C., latterly as its Commanding Officer. He was Chairman of the Athletic Union's Governing Board and was the chief architect of the Boyd Quaich international student golf tournament. He worked unstintingly for the welfare of students and, with his wife, provided support and succour. He kept up a formidable correspondence with former students and was remembered with gratitude and affection.

He retired in 1970 but continued to work for the good of the University. He set up the May Wong Smith Trust, devoted to promoting the welfare of the University and he founded scholarships for women students of Economics. He was the author of A case for laissez-faire (London, 1929), Banks and the Finance of industry (1934); Post-War Britain and Standard of Life (1937); Britain's Economic Resources (1941); Scottish Agriculture and Industry (Edinburgh and London, 1942); The Beveridge plan (1943). His inaugural lecture related to Thomas Chalmers, J.S. Mill and W.R. Scott and was entitled: The Triumvirate of political economists in St Andrews (Oxford, 1947).

Sources: 'Professor James Wilkie Nisbet: an appreciation' in Alumnus Chronicle 61, (1970) pp. 15-16), Obituary in Alumnus Chronicle, 65, (1974), pp. 79-80.


Miscellaneous papers (2 boxes); Lecture notes (2 boxes); Notes and typescript relating to Thomas Chalmers and his economic writings (1 box).

Access Information

By appointment with the Archivist. Access to unpublished records less than 30 years old and other records containing confidential information may be restricted.

Acquisition Information

The documents were transferred from the department of Economics in three batches in 1986, 1991 and 1994.


Description compiled by Rachel Hart, Archives Hub Project Archivist.

Other Finding Aids

No list.

Conditions Governing Use

Applications for permission to quote should be sent to the University Archivist. Reproduction subject to usual conditions: educational use and condition of documents.

Related Material

GB248 DC349: Papers relating to James Wilkie Nisbet, student 1921-26, LL.B 1926.

Geographical Names