Scottish Spitsbergen Syndicate collection

Scope and Content

The collection comprises of material relating to the Scottish Spitsbergen Syndicate

Administrative / Biographical History

In 1909, William Speirs Bruce founded the Scottish Spitsbergen Syndicate, a mineral exploration company to locate and assay the potential of the Svalbard archipelago for the exploitation of minerals such as coal, gypsum, iron ore, marble and possibly petroleum. The initial work was to be primarily scientific, but good commercial prospects were held out as incentives to shareholders in the company. The Syndicate attracted notable Edinburgh and Glasgow businessmen, who speculated in the venture, and young Scottish academics, who found that Svalbard provided an exciting field venue for their work in geology and surveying. Despite seven expeditions between 1909 and 1922, no commercial mining operations were conducted by the Syndicate. By 1920, the Syndicate has filed claims to mining rights for 7,709 square kilometres, much more than any other company. To protect these claims, Bruce petitioned the British government to re-assert British rights to the sovereign control over the archipelago, but there was little real interest in Whitehall for such an annexation. Svalbard's position in international law was not resolved finally until the Spitsbergen Treaty was signed in Paris in 1920, and Norway became the sovereign power in 1925.


The collection is arranged chronologically

Access Information

By appointment.

Some materials deposited at the Institute are NOT owned by the Institute. In such cases the archivist will advise about any requirements imposed by the owner. These may include seeking permission to read, extended closure, or other specific conditions.


Anyone wishing to consult material should ensure they note the entire MS reference and the name of the originator.

The term holograph is used when the item is wholly in the handwriting of the author. The term autograph is used when the author has signed the item.

Descriptions compiled by N. Boneham, Assistant Archivist with assistance from R. Stancombe and reference to Arctic, exploration and development c500 BC to 1915, an encyclopaedia by Clive Holland, Garland Publishing, London (1994) and Exploring Polar Frontiers, a historical encyclopaedia by William Mills, San Diego and Oxford, 2003 and The Polar Record volume 28 number 167 October 1992 p285-292

Other Finding Aids

Clive Holland Manuscripts in the Scott Polar Research Institute, Cambridge, England - a catalogue, Garland Publishing New York and London (1982) ISBN 0824093941.

Additional finding aids are available at the Institute.

Conditions Governing Use

Copying material by photography, electrostat, or scanning device by readers is prohibited. The Institute may be able to provide copies of some documents on request for lodgement in publicly available repositories. This is subject to conservation requirements, copyright law, and payment of fees.

Copyright restrictions apply to most material. The copyright may lie outside the Institute and, if so, it is necessary for the reader to seek appropriate permission to consult, copy, or publish any such material. (The Institute does not seek this permission on behalf of readers). Written permission to publish material subject to the Institute's copyright must be obtained from the Director. Details of conditions and fees may be had from the Archivist.


Further accessions possible