History of the Scottish Business Archive

Archive Services manage internationally important collections of business records covering the whole of Scotland and beyond dating from the 18th century to the present.  These reflect the contribution and breadth of activity that Scotland’s business, industry and enterprise has made past and present to the world economy.  The collections were inaugurated by Sydney Checkland, the first professor of Economic History, in 1959 and have been managed by the Service since 1975. 

The collection of shipbuilding records, many held on behalf of the National Archives of Scotland, is unrivalled and includes those of John Brown of Clydebank, the builders of the Queen Elizabeth and Queen Mary, William Denny of Dumbarton, Lithgows of Port Glasgow and Scotts of Greenock, the world’s senior shipbuilder.  Also included are the records of important national and international companies such as North British Locomotive Co, the world’s largest locomotive works in 1900; James Finlay & Sons, East India merchants; Gourock Ropeworks Co and their New Lanark Mills, now a world heritage site; J & P Coats, world dominant Paisley thread manufacturers; the House of Fraser department store group; Anchor Line, cruise and emigrant passenger shipping company; Ivory & Sime, Edinburgh investment trust managers; Babcock & Wilcox, boiler-makers; Lloyds TSB, Scotland; and the major Scottish brewing and distilling companies.  With the Scottish Brewing Archive coming under the direct management of GUAS in 2008, the representation of the Scottish drinks industry has increased significantly.  Brands including McEwans, Tennents, Youngers, Laphroaig and Teachers are all represented within the collections. 

There are papers of individual and families of entrepreneurs like Viscount William Weir (1877-1959), Sir James Lithgow (1883-1952) and the Napier Family including their shipping, automobile, and textile interests.  Altogether there are over five hundred individual collections.