As early as 1496, legislation in Scotland determined the mandatory education of the eldest sons of noblemen. In post-Reformation Scotland, a new emphasis on the value of the individual conscience and the comprehension of scripture meant that by the 18th century, state regulated education subsidized by landowners (heritors) fostered the establishment of schools in each parish and lead to widespread literacy. Nonetheless, it was not until the 1872 Education (Scotland) Act was passed that education became compulsory for children aged five to thirteen.
The earliest surviving records related to education are often found in the burgh records and general council minutes held by local authority archives whilst later nineteenth century records usually appear in the form of ‘log books’. These kinds of records do not usually provide information about individual pupils however; they often detail the appointment and discipline of school teachers and the building, maintenance and operation of schools. The records paint a broad picture of the history of Scottish education and they also highlight aspects of learning and education unique to local areas. Log books from the Second World War describe the evacuation of school children to rural locations and underline the attempts that were made to give stability and safety to children amidst the turmoil of war.
Then, as now, education and learning is intrinsically linked to the world of work. Ancient trade incorporations and guilds like the Linlithgow Incorporation of Wrights supported aspiring wrights through their five year apprenticeships. Although admission to an incorporation demanded the demonstration of a high level of skill, family or social links to a trade guild were often a requirement. The apprenticeship indentures and guild records found in local authority record offices offer a window into the local economy and the working lives of trades people over several centuries.
In the countryside, farming was a way of life and work that relied on tight knit communities, sound business sense and a shrewd knowledge of livestock and the land. The early twentieth century diary of East Lothian farmer and suffragist Jessie Howden provides an unusual record of the management of a considerable farm and its staff by a capable, unmarried and politically active woman. In significant detail, Edinburgh City police personnel records chart the careers of various constables and even describe dismissals and fines for infractions such as incorrectly handling the theft of a pair of false teeth. To find out more about records related to work and learning, visit the ‘Discover the Records’ section on the homepage or click on the links below: