10.5 Early mapping and data collection

After the defeat of the Jacobites at Culloden in 1745, the need for proper maps of the countryside was recognised and this resulted in the Military Survey of Scotland (1747-55) by the surveyor and map maker William Roy.

‘The cartographic imperatives behind the Roy map can be seen to reflect growing Enlightenment aspirations for greater geometrical accuracy and standardisation, as well as a desire to discover empirical truth, and to control and order geographical space through reconnaissance and survey’

Extract from Roy Military Survey of Scotland, 1747-52 (National Library of Scotland)

The maps recorded significant settlements, streams, hills, woods and other features in the contemporary landscape. Proper mapping was seen as essential for ‘good science and the public good’ (National Library of Scotland) and eventually, the Ordnance Survey completed their survey of Argyll between 1862-77, producing the first edition OS maps at a scale of 6 inch to the mile. These were the most detailed, accurate maps to be produced at the time and remain a great source of information on place-names and features. They were accompanied by ‘Object Name Books’ which listed place-names and the authority that provided them.

Extract from 1st edition Ordnance Survey 6-inch to the mile map, 1874 (National Library of Scotland)

The spirit of the Enlightenment was behind the collection of empirical data that helped to measure and describe the world. Useful information on contemporary life which covers the whole country by parish is therefore provided by the First Statistical Accounts (1791-99) complied by the local ministers (Sinclair 1792). These accounts describe the main characteristics of the parishes and the people and reveal contemporary views of the clergy on social issues of the day including emigration, the introduction of sheep farms and absentee landlords. The accounts were updated in the 19th century with the Second Statistical Account (1834-45) which covered a wide range of information including natural history, population, architecture, agriculture, industry, education and emigration (General Assembly of the Church of Scotland 1834).