The abundance of documentary evidence for this period reflects the increased use of legal charters, letters and other documents by the government, landlords, and businesses to record their activities. Clan archives, where they survive, provide a rich source of contemporary information, especially when landlords were undertaking Improvements to their estates. The Campbell papers held in Inveraray Castle belong to one of the most significant archives for Argyll. These are currently being catalogued and hopefully will be available for research in the near future. The renowned Scottish antiquarian, William McFarlane (1699-1767) made an extensive collection of papers relating to the MacFarlane clan from the 14th century onwards and these are now held in the Advocates Library Glasgow (Johnson-Smith 2002). The Malcolm of Poltalloch Papers held in the Lochgilphead archives includes a survey of the estate in Mid-Argyll by Neil Malcolm He had recently acquired the estate from the bankrupt Campbells at the end of the 18th century and wanted to know what was the state of the tenants houses. The papers also relate to the restorations and alterations to the estate properties that he undertook after 1796 (RCAHMS 1992, 277). These papers have been so far subject to only one study (Macinnes 1998). There are likely to be more family archives and papers in private hands which have yet to be subject to study. Their very survival may be in question unless funds are made available for their conservation, however, we do not know the extent of the problem.
Other early documents include the ‘Account of the Depredations committed on the Clan Campbell and their followers, during the years 1685 and 1686….’ (Anon 1816). This anonymous document, a potential insurance claim, was apparently a transcription from a ‘lost’ original. It lists the losses that were suffered by the Campbell clan members (and their allies) at the hands of their enemies following the Campbell rebellion (Lochgilphead Archives Ref 941.423 L.C.). The document lists place-names, tenants and the goods that were claimed to have been taken away and so provides some indication of the size of the farms and their possessions and stock in the late 17th century. Using this document is not without its problems, in that it is written anonymously and being an ‘insurance claim’ possibly contains some inflated sums. However, it can be seen as a reasonably accurate list of settlement place names and who the occupants were. Further documentary research could perhaps verify its content. The transcription of sasines and geneaological records from earlier handwritten documents was undertaken in the early quarter of the 20th century (Campbell 1915–1922, 1933 and 1934) and this has made these early documents much more accessible for research than they would have been.