Facilities and community
Whether it is artefacts or student societies, Classics has something to enhance experience and community spirit.
Classics students can access an extensive collection of artefacts, statuary and spaces to study them in. And then an active and friendly society to relax and enjoy Edinburgh with.
Access to the Student Research Rooms (SRR) is via Floor 2M and 3 of the School’s accommodation at Doorway 4, Teviot Place.
All staff and students of the School of History, Classics and Archaeology are welcome to use the SRR for study and consultation of the book collections.
Access to the SRR is linked to your access to the building. For undergraduate students this is limited to the hours from 08:00 to 17:50 (Monday to Friday) for safety and security reasons.
If you need help in finding Library materials for your courses, please contact the School’s Academic Support Librarian, Caroline Stirling, firstname.lastname@example.org who is based in the Main Library, George Square.
For everyone to be able to use the rooms safely and efficiently we would ask that you follow these guidelines.
Many of these books are available for borrowing by staff and students of the School of History, Classics and Archaeology. Please contact Clare Wilson, the Student Research Room Coordinator if you would like to borrow a book or consult any of the books held behind glass doors, or approach one the SRR volunteers.
Suggestions for the improvement of the SRR are welcome. Please send these to Clare Wilson.
The SRR has a blog where you can find out more about the collections and activities.
The SRR contains nine collections of books from previous class libraries and special collections donated to the School over many years. The collections are listed below.
The Archaeology book collection resides on the upper level of the Student Research Room. It contains many books that members of staff brought over from the former Archaeology Library in High School Yards. Since then the collection has grown significantly due to a large donation from the University Library following a de-duplication process, and further donations from academics and students.
The Brown and Forrest Collection covers Late Antique and Medieval History.
Jim Compton was born in New Jersey in 1928. His father Lewis Compton was Assistant Secretary and later Acting Secretary of the Navy in the Cabinet of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. At an election rally in 1940, FDR asked the 12-year-old Jim what he wanted to be when he grew up, and Jim said, ’A Democrat’. ‘I love it’! said the President.
Jim graduated with a BA in American and Medieval history from Princeton and an MA from the University of Chicago, and was then dismissed from a school in Arizona for refusing to take the teachers’ loyalty oath. Following this brush with McCarthyism, he took a PhD at the LSE, his dissertation forming the basis for his book The Swastika and the Eagle: Hitler, the United States and the Origins of the Second World War (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1967; London: Bodley, 1968).
From 1963 to 1969, Jim Compton was a lecturer in history at the University of Edinburgh. In this period, he inspired a generation of students with a love of American history. He established the North American Studies Committee, a precursor of the American Studies degree programme, and formed an enduring affection for Edinburgh.
Jim returned to the United States in 1969, and after a year in New England took up a professorship at San Francisco State University, from which he retired in 1995. Soon thereafter, out of “deep respect and affection” for the University and the students he taught here, Professor Emeritus Compton donated his collection of books on American history as a “contribution to benefit present and future generations of students in the study of United States history at Edinburgh.” Following this initial donation, he sent to Edinburgh a number of others, seeking to keep the Compton Collection up to date. Former students, including some from Jim’s time as well as their present-day counterparts, have also donated books to the Collection.
There are about 2,000 books in the Collection, comprising a carefully selected and balanced library on the whole of the period since the founding of the Anglophonic colonies. About half the Collection duplicates books in the University Library, performing a useful function in a field that attracts many students chasing finite learning resources. The remainder of the Collection consists of books that are not to be found in the University Library.
The Compton Collection of books on American History is housed in the Student Research Rooms of the School’s Accommodation at Teviot Place. The installation of secure shelving for the Collection would not have been possible without the assistance of the Fennell Fund, for which the University’s Americanists owe a deep debt of gratitude. The Compton Collection is primarily for the use of students taking Honours courses in American history.
Other members of the University as well as visiting scholars may use the collection subject to the usual regulations of Edinburgh University Library. The books in the Compton Collection do not appear in the Edinburgh University Library’s online catalogue. Instead, a separate catalogue is available to users. First developed by the donor, the catalogue was revised in 2005-2006 by student librarians and Alex Goodall. New additions are added to the catalogue on a regular basis.
The History of Conflict and War collection was built up over the years by donations from friends and associates of the Centre for the Study of Modern Conflict.
The Centre, originally named the Centre for Second World War studies, was co-founded by Dr Paul Addison and Jeremy Crang in 1996. In 2005 Professor James F. McMillan assumed directorship and re-titled it the Centre for the Study of the Two World Wars. Following Professor McMillan's death in 2010, Professor Donald Bloxham and Dr. Pertti Ahonen became the Director and Deputy Director of the Centre and renamed it The Centre for the Study of Modern Conflict.
The Centre was closed down in June 2017. In its place, the School has established the Centre for the Study of Modern and Contemporary History. This brings together some of the expertise of the old centre within a much broader remit. The centre is open to all students and staff who work in any area of modern history (post-1750). It is structured around a specific yearly theme or themes, which provide the guiding thread for its seminar series, public events and postdoctoral fellowship programme. Please visit the Centre for the Study of Modern and Contemporary History website for full details about how you can get involved.
The founding Head of the (then) School of History and Classics, Professor McMillan was the Richard Pares Professor of History from 1999, as well as the Director of the Centre for the Study of the Two World Wars. As a researcher of Modern French history, he was originally a pioneer in the fields of women's and gender history, and worked on the religious history of modern France and the French culture wars. This is reflected in his book collection which was donated by his family after his death.
Michael Flinn was a member of the academic staff of the University of Edinburgh from 1959 to 1978, when he retired from his Personal Chair in Social History. He served for two years as Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences in the mid-1970s. He died in 1983. A full obituary was published in The Economic History Review.
Like a number of other important economic historians of his generation, Flinn came quite late into a permanent full-time academic post. Leaving school at the age of 18, he worked for four years for a firm of cotton exporters. This was followed by war service in the Royal Artillery, after which he enrolled for a History degree at the University of Manchester then arguably one of the three great centres of teaching and research in Economic History. Thereafter, for more than a decade, he taught History at grammar schools first in Stockton-on-Tees and then in Isleworth in Middlesex with a two year gap between them when he was an Assistant in History at the University of Aberdeen. This teaching experience was important to his subsequent development (and to the Flinn collection) in several ways. Above all, it gave him a huge range of interests and expertise which he first used to write highly successful school textbooks on The Economic and Social History of Britain, 1066-1939, first published in 1961, and, after various revisions, still in print at the time of his death. Second, it gave him time to undertake his first serious piece of research, a MSc on British overseas investment in iron ore mining, 1870-1914, the start of a life-long interest in the iron and coal industries, including several major works of high scholarship, notably Men of Iron: the Crowleys on the early iron industry, which Saul calls a first class work of scholarship which set the standard for business histories for years to come.
Third, his school teaching experience stimulated a commitment to highest quality teaching, which needed to be both accessible yet demanding on his students. The first year course in Social History which he was heavily involved in initiating rapidly developed into a popular student choice, while his final year honours course on British population history challenged the many students who did it to produce work of outstanding quality; some of the undergraduate dissertations which were written as part of its assessment pioneered new ground to the extent that they became for many years the only available sources on some key topics of Scottish population history, and are cited as such in several published works.
Flinn very early in his career had recognised that one of the problems in teaching economic and social history was a lack of accessible reading material for students. Starting with his own The Origins of the Industrial Revolution (1966), and including his British Population growth, 1800-1850, he persuaded Macmillan to publish a series of 'Pamphlets' (actually short books mostly of 20,000 to 30,000 words) called Studies in Economic and Social History; he himself edited the first 24 of these and the series is still marketed, now under the Cambridge University Press imprint.
Flinn's Population pamphlet and his honours course marked a significant addition to his principal research interests, though he went on publishing on coal right up to the end of his life. Already in 1965 he published a long introduction to Chadwick's Report on the Sanitary Condition of the Labouring Poor, followed in 1968 by Public Health Reform in Britain (1968). More importantly, also in 1968, and stimulated in great part by work going on in England in The Cambridge Group for the History of Population and Social Structure, and supported by the SSRC, he, together with Christopher Smout and Rosalind Mitchison from the Department of Economic History and several research assistants, began work on by far the most ambitious project on Scottish population history that has ever been undertaken anywhere in the world. The principal output of this work was a major CUP book, Scottish Population History from the 17th Century to the 1930s (1977). The project was one of the first pieces of large-scale historical research in Scotland to make extensive use of the newly available computing technology. Flinn led the project throughout and in particular wrote most of the section on the 19th and 20th centuries, much of which had never systematically been looked at before, and the book as a whole remains the standard reference work on many aspects of Scottish population history even today.
One important residue of this project was the archive of its research material, including punch cards, computer printouts, manuscript notation sheets and correspondence from parishes and archives around the country. The archive also contained the record sheets for baptisms, marriages and burials for several dozen parishes. Each of these consisted of a separate sheet for type of event for each year onto which, on a month-by-month basis were recorded the number of events, subdivided into a number of sub-heads. This is a unique Scottish resource, and the rest of the archive also contains much material that provides invaluable time-saving summaries and tabulations of primary source material. The Scottish Population History Book notes (p. xiv) that 'This additional material has been preserved … and will be available for use by researchers in the Department of Economic History of the University of Edinburgh.' And indeed it was all preserved and has been quite heavily used by students and by researchers over the years. When the Department moved to the Medical School, the punch cards and some of the printout and photocopied papers were not retained, while the rest of the material was transferred to the University Library.
Flinn took early retirement from the University in 1978, and went on to publish The European Demographic System, 1500-1820 and to complete a posthumously published 500 page work on the history of the British coal industry from 1700 to 1830. He died suddenly in 1983, 'at the peak of his intellectual powers (Obituary, p. vii).
When Michael Flinn died, his family was left with a very large collection of books, journals, photocopies and offprints. They retained the copies of his own books and articles, and some of his friends and academics who had worked closely with him were allowed to select items for themselves. But the bulk of the material remained and the family consulted a number of people no longer associated with the Department about its possible future. They wished it to be available to staff and students in the University. The gift was made to the current members of staff of the Department and their successors. It came to Edinburgh, with its own bookcases, and these were placed in the Department's seminar room, which was named 'The Michael Flinn Room'.
Precisely as intended by the donors, some of the material in the collection was quite heavily used by staff and students right through to the early 2000s. Additions were also made to the collection through donations from members of staff. When the Department moved to the Medical School building some limited pruning took place, especially of some of the journals which were by then easily available on-line. The photocopies were also destroyed because to hold them was arguably breach of copyright, though this was a pity because some of them contained Flinn's perceptive and often pungent marginal comments. At the same time some material from earlier staff donations, which had been held in the Class Library, was added to the collection, which now resides in the Student Research Room (Room 2m.25 upper level) of the William Robertson Wing. It should be noted that the ownership continues formally to reside with the current Economic and Social History group in accordance with the wishes of the donors.
Even after some losses and limited pruning, the breadth the collection continues to show Flinn's huge range of interests and enthusiasms. Some of the material is still of use as supplementary copies for students on undergraduate courses, but what is particularly of value are some of the items in Flinn's special areas of research interest (notably for example on 1930s demography), many of which are not held by the University Library. Some of the foreign publications, again notably in demography, are not available anywhere else in Edinburgh, a few perhaps being unique in any collection in Scotland. Among other interesting items is a very large collection of G D H Cole's trade union history writings and of the works of Webbs, mostly originating in the Marwick donation.
The foundation of the Sir William Fraser Chair of Scottish History at the University in 1901 eventually led to the creation of a small department of Scottish History and with that the establishment of a small ‘class library’ to support the studies of honours History students who took courses in Scottish History. The creation of a degree programme in Scottish History led by Professor Gordon Donaldson in the 1960’s saw the collection allocated a small room in what is now 50 George Square in the central area of the university. It was moved with the then department in the 1980’s to separate accommodation in a main door flat at 17 Buccleuch Place, where it was expanded in size under the leadership of Professors Geoffrey Barrow and Michael Lynch to include monographs as well as editions of primary sources.
In recent years it has been possible to bring all items in the Collection together in one of the School's Student Research Rooms (Room 3.07). Thanks to the hard work of volunteers and summer interns, the Scottish History Book Collection is available to all students and staff of the School of History, Classics and Archaeology and others upon request.
The Sellar & Goodhart Classics book collection is the largest within the School and is currently located on Floor 1 and on both levels of the Student Research Room. (Room 2m.25) William Sellar and Harry Goodhart were successive professors of Humanity at the University of Edinburgh at the end of the 19th century.
Harry Chester Goodhart (1858 – 1895) graduated from Cambridge University in April of 1881 with a B.A. in Classics and then completed his M.A. in 1884. He joined the University of Edinburgh as Professor of Humanities in 1890 where he remained till his death due to pneumonia in 1895, aged 36.
Goodharts predecessor William Young Sellar (1825 – 1890) was a Scottish classical scholar born in Sutherland and educated at the Edinburgh Academy and afterwards at the University of Glasgow. He entered Balliol College, Oxford, as a scholar and graduated with a first class in Classics. He was elected Professor of Humanity at the University of Edinburgh in 1863 and occupied the chair till his death.
The Classics collection named after these two highly successful professors has grown over the years through donations and was previously housed in Old College and the 40 George Square.
The School has a number of teaching collections of historical artefacts.
Gordon Childe Archaeology Collection
The School's Gordon Childe Archaeology Collection was begun by Vere Gordon Childe in 1927, when he became the first Abercromby professor of prehistoric archaeology. Additions were made by his successors, Stuart Piggott (1946-1977) and Dennis Harding (1977-2007), as well as by outside donations. Today, the collection houses c. 5000 archaeological artefacts from various periods and regions across Europe, the Mediterranean, Egypt, the Near East and India, including textile fragments from Neolithic Swiss Lake villages, in addition to ethnographic items. You can browse the collection at the link below.
Classics Teaching Collection
The Classics Teaching Collection of ancient objects — mostly terracotta vases — covers Egypt, Cyprus, Greece, and the Roman world, spanning from the prehistoric period to the Roman era. Although it has not been possible to trace the donor or original provenance of our collection, the complete state of the vases suggests that they come from a funerary context. Much of the collection is on public display on the first floor of the William Robertson Wing.
The School also has a substantial collection of plaster casts of ancient works of sculpture also displayed throughout the William Roberston Wing particularly in the Student Resource Room.
Please note that the Classics Teaching Collection website is undergoing redevelopment at the moment.
Osteology Teaching Collection
The collection curator is Dr Linda Fibiger.
The School hold several collections of documents, many of which have been digitised and which can be browsed and viewed at the links below.
Sir William Fraser Collection
Sir William Fraser (1816-1898) was a genealogist, archivist, and Scottish historian who trained as a solicitor.
A series of 288 facsimiles of charters and letters, spanning from the eleventh to the early nineteenth century was published by the Trustees of Sir William Fraser in 1903 and is held by the School. Another is held by CRC Special Collections in the Edinburgh University Library.
In the course of the digitisation of the Sir William Fraser facsimiles, a considerable quantity of facsimiles came to light which did not belong to the series published by his Trustees in 1903. A number of these were contained in packets marked as containing 'Residue of Lithographs of Letters' belonging to Sir William Fraser's histories of the Wemyss, Annandale, Douglas, Menteith and Haddington families.
Falconer Madan Facsimiles
Falconer Madan (1851–1935) was the librarian of the Bodleian Library at the University of Oxford from 1912 to 1919. He was the principal author of the first four volumes of 'A Summary Catalogue of Western Manuscripts' in the Bodleian Library at Oxford. Thirty-eight plates from Madan’s series of facsimiles of medieval manuscripts, produced as a teaching aid and published in 1907, are currently held by the School, and a complete set is held by the CRC Special Collections, Edinburgh University Library.
During the course of the Sir William Fraser digitisation project a packet containing fourteen very fragile eighteenth-century documents was found, including a marriage contract from 1751, giving fragmented snapshots of the everyday lives of ordinary men and women in eighteenth-century Scotland. Apart from one accompanying note dated 1910 very little is known about this collection. The Kennedy Papers are now held by the CRC Special Collections in the University Library.
The University’s popular student-run Classics Society organises regular daytrips, seminars and social events throughout the year.
Follow the Classics Society to find out more:
Literacy Through Latin
Literacy Through Latin organises outreach projects to local primary schools, introducing the world of Classics to students who would otherwise not have the opportunity to do so and using short, fun lessons to broaden vocabulary by using Latin to show how many of English words have Latin roots.
Staff in Classics are actively involved in a number of classical societies based in Scotland.