The University's archives date from its foundation in 1583, following on from a charter from King James VI the year before.
Until the beginning of the 18th century the University remained essentially an Arts College, with a Divinity School attached. The later 18th century brought the Enlightenment and much expansion within the University. The University remained under the control of the Town Council until 1858 when it gained its autonomy. Further expansion came in the later nineteenth century and post WW2 in particular. The 20th century was also a century of mergers, with New College, the Royal (Dick) Veterinary College and Moray House Institute of Education. More recently there has been the merger with Edinburgh College of Art.
The archives of the University record, to one degree or another, the entire period of the University's existence. The main merged institutions have their own archives as well.