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Background to the Gazetteer for Scotland

Contents

Aim
What is a Gazetteer
The History of Scottish Gazetteers
Frequently Asked Questions
Sponsoring or Licensing the "Gazetteer for Scotland"

Aim

The "Gazetteer for Scotland" was conceived by Bruce Gittings of the School of GeoSciences, University of Edinburgh and David Munro of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society as a major development to promote understanding of the Geography of Scotland. The Gazetteer is also a significant historical, cultural, architectural and environmental resource, which aims to connect Scotland's people with places. It is aimed both at the local Scottish community, and at an international audience.

The intention was to develop a comprehensive geographical database for Scotland, accessible via the World-Wide Web.

Whilst high quality geographic information has gained widespread acknowledgment as an important resource, in 1995 when this project began there was a dearth of information available on Scotland. Until the late 19th Century, Scotland maintained a strong tradition of quality geographical directories and gazetteers but nothing comparable has been produced during the 20th Century. With the advent of the information super-highway and advances made in computer database management systems, the tools which exist today, it was possible to produce a relatively cost-effective and easily updateable Gazetteer for Scotland, which can be accessed by millions. In addition this approach allows a more flexible form of map-based browsing of information through interactive multi-media, which is not possible in a paper based medium.

Data and additional functions have been progressively added to the Gazetteer for Scotland to provide an easy to use on-line data source, incorporating a substantial body of text, photographs, maps, video, sounds and including word search and a range of other query facilities. The Gazetteer database contains information on towns, villages, rivers, bens, glens, tourist attractions, historic buildings and sites, family names, famous people, statistical information and business data from the Scottish Borders to the Northern Isles.

The Gazetteer for Scotland has received generous funding from the Robertson Trust and the Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland, which has allowed a basic system to be built and the first tranche of data collected.

There is however, a lot more work to be completed, and already we have a long list of new connections we would like to make and additional data we would wish to integrate. Thus if you like what you see, please consider either donating or becoming a sponsor of the Gazetteer for Scotland project.

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What is a Gazetteer

The term gazetteer is derived from the Latin Gazetta to mean broadly, a geographical dictionary. The popularity of gazetteers started in Britain in the 16th Century and reached a peak by the 19th Century, with a large number of publishing houses producing detailed topographical directories. Typically, place names would be listed alphabetically with each entry including its grid reference, population, contextual location, main industries and for larger places, a short paragraph containing associated points of interest, famous people and historical events. The interest in gazetteers can be correlated with the imperial expansion of the time and an increased knowledge and fascination for foreign lands. The gazetteer was a highly revered reference publication and enjoyed the status and popularity of a dictionary or an encyclopaedia, as this quote from the Imperial Gazetteer (1855) suggests;

"Next to a good dictionary, the most generally useful book is a good gazetteer"
                                                                                -- W.G. Blackie (1855)

However, during the 20th Century the gazetteer became less fashionable partly due to the rapid changes in political boundaries, particularly in Europe and hence the need for almost continual, expensive updates and perhaps also partly due to a plethora of tourist guide books which, however, provide only part of the information and function of a good gazetteer. Today, the skills and expertise necessary to produce a quality gazetteer are correspondingly scarce.

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The History of Scottish Gazetteers

The last fully comprehensive Scottish Gazetteer was the Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland compiled in 1885 edited by Francis Groome, which incredibly remains the standard geographical reference text on Scotland to be found in major libraries. The only topographical directories for Scotland produced this Century have been place-name lists published by the Ordnance Survey and the Registrar General for Scotland and the Johnston's Gazetteer of Scotland (last updated 1973) which is limited in content and now out of print.

There is however, a current resurgence of interest in producing a comprehensive Gazetteer for Scotland driven by Dr. David Munro (Editor of the Oxford Dictionary of the World and Chambers World Gazetteer), Bruce Gittings (a specialist in Geographical Information at the University of Edinburgh) and the Royal Scottish Geographical Society in order to address the dearth of up-to-date geographical information on Scotland.

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Frequently Asked Questions

This link provides the answers to frequently asked questions about the "Gazetteer for Scotland".

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Sponsoring this Project

The "Gazetteer for Scotland" is a major research project, which has already taken a significant number of years to achieve what you see today. However, it will probably never be complete because of the ongoing need for regular significant updates. This Gazetteer is already the most significant resource of Scottish information available online. We intend that it should be freely accessible internationally and, unlike a book-based gazetteer, it will retain a historical record of information through time.

The only way that this project can continue to be successful and be kept up-to-date will be if we can raise the necessary funding. Individuals can help with a donation, however small. Corporate bodies can help us and promote themselves through sponsorship. Sponsors will benefit from exposure to a very large number of users of the gazetteer; currently around 250,000 access per week and growing by the month. Sponsors will have their name included on every gazetteer page, links to their own "home page" and etc.

We are also willing to licence the use of the Gazetteer for Scotland database on other web-sites. Entries include considerable descriptive text, a map reference, associated statistics, potentially at least one photograph and can be easily linked to your own site. Pages can be prepared in your own 'house style' with your advertising or links. They can include customised content from the large number of database fields we hold and be provided to you in a ready-to-use format. We can also provide regular updates as required. Applications include community web sites, estate agency, relocation, tourism, directory services and many others. You won't find a more comprehensive description of Scotland.

If you would like more information on these opportunities, please contact Bruce Gittings (bruce@geo.ed.ac.uk).

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Bruce Gittings & David Munro
Updated January, 2004 (Original September, 1999)

  ©1995-2006 The Gazetteer for Scotland
Sponsored by: The Robertson TrustThe Royal Scottish Geographical Society,
The Institute of Geography, University of Edinburgh