Statistical Accounts of Ross and Cromarty

The Previous Accounts of Ross and Cromarty

Sir John Sinclair

Sir John Sinclair, Baronet of Ulbster in Caithness
(Image taken from Raeburn painting) 

On the 25th. May, 1790, Sir John Sinclair, Baronet of Ulbster in Caithness, wrote to over nine hundred Parish ministers throughout Scotland asking them to contribute to a Statistical Inquiry, by answering as best they could, a series of one hundred and sixty-six Queries respecting each Parish. He began his letter thus:

‘Sir, I take the liberty of transmitting the inclosed Queries to you , in hope that a plan, which has been fortunate enough to meet with the approbation of some of the most respectable and distinguished characters in these kingdoms, will be favoured with your assistance.
To procure information with regard to the real political situation of a country, is what wise Statesmen in every age have thought desirable, but which in these enlightened times is justly held of the most essential public importance.
In many parts of the Continent, more particularly in Germany, Statistical Inquiries, as they are called, have been carried to a very great extent; but in no country, it is believed, can they be brought to such perfection as in Scotland, which boasts of an ecclesiastical establishment, whose members will yield to no description of men, for public zeal, as well as for private virtue, for intelligence, and ability.’
A copy of the QUERIES drawn up for the purpose of elucidating the National History and Political State of Scotland, which were enclosed in the letter to the Parish Minister.
The Queries were arranged under four headings:
  • (a) Geography and Natural History of the Parish
  • (b) the Population of the Parish
  • (c) the Production of the Parish
  • (d) and Miscellaneous questions 
The New (or Second) Statistical Account of Scotland built on the previous work carried out by Sir John Sinclair for the First Statistical Accounts by including the knowledge of local doctors and schoolmasters. The Second Statistical Accounts were published between 1834 and 1845.

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