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27 February 2024

New Report on Connections Between Properties in Care and the British Empire released

Historic Environment Scotland (HES) today published a new report entitled “Surveying and Analysing Connections between Properties in Care and the British Empire, c.1600-1997.”

PIC and British Empire Reports displayed on a table

The report, which was commissioned by HES and carried out by a team of researchers from the University of Glasgow, explores the extent and character of relationships between the properties in the care of Scottish Ministers (PiCs) and the British Empire. 

The report found that 37.5% of the 336 PiCs have one or more identifiable “empire connections.” These connections range from PiCs which had a decisive role in the Empire to many examples of those which were simply owned by an individual/family with involvement in the British Empire at some point between c.1600 and 1997. 

The research was primarily desk-based, although a limited amount of fieldwork was undertaken for the extended case studies. The evidence consisted of published works and publicly available documents, many of which are curated by HES, in particular its Statements of Significance and Canmore. 

Ranald MacInnes, Head of Outreach and Learning at HES, said:

“This report is a valuable contribution to our understanding of the complex relationship between Scotland’s heritage and the British Empire. It is important that we are honest about the effects, both positive and negative, that Empire connections had on our properties, and that we use this information to inform our approach to the care and interpretation of our historic properties. 

Our understanding of the past is ever-changing and by undertaking this research we have been able to pull together stories and viewpoints in order to broaden our knowledge of the history of the sites in our care.” 

“Although this report pre-dates Scottish Government’s support for the Empire, Slavery and Scotland’s Museums (ESSM) Steering Group recommendations, we are pleased to note that these discussions are taking place across the heritage sector, and we hope this research contributes to the national conversation.” 

Key Findings of the Report: 

  • 126 (37.5%) of the 336 PiCs have one or more identifiable “empire connections.” 
  • The largest category of connection is “property,” with 69% of the 126 PiCs having a link to the British Empire via their ownership. 
  • The area of the British Empire most consistently linked with PiCs is the Caribbean: over 50 PiCs align with this area of the world, while Asian connections can be seen in over 40 PiCs. 
  • A small number of PiCs memorialise individuals connected to the trafficking of African enslaved people. 

The report was conducted by Dr Stephen Mullen, Professor Stephen Driscoll, and Dr Andrew Mackillop from the University of Glasgow in collaboration with a steering group of HES staff and an advisory board of external experts. 

HES is committed to using the findings of this report to inform decision-making on updates to future visitor interpretation. The organisation is developing several new resources and initiatives to help visitors understand the complex relationship between Scotland and the British Empire. 

Download the report

About Historic Environment Scotland (HES) 

  • We are the lead body for Scotland’s historic environment, a charity dedicated to the advancement of heritage, culture, education and environmental protection. It is at the forefront of researching and understanding the historic environment and addressing the impacts of climate change on its future, investigating and recording architectural and archaeological sites and landscapes across Scotland and caring for more than 300 properties of national importance. We are also the lead on delivering Scotland's strategy for the historic environment, Our Past, Our Future.
  • Historic Scotland, Scran, Canmore, The National Collection of Aerial Photography (NCAP), The Engine Shed, Stirling Castle, and Edinburgh Castle are sub-brands of HES.
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For further information, please contact:

Robin Kepple
Historic Environment Scotland Media Office
07721 959 962