The Scottish Court of Session Digital Archive Project is an initiative to explore everyday life in early America and the British Atlantic world of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries through Session Papers. These printed materials were submitted to Scotland's supreme civil court as part of the litigation process. As a court of appeal and of first instance, the Court of Session in this period held jurisdiction over contract and commercial cases, matters of succession and land ownership, divorce proceedings, intellectual property and copyright disputes, and contested political elections. Scottish women, Virginia merchants, aristocratic Highland proprietors, famous authors, enslaved laborers, soldiers, American Loyalists, and many more individuals sought justice before the Court of Session in this era.
The documents offered in this archive date from the late 1750s to the late 1830s, a period encompassing the Seven Years' War in North America and the Great Reform Act in Scotland. They are held by the Arthur J. Morris Law Library at the University of Virginia School of Law and the Library of Congress. The combined digital collection will eventually include approximately 10,000 printed petitions, answers, replies, and case summaries, many of which have contemporary annotations. Supplemental case materials appended to these documents include maps, building plans, and printed copies of correspondence, wills, financial accounts, and census reports. These documents, along with the research-driven metadata included with the digital records, offers scholars and the public new ways to explore our transatlantic past.
This website will be updated as new material is added to the database. Please see our progress page to track planned additions and migrations.