Explore the People and Organizations of SCOS

In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the Court of Session heard cases involving individual and corporate litigants from throughout early America and the British Atlantic World. The judges who sat on the bench of Scotland's supreme civil court encountered a variety of people and organizations. In the Session Papers, we find Scottish women seeking to defend their property rights, Glaswegian merchant firms trading for tobacco in colonial Virginia, the heirs to Robert Burns's literary empire disputing copyright claims, American Loyalists who suffered losses during the War for Independence, landed proprietors arguing with tenants over rent, ministers feuding with their congregations, and candidates vying for seats in local governments.

The people and organizations in SCOS have been identified through a close reading of the Session Papers associated with each case. The indices offered below include the principal litigants of each case, their respective lawyers, court officials, and other individuals or groups named in the documents. The SCOS team has made every effort to create records for people or organizations with at least one piece of corresponding internal evidence, such as an occupation or location. Named individuals with no discernible relevance to a case or who lack identifying information have not been recorded.

The LIVES of people ordinary and powerful.

The Session Papers detail the lives and legal interests of prominent aristocrats such as John Campbell, 5th Duke of Argyll, young children like Barbara and Elizabeth Cunninghame, and enslaved persons such as James Graham. As these are civil court records, the Session Papers illuminate both well known individuals and people who scarcely appear in the archival record. Within each document lies evidence of how people lived and how they died. Woven throughout the legal arguments are stories of people using their land, conducting business, marrying for love or social standing, grappling with the consequences of local and transatlantic rebellions, toiling on colonial plantations, standing for election, defending their intellectual property, and making the law.

The People Index provides researchers with biographical sketches of the individuals named in the case documents. When possible, links to external biographical resources such as the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography or the Library of Congress have been proved. The amount of information associated with each record in the index varies depending on the evidence internal to the documents and the availability of external research material and secondary literature. At minimum, each index entry contains the person's name and a list of the legal proceedings in which they were involved. Index entries may also include:

  • Life dates
  • Alternate names
  • Occupations
  • Associated Locations
  • Session Papers Authored

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Organizations in Scotland, Early America, and the British Atlantic World.

Session Papers record more than just the lives of people. As Scottish Advocates argued before the Court of Session on their clients' behalf, they revealed details about the inner workings of the slave trade, contested local elections, corporate partnership structures, religious networks, lower court proceedings, and a host of other activities.

The Organizations Index provides researchers with brief descriptions of organizations named in the case documents. Like the People Index, the extent of the information associated with each entry is dependent on the evidence within the documents and what can be gleamed from primary and secondary sources. At bottom, each index entry provides the organization’s name, its corporate type (such as “partnership,” “guild,” or “government body”) along with a list of cases in which it appears. Index entries may also include:

  • Affiliated Individuals
  • Associated Locations
  • Years in Operation

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