“invaluable both to the professional researcher and the amateur …  almost every family line has individuals who were involved in some way in agricultural work.”   Janet Bishop, Council of the Association of Scottish Genealogists & Researchers in Archives

The County Surveys of Great Britain, which were commissioned by the Board of Agriculture, are the earliest surveys of their kind in the world. They recorded comprehensive information on the agriculture, rural economy and political economy of each county in Great Britain between 1793 and 1817. They provide a unique insight into the innovation and agricultural improvement during a significant period in the making of Britain as the first industrial nation.

Despite its remarkable historical interest, this resource is currently under-used because very few surveys are available in digital format, and printed copies are difficult to locate and access.

‘The County Surveys 1793 – 1817: Exploring Considered Digitisation’ aims to explore how the creation of a virtual collection can unleash the potential of the County Surveys for discovery. The project is funded by EDINA, University of Edinburgh and scheduled for completion in July 2015.

“the volumes contain a wealth of information about every aspect of country life in the period.”  T C Smout, Professor Emeritus, University of St Andrews, Historiographer Royal in Scotland

Our approach of “considered digitisation” involves:

  • Reviewing extant digital fragments of the County Surveys to assess their availability for public access, the quality of their digital image, OCR text and metadata, and their suitability for computer automated text analysis, search and retrieval
  • Supporting re-digitisation when appropriate to offer public domain content of sufficient quality
  • Identifying sources of printed copies for the County Survey and encouraging digitisation
  • Engaging with organisations holding copies of the County Surveys to encourage and support digitisation and re-digitisation efforts, and sharing openly our experience of “considered digitisation”.


Project Deliverables

  • A review of sources of the County Surveys including an appraisal of the quality and public availability for already digitised versions and assessment of the potential to digitise for printed versions
  • A demonstrator of an online virtual collection
  • A set of recommendations to support the development of the demonstrator into a potential online service that would provide a sustainable access to a comprehensive virtual collection of the County Survey


This project is scheduled for completion by August 2015.  We welcome feedback: if you would like to find out more about the project, or have any suggestions, please get in touch.