The social history of the Scottish shale oil industry 1850-1914

McKay, John Henderson (1985). The social history of the Scottish shale oil industry 1850-1914. PhD thesis The Open University.



This thesis sets out to examine the social consequences of industrialisation in a rural area. The industry chosen - the shale-oil industry - was confined to a relatively small, well-defined geographical area in the valley of the River Almond on the boundary of the old counties of West and Mid Lothian. The area was thus relatively free from industrial influence other than that of the shale industry.

An obvious starting point was the industry itself. Its technology, capital structure, entrepreneurship and management have been considered in depth in Part I. In Parts II and III the main body of the thesis deals with the consequences of industrialisation - the environmental and economic effects on the area; population growth and movement; housing; working conditions; wages and standards of living. In the final section there is an exploration of people's reactions to the difficulties inherent in working and living in an industrial society.

Throughout an attempt has been made to place local developments in the larger Scottish and United Kingdom context. This is particularly the case where the local situation might provide illumination on subjects of general debate such as the quality of entrepreneurship in British industry in the late nineteenth century. Population change is also a matter of general interest. The shale industry was a relatively late starter and so information on population movement was more readily available than for earlier examples of industrialisation. It is hoped that its examination sheds some light on the relationship between industrial areas and their sources of labour.

Viewing alternatives

Download history


Public Attention

Altmetrics from Altmetric

Number of Citations

Citations from Dimensions

Item Actions