What is the SSNE Database and Who is in it? | Some Important Points to Note | The Categories | Fields in the SSNE Database

What is the SSNE Database and Who is in it?

The SSNE database is an online research tool which originated as a facility to store data for two researchers at the University of Aberdeen's Scotland and Scandinavia Project (1995-1999), Prof Steve Murdoch and Dr Alexia Grosjean. After establishing the viability of supporting an online database, the authors decided to make access free to the wider research community. Funding was secured through the AHRC Centre for Irish and Scottish Studies to trial the database online for a period of four years (2000-2003), during which time it was, again, hosted by the University of Aberdeen. While this proved successful, there was no long term support provided as part of that project. Now based permanently at the University of St Andrews, the database represents an ongoing project of interest to historical researchers, human geographers, genealogists and those with an interest in the development of online research and/or teaching tools. The SSNE Project is supported by the St Andrews Institute of Scottish Historical Research.

The SSNE database comprises of information relating to c.8000 individuals from Scotland, England, Ireland and Wales who migrated to or worked in Denmark-Norway, Sweden (inc. Finland), and the Baltic countries between 1580 and 1707. They represent the military, naval, diplomatic, intellectual, mercantile and social elite from the British Isles who operated in northern Europe. The names included here are drawn from a variety of primary and secondary sources. Their entries are being constantly updated and added to as new information becomes available.

Previous studies have often failed to place the Scottish connection with the Scandinavian and Northern European countries into a satisfactory context. They have not allowed for an accurate estimation of the importance of the Scottish presence since we have previously not known whether it formed a small or a large percentage of those arriving from the British Isles. The SSNE database means that for the first time a reasonably accurate comparison of Scottish, English and Irish involvement with these locations is feasible. That comparison is all the more useful since the citizens of the three kingdoms were all subjects of the same monarch.

Scrutinising existing works, it became clear that it was of little value to include all the Scottish names we had available for our purposes. We opted therefore not to include all the Scots or individuals that we had details for, but instead to define groups of people we would incorporate. The selection process was based on the usefulness of the various categories. For example, although we have trawled the Scandinavian muster-rolls for names, it is simply not possible to collate all 60,000 or more Scottish soldiers' names in a way that would prove useful to our projects. However, if those same common soldiers appeared in sources such as land registers, church records or court cases, they have been added to the compilation. Thus we feel we have achieved a balanced and manageable selection of individuals for comparative research.

Return to top

Some Important Points to Note

Dimitry Fedosov from the Moscow Academy of Sciences kindly provided information relating to the Scots in Russia for this database. However, he has conducted no research on the English and Irish migrants who arrived in early modern Muscovy. This limits the scope for using the Russian information which can only be used to compare and contrast the Scottish impact in Russia with Scandinavia. In some fields, such as 'Diplomacy', additional research by the authors has included subjects from all parts of the British Isles.

Information is contained in this database which allows for research to be done on a variety of Baltic and Scandinavian ports. Lists of burgesses have been incorporated from the works of Th. Fischer, Professor Thomas Riis and others. This information only relates to Scotsmen. The only two trading centres which can be used to compare British subjects are really Bergen and Gothenburg, though as the SSNE grows, more information on English and Irish migrants becomes available for other towns and cities.

Further to the above, it should also be noted that individuals from our selected countries who travelled to the British Isles have been included in our database.

Return to top

The Categories

The categories we have selected for this project, along with a brief explanation are given here to facilitate a better understanding of the SSNE database.

Merchants and Entreprenuers: One of the most important groups of individuals contained within this database are the many merchants and entrepreneurs who moved from the British Isles to Northern Europe. These ranged from the simple packman (peddlar) to highly sophisticated businessmen who generally had a variety of interests ranging from the import/export trade to the actual manufacture of goods. In a Scandinavian context this is most notable in the iron industry where some 45 iron complexes (ore mines, foundries, forges etc) were owned by Scottish families in the seventeenth century alone. Other large scale manufactories included tobacco spinning and the production of cloth. These merchants and entrepreneurs were important to their own families, their host nations and, through the repatriation of capital, their native countries. Surprisingly perhaps, the majority of these individuals came from Scotland and included a few high profile women among their number.

Diplomats: The names of the specifically Scottish, English, Stuart, Covenanting and Republican diplomats have been gathered from a variety of other sources including the royal correspondence between the various monarchs, and the letters and diaries of the leading diplomats and agents of the period. During the wars in the 3 kingdoms from 1638-60 the diplomats have been categorised as to who it was they were representing, where this is known. In addition to the Scottish, English and Irish diplomats working in Scandinavia and Russia we have included the names of the agents and envoys of those countries working in the British Isles.

Army Officers: These individuals played an important role in the seventeenth century. Not only were they soldiers, but they played an important role in civic and diplomatic life as well. The number of army officers is of a manageable size to work with, numbering only several thousand. They are important to us since they are composed of individuals who for the most part had control over their own future. For that reason they are worthy of study to find out why they chose to serve the countries they did, and what contribution if any that had to the overall relationship between their native and host countries.

Naval Officers: Though there have been several studies of Scottish military involvement in the armies of Sweden, Denmark-Norway and Russia in the seventeenth century, there has been little work on the role of the Scots, or indeed the English and Irish in the Scandinavian navies. However British Isles names have been extracted from a variety of registers of Scandinavian naval officers. The Russian navy has received more attention, especially in the celebrations of its 300th year in 1996. However, the fact that Russia did not develop a navy until the very last decade of the seventeenth century means that there is little scope for comparison with Denmark-Norway or Sweden.

Nobility: The study of the Scottish, English and Irish nobility in international relations is vital to the understanding of the links between the various nations. This is primarily because it was often the nobility that were responsible for raising troops, conducting diplomatic negotiations and controlling much of the trade. More important to this study is the role of the non-noble individuals who became ennobled in a foreign country. The numbers of these in both Denmark-Norway and Russia was small, in Denmark's case only 5 individuals ever. The same is not true of Sweden however where the ennoblement of foreigners, including scores of Scots became a feature of the seventeenth century. This group in particular were extremely influential, not least since many entered the Swedish government and exercised an influence over Scottish affairs during the Covenanting period which they were unlikely to have done had they never left Scotland.

Students, Academics and the Clergy: The database includes information relating to students, academics and the clergy. This group must be seen as important in the transfer and spread of intellectual ideas between Britain and the continent. The matriculation records of the three Scandinavian universities of Uppsala, Lund and Copenhagen have been included along with that of the academy of Åbo. Since there was no Russian university until the eighteenth century, the matriculation details of British Isles subjects have been included from several other Baltic universities to facilitate a useful comparison to the Scandinavian ones. These include Keil, Rostock and Königsberg. The universities of Marburg, Groningen and Utrecht have also been included to give a non Baltic perspective. Other university matriculations have been included where this information has been found incidentally for individuals listed in other capacities, though they cannot be used for a comparison with those universities which have been systematically researched.

Royal Servants: This group have been included for their proximity to those in power. The group contains a variety of capacities including from royal gardeners, harpists and Gentlemen of the Bedchamber.

In the same categories similar information relating to British and Irish individuals in Denmark-Norway and Sweden-Finland (and her colonies) have been included. In this way the assimilation and position of the subjects of Scotland, Ireland and England can be compared in two of the most powerful states in northern Europe. By doing so we can draw conclusions on the relationship between each of the countries and in each of the selected categories. We can also for the first time get a good indication of the mobility of individuals between these three important northern powers, since many of the people we have included serve in all three Northern powers.

Return to top

Fields in the SSNE Database

Return to top

© 1995 - Steve Murdoch & Alexia Grosjean.
Published to the internet by the University of St Andrews, November 2004
ISSN 1749-7000