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BRUCE, James (1730-1794)

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0402 SSC/13
Held at: Royal Geographical Society
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Full title: BRUCE, James (1730-1794)
Date(s): 1750-1779
Level of description: Collection level
Extent: 1 large box and 2 files
Name of creator(s): Bruce | James | 1730-1794 | African traveller


Administrative/Biographical history:

James Bruce, was born at Kinnaird House, Kinnaird, Stirlingshire, on 14 December 1730, son of David Bruce (d 1758), laird of Kinnaird; educated in the family of Councillor William Hamilton in London, and Harrow School in 1742. Although inclined to become an Anglican clergyman on leaving school in 1746, he enrolled in the law faculty at Edinburgh University, May 1747. In 1753 he left Kinnaird for London, intending to embark as a 'free trader' with the East India Company; a year later he married, though his wife died in the same year of consumption.

In July 1757 he embarked for Spain and Portugal, travelled through France, the German states, and the Netherlands. In 1758 Bruce's father died, and he returned to Scotland to assume his responsibilities as laird of Kinnaird. He signed a contract on 4 November 1760 to supply the Carron ironworks with coal from his mines at Kinnaird providing him with the capital and the leisure to travel the world.

Bruce travelled on expeditions to the Algiers and Tunis, Abyssinia and the source of the Nile, returning to England in 1774. He postponed the composition of his Travels for sixteen years and anxious to emulate the form of James Cook's Voyage to the Pacific Ocean (one of the best-selling travel books of the century), Bruce published his 3000-page Travels to Discover the Source of the Nile in five quarto volumes in 1790. Bruce died in his home in 1794. Much controversy surrounded Bruce' work and although subsequent travellers did much to restore Bruce's credit, his reputation never fully recovered.


Scope and content/abstract:

Papers of James Bruce, 1750-1779, comprise seven letters, various dates, 1758-1789, which refer to personal affairs, except for the letter to Mr. Mackenzie from Tunis, 9 May 1766, which describes a journey in the hinterland of Tunis.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

Arranged in chronological order.

Conditions governing access:

Accessed via the Foyle Reading Room. Free of charge for Fellows, Members and those with valid academic identification. All other users pay a charge and must bring identification in order to register on arrival.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Photocopying at the discretion of the Archivist and subject to completion of 'application for copies' form. No reproduction or publication without permission of the RGS-IBG Archivist.

Finding aids:

Catalogue entry can be found online at Access to Archives.

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:


Allied Materials

Related material:

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Prepared by an archives volunteer using existing finding aids and edited by Samantha Velumyl, AIM25 cataloguer.

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal Place and Corporate Names 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
10 January 2002 and modified May 2008.

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