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Category: Social Sciences, Letters, National Library of Scotland

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The Kirk Papers is a collection of photographs and papers belonging to East Africa pioneer Sir John Kirk. It was acquired for the National Library of Scotland in 1998/1999 with the help of a grant of £55,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Though not as well-known as his friend and fellow-explorer David Livingstone, Kirk was a trail-blazer of empire in East Africa and a man of eminence in his day. Born in Barry, Angus, in 1832, Kirk qualified in medicine at Edinburgh University and then volunteered for medical service in the Crimea. An accomplished botanist, zoologist and diplomat, he was also a talented photographer. This is evident from the collection of over 250 photographs, many of them stunning.

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At 2am on Wednesday 8 February 1587, Mary Queen of Scots picked up her pen for the last time. Her execution on the block at Fotheringhay Castle was a mere six hours away when she wrote this letter. It is addressed to Henri III of France, brother of her first husband.

As well as the English translation, Mary's last written words are available here in a French transcription. You can also read the historical background to this letter.

The letter is part of the National Library of Scotland's manuscript collections. (NLS reference: Adv.MS.54.1.1)

Shown here is an image of Mary shortly after her marriage in 1558. With her is her husband, Francois. As eldest son of the French King, he took the title of Dauphin (or 'Dolphin') of France. He became king in 1559.

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Experience the First World War through the eyes of three very different people who took part in it. Click on the character whose story you want to follow. Click 'For Schools' for educational material designed for use in Scottish schools.

General Douglas Haig (later Field Marshal Earl Haig) was British Commander in Chief for the greater part of the First World War. Follow his war through his diaries, letters, and photos by clicking on his photograph.

Nurse Mairi Chisholm knew more about the war and its horrors than most women. You can follow her wartime experiences by clicking on the photograph.

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Early documents relating to events of the past make essential - and fascinating - reading for anyone interested in Scottish history. But these primary sources are often not readily accessible.

Fortunately, many of these rare documents have been published by historical clubs and societies, and are available at the National Library of Scotland.

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For hundreds of years, Scots have left their homeland to set up a new life overseas.

Here we tell six stories of emigration from Scotland between the 1770s and the 1930s:

* Flora MacDonald – of 'Bonnie Prince Charlie' fame – and her husband Allan from Skye
* John and Mary Salmond from Montrose
* John and Martha Kerr from Dalry
* Peter Hastie from Edinburgh
* Alexander MacArthur from Nairn
* George Anderson from Innerleithen
* George and Jane Oliver from Hawick.

Original letters and journals

Using letters, journals, official documents, photographs and maps from the National Library of Scotland's archives, we piece together a picture of Scots abroad.

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