Over the past month, we have welcomed to our Searchroom David Singerman, a PhD student, all the way from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He has joined the Centre for Business History in Scotland as an Associate Visiting Researcher and has been a Glasgow University Archives regular this month.
David has been using the records of sugar machinery manufacturers such as Smith Mirrlees and Duncan Stewart & Co Ltd. He has been using sources such as letter books, cost books, minute books and sugar machinery drawings to research companies here in Britain that built sugar machinery and sold it to countries all around the world. The quality of sugar used to be assessed through skill, knowledge, and sensory experience though a gradual change, between 1875 and 1925, meant that sugar’s value was now calculated by purity and sucrose content which could only be measured by chemists, instruments and laboratory science. With his Thesis: ‘An Empire of Purity’, he hopes to trace this change and the effects it had on the sugar industry.
The sugar industry was a very important one in Glasgow by the 19th century; making up for the loss of the Tobacco trade in the late 18th century. The important merchants of Glasgow made great gains from it. Glasgow’s tradition of heavy industry links with the sugar trade through the transport needed for sugar movement around the world, and also the manufacture of sugar machinery by companies like the ones David is researching.
As his focus is the machinery sent to Cuba, David’s next stop in his research tour is to the Caribbean island.
According to David: ‘this is the friendliest archive I’ve visited, and I’ve found a lot of useful material!’
We would like to wish David the best of luck in the sunnier climes of Cuba and will welcome him back to Glasgow in the summer.
Categories: Archive Services (GUAS)