History of Scotland
The recorded history of Scotland begins with the arrival of the Roman Empire in the 1st century, when the province of Britannia reached as far north as the Antonine Wall. North of this was Caledonia, inhabited by the Picti, whose uprisings forced Rome's legions back to Hadrian's Wall; as Rome withdrew from Britain, Gaelic raiders called the Scoti began colonising Western Scotland and Wales. Prior to Roman times, prehistoric Scotland entered the Neolithic Era about 4000 BC, the Bronze Age about 2000 BC, the Iron Age around 700 BC; the Gaelic kingdom of Dál Riata was founded on the west coast of Scotland in the 6th century. In the following century, Irish missionaries introduced the pagan Picts to Celtic Christianity. Following England's Gregorian mission, the Pictish king Nechtan chose to abolish most Celtic practices in favour of the Roman rite, restricting Gaelic influence on his kingdom and avoiding war with Anglian Northumbria. Towards the end of the 8th century, the Viking invasions began, forcing the Picts and Gaels to cease their historic hostility to each other and to unite in the 9th century, forming the Kingdom of Scotland.
The Kingdom of Scotland was united under the House of Alpin, whose members fought among each other during frequent disputed successions. The last Alpin king, Malcolm II, died without issue in the early 11th century and the kingdom passed through his daughter's son to the House of Dunkeld or Canmore; the last Dunkeld king, Alexander III, died in 1286. He left only his infant granddaughter Margaret, Maid of Norway as heir, who died herself four years later. England, under Edward I, would take advantage of this questioned succession to launch a series of conquests, resulting in the Wars of Scottish Independence, as Scotland passed back and forth between the House of Balliol and the House of Bruce. Scotland's ultimate victory confirmed Scotland as a independent and sovereign kingdom; when King David II died without issue, his nephew Robert II established the House of Stuart, which would rule Scotland uncontested for the next three centuries. James VI, Stuart king of Scotland inherited the throne of England in 1603, the Stuart kings and queens ruled both independent kingdoms until the Act of Union in 1707 merged the two kingdoms into a new state, the Kingdom of Great Britain.
Ruling until 1714, Queen Anne was the last Stuart monarch. Since 1714, the succession of the British monarchs of the houses of Hanover and Saxe-Coburg and Gotha has been due to their descent from James VI and I of the House of Stuart. During the Scottish Enlightenment and Industrial Revolution, Scotland became one of the commercial and industrial powerhouses of Europe, its industrial decline following the Second World War was acute. In recent decades Scotland has enjoyed something of a cultural and economic renaissance, fuelled in part by a resurgent financial services sector and the proceeds of North Sea oil and gas. Since the 1950s, nationalism has become a strong political topic, with serious debates on Scottish independence, a referendum in 2014 about leaving the British Union. People lived in Scotland for at least 8,500 years before Britain's recorded history. At times during the last interglacial period Europe had a climate warmer than today's, early humans may have made their way to Scotland, with the possible discovery of pre-Ice Age axes on Orkney and mainland Scotland.
Glaciers scoured their way across most of Britain, only after the ice retreated did Scotland again become habitable, around 9600 BC. Upper Paleolithic hunter-gatherer encampments formed the first known settlements, archaeologists have dated an encampment near Biggar to around 12000 BC. Numerous other sites found around Scotland build up a picture of mobile boat-using people making tools from bone and antlers; the oldest house for which there is evidence in Britain is the oval structure of wooden posts found at South Queensferry near the Firth of Forth, dating from the Mesolithic period, about 8240 BC. The earliest stone structures are the three hearths found at Jura, dated to about 6000 BC. Neolithic farming brought permanent settlements. Evidence of these includes the well-preserved stone house at Knap of Howar on Papa Westray, dating from around 3500 BC and the village of similar houses at Skara Brae on West Mainland, Orkney from about 500 years later; the settlers introduced chambered cairn tombs from around 3500 BC, as at Maeshowe, from about 3000 BC the many standing stones and circles such as those at Stenness on the mainland of Orkney, which date from about 3100 BC, of four stones, the tallest of, 16 feet in height.
These were part of a pattern. The creation of cairns and Megalithic monuments continued into the Bronze Age, which began in Scotland about 2000 BC; as elsewhere in Europe, hill forts were first introduced in this period, including the occupation of Eildon Hill near Melrose in the Scottish Borders, from around 1000 BC, which accommodated several hundred houses on a fortified hilltop. From the Early and Middle Bronze Age there is evidence of cellular round houses of stone, as at Jarlshof and Sumburgh on Shetland. There is evidence of the occupation of crannogs, roundhouses or built on artificial islands in lakes and estuarine waters. In the early Iron Age, from the seventh century BC, cellular houses began to be replaced on the northern isles by simple Atlantic roundhouses, substantial circular buildings with a dry stone construction. From about 400 BC, more complex Atlantic roundhouses began to be built, as at Howe and Crosskirk, Caithness; the most massive constructions that date from this era are the circular broch towers, p
Highland Potato Famine
The Highland Potato Famine was a period of 19th century Highland and Scottish history over which the agricultural communities of the Hebrides and the western Scottish Highlands saw their potato crop devastated by potato blight. It was part of the wider food crisis facing Northern Europe caused by potato blight during the mid-1840s, whose most famous manifestation is the Great Irish Famine, but compared to its Irish counterpart it was much less extensive and took many fewer lives; the terms on which charitable relief was given, led to destitution and malnutrition amongst its recipients. A government enquiry could suggest no short-term solution other than reduction of the population of the area at risk by emigration to Canada or Australia. Highland landlords organised and paid for the emigration of more than 16,000 of their tenants and a significant but unknown number paid for their own passage. Evidence suggests that the majority of Highlanders who permanently left the famine-struck regions emigrated, rather than moving to other parts of Scotland.:197-210 It is estimated that about a third of the population of the western Scottish Highlands emigrated between 1841 and 1861.
Over the 18th century, Highland society had changed greatly. On the eastern fringes of the Highlands, most arable land was divided into family farms with 20 to 50 acres employing crofters and cottars; the economy had become assimilated to that of the Lowlands, whose proximity allowed and encouraged a diverse agriculture. Proximity to the Lowlands had led to a steady drain of population from these areas. In the Western Isles and the adjacent mainland developments had been different. Chieftains who had become improving landlords had found livestock-grazing the most remunerative form of agriculture. Croft sizes were set low to encourage the tenantry to participate in the industry the landlord wished to develop. A contemporary writer thought that a crofter would have to do work away from his holding for 200 days a year if his family were to avoid destitution; the various industries the crofting townships were supposed to support prospered in the first quarter of the 19th century but declined or collapsed over its second quarter.
The crofting areas were correspondingly impoverished, but able to sustain themselves by a much greater reliance on potatoes. Between 1801 and 1841 the population in the crofting area increased by over half, whereas in the eastern and southern Highlands the increase in the same period was under 10 percent. Pre-blight, whilst mainland Argyll had over two acres of arable land per inhabitant, there was only half an acre of arable land per head in Skye and Wester Ross: in the crofting area, as in Ireland, the population had grown to levels which only a successful potato harvest could support. In the Scottish Highlands, in 1846, there was widespread failure of potato crops as a result of potato blight. Crops failed in about three-quarters of the crofting region, putting a population of about 200,000 at risk; the Free Church of Scotland, strong in the affected areas, was prompt in raising the alarm and in organising relief, being the only body doing so in late 1846 and early 1847. Additionally, the Free Church organised transport for over 3,000 men from the famine-struck regions to work on the Lowland railways.
This both removed people who needed to be fed from the area and provided money for their families to buy food. The British government took early notice of the crop failure, they were approached for assistance by landowners at the end of the summer of 1846, but any direct subsidies to the landlords were ruled out, as this would have relieved them of their responsibilities to their tenants. Sir Charles Trevelyan, the Assistant Secretary to the Treasury provided the lead; the government was restricted by the common attitudes of the middle of the 19th century: minimal intervention, there was deep concern to avoid upsetting the free play of normal market forces. Despite the constraints of these ruling economic theories, Trevelyan made clear that "the people cannot, under any circumstances, be allowed to starve" in a letter of September 1846; the government's first action was to ensure that Highland landlord met their responsibilities to provide famine relief to their tenants. Landlord response varied.
Some had the willingness to do this. Others among the remaining hereditary landowners, were in perilous financial conditions and struggled to meet expectations, some of them being in denial about their lack of ability to do so; the last class, those who had the means to fund relief for their tenants, but chose not to, were put under substan
Edinburgh Castle is a historic fortress which dominates the skyline of the city of Edinburgh, Scotland from its position on the Castle Rock. Archaeologists have established human occupation of the rock since at least the Iron Age, although the nature of the early settlement is unclear. There has been a royal castle on the rock since at least the reign of David I in the 12th century, the site continued to be a royal residence until 1633. From the 15th century the castle's residential role declined, by the 17th century it was principally used as military barracks with a large garrison, its importance as a part of Scotland's national heritage was recognised from the early 19th century onwards, various restoration programmes have been carried out over the past century and a half. As one of the most important strongholds in the Kingdom of Scotland, Edinburgh Castle was involved in many historical conflicts from the Wars of Scottish Independence in the 14th century to the Jacobite rising of 1745.
Research undertaken in 2014 identified 26 sieges in its 1100-year-old history, giving it a claim to having been "the most besieged place in Great Britain and one of the most attacked in the world". Few of the present buildings pre-date the Lang Siege of the 16th century, when the medieval defences were destroyed by artillery bombardment; the most notable exceptions are St Margaret's Chapel from the early 12th century, regarded as the oldest building in Edinburgh, the Royal Palace and the early-16th-century Great Hall, although the interiors have been much altered from the mid-Victorian period onwards. The castle houses the Scottish regalia, known as the Honours of Scotland and is the site of the Scottish National War Memorial and the National War Museum of Scotland; the British Army is still responsible for some parts of the castle, although its presence is now ceremonial and administrative. Some of the castle buildings house regimental museums which contribute to its presentation as a tourist attraction.
The castle, in the care of Historic Environment Scotland, is Scotland's most-visited paid tourist attraction, with over 2 million visitors in 2017 and over 70 percent of leisure visitors to Edinburgh visiting the castle. As the backdrop to the Edinburgh Military Tattoo during the annual Edinburgh Festival the castle has become a recognisable symbol of Edinburgh and of Scotland; the castle stands upon the plug of an extinct volcano, estimated to have risen about 350 million years ago during the lower Carboniferous period. The Castle Rock is the remains of a volcanic pipe, which cut through the surrounding sedimentary rock before cooling to form hard dolerite, a type of basalt. Subsequent glacial erosion was resisted by the dolerite, which protected the softer rock to the east, leaving a crag and tail formation; the summit of the Castle Rock is 130 metres above sea level, with rocky cliffs to the south and north, rising to a height of 80 metres above the surrounding landscape. This means that the only accessible route to the castle lies to the east, where the ridge slopes more gently.
The defensive advantage of such a site is self-evident, but the geology of the rock presents difficulties, since basalt is impermeable. Providing water to the Upper Ward of the castle was problematic, despite the sinking of a 28-metre deep well, the water supply ran out during drought or siege, for example during the Lang Siege in 1573. Archaeological investigation has yet to establish when the Castle Rock was first used as a place of human habitation. There is no record of any Roman interest in the location during General Agricola's invasion of northern Britain near the end of the 1st century AD. Ptolemy's map of the 2nd century AD shows a settlement in the territory of the Votadini named "Alauna", meaning "rock place", making this the earliest known name for the Castle Rock; this could, refer to another of the tribe's hill forts in the area. The Orygynale Cronykil of Andrew of Wyntoun, an early source for Scottish history, names "Ebrawce", a legendary King of the Britons, as having "byggyd Edynburgh".
According to the earlier chronicler, Geoffrey of Monmouth, Ebraucus had fifty children by his twenty wives, was the founder of "Kaerebrauc", "Alclud" and the "Maidens' Castle". The 16th-century English writer John Stow, credited Ebraucus with building "the Castell of Maidens called Edenbrough" in 989 BC; the name "Maidens' Castle" occurs up until the 16th century. It appears in charters of his successors, although the reason for it is not known. William Camden's survey of Britain, records that "the Britans called Castle Myned Agned, the Scots, the Maidens Castle and the Virgins Castle, of certaine young maidens of the Picts roiall bloud who were kept there in old time". According to the 17th-century antiquarian Father Richard Hay, the "maidens" were a group of nuns, who were ejected from the castle and replaced by canons, considered "fitter to live among soldiers". However, this story was considered "apocryphal" by the 19th-century antiquarian Daniel Wilson and has been ignored by historians since.
The name may have been derived from a "Cult of the Nine Maidens" type of legend. Arthurian legends suggest that the site once held a shrine to one of nine sisters. St Monenna, said to be one of nine companions, reputedly invested a church at Edinburgh, as well as at Dumbarton and other places. Similar names are shared by many other Iron Age hillforts and may have described a castl
Sir William Forbes, 6th Baronet
Sir William Forbes, 6th Baronet of Monymusk and Pitsligo was a Scottish banker. He was known as an improving landlord and writer, he was born in Edinburgh 5 April 1739. His father Willam Forbes, heir to a Nova Scotia baronetcy, was an advocate. Forbes's maternal grandmother was a sister of Lord Pitsligo, whose activities in 1745 led to the forfeiture of his estate in Aberdeenshire, his mother, Christian Forbes, was a member of a collateral branch of the Monymusk family, was left a widow when William, the elder of two surviving boys from a family of five, was only four years old. She settled in Aberdeen in 1745 for the education of her children, who were brought up as Scottish episcopalians; the younger boy died in 1749, in October 1753 Lady Forbes, with her surviving son, settled in Edinburgh. A friend of the family, Sir Francis Farquharson of Haughton, arranged with Messrs. Coutts, a prominent firm of bankers in Edinburgh, to admit Forbes as an apprentice, he entered their service in 1754, it was run by the sons of John Coutts.
The apprenticeship lasted four years, he was clerk in the counting-house for two years more, at the end of which he was given a small share in the business as a partner. In 1761 John Coutts, the principal partner of the Edinburgh firm, leaving none of the sons of John Coutts the elder in a position to run it. A new partnership, including Forbes, was proposed and established in 1763. After seven years he married eldest daughter of Sir James Hay of Smithfield, bart, his mother died in 1789. From 1763 to 1773 the active members of the firm, still under the original name, were Sir Robert Herries and James Hunter; the name Coutts was retained till 1773, when a new contract was made, the firm became Forbes, Hunter, & Co. Sir William Herries having settled in London to conduct in St. James's Street the business known as Herries & Co. Forbes now was the head of the firm, decided to confine the transactions of the house to banking alone; the house became one of the most trusted in Scotland, remained stable in the financial crises and panics of 1772, 1788, 1793.
In 1783 the firm, after difficult preliminaries, began to issue notes. Forbes had become an authority on finance, in 1783 he took part in preparing the revised Bankruptcy Act. William Pitt used to consult him, adopted in 1790 some of his suggestions on the stamps on bills of exchange. In 1799 Pitt offered him an Irish peerage; the company in 1838 became the Union Bank of Scotland. Forbes worked to win back some of the alienated possessions of his ancestors. Lord Pitsligo's only son, the Hon. John Forbes, had bought Pitsligo. William Forbes bought some of the upper barony, on the death of John Forbes he succeeded in 1781 to the whole, he improved the estate and laid out the village of New Pitsligo in 1783. In that year he was one of the co-founders of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. Forbes was involved in philanthropic projects in Edinburgh: the High School, the Merchant Company, the Morningside Lunatic Asylum, the Blind Asylum. Forbes and his business partner Hunter Blair supported the construction of the South Bridge.
He succeeded in giving the Scottish episcopalians a surer standing in Edinburgh. Archibald Alison was brought to the city at his suggestion, in Alison's works there is a funeral sermon to his memory. Forbes declined invitations to stand for parliament, he was a member of Samuel Johnson's literary dining club, he is mentioned in James Boswell's Tour to the Hebrides. Lady Forbes, with whom he made his only lengthy visit to the continent in 1792–3, died in 1802, he died at 39 George Street in Edinburgh on 12 November 1806. He is buried in Greyfriars Kirkyard in the vault east of MacKenzie's domed tomb on the south side; the vault was built at the height of the graverobbing fears in Edinburgh and demonstrates the design art of "secure burial". His long friendship with the poet James Beattie enabled him to produce An Account of the Life and Writings of James Beattie, LL. D. Including many of his Original Letters; this appeared in two quarto volumes in 1806, was republished in three octavo volumes the following year.
Forbes had written before this the tribute to his mother, which remained in manuscript till 1875, another portion of the same manuscript, not hitherto printed, being devoted to the memory of his wife. In the Narrative of the last Sickness and Death of Dame Christian Forbes, 1875, Forbes paid tribute to his mother, he was author of "Memoirs of a Banking-House" in 1803. On 20 September 1770 Forbes married Elizabeth Hay, daughter of Sir James Hay of Haystoun, 4th Baronet of Smithfield and Dorriel Campbell, they had thirteen children: Sir William Forbes, 7th Baronet of Pitsligo Christian Forbes, who married Sir Alexander Wood John Hay Forbes, Lord Medwyn James Forbes Rebecca Forbes, who married Alexander Ranaldson MacDonell of Glengarry Elizabeth Forbes, who married Colin Mackenzie of Portmore WS FRSE. Elizabeth was a great beauty and was painted by Sir Henry Raeburn Daniel Forbes Adam Forbes Grace Forbes, Jane Forbes, who married, 11 September 1806, James Skene of Rubislaw. Parents to William Forbes Skene Frances Farquharson Forbes, George Forbes, banker Charles Forbes His grandchildren in
Andrew Skene FRSE was a Scottish advocate who rose to the highest level for his profession: Solicitor General for Scotland. He was born in Aberdeen on 28 February 1784 the son of Prof George Skene of Rubislaw FRSE MD, Professor of Natural Philosophy at Marischal College and Jane Moir of Stoneywood. In 1811 he was appointed Counsel for the City of Aberdeen in place of John Burnett Judge Admiral, for all legal matters in Scotland. In 1823 he was a co-founder of the Bannatyne Club along with his brother-in-law Sir Henry Jardine and Sir Walter Scott. In 1829 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh his proposer being Alexander Maconochie, Lord Meadowbank, he was elected Solicitor General for Scotland in 1834, replacing Lord Cockburn. He lived at 74 Great King Street in Edinburgh’s Second New Town and died there on 2 April 1835, aged only 51, he is buried in New Calton Burial Ground on the east side of the city centre. The fine marble monument was sculpted by Patric Park. There is sometimes confusion over that of James Skene of Rubislaw.
James Skene was the youngest surviving child of George Skene of Rubislaw, an Aberdeenshire landowner and erstwhile lawyer, Jean Skene. They had seven children: Margaret, Catherine who married Henry Jardine the, King’s Remembrancer and James who inherited his father’s estate at Rubislaw. Two daughters and Maria, did not survive infancy; as a widow, Jean Skene moved to Edinburgh c. 1783 with her five remaining children. They lived at various addresses including Riddell’s Court in the Old Town and George Street and South Castle Street in the New Town. Andrew Skene never married, he was painted by Colvin Smith in 1835 during his role as Solicitor General. The painting is held by the National Gallery of Scotland
The Edinburgh Academy is an independent school, opened in 1824. The original building, in Henderson Row on the northern fringe of the New Town of Edinburgh, Scotland, is now part of the Senior School; the Junior School is located on Arboretum Road to the north of the city's Royal Botanic Garden. The Edinburgh Academy was a day and boarding school for boys, it ceased boarding and transitioned to co-education in 2008 and is now a coeducational day school. The nursery, housed in a 2008 purpose built block on the Junior campus, caters for children from 2 to 5; the Junior School admits children from age 6 to 10 whilst the Senior School takes pupils from age 10 to 18. In 1822, the school's founders, Henry Cockburn and Leonard Horner agreed that Edinburgh required a new school to promote classical learning. Edinburgh's Royal High School provided a classical education, but the founders felt that greater provision was needed for the teaching of Greek, to compete with some of England's public schools. Cockburn and Horner recruited John Russell as a co-founder and the three of them, together with other interested parties, put a proposal to the City Council for the building of a new school.
The City Fathers gave their approval in 1823 and fifteen Directors were elected, comprising the three founders and twelve other luminaries, including Sir Walter Scott, Sir John Hay and Robert Dundas. The main building of the Senior School, with its Greek Doric frontage, was designed by architect William Burn; the stone used was principally from the nearby Craigleith Quarry. The Foundation Stone was laid in June 1823 and the school opened for the first session in October 1824. In 1892, new classrooms were built along the western wall of the site, in 1900, the School Library was opened, followed by the new Science Block in 1909, both along the eastern wall. At the back of the school the Dining Hall, the Rifle Range beneath it, was opened in 1912 and after World War I, the Gymnasium was built; this was dedicated as a War Memorial to Edinburgh Academicals who had fallen during the hostilities of 1914 to 1918. The memorial was by Pilkington Jackson. A plaque commemorates ex-pupils who fell in the Second World War.
In 1945, a new building, Denham Green House, was acquired in the Trinity area of Edinburgh. This was used for the junior department of the Preparatory School. In 1960, a new building for the upper three years of the Preparatory School was completed in Inverleith. Denham Green's nursery and early years facilities were relocated to purpose built accommodation on the Preparatory school's Arboretum campus in 1987. In 1992, the Rector's residence, Academy House and in 1997, a new Games Hall were constructed on the same campus; the latter was funded by money from The Lottery and Sports Council and is for the use not only of pupils in both parts of the school but of the community in the area. A new computing and music building was completed at the Junior School in 2005 and a new nursery and after school facility in 2008. At Henderson Row, the property next to the school, No 32, was acquired for administrative use in 1972 and in 1977, the Academy acquired the junior school of Donaldson's College, to the west.
This allowed departments to expand and a purpose built Music School was opened on this part of the campus in 1991. In 2005 the 1909 science block was demolished and a new science block, the James Clerk Maxwell Centre, named in honour of the 19th century scientist and former pupil, was opened on 3 November 2006 by Lord Falconer of Thoroton. Since 2000, there have been serious allegations of bullying. More allegations of bullying resurfaced when fellow students were physically abused by older pupils during a Combined Cadet Force camp in 2014. Allegations of the sale of drugs amongst 13-year old pupils made the headlines in the same year. In 2015, it was revealed that police were investigating claims made by pupils from further back of alleged sexual abuse by staff members in the 1970s. Former pupils have been investigated for allegations of abuse. In 2017, the school was under controversy for an organised'fight club' which involved up to 50 pupils. Alumni of The Edinburgh Academy are known as Academicals, or Accies, a name shared with the Rugby team.
Famous alumni of the school include Robert Louis Stevenson, James Clerk Maxwell, Magnus Magnusson, Baron Falconer of Thoroton and Mike Blair. It has produced one Nobel Prize winner, numerous political and legal figures, several rugby internationals and seven recipients of the Victoria Cross - the highest number of any school in Scotland. According to the Sutton Trust, the school is placed second in Scotland and joint 36th in the UK for the number of the nation's leading people produced. There have been 18 rectors of The Edinburgh Academy since it was founded in 1824. 1824-28: John Williams 1828-29: Rev Thomas Sheepshanks 1829-47: John Williams, again 1847-54: Rev John Hannah FRSE 1854-69: Rev Dr James Stephen Hodson FRSE 1869-88: Thomas Harvey FRSE 1888-1901: Robert Mackenzie 1901-10: Reginald Carter 1910-26: Robert Ferard 1926-31: Hugh Lyon 1931-45: Lionel Smith 1945-51: Clarence Seaman 1951-62: Robert Watt 1962-77: Herbert Mills 1977-92: Laurence Ellis 1992-95: John Rees 1995-2008: John Light 2008-2017: Marco Longmore 2017–present: Barry Welsh List of Victoria Crosses by School List of schools in Edinburgh List of independent schools in Scotland Magnus Magnusson, The Clacken and the Slate, London.
ISBN 0-00-411170-2 Edinburgh Academical Club, List of Past and Present Pupils 1824-1995, Edinburgh Academical Club Stirling, Bill, 175 Accies, Edinburgh Academical Club The School website Edinburgh Academy's page on Scottish Schools
Sir Charles Trevelyan, 1st Baronet
Sir Charles Edward Trevelyan, 1st Baronet, was a British civil servant and colonial administrator. As a young man, he worked with the colonial government in India. Trevelyan was instrumental in the process of reforming the British civil service in the 1850s; this legacy is overshadowed by the controversial role he played in the British government's response to the potato blight referred to as the Irish Potato Famine. It has been said that: Trevelyan's most enduring mark on history may be the "quasi" genocidal anti-Irish racial sentiment he expressed during his term in the critical position of administrating relief for the millions of Irish peasants suffering under the potato blight as Assistant Secretary to HM Treasury under the Whig administration of Lord Russell. During the height of the famine, Trevelyan was slow to disburse direct government food and monetary aid to the Irish due to his strong belief in laissez-faire economics and the free hand of the market, he wrote disparaging remarks about the Irish in a letter to an Irish peer.
Trevelyan never expressed remorse for his actions. His defenders say that larger factors than Trevelyan's own acts and beliefs were more central to the problem of the famine and its high mortality. Cecil Woodham-Smith wrote of him: his mind was powerful, his character admirably scrupulous and upright, his devotion to duty praiseworthy, but he had a remarkable insensitiveness. Since he took action only after conscientiously satisfying himself what he proposed to do was ethical and justified he went forward impervious to other considerations, sustained but blinded by his conviction of doing right. However, Trevelyan's own words that "the judgement of God sent the calamity to teach the Irish a lesson" make the proposition that he denied aid to the Irish because of his belief in laissez-faire questionable. Trevelyan was born in Taunton, the son of a Cornish clergyman, the Venerable George Trevelyan, who became Archdeacon of Taunton, his wife Harriet, daughter of Sir Richard Neave, his paternal grandfather was Sir John Trevelyan, 4th Baronet an old ethnically Cornish family originating from St Veep, Cornwall.
He was educated at Charterhouse School and the East India Company College. R. A. C. Balfour stated that "his early life was influenced by his parents membership of the Clapham Sect - a group of sophisticated families noted for their severity of principle as much as for their fervent evangelism."Notably, Trevelyan was a student of the economist Thomas Malthus while at Haileybury. His rigid adherence to Malthusian population theory during the Irish famine is attributed to this formative tutelage. In 1826, as a young man, Trevelyan joined the East India Company as a writer and was posted to the Bengal Civil Service at Delhi, India. There, by a combination of diligence and self-discipline together with his outstanding intellectual talents he achieved rapid promotion, he occupied several important and influential positions in various parts of India, but his priggish and indiscreet behaviour endeared him to few of his colleagues and involved him in continual controversy. On return to England in 1840 he was appointed as assistant secretary to HM Treasury, served to 1859, during both the Irish famine and the Highland Potato Famine of 1846–1857 in Scotland.
In Ireland, he administered famine relief, whilst in Scotland he was associated with the work of the Central Board for Highland Relief. His inaction and personal negative attitude towards the Irish people are believed to have slowed relief for the famine. In one letter dated 29 April 1846, Trevelyan wrote: Our measures must proceed with as little disturbance as possible of the ordinary course of private trade, which must be the chief resource for the subsistence of the people, but, coûte que coûte, the people must not, under any circumstances, be allowed to starve. Meanwhile, the Irish watched with increasing anger as boatloads of homegrown oats and grain departed on schedule from their shores for shipment to England. Food riots erupted in ports such as Youghal, near Cork, where people tried unsuccessfully to confiscate a boatload of oats. At Dungarvan, in County Waterford, British troops were pelted with stones as they shot into the crowd, killing at least two people and wounding several others.
British naval escorts were provided for the riverboats. He was cofounder in 1851, with Sir John McNeill, of the Highland and Island Emigration Society which during the Highland Clearances supported an exodus of nearly 5,000 people to Australia between 1851 and 1858. Trevelyan was Governor of Madras from 1859 to 1860, Indian Finance Minister from 1862 to 1865. A reformer of the civil service, he is regarded as the founder of the modern British civil service. On 23 December 1834, while in India, he married Hannah More Macaulay, sister of Lord Macaulay, a member of the supreme council of India, one of his closest friends, their only son, who inherited the Baronetcy on his father's death, was Sir George Trevelyan, 2nd Baronet, the statesman. Hannah Macaulay Trevelyan died on 5 August 1873. Trevelyan married, secondly, on 14 October 1875, Eleanor Anne, daughter of Walter Campbell of Islay, he entered the East India Company's Bengal civil service as a writer in 1826, having displayed from an early age a great proficiency in Asian languages and dialects.
On 4 January 1827, Trevelyan was appointed assistant to Sir Charles Theophilus Metcalfe, the commissioner at Delhi, during a residence of four years, he was entrusted with the conduct of several important missions. For some t