Leith lies on the south shore of the Firth of Forth, a few miles north of Edinburgh. Since the 12th century it has been the main port serving Edinburgh and the Lothians. This book identifies many of Leith’s population during the 17th and 18th centuries and is based on a wide range of sources, both manuscript and published, such as testaments, sasines (property records), services of heirs, court books, port books, monumental inscriptions, register of deeds, apprenticeship records, burgess rolls, government records, journals, and newspapers.
During the early modern period Leith traded with ports around the Baltic, the North Sea, and the Mediterranean, as well as with the Americas. Its seamen, in Dutch or English service, could be found as far away as Asia or the Americas. Leith was a major importer and distribution center of French and Spanish wine from the 16th century onwards. Leith also had a thriving whaling industry, and shipbuilding, dependent upon timber imported from Norway, was another traditional industry. However, the emphasis of the economy was on seafaring. Leith was the single most important port in Scotland until the rise of trans-Atlantic trade enabled the Clyde ports of Glasgow-Greenock to become pre-eminent.