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Wealth of a Nation

A look at what has driven the Scottish economy across industrial history

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A comparison of old and new industries of Scotland. One of a group of seven documentaries made for the 1938 Empire Exhibition, under the supervision of John Grierson. The film includes shots of: Shipyard workers; foundry and steel mill; construction of steam locomotive engines; factories; Plan for site of Hillington Industrial Estate in Renfrewshire and construction of factories on site; derelict iron works at Wishaw and cement factory; Hiram Walker's distillery under construction at Dumbarton; construction of road through Glencoe; Scottish Airways plane; shots of hydro-electric power station; British Aluminium Company works. We are shown tenement back courts and washing lines and women washing clothes in metal tubs in back courts. Bricklayers and workers are filmed on a construction site. Standburn mining village in Stirlingshire is shown along with new housing at Westquarter, Stirling. We see shale bings; park and putting green; coal pits and miners coming up to surface. Pit buildings, miners getting washed and changed. The cycling club passes India Tyres of Inchinnan's factory. Shots of haystack, hills and lochside; yachting; steel mill. Workmen discuss effect of introduction of new machinery.

Questions & Activities


  • Why are the people in the clip are positive about the future?
  • Do you think the dialogue scenes are scripted or spontaneous?
  • What issues are highlighted in the film?
  • What effect does the editing of the cycling sequence have?


What view does the film give of local community and activism? Is this still important in Scotland?

Find out what kinds of local democratic action are happening in your local community.

The film is named after a book by economist Adam Smith, why was he an important figure?

The film was made one year before the start of the Second World War. How do you imagine their lives were affected by the war?

Clip Details

Record Id 007-000-000-199-C
Resource Rights Holder National Library of Scotland
Project Ref 1062
Date 1938
Genre Documentary, Sponsored
School Subject History, Modern Studies, Economics
Subject Matter Political Literacy, Citizenship
Who Donald Alexander (director), Films of Scotland (sponsor), Scottish Film Productions (production company)
Where Argyll National Park, Clyde Shipyards, Glencoe, Hillington
Event Empire Exhibition
Attributes Black and White, Sound
Clip Length 15:45
Film Length 15:45