An ancient burgh (1175–8), first developed as an ecclesiastical centre on a hill near the cathedral. Having a grammar school from the early 14th cent., in 1451 the burgh acquired its university by papal bull and became an archbishopric in 1492. From the mid‐17th cent. Glasgow began to develop its overseas trade with Europe and the American colonies. After the Union of 1707 Glasgow dominated the tobacco trade and the city with about 12,000 inhabitants in 1700 began to grow as a manufacturing centre.
By 1776 Glasgow merchants imported more than half of Britain's tobacco and had lucrative re‐export markets in Europe. The improvement of Glasgow harbour and the development of a diversified industrial economy had also progressed; the problems posed by the American War led to the formation of the Glasgow Chamber of Commerce (1783) and the growth of the West Indies trade. Cotton imports became significant, and Glasgow by 1850 had become a manufacturing city with a population of 345,000. Situated in a region rich in coal and iron, Glasgow became a major shipbuilding and engineering centre, the Clyde leading the world for tonnage launched and railway rolling stock and machinery produced. The 20th cent. witnessed the decline of heavy industries. Service industries gradually provided more employment, and consumer industries became more significant.