This article uses the concept of ‘improvement’ to examine the experiences of five burghs in Angus – Dundee, Montrose, Forfar, Brechin and Arbroath – in the later Georgian era. Designed as a contribution to British history in a comparative sense, and using the five burghs as case studies, it seeks to identity distinctively Scottish, as well as common, British elements in Scottish urbanization during a crucial phase in its development. Existing studies of Scottish urban society in this period focus very heavily on the impact of industrialization on large towns and cities, especially Glasgow. Partly as a result, other themes have been neglected or obscured. A second main aim, therefore, is to offer an alternative framework for understanding the development and experiences of the smaller towns in which most of the Scottish urban population lived prior to 1830.