Scottish Identity and Britishness in Empire

BritishnessCurrent debates relating to the Scottish independence referendum often focus on political matters, but there are also important questions with respect to the Scots’ sense of identity. Ever since the Union of 1707 Scots could claim to be both Scottish and British, and this ability was significant too beyond Scotland’s borders. Within the wider imperial world, the military glamour of the Scottish soldiers in the British imperial armies was crucial, for example, to the promotion of a strong sense of Scottish identity. With famous victories gained and their members skilfully depicted in Highland garb and glory, regiments such as the Black Watch contributed to consolidating a positive image of Scottishness. Scots, notes MacKenzie, ‘were everywhere in the visual record’, this reflecting the ways in which they could play out their …

Early Scottish Imperial Ventures: The Darien Scheme

DarienFueled partly by the success of the London-based East India Company, Scottish imperial aspirations gathered momentum towards the end of the seventeenth century. While several Scots were engaged in the East India Company in London, or worked for it in India itself, demands for Scotland to have its own imperial venture grew in the late seventeenth century. With the passage of the 1693 Act for Encouraging Foreign Trade, Scottish merchants and businessmen were attracted by the prospect of trading under the Great Seal of Scotland. As a result, the Company of Scotland, Trading to Africa and the Indies, was established two years later on this day (26 June).

The new Company moved quickly to secure a piece of the imperial cake – not least because overseas trade promised greater …