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Title: Scottish imperial scepticism and the prioritisation of the domestic economy, 1695-1815
Author: Murdoch, Gains
ISNI:       0000 0004 5993 0421
Awarding Body: University of Aberdeen
Current Institution: University of Aberdeen
Date of Award: 2016
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One of the most recent developments within imperial historiography has been the consideration of specifically Scottish attitudes to the expansion of the British Empire and how it impacted upon Scotland from a social-economic, political and also cultural perspective. However an unproven consensus has taken root that Scots were generally enthusiastic about this process, demonstrated by increasing participation in Britain's imperial military and commercial institutions, mass emigration to North America and the emergence of new economic sectors which depended on Atlantic trade. This dissertation argues for the existence of scepticism within eighteenth-century Scottish society towards numerous aspects of the British Empire. Crucially these attitudes were present across multiple sections of society, expressed within the records of influential institutions such as the major burgh councils or the Church of Scotland, widely perused pamphlets and periodicals, the private correspondence of prominent aristocrats and even amongst the signature works of the Edinburgh literati. This scepticism, or ambivalence, will not be presented as simply expressions of direct hostility to empire itself. Much of it related to the British Empire becoming a very different type of entity than many Scots had hoped it would be. The most common expression of this anxiety revolved around the preferred benefits of a commercial empire, based on overseas trade and often through joint stock companies and fears over the ever greater influence of settler colonies in North America. Criticism of Britain's imperial trading companies was though still very much present, especially amongst the landed gentry towards returning “nabobs.” Chronologically, and structurally, this thesis will start by considering the impact of the Darien Scheme's failure on Scotland. This disaster forced Scottish society to largely focus on domestic improvement, particularly during the first half of the eighteenth century. The first half of this thesis will demonstrate the extent to which the country's economy was not centred on imperial commerce by examining the development of the Scottish banking and agricultural sectors. Banking will feature very prominently within this thesis, partly because of what Scotland's eighteenth-century financial crises say about the true influence of empire on the economy. Also the minutes of the chartered banks demonstrate that the chartered banking system did not offer significant levels of support to colonial trading links. The second part will show how scepticism existed as a consequence of the great, and often resented, human costs of imperial expansion; whether through emigration to Britain's North American colonies or military service overseas. In contrast to these sacrifices, the presumed benefits of empire, including the wider presence of colonial products, were frequently derided as being not only harmful for parts of Scotland's domestic economy but also a source of moral and social corruption.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: C.K. Marr Educational Trust
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Great Britain ; Scotland