- The Political History of Eighteenth-Century Scotland, and: Celtic Identity and the British Image, and: The Grammar of Empire in Eighteenth-Century British Writing (review)
- Eighteenth-Century Studies
- Johns Hopkins University Press
- Volume 34, Number 3, Spring 2001
- pp. 471-473
- View Citation
- Additional Information
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Eighteenth-Century Studies 34.3 (2001) 471-473
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The Political History of Eighteenth-Century Scotland
Celtic Identity and the British Image
The Grammar of Empire in Eighteenth-Century British Writing
John Stuart Shaw. The Political History of Eighteenth-Century Scotland (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1999). Pp. vii + 151. $39.95 cloth.
Murray G. H. Pittock. Celtic Identity and the British Image (New York: Manchester University Press, 1999). Pp. xii + 180. $19.95 paper.
Janet Sorensen. The Grammar of Empire in Eighteenth-Century British Writing (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000). Pp. x + 318. $59.95 cloth.
In 1707, the Act of Union sutured Scotland and England into a single state: Great Britain. Over the following centuries, that union has been celebrated, execrated, fought for, and rebelled against. Today, with a separate (albeit limited) Scottish parliament in session for the first time in almost 300 years, the fate of the United Kingdom seems murkier than ever. In this context, several new literary and historical studies have appeared to explore the conflicted, complex relations that have taken shape between Scotland and England since the eighteenth century.
John Stuart Shaw draws on his vast documentary resources as Head of Corporate and Private Records Branch at the National Archives in Scotland to bring us The Political History of Eighteenth-Century Scotland. This slim volume will be of interest primarily to scholars specializing in eighteenth-century Scottish studies, for it is focused almost exclusively on the political actors who negotiated Scotland's place in the new British state following the Act of Union. It makes no attempt to be a "people's history"; rather, Shaw explicitly presents his book as "written from the perspective of the political elite. In this, it reflects the realities of power and influence in the eighteenth century" (vii). Here, in summary, is the book's greatest strength, as well as its most significant limitation. By restricting himself to the exploits of the Scottish Lords, Earls, Dukes, and other noblemen who jockeyed for power in the wake of the Union, Shaw tells us very little about how the lives of the common people of Scotland were gradually affected by the Union.
What the author does provide is a rich window into the fascinating world of political maneuvering by the Scottish elite. His first chapter, aptly titled "The Price of Scotland?" showcases the strengths of this approach. It is a commonplace that English bribery and Scottish corruption laid the foundation for the Union. Using new archival research, Shaw traces the actual amounts of money that changed hands, as well as the reasons for various transactions of wealth and privilege, to demonstrate convincingly that it is oversimplistic to conclude that the Union was "bought" by England. In general, the book helpfully complicates our picture of Scottish politics in the context of the new British state. With the rise of the Duke of Argyll, Lord Ilay (the third Duke of Argyll), and Lord Dundas (first Viscount Melville), Shaw delineates how Scotland went from being a junior associate in the Union to being "a strong partner in a changing British political world" (128). Focusing on those in power, Shaw devotes only one short chapter to the threat presented by dissident Jacobite sentiment to the Hanoverian monarchy. Given the extraordinary scholarly attention that Jacobitism has received in recent decades, however, Shaw's book acts as a corrective by stressing the extent to which Jacobitism was a non-issue for those most active in eighteenth-century Scottish government. [End Page 471]
Celtic Identity and the British Image is the latest of several books by Murray G. H. Pittock to engage aspects of the relationship between England and its Celtic partners in Great Britain: Scotland, Ireland, and Wales. In many ways, this text is a survey of approaches to understanding those relationships, with the figure of "the Celt" as the lens through which Pittock views Anglo-Celtic relations. Arguing against the "invented traditions" school of thought, which claims...