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"An Inquiry into Scottish Identity Between the Years 1688 and 1707"

-Ian Mckay

"A Sorry Poor Nation, which lies as full North,
as a great many Lands which are wiser,
Was resolv'd to set up for a People of Worth,
That the Loons who laugh'd at Her might prize her.
-Anonymous Englishman, 17001

These were the first words of a book widely read in London during the earliest years of the 18th century. Named "Caledonia, or The Peddler Turned Merchant," the book was a comedy, telling the story of how the pathetic Scots failed spectacularly in their attempt to found a colony called Caledonia (also known as Darien), and attempt to become wealthy in the 1690's. These words capture the essence of how the English, and most of Europe for the matter, viewed Scotland at the turn of the 18th century. Impoverished and stagnant, Scotland was looked upon as a backward kingdom to the north, having started the 17th century as the poorest kingdom in western Europe yet managing to decline through the century. The English actually viewed them in nearly as worse a light as they did the Irish.

But how did Scotland view itself? These years, between the Glorious Revolution in 1688 and the Act of Union of 1707, were among the most momentous in the Scotland's history. They were to determine whether Scotland would remain as it had since 1603, the far junior member of an unequal regal union with England, or adopt a different monarch than England upon Anne's death and start its life anew. What they would ultimately choose was a third option, to agree to a union with England and take their chances as part of a new Great Britain. It was certainly a momentous decision, and it was these years that defined to a large extent which choice the nation made.

This study seeks to answer how the Scots viewed themselves in the critical years before union, and what events shaped those conceptions of their nation. Through studying the literature

1. Caledonia, or The Peddler Turned Merchant, A Tragic Comedy as it was Acted by His Majesty's Subjects of Scotland in The King of Spain's Province of Darien, (London, 1700), 1.