August 29, 2004

Scots, Wha Hae...

Ferguson's "Empire" contains the throwaway comment early in his Introduction that "[to] the Scots, the [British] Empire stood for bright sunlight." Is it even possible to do a history of Scotland and the Scots without making the Empire -- and slavery and colonialism -- a central theme for the past two or three centuries? Scots, and Scotland, are heavily implicated in the building, the running, and the peopling of the Empire. Yet something like Arthur Herman's ludicrous bit of hagiographic Scottishry, "How The Scots Invented the Modern World", barely mentions the topic, despite the way the Scottish Enlightenment made the collaboration in Empire almost inevitable, supplying a lot of its religious and political justification along with the human resources, both literate and illiterate.

(Like Ferguson, I'm a classic product of the Scottish middle class's flight to the sunlight.)


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