ABOUT THIS BOOK
PUBLICATION DATE: April 1, 2000
The Origins of Scottish Nationhood
By (author) Neil Davidson
The traditional view of the Scottish nation holds that it first arose during the Wars of Independence from England in the 13th and 14th centuries. Although Scotland was absorbed into Britain in 1707 with the Treaty of Union, Scottish identity is supposed to have remained alive in the new state through separate institutions of religion (the Church of Scotland), education, and the legal system. Neil Davidson argues otherwise. The Scottish nation did not exist before 1707. The Scottish national consciousness we know today was not preserved by institutions carried over from the pre-Union period, but arose after and as a result of the Union, for only then were the material obstacles to nationhood – most importantly the Highland/Lowland divide – overcome. This Scottish nation was constructed simultaneously with and as part of the British nation, and the 18th century Scottish bourgeoisie were at the forefront of constructing both. The majority of Scots entered the Industrial Revolution with a dual national consciousness, but only one nationalism, which was British.The Scottish nationalism which across in Scotland during the 20th century is therefore not a revival of a pre-Union nationalism after 300 years, but an entirely new formation. Davidson provides a revisionist history of th origins of Scottish and British national consciousness that sheds light on many of the contemporary debates about nationalism.
Nigel Smith is William and Annie S. Paton Foundation Professor of Ancient and Modern Literature at Princeton University. His books include Andrew Marvell: The Chameleon (2010), Is Milton better than Shakespeare? (2008) and Literature and Revolution in England, 1640-1660 (1994).