New Perspectives on Pre-union Scotland

Karin Bowie

in The Oxford Handbook of Modern Scottish History

Published in print January 2012 | ISBN: 9780199563692
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in History

 New Perspectives on Pre-union Scotland

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  • History
  • Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)


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Scotland before the Union of 1707 can be difficult to assess, for three reasons. First, views of the century before 1707 have been shaped by attitudes towards the Union itself. Most historians writing between 1707 and the mid-twentieth century saw the Union in a positive light. In the 1970s, the Oxford historian Hugh Trevor-Roper (later Lord Dacre) sought to defend the Union against rising interest in Scottish devolution. Trevor-Roper insisted that the seventeenth century represented ‘the darkest age of Scottish history’, marked by the ‘feudal power of the nobility’, the ‘fanaticism of the clergy’, and an ‘arrested economy’. By 1707, he argued, the Scots' desperate situation gave them no choice but to sacrifice their ‘feeble’ Parliament and embrace incorporating union with England. This article analyses recent work to provide a fresh appraisal of pre-Union Scotland, focusing on three areas of supposed backwardness highlighted by Trevor-Roper: Scotland's society and politics; its intellectual culture; and its economy and trade.

Keywords: Scotland; Union; Hugh Trevor-Roper; England; society; politics; intellectual culture; economy; trade

Article.  8118 words. 

Subjects: History ; Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)

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