The Origins of Scottish Nationhood

The Origins of Scottish Nationhood

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The traditional view of the Scottish nation holds that it first arose during the Wars of Independence from England in the thirteenth and fourteenth 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 eighteenth 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 arose in Scotland during the twentieth 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 the origins of Scottish and British national consciousness that sheds light on many of the contemporary debates about nationalism.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 272 pages
  • 135 x 215 x 28.19mm | 453.59g
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 0745316093
  • 9780745316093

Table of contents



1. What is National Consciousness?

2. From National Consciousness to Nation States

3. Was there a Scottish Nation before 1707?

4. Highland vs Lowland Scotland vs England

5. Scotland After 1707: Oppressed or Oppressor Nation?

6. British Imperialism and National Consciousness in Scotland

7. Scottish History and Highland Mythology

8. The Reality of the Highlands: Social Assimilation and the Onslaught on Gaelic Culture

9. Burns and Scott: Radical and Conservative Nations

10. Class and National Consciousness in the age of Revolution




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Review quote

'The great merit of The Origins of Scottish Nationhood is that it seeks to encourage clear thinking about the national condition' -- Allan Massie in the Times Literary Suplement
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About Neil Davidson

Neil Davidson lectures in Sociology with the School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Glasgow. He has written several books on Scottish nationalism, including Discovering the Scottish Revolution 1692-1746 (Pluto Press, 2003) and The Origins of Scottish Nationhood (Pluto Press, 2000).
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