Reformation and romance : Scottish national. identity in a nineteenth century British age of reform, through the Edinburgh political press.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameBachelor of Arts (Hons)
In the nineteenth century, Scottish national identity among the political elite of Scotland was a contested field. Rather than there being a single conception of ‘Scottishness’ among this elite, the Whigs contributors of the Edinburgh Review and the Tory contributors of Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine each embodied a distinctive Whig and Tory Scottish identity: a Whig identity based on Scotland’s future progress within the United Kingdom and dismissive of Scotland’s ‘backward’ pre-Union heritage; and a Tory identity that romanticised and celebrated Scottish history, while casting itself as the ‘defender’ of Scottish nationhood within the United Kingdom. This study explores these different Scottish identities. It considers both how they responded to, and how they were changed by the British age of reform. Three reforms in particular – the Test and Corporation Acts repeal of 1828, Catholic Emancipation in 1829, and the Great Reform Act of 1832 – form the focus. Using magazine articles authored by prominent Scottish Whigs and Tories of the day, the research shows how these identities shifted. Scottish Whigs ardently supported all three reforms, seeing it as representing Scotland’s ‘British progress’ and ‘enlightenment’. But their arguments also employed language of Scottish exceptionalism and patriotism that they claimed to oppose. Scottish Tories, zealously opposed to reform, expressed opposition using Scottish patriotic language, particularly by portraying reforms as representing a threat to Scotland’s ancient nationhood. This dissertation argues that by the end of this reforming era, the victorious Scottish Whig identity had adopted the patriotic arguments of the Scottish Tories, who ultimately faded. It provides valuable insight into how Scotland’s governing elite viewed Scottish identity and nationhood, particularly within a wider British context, and how these identities shifted as part of the transformative effects of reform on Scotland and Britain.