A Political History of Scotland, 1832-1924: Parties, Elections, and Issues

A Political History of Scotland, 1832-1924: Parties, Elections, and Issues

A Political History of Scotland, 1832-1924: Parties, Elections, and Issues

A Political History of Scotland, 1832-1924: Parties, Elections, and Issues

Excerpt

It is advisable to state that this book does not purport to be a comprehensive history of all aspects of Scottish politics between 1832 and 1924. Its ambit is indicated by the subtitle. That is to say, it examines developments within the main political parties in Scotland, looking in particular at their electoral fortunes. It also studies the manner in which political issues impinged on the parties, and how the latter responded to these policy demands. There are several areas on which little is said in this work. One, for instance, is that of working-class political movements in the nineteenth century. These are passed over cursorily not because they are deemed unimportant, but for the reasons just outlined. Moreover, the historiography of the Scottish working class is in a fairly advanced state, whereas some of the factors investigated here are perhaps less well developed. Again, there are certain topics which do not receive a thorough discussion, even although they might be held to fall, in part at least, within the scope of this book. Two such items are the crofters’ electoral revolt in 1885 and the unrest on Clydeside during the First World War. In defence of their brief treatment here, it may be pointed out that both of these episodes have recently been fully and convincingly explored by other historians, so that it would merely be heaping Pelion on Ossa to go over the ground again.

An aim of this work is to seek to broaden the geographical spread of evidence. There have been several useful studies of some of the topics discussed here, but sometimes their overall applicability has been limited. Too often, it seems, either generalisations have been based on restricted samples, which might prove to be unrepresentative, or a movement in one part of the country has been the focus of intense scrutiny, on the grounds of uniqueness, without attention being paid to similar trends at work elsewhere. Another, perhaps related, problem lies in the natural tendency of political historians to concentrate on using the resources of the main record repositories in Edinburgh (the National Library of Scotland and the Scottish Record Office) and London (the British Library and the Public Record Office). While these collections are utterly indispensable for any interpretation of the period, they do have some limitations. Firstly, they do tend — quite properly — to portray two types of politics more than others, viz. the political operations of the great landed estates and the ‘high politics’ of front-benchers. There is not, however, a great deal to be found on middle-class urban politics or on constituency party activities. Secondly, these collections are not always fully representative of the various parts of Scotland, and display a tendency to be preponderantly drawn from the Lothian and Border regions. As the nineteenth century advanced, the economic and social experiences of other regions increasingly diverged from those of the south-eastern Lowlands. To attempt to overcome these difficulties, attention has been paid to a variety of source material held in private hands or in local record centres.

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