Empire and Scottish Society: The Impact of Foreign Missions at Home, C.1790 to C.1914

Empire and Scottish Society: The Impact of Foreign Missions at Home, C.1790 to C.1914

Empire and Scottish Society: The Impact of Foreign Missions at Home, C.1790 to C.1914

Empire and Scottish Society: The Impact of Foreign Missions at Home, C.1790 to C.1914

Synopsis

This original book considers the mediation of empire by the foreign mission movement. The book gives depth and substance to general claims that empire permeated the lives of Scots in the 19th century and that Scots articulated a strong sense of national identity in the context of empire. It affirms the importance of civil society, and especially of religious institutions in this period, in the construction of representations of national identity.

Excerpt

The British empire lasted for a period of approximately 300 years, spanned many territories, and was governed through a variety of political arrangements. The timing of its origin is debatable. Cain and Hopkins, for example, take as their starting point the Glorious Revolution of 1688, since by that date ‘overseas explorations, migrations and settlement had already taken place, if only on a relatively small scale’. However, a case can also be made for the foundation of the English East India Company in 1600 as providing the formal institutional origins of the empire. Scots had begun to participate in the empire by the late seventeenth century in settlements in places such as South Carolina and New Jersey, with varying degrees of success. Most significantly, the Scots attempt to establish a colony at Darien on the Panama isthmus in 1698 had ended in failure by April 1700, having swallowed up around half of Scotland’s capital. This disaster was a major factor persuading Scots to agree to Union with England in 1707, and thus Union can be construed as ‘the consequence of Scotland’s failure to establish an empire’. Thereafter Scots were to share in shaping the British empire and in its benefits, though at the time of the Union this opportunity was not perceived to compensate for loss of sovereignty, and only subsequently was it seen to be a gain.

By 1707 Britain had established colonies in North America, Canada and the Caribbean, and had several trading posts in Africa. The East India Company had bases in Bombay, Calcutta and Madras. While the American revolution of 1776 established independence for the American colonies, in Canada, the Caribbean and India the British empire expanded as a consequence of its wars against France and Spain, and in 1788 the first settlement in Australia was founded. With the victory over France in 1815, Britain became Europe’s most powerful imperial state, positioned to expand in India, south-east Asia and Africa in the course of the nineteenth century. British rule in India was further consolidated following the Indian ‘Mutiny’ of 1857, when East India Company rule was replaced by the British imperial state. In the same period exploration in Africa stimulated further . . .

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