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In this fresh and challenging look at the origins of the United Kingdom, author Michael Fry focuses on the years leading up to the Union of 1707, setting the political history of Scotland and England against the backdrop of war in Europe and the emergence of imperialism. The book rejects the long-held assumption that the economy was of overwhelming importance in the Scots’ acceptance of the terms of the Treaty of Union. Instead, it shows how the Scots were able to exploit English ignorance of and indifference to ...
In this fresh and challenging look at the origins of the United Kingdom, author Michael Fry focuses on the years leading up to the Union of 1707, setting the political history of Scotland and England against the backdrop of war in Europe and the emergence of imperialism. The book rejects the long-held assumption that the economy was of overwhelming importance in the Scots’ acceptance of the terms of the Treaty of Union. Instead, it shows how the Scots were able to exploit English ignorance of and indifference to Scotland to steer the settlement in their own favor. The implications of this have influenced the dynamics of the Union ever since, and are only being fully worked out today.
Posted October 16, 2007
Chapter by chapter, year by year from 1702 to 1707, Scottish historian Michael Fry shows how the Union was made. He puts this historic achievement in the context of its time, a period of state-building and wars between rival empires. In 1688-89, the Scottish Convention, in its Claim of Right, listed the offences committed by James VII of Scotland (James II of England). They resolved that he had violated `the fundamental constitution of this kingdom and altered it from a legal limited monarchy to an arbitrary despotic power¿. They ratified the 1688 revolution. Building on this, the Scottish parliament of 1706-7 progressed towards the Act of Union. This was a Union of states without a union of churches, against the age¿s prevailing practice of `cuius regio, eius religio¿. Which means, `Whose the region, his the religion¿. That is, the religion of the ruler of a state determined the religion of the people of that state. Britain became a single state, with not one but two established churches. The Act of Security for the Kirk established the Church of Scotland, away from the absolute sovereignty of the British parliament. This won Presbyterian support for the Union. The Union forbade the Church of England to establish Anglicanism in Scotland (as Charles I had tried) and forbade presbyterians to establish Presbyterianism in England (as the Solemn League and Covenant had tried). It ended wars of religion in Britain. The Union also guaranteed the independence of Scottish law and education. It was no one-sided dictation, no simple incorporation. The Union also gave Scotland unprecedented economic opportunities. As Scottish MP William Seton said, ¿This nation being poor, and without force to protect its commerce, cannot reap great advantage by it, till it partake of the trade and protection of some powerful neighbour nation, that can communicate both these ¿ By this Union, we will have access to all the advantages in commerce the English enjoy.¿ There were other good reasons for Union. Many Scottish presbyterians urged their countrymen to support the Union to save Britain from the joint threat of Catholic France and the deposed Stuarts. Englishmen and Scots united against `Popish Bigotry and French Tyranny¿. In 1708, the Royal Navy foiled a French invasion force of 6,000 troops, and the pretender James Stuart. The Scottish parliament discussed the Act of Union clause by clause from 12 October 1706 to 16 January 1707. In England, by contrast, the Act was rammed through a Commons committee in a single sitting. The Scottish parliament ratified the Treaty of Union and the Act of Security for the Kirk in tandem as the Scottish Act of Union by 110 votes to 67. The Scots had negotiated their survival they were not crushed by force like the Catalans. Fry writes, ¿the vigour of the Scots¿ existing traditions and institutions let them shape the Union too, for good or ill. The Union was a genuine choice in 1701, not just a factitious product of English expansionism.¿ He has disproved the old lie that ¿the Scots were bought and sold for English gold.¿Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.