Douglas Hamilton, Allan I. Macinnes, eds. Jacobitism, Enlightenment and Empire, 1680-1820. Political and Popular Culture in the Early Modern Period Series. London: Pickering & Chatto Ltd, 2014. 304 pp. $150.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-1-84893-466-5.
Reviewed by Marc MacDonald (University of Saskatchewan)
Published on H-War (May, 2016)
Commissioned by Margaret Sankey
Jacobitism, Enlightenment and Empire, 1680-1820 is an eclectic contribution to the extensive historical scholarship focused on Scotland. It is easy for the reader to forget that the contributors are even discussing Scottish history, as a majority of the chapters examine Scottish figures in an international context. The collection combines solid scholarship, from emerging and established historians, and expands our understanding of Scotland’s place in the global history of the exceedingly long eighteenth century.
The book is a result of a seminar series, “Identity and Mobility from Jacobitism to Empire, c. 1680-c. 1820,” organized through the University of Strathclyde, in association with the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Centre for Irish and Scottish Studies at the University of Aberdeen, in the winter and spring of 2009. This seminar series naturally had a significant influence on the published collection. At least six of the papers have, in some form, been included as chapters in the collection. Moreover, the themes of identity, mobility, Jacobitism, and empire remain central in the book. The edited collection was also, however, part of the transnational project, “Enterprise, Enlightenment and Empire,” which was organized through the University of Strathclyde in 2009.
The title gives the Enlightenment second billing, which is an odd choice. A more representative format would have been “Jacobitism, Empire and Enlightenment,” given both the organization of the chapters and the limited attention given to the Enlightenment. In the introduction, the editors note that four essays focus directly on topics related to Jacobitism in either a British or international context; five essays examine the roles of Scots in imperial settings in Africa, the Americas, and Asia; and three essays look at the Enlightenment as well as its outcomes on the Continent and British Empire. However, the Enlightenment, outside of section 3 of the introduction, is only discussed in one chapter.
The final two chapters focus on Scottish history in a global context, but do not concentrate on the Enlightenment. I am encouraged that this collection joins the chorus of scholarship which recognizes that the Enlightenment stretched into the nineteenth century and was a global phenomenon. The Enlightenment did have, as the editors assert in the introduction, “contentious application in continental as well as imperial settings” (p. 2). However, it is not clear that these two chapters fit this category. In “The Visionary Voyages of Robert Burns,” Liam McIlvanney instead focuses on Robert Burns (1759-96) and the “global turn” of scholarship on this “Romantic era poet” (p. 173). This includes examining global dimensions of Burns’s poetry, the global and local influence of Burns’s work on New Zealand poets, and the importance of the engagement with Burns within the Scottish diaspora. In “‘Defending the Colonies against Malicious Attacks of Philanthropy’: Scottish Campaigns against the Abolitions of the Slave Trade and Slavery,” Douglas J. Hamilton is likewise little concerned with the Enlightenment. There is a brief mention of Adam Smith (1723-90), who attacked slavery “as an archaic and inefficient economic system,” and the Scottish abolitionist movement is also discussed (p. 193). However, this is not in terms of their connections to the Enlightenment. It is instead to demonstrate that there was, beyond well-known examples of antislavery sentiment, much support in Scotland for maintaining the barbaric institutions of slavery and the slave trade. This chapter does, nevertheless, have strong links to the book’s other two themes: Jacobitism and empire. Hamilton reveals the ostensible “connections between Jacobites and slavery” that developed during the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries (p. 207). Many Jacobites had attained economic and political success within the British Empire, particularly by relocating to West Indies slave islands, and were not eager to lose property, as Jacobites had in the 1740s, including slaves. Hamilton’s chapter on “pro-slavery Scots” provides a much-needed discussion of the complicated relationship between Scotland and slavery. The chapters in the collection’s section on empire appear more concerned with the plight of Jacobite planters than with the slaves they owned. The final two chapters, though they do not fall within the rubric of the Enlightenment, are important contributions to the collection. They also serve somewhat as concluding chapters, as there is no formal conclusion.
The chapter undeniably focused on the Enlightenment is Jean-François Dunyach’s “William Playfair (1759-1823), Scottish Enlightenment from Below?” This research is a unique contribution to this collection and to scholarship on the Enlightenment. Playfair was a lesser-known figure of the Scottish Enlightenment. Historians have typically focused on the Scottish literati, including his older brother John Playfair (1748-1819). Yet William Playfair was an intriguing and roguish figure, who I have encountered in my own research. The Scottish engineer and inventor James Watt (1736-1819) referred to Playfair as “specious cunning & false.” Dunyach discusses Playfair’s contributions, including graphical inventions and scandals. Playfair’s passage through various incantations of the Enlightenment (Scottish, English, Industrial, French, Radical) and reliance on diverse cultural and patronage networks indeed “makes a strong case for a more pragmatic history” of this period. Ultimately, I join with Dunyach in the call for more scholarship on the “applied” or “Practical” Enlightenment “liberated from such categories as ‘lower’ or ‘higher’” (pp. 160, 165, 172).
The collection would have enjoyed a stronger examination of the Enlightenment had Thomas McInally’s paper, “The Scottish Electric Contribution to the German Enlightenment,” been included. It was listed as the final presentation in the University of Strathclyde’s seminar series “Identity and Mobility.” Instead, McInally’s contribution, “Missionaries or Soldiers for the Jacobite Cause? The Conflict of Loyalties for Scottish Catholic Clergy,” falls within the section focused on Jacobitism. McInally charts the rise and fall of Scottish-Catholic missionary networks that linked Scotland and the Continent. The networks formed around Scottish Catholic colleges that were established in Europe in the late 1500s, as Protestantism ascended in Britain. Desires for a return of Catholic domination, and then simply toleration, led these networks to remain loyal to the Stuart monarchs, with soldiers and support, past a point of prudency. Loyalty to Jacobitism led to the demise of these networks, and near extinction of Catholicism in Scotland, but new networks rehabilitated the religion in the late eighteenth century. The three other chapters focused on Jacobitism each explore distinct aspects of this movement in Scotland.
In “Jamie the Soldier and the Jacobite Military Threat, 1706-27,” Daniel Szechi explores military history. This chapter provides the most humorous moment of the collection, as Szechi includes himself among the historians he chastises for having failed to question traditional criticism of James VII and II’s military ability. Szechi persuasively argues that James was a talented military commander with previous experience, having served with French forces (1708-11), countering assessments by him and other historians. This leads Szechi to call for a reassessment of Jacobite military strength and raise hypothetical questions about their fortunes, had James attained more opportunities to command, but does not change the fact that he arrived in Scotland too late to attain victory for the Jacobites in 1715. A further challenge for Szechi is a dearth of reliable sources, as Whigs were biased against James and Jacobites were biased in his favor.
Nicola Cowmeadow, in “Simply a Jacobite Heroine? The Life Experience of Margaret, Lady Narine (1673-1747),” details how women played a vital, but undervalued, role in the Jacobite movement. Evidence is also an issue in this chapter. Much space is devoted, in a short chapter, to discussing and describing the content and style of Lady Narine’s letters. Yet it is in the sections that Cowmeadow pulls furthest away from the letters that she most clearly reveals how Narine’s activities formed “a distinct female contribution to Jacobitism” (p. 30). Lady Narine’s talents and responsibilities as a noblewoman allowed her to employ her epistolary network, and her influence, in support of Jacobitism over decades.
Jeffrey Stephen examines religious elements of Jacobitism in “English Liturgy and Scottish Identity: The Case of James Greenshields.” Stephen uses the Greenshields case (an Episcopalian curate charged with promoting the English liturgy in Edinburgh) to show how religion was central to Jacobitism. Critics viewed such actions as part of an Episcopalian plot, whose clergy was dominated by Jacobites, to incite Presbyterian antipathy to the 1707 union with England. Stephen, countering the traditional view, identifies the Presbyterian reaction as one based not on persecution but on a Scottish Reformed Presbyterian identity. He skillfully wades through the complicated political, religious, cultural, and historical intersections and explains the contrasting motivations behind each party’s actions. Yet, in the end, the reader is left somewhat perplexed, given the contrasting agendas and ironies of various groups promoting different liturgies, national interests, monarchies, and religions.
The most interesting contribution made by Jacobitism, Enlightenment and Empire is the five chapters focused on empire. Jacobitism has naturally been linked, since its origin, with Scotland and scholarship on the Scottish Enlightenment over the past four decades has ensured that Scotland has attained its rightful place in the history of this period. Yet, given the Darien debacle of the 1690s, Scotland has often been overshadowed in work on imperial history. These chapters examine Scotland’s role in empire from various aspects.
Sarah Barber explores religious overseas connections in “‘Let Him be an Englishman’: Irish and Scottish Clergy in the Caribbean Church of England, 1610-1720.” Many ministers serving the Church of England (traditionally an English-dominated institution) in the Caribbean in this period were Scottish and Irish. British political and national conflicts were altered or softened in the passage of the Atlantic. The Scots and Irish were not favored by Anglican elite, and were seen to have many faults, but were best suited for ministering in the Caribbean. This was, Barber concludes, because of “the Caribbean Church’s need for its hardest-working and dedicated promoters” (p. 91).
Esther Mijers also explores seventeenth-century Scottish exploits in the Americas, in “Scotland, the Dutch Republic and the Union: Commerce and Cosmopolitanism.” Her focus, however, is the Scottish-Dutch commercial relationship. It was based on religious commonality; educational exchange (many Scottish students studied subjects including medicine at Dutch universities); and a common antipathy to the English, with whom the Dutch fought three wars. Scottish merchants had practical training in bookkeeping, arithmetic, and languages as Scottish trading houses and networks established branches in large Dutch trading centers, followed the Dutch model, and expanded into Atlantic and Caribbean trade. Ultimately, Mijers concludes that this “provided an experience of empire, namely of networks, without actual settlement or dominion” for Scotland, helping it to “become the imperial overnight success story of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries” (p. 95). Scotland’s imperial success was beholden to its place in the British Empire, one of several in this period. Nevertheless, Mijers reveals how Scottish cosmopolitanism and knowledge transfer allowed it to easily adapt and thrive in empire.
Stuart M. Nisbet also explores Scottish transatlantic and international commercial networks in “Clearing the Smokescreen of Early Scottish Mercantile Identity: From Leeward Sugar Plantations to Scottish Country Estates c. 1680-1730.” Nisbet examines the Scottish planters who developed sugar plantations on Caribbean islands. Nisbet challenges past interpretations, which viewed the success of the “Scots” on St. Kitts as significantly influenced by nationality, politics, or marriages. He notes that these planters did not serve as British soldiers, and many of them were not even Scottish. Instead, the planters in this study were tied to a wide international background, not a narrow Scottish influence; they prospered in “a frontier world” and often retired to estates purchased in the south of England. In an endnote, Nisbit states: “Their success must always be qualified by their ruthless exploitation of enslaved labour” (p. 245n93). Unfortunately, the role of Scottish planters using slave labor to build their fortunes is alluded to, but not discussed in detail.
In “Union, Empire, and Global Adventuring with a Jacobite Twist, 1707-53,” Allan I. Macinnes explores transoceanic Scottish commercial networks. They emerged in the Baltic and the Caribbean, in the seventeenth century; expanded to the India Ocean and the China seas, in the eighteenth century; and succeeded despite the Darien disaster and trade restrictions linked to the 1707 union. This was driven, notes Macinnes, “by English interests,” and “was certainly not an act of international altruism in which a benevolent England rescued an impoverished Scotland” (p. 126). Scots and Jacobites recovered from some of the losses of the union and rebellions by excelling in empire. This led to many Scots condoning slavery and supporting the union, as Scottish goods helped supply slave plantations in the Americas. Loyalty to Jacobitism declined as Scots became further involved with empire, which was a logical choice for Jacobites and Episcopalians, as Whigs and Presbyterians dominated Scottish positions. British government policy shifted to a Tory policy of expansion through plantation and colonies instead of shipping, trade, and indigenous manufacturing. Thus, exchange with colonies producing drugs, rum, slaves, and sugar were favored. The South Seas Company, the Royal African Company, and the East India Company pursued British global interests, ensuring conflict with native populations and with rival European empires. Scots, especially Highlanders, filled labor roles for these imperial undertakings, as establishing colonies were “ostensibly a means of decanting Jacobite clansmen to protect American frontiers.” The rebellious Scots were effectively tamed and the union, Macinnes concludes, “at least for elite Scots attracted by global adventuring, was now secured through Empire” (p. 139).
In “John Drummond of Quarrel: East India Patronage and Jacobite Assimilation, 1720-80,” George K. McGilvary focuses on cultural change and Scottish reconciliation. This chapter, the final one of this section, reveals many of the intersections of empire and Jacobitism. John Drummond (1675-1742), a liminal figure with distant ties to Jacobitism, had Dutch commercial training and became further involved with politics as his business career failed. Drummond switched from Tory to Whig with the Hanoverian succession. Through his influential connections he climbed professionally and was elected director of the East India Companyin 1722. Patronage, especially that of the EIC, enabled a Jacobite transition to empire and political success for elite Scots. They collaborated with leading English politicians to effectively counter the threats that Scottish separatism and Jacobitism posed to Britain’s union. As a member of Parliament, Drummond, McGilvary notes, “created and maintained the docile Scottish representation at Westminster that he and Walpole [the prime minster] desired, as well as a politically stable and quiet Scotland” (p. 147). Yet more could have been said on how the ’45 rebellion broke out despite such policies aimed at “pacifying” Jacobites or rendering Scotland docile. Nevertheless, McGilvary clearly demonstrates how the EIC patronage network utilized discrete management, avoiding offending Whig critics, to successfully “entice Jacobite sympathizers into acceptance of the Hanoverian state” (p. 150). This ultimately worked better than expected, stimulating employment and wealth for Scots, and endured well into the nineteenth century.
Jacobitism, Enlightenment and Empire is a useful collection for historians, especially graduate students and professors focused on Scottish, British, imperial, political, or religious history. The collection provides new research and particular insights into the long eighteenth-century British history as well as the cultural place of Jacobitism in Scotland and empire. Scholars seeking cultural and intellectual history, specific to the Enlightenment, will find original material in Dunyach’s chapter, which will be expanded in his forthcoming biography of Playfair.
Finally, there is a fascinating undercurrent, in the introduction and in several chapters, charting the evolution of Scottish independence. The editors explain that after 1707, Jacobitism took on imperial as well as domestic meaning. Scottish patriotism existed in forms beyond monarchy, drawing on great achievements “of scholars, soldiers, and adventurers” and historical figures personifying independence like William Wallace (p. 5). Indeed, Wallace’s ghost reappeared in the late twentieth century, in step with a return of Scotland’s independence movement, which emerged with vigor, as the British Empire declined and disappeared. In reference to the expansion of Robert Burns’s influence, along with that of British imperialism, the editors note: “Scottish patriotic sentiments were never entirely suppressed or their radicalism lost” (p. 11). This sentiment appears especially valid considering that this collection appeared in the same year as the most recent Scottish referendum for independence from the British union with England.
. James Watt senior (Birmingham) to Abraham Guyot, December 7, 1788, MS 3219/4/123, Birmingham Central Library, Birmingham, United Kingdom.
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Marc MacDonald. Review of Hamilton, Douglas; Macinnes, Allan I., eds., Jacobitism, Enlightenment and Empire, 1680-1820.
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