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Preface

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Summary

This book is designed to help readers better understand Scottish politics in the 1790s, and hopefully to stimulate its fuller integration into eighteenth-century British history. Even where general texts include some consideration of Scottish developments, which is all too rarely, they are frequently inaccurate and ill informed. Anyone who reads about the history of the British Isles in this period cannot but be struck by the relative wealth of scholarship on England and Ireland, and the paucity of material on Scotland. There is a gap to be filled, therefore, and this book is a contribution towards this.

To some the subject and the approach which I have adopted may seem a bit old fashioned. For reasons that are all too obvious, the 1790s has not in recent years attracted the sort of attention from British historians it did several decades ago, although this is beginning to change. Ireland is in this, as in so many things, very different. More could be said about ideology and rhetoric, and hopefully this book may stimulate others to do this, if perhaps only out of irritation at my relative neglect of these things. However, it seemed to me that we needed to establish a fuller picture of what happened, of some of the basic structures of politics and contours of political debate in this period, as an essential preliminary to more narrowly focused investigations. The threads that are pursued are, in any case, ones explicitly designed to aid thinking about British experience in this decade, both in terms of interaction and connection between Scottish and predominantly English politics and in a comparative sense. For an English- born and educated individual writing on Scotland, this is a natural perspective to adopt; but it is also one which helps to illuminate central features of the politics of the 1790s in Scotland.

This book has taken considerably longer to write than was originally envisaged, although there is probably very little that is unusual in this.

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Publisher: Pickering & Chatto
First published in: 2014

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