Historian queries Scots view of industrial success

August 18, 2000

Scotland benefited enormously from its union with England in 1707, according to a controversial history that challenges academic orthodoxy, writes Olga Wojtas.

Author Chris Whatley, head of Dundee University's history department, said the standard view was that Scotland's success in 18th-century industrialisation was a natural progression from its 17th-century foundations.

But in his book, Scottish Society 1707-1830: Beyond Jacobitism, Towards Industrialisation, published yesterday by Manchester University Press, Professor Whatley - a Scot - describes pre-union Scotland as a small, weak and vulnerable country.

The union was profoundly unpopular among ordinary people, sparking widespread rioting, Professor Whatley said. Alarmed by this, the Westminster Parliament began granting the Scots various tax concessions.

"Some of my counterparts would argue that success in, for example, the tobacco industry was because of the particular ability of Scottish merchants. I'm saying the authorities turned a blind eye to illicit dealings or customs evasions," he said. "Scottish modernisation depended enormously on the transfer of English technology and skill."

Professor Whatley based his book on a 20-year investigation.

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