The double-life of the Scottish past: discourses of commemoration in nineteenth-century Scotland

Coleman, James Joseph (2005) The double-life of the Scottish past: discourses of commemoration in nineteenth-century Scotland. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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This thesis proposes that the Scottish past lived a double-life, both as history and as memory. This is archived through an analysis of the discourse of commemoration in Scotland, focusing on the commemorative representation of William Wallace, Robert the Bruce, John Knox and the Scottish Reformation, as well as the seventeenth-century Covenanters. In common with other nations in Europe and further afield, Scottish civil society was adept at commemorating its past as a means of proving its national legitimacy in the present. Analysis of these practices shows that, far from the Scottish past being elided from discourses of Scottish national identity in the nineteenth century, collective memories of Wallace, Bruce, Knox and the Covenanters were invoked and deployed in order to assert Scotland’s historic independence and ‘nationality.’ Furthermore, whereas until recently, the tension between Scottishness and Britishness was seen as having undermined attempts to express a coherent and viable Scottish nationality at this time, collective memories of the legacies of Scotland’s national heroes were used to assert Scotland’s role as an equal, partner nation in the enterprise of Great Britain and the British Empire.

At the core of this national memory was the concept of ‘civil and religious liberty,’ whereby the Scottish past was defined by the struggle for and achievement of civil and religious deliverance from the hands of tyranny. As each period had its own set of heroes whose efforts had returned Scotland to its true path of civil and religious liberty, so each hero had faced his or her own despot intent on undermining Scottish nationality: for Wallace and Bruce it had been the Plantagenet monarchy, for Knox and his fellow Reformers it was the Roman Catholic Church, and for the Covenanters it was the later Stuart kings. These victories were woven, implicitly and explicitly, into an unbroken narrative of civil and religious liberty, sustaining Scotland’s historic nationality.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts & Humanities > School of Humanities > History
Supervisor's Name: Kidd, Prof. Colin
Date of Award: 2005
Depositing User: Elaine Ballantyne
Unique ID: glathesis:2005-2030
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 05 Aug 2010
Last Modified: 10 Dec 2012 13:50

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