This book is a fascinating case study of the political machinations around the Act of Union between England and Scotland that took place in 1707. It is mostly told from the Scottish point of view and it presents an in-depth analysis of individual members of Parliament, religious ramifications, and European relations at the time. England and Scotland are still united today and this book describes how the Union and the United Kingdom came to be.
Here are some of the key things I learned:
- The Union of Crowns happened in 1603, meaning one King or Queen ruled both England and Scotland from London. Issues of succession lines played a prominent role in union negotiations.
- Scotland at the beginning of the 18th century was a very poor country. That limited their bargaining power in many respects.
- Religion was a key focus of the union. How do you combine the Church of England (Anglican) with the Church of Scotland (Presbyterian)? How do Parliamentary decisions get made in conjunction with the different churches? Very interesting discussion along these lines throughout the book.
- The Jacobites wanted James (a Stewart) to rule Scotland. Jacobite is the Latin form of James. The Jacobites considered the Stewarts to have ruled Scotland for nearly 2,000 years and wanted to keep that going. We see after union that the Jacobites fought violently for this cause in 1715 and again in 1745. (I’ll learn more about this in the next book).
- The author concludes that Scottish union with England or another country would likely have happened in another way had it not been for the relatively cordial 1707 treaty. European politics at the time had large countries attempting to gather smaller countries for more power. Scotland would have likely been forcibly connected to another major power with worse results than the negotiated union with England.
- Daniel Defoe, author of Robinson Crusoe, played a prominent role in this book as a spy! He was an English spy operating in Edinburgh to gauge Scottish mood about union.
The author concludes the book with an interesting thought:
Now we are traveling back from the destination reached at the Union, if along a less bumpy route. But the question poses itself whether we should not make greater haste to the place where we started, as an independent nation.
Great book for those wanting to know how the 1707 Union and subsequent United Kingdom came about. Also, a helpful book for those looking to go into politics as this described the ins and outs of a major negotiation.