Scotland: Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries

Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries

In the 18th cent. Scotsmen such as David Hume and Adam Smith stood in the forefront of the European Enlightenment. Educational standards, from elementary to university level, were high, and many English religious dissenters, barred from Oxford and Cambridge, received excellent educations in Scotland. From its intellectually vibrant atmosphere came many practical inventions to further the Industrial Revolution, including the work of James Watt. The economic results of the union eventually proved wholly favorable to Scotland, and the people gradually enjoyed a higher standard of living. Feudal land tenure slowly gave way to modern leases. Thriving commerce within the British Empire led to expansion of shipping and shipbuilding, and Glasgow achieved eminence as a commercial center.

The increasing market for meat and wool spurred new developments in agriculture and cattle breeding but unfortunately led also to the dispossession of a large part of the population in the Highland grazing lands during the inclosure actions of the later 18th and early 19th cent. The resultant emigration of Highlanders to Canada, the United States, and Australia nearly depopulated parts of Scotland. Early in the 18th cent. linen manufacture and, to a lesser extent, woolcloth manufacture, came to be of major importance in the Lowland towns. Toward the end of the 18th cent. cotton spinning and weaving on the new power machinery of the Industrial Revolution became Scotland's leading industries.

By the end of the 19th cent., metallurgical industry had come to dominate the economy; the exploitation of rich coal and iron fields resulted in a concentration of heavy industry in a central belt running from Ayrshire to Fife. The rise of a new middle class and an urban working class necessitated the same reform of corrupt and outmoded local institutions that occurred in England. Industrialization also produced severe social and economic distress, for which traditional private philanthropy proved inadequate, and led to outbreaks of unrest in city and countryside alike—such as the Crofters' War of hard-pressed tenant farmers in the 1880s. From Scotland emerged some of the first leaders of the British labor movement. Under Alexander MacDonald a powerful miners union developed in the 1860s. The first labor representatives in Parliament came from Scottish mining areas. James Keir Hardie, founder of the Independent Labour party, and James Ramsay MacDonald, first Labour prime minister, were Scotsmen.

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