A comprehensive, lucidly written history of Scotland, a nation that despite its small size has had a disproportionate impact on the world's intellectual and industrial development. Scotsman Devine, Professor at the University of Aberdeen, has taken on the ambitious task of chronicling the last three centuries of Scottish history. He skillfully explains the origins of the 1707 Act of Union, which transferred Scottish legislative authority from Edinburgh to Westminster. Devine details the "national security" context behind England's decision to incorporate Scotland into the UK. England was embroiled in her own constitutional crisis, having just banished the Catholic Stuarts and welcomed the Protestant William of Orange as her new king. Right on England's doorstep, Scotland was considered a dangerous "launching area" for pro-Stuart, pro-Catholic rebellion. In order to persuade Scotland to agree to the Act of Union, Westminster made two important concessions: "noninterference" in the Scottish religious establishment and free trade for Scottish merchants in all of England's territories. It proved to be a beneficial arrangement. By the mid-18th century, Scottish trade was booming, as she shipped linen and tobacco throughout the British Empire. In addition, Scotland became a center of the European Enlightenment. Scotsmen like Adam Smith, David Hume, and James Watt helped make Edinburgh a global center of learning. Blessed with natural resources, Scotland became the "little giant" of the industrial revolution. By the mid-19th century, Glasgow was an industrial boomtown, though one with immense overcrowding problems. Scottish heavy industry, especially shipbuilding and steel, was the engine that helped fuel British expansionism. But WWI and the ensuing postwar Depression devastated Scottish industry, and with the coming of WWII, Scotland moved towards a Welfare State model of governmental intervention. When Margaret Thatcher reversed this postwar trend, the Scots balked. In 1997, Scotland approved a devolution referendum, effectively returning legislative authority to a new Scottish Parliament. A must read for anyone interested in Scotland's history.
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