Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Union: England, Scotland and the Treaty of 1707 by Michael Fry

The Union: England, Scotland and the Treaty of 1707 by Michael Fry. This is a history of the negotiation and passage of the agreement that unified England and Scotland in the early 18th century. Fry has written several books on Scottish history. They appear judging by their titles to be popular history.

the traditional historical analysis was that the act of Union was solely an economic bargain between the two countries. Fry acknowledges that the free trade clause was important to the Scots but it was not decisive. Rather the pressure brought to bear by the English was key in forcing the Scottish hand. They were however able to use the English ignorance of Scottish affairs to their advantage in areas such as religion.

The argument is well made however not enough time is taken up with describing the cast of characters. Many pages are spent on the debates in the Scottish Parliament. Lists of names of members of Parliament for different factions are listed off as if we are supposed to know who these people are. There are also long extracts from speeches and papers. I would have preferred a little more editing.

The most surprising thing I learned was that the author of Robinson Crusoe, Daniel Defoe was a British agent who infiltrated Scotland to determine the perspective of the people for the agreement. His reports were a surprise to the English. He said the level of animosity was high.

Recommended rather difficult to follow in places but still enjoyable.

Is available through Abebooks.

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