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British Imperialism, National Identity, and Scotland’s Built Environment

Kirsten Carter McKee

Abstracts

Over the last decade, analyses of Scotland’s historic global diasporas have incorporated more pronounced conversations on how Scotland’s current political, social, and economic contexts are rooted in the legacies of the British Empire. While this has produced narratives highlighting Scotland’s key role in imperial expansion, the resonance of this in establishing and perpetuating systems of white oppression are less widely addressed in Scotland’s consciousness of its own identity. Through consideration of how architecture’s cultural analogies reflect and represent Imperial ideologies, this paper will explore the resonance of architectural urban discourse funded by the outputs of the British Empire. It will discuss how an architecturally focused reading of our built environment can clearly recognise the systemic legacies of colonialism and imperialism within our urban realm, and further enhance inclusive narratives of Scotland’s heritage. This will highlight how a more nuanced approach to reading the historic built environment is necessary to challenge established current authorised heritage discourse of white male histories. It will demonstrate the function of the built environment in telling stories of Scotland’s prominent role in Empire and how this supports a human-rights based approach to heritage analysis.

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1During Eid al-Fitr at the end of Ramadan in early May 2021, UK Immigration Enforcement descended on Kenmure Street in Pollockshields, Glasgow at dawn, with the intention of detaining and deporting Lakvir Singh and Sumit Sehdev – two Indian men who had resided in Glasgow for more than ten years. As the men were placed in the van, local residents, in solidarity with Singh and Sahdev began to crowd the vehicle to stop its departure, chanting “these are our neighbours, let them go” and “refugees are welcome here.” – One man even climbed under the van and lay there for several hours to hinder the Immigration van’s departure (Brooks 2021). What unfolded was an incredible display of local community solidarity which saw the crowds swell to block the whole street, and culminated in the men’s release from Immigration Enforcement around 5pm that evening. After Singh and Sadev were released, the former First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon put out a statement on Twitter saying “Lastly, I am proud to […] lead a country that welcomes and shows support to asylum seekers and refugees” (2021).

Scotland’s Consciousness of Institutional Racism and Its Origins

  • 1 Scotland currently does not control its own immigration laws - this is a reserved matter for the We (...)
  • 2 Scots phrase meaning that we are all the same and should help each other. Scots translated as: “We (...)

2The support for migrant communities in Scotland impacted by the UK government’s hostile immigration policies1 aligns with the narrative that Scotland sets itself as a civic nationalist country where all are welcome. This is often considered to have derived from discourses of egalitarian consciousness, developed during the Scottish Enlightenment (Arshad 2016: 5) with the saying “We’re a’ Jock Tamson’s Bairns”2, often cited to express proof of this. However, in spite of – and perhaps because of – this welcoming narrative, Scotland’s acknowledgement of long-standing structural and institutional racism towards Black and Minority Ethnic communities within the country has had limited interrogation through wider political infrastructures in Scotland. This has fallen behind other countries who have more prominent links to their imperial pasts, where the legacies of imperialism have become a recognised part of a national conversation around identity and belonging (Meer et al. 2020: 20)

  • 3 For clarity in the context of terminology, I am using Edward Said’s definition of imperialism and c (...)

3The link between Scotland’s current national identity and its imperial past is highlighted in the 2016 and 2021 Runnymeade Trust documents (Meer 2016; Meer et al 2020) and explored in further detail in the publication, No Problem Here: Understanding Racism in Scotland (Davidson et al. 2018). These resources set out to better understand how Scotland needs to address the legacies of the British Empire in historic and contemporary terms, Neil Davidson and others in particular explore how Scotland’s substantive involvement in the development and expansion of British Imperialism has maintained and upheld dominant white western ideologies that contribute to the realities of racism in present-day Scotland. Minna Linpää, for instance, notes that “[h]istory plays a key part in nationalist narratives and processes of nation-building” (2018: 20) as a phenomenon which is commonly found throughout the course of nationalist rhetoric all over the globe. Yet, Linpää argues that the way this is recognised in Scotland’s national identity has, until recently, failed to address Scotland’s substantive role as a colonial power from the eighteenth century onwards (2018: 26). Furthermore, where focus on influential individuals and nationally managed properties have taken the lead in current discourses on Scotland’s imperial legacies,3 this has disengaged the wider community from recognising the extent that Scotland’s role within the British Empire has shaped Scottish society in the present day, and how it has defined its urban form and wider national built landscape.

4Attempts to distance Scotland’s role in the atrocities of Empire can be found in print less than two generations after the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade (TST) in Thomas Annan’s 1870 publication The Old Country Houses of the Old Glasgow Gentry – a collection of over 100 photographed houses from the greater Glasgow area, ranging from modest Georgian country villas to Castles. In this, Annan deliberately disassociates Glasgow’s Country House connections from the transatlantic slave economy (TSE) by noting in the preface: “Whatever the faults our West Indians had (and they had their share), it must always be remembered to their credit that they kept aloof from the slave trade. Glasgow, alone of the four great sugar ports – London, Bristol, Liverpool and Glasgow – was clean handed in this matter” (1870: Preface).

  • 4 “And be it further enacted, That, from and after the first Day of August next after the passing of (...)
  • 5 Some scholars are unsure of the growth of the rest of the country’s banking industry in the same ma (...)

5An assertion that the largest seaport in Scotland had no role in the Transatlantic Slave Trade is likely an allusion to the consequences of the 1799 Act for Better Regulating the Manner of Carrying Slaves, in British Vessels, from the Coast of Africa. This restricted the shipping and trading of enslaved African people to British vessels from the three English ports of London, Liverpool, and Bristol,4 removing a visually direct link to the human atrocities of the TST from Glasgow’s port. This has been redressed by twenty-first-century archival analysis on Glasgow’s tobacco barons and their investments, which clearly demonstrates the city’s role in the economic and operative processes that perpetuated and prolonged the Transatlantic Slave Economy (TSE, Graham 2014; Newman and Mullen 2018; Mullen 2022a; Mullen 2022b). Now recognised as a key part of imperial expansion, Eric Graham and Stephen Mullen’s research on Glasgow and neighbouring Ayrshire has been significant in demonstrating the role that Scots played in supporting the TSE, and the consequences of this at a wider national level. Financing commerce through Scottish banks led to the growth in the Scottish banking industry through Scottish economic investment in mercantile industries closely linked to the import and export products of sugar, coffee, and linen between the Americas, the West Indies, and Great Britain (Devine 2015: 230).5 The Scots’ role in the transportation of enslaved Africans to and cargo of goods from the West Indies and other colonies during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries can also be identified in the medical industries associated with the triangular slave trade (Schwartz 2015: 147).

  • 6 For more on Scotland’s involvement in the British Empire, see: Breitenbach (2009), Carruthers et al (...)

6This twenty-first century re-examination of the range and nature of Scots’ involvement in the TSE clearly suggests that Annan’s statement proclaiming Glasgow’s interests as ‘clean-handed’ prevaricates the reality. Many of the structures recorded in his 1870s publication were built and resided in by the very merchants who made their fortunes from industries linked to the enslavement of Black Africans and the global exploitation of cultures under colonial rule. However, even while recognition of Glasgow’s role as part of the backbone of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century imperial expansion is now more commonly discussed (Mullen 2022b), the ‘whitewashing’ of the whole of Scotland’s prominent – if not dominant – involvement in slavery and colonialism within the Scottish historic lexicon (Walsh 2020) still continues in the present day. This disassociation with how Scotland’s global links have shaped its wider society and landscape therefore continue the othering of people of colour leaving many feeling disassociated from both heritage studies and analysis (Francis 2021), as well as feeling disconnected to Scotland’s heritage due to its current white, male mainstream narrative (Mainstreaming 2021).6

Individual and Site-Specific Narratives of Empire

  • 7 A Scottish missionary explorer who was, until recently, the most commonly frequently used to discus (...)

7Some of this can be attributed to the ‘white saviour’ and emancipatory narratives that were the more common focus of imperial histories in Britain during the late nineteenth and into the twenty-first centuries. Two particularly prominent examples of this can be found at the heart of the civic realms of both Glasgow and Edinburgh: At the base of a statue of nineteenth-century Scottish explorer David Livingstone (Figure 1),7 now located in front of Glasgow Cathedral, depicts three tableaux of Livingstone as a fully clothed figure in the roles of educator, civiliser, and defender of unnamed, partially-clothed black Africans. In a burial ground at the heart of the Edinburgh World Heritage site, a nineteenth-century monument to commemorate the Scottish-American Soldiers of the American Civil War (Figure 2) includes the sculpture of a recently emancipated unnamed black man, dressed in rags and reaching up to a smartly attired Abraham Lincoln (Wallace 1893).

Figure 1. Statue of Scottish Explorer David Livingstone (1877), Glasgow

Figure 1. Statue of Scottish Explorer David Livingstone (1877), Glasgow

Mossman, John (1817-1890), artist. 1877. Relief decorating the base of a monument to David Livingstone (1813-73). Monumental Relief / Bronze.

Brian Suda. Dr Livingstone I Presume. 21 May 2009, https://www.flickr.com/​photos/​78506020@N00/​3550607117

Figure 2: Lincoln Memorial/Emancipation Monument (1893), Edinburgh

Figure 2: Lincoln Memorial/Emancipation Monument (1893), Edinburgh

Bissell, George E. (1839-1920) artist. 1893. Lincoln Memorial/Emancipation Monument, Edinburgh. Monumental Relief/Bronze. George E. Bissell, 1893.

Rae, Kevin. The Emancipation Monument, Edinburgh. 19 March 2006, geograph, https://www.geograph.org.uk/​photo/​138919. CC BY-SA 2.0.

  • 8 As of 2021, racially motivated hate crime is still the most reported hate crime in Scotland, with o (...)

8These examples emphasise how the perpetuation of Enlightenment ideologies around Empire and colonial concepts, based in white supremacist attitudes over people of colour, were upheld through this emancipatory discourse, as both centre on the role of white men as the necessary agents of Black Emancipation. Challenging these emancipatory narratives in recent years has resulted in wider conversations on the nature, role, and impact of the British Empire in present day society, yet, there is still a chasm between the national consciousness of ‘history,’ and the relevance of British Imperialism to Scotland’s perceived heritage and national identity. This can be recognised in both discourses of Scotland as a sovereign nation, and as part of the United Kingdom, the latter playing a strong part in the perpetuation of the racialized notion of ‘White Britishness’. While in the former, Scotland proclaims to reject ethnic and racialized notions of who belongs to a nation (Armstrong 2018), but in reality the experience of many Black and Minority Ethnic Scots is very different (Meer et al. 2020: 5).8

  • 9 It should be noted that campaigners in Bristol had requested for the statue to be removed well befo (...)
  • 10 This was rewritten as a result of the council’s response to the global BLM protests. However, activ (...)
  • 11 This would include further analysis similar to the architectural reading of the urban realm found i (...)

9To date, the understanding of the role of the urban realm in the continuance of societal dogmas around race, white supremacy and imperial constructs has mainly focused on conversations around specific individuals with direct connections to the British Empire. This was most recently brought to prominence following the murder of George Floyd in Minnesota, USA in June 2020, highlighting protest and conversation around racial inequities to many cities around the world, including in the UK. As part of this, protests on monuments to historic individuals linked with the TST and Empire were enacted, as these were believed to represent and perpetuate the racial inequities being challenged. The toppling of the Edward Colston statue in Bristol during the Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests in the city was a result of Colston’s well documented involvement with the TSE.9 In Scotland, just four days after the spraying of graffiti on the monument to Lord Melville, Henry Dundas, in Edinburgh’s New Town during the BLM protests in the city, the monument’s memorial plaque was rewritten to highlight Melville’s efforts to delay the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade (Mackie 2020).10 The 2020 BLM movement was also the catalyst that pressured many national institutions and local authorities to conduct reviews on the identification of slavery and the wider British Empire within their sites and collections. Studies in Glasgow and Edinburgh – the two largest cities in Scotland – have begun to address urban narratives of the TSE and Imperialism, with differing methodologies, approaches, and reception (Mullen 2022a; Residents Help 2021). Glasgow’s audit applied a robust methodology that traces individuals and architecture directly linked to the city with the TSE, creating a framework for both discourse around Glasgow’s historic connections and how it might address the legacies of these. However, further work is still needed to consider the resonance of architectural dialogues within Glasgow’s Imperial landscape, to fully engage with the impact and management of these within the urban realm.11 Edinburgh’s methodological approach, which focuses on particular sites, has previously come under scrutiny for its lack of clarity and critical structure (Hearn 2022). Its analysis also needs further samples to fully realise the extent and impact of Empire and the TSE in developing Scotland’s capital city (Carter McKee 2023b).

10More rural examples of the designed landscapes and country seats that have been considered the cultural touchstone of heritage have also been highlighted for study, in order to explore their connections to the transatlantic slave economy (Facing Past 2022; Properties 2023, forthcoming) and have been carried out alongside analysis of how as a nation we must deal with collections of material culture linked with imperial exploitation (Empire Slavery 2022). While it is clear that these reviews are bringing wider consciousness of the importance of inclusion of imperialist narratives within Scottish history, questions as to “how we should make sense of the historical legacy around us, or what the moral implications of such a legacy are” (Hearn 2022) still need to be further considered within this context. Recognising the evidence of Scotland’s direct involvement in the TST, TSE, and British Empire through individuals, country estates, families, and mercantile connections is only the first part of this process. What this means in terms of how we read Scotland’s role in this period of global expansion and control through heritage is therefore key to linking the legacies of Scotland’s imperial past to present-day social discourses around inclusivity and identity.

11In particular, still to be properly acknowledged within Scotland’s built environment through further examination and discussion are the resonance and purpose of three areas: First, the purpose and design of the wider urban realm expansion; second, the challenge to traditional perspectives of authorised heritage discourse; and third, the operative processes of the Scottish economy during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, which drove significant changes in the Scottish economic, social, and physical landscape during this period.

The Design and Purpose of the Urban Realm

  • 12 This can be most notably identified through Rhode’s posthumous memorial, which is visible to and fr (...)

12Discussion around the memorialisation of problematic historic individuals within the urban realm, and how this needs to be considered in terms of wider white supremacist legacies has previously been addressed in conversation on student activism at the University of Cape Town (UCT), South Africa as part of the #Rhodesmustfall movement (Shepherd 2020). This discusses the removal of the Cecil Rhodes Statue in front of the university campus by UCT’s student body as an impactful act of protest that has highlighted ongoing colonial and imperial constructs. Yet, while the Rhodes statue at UCT was dismantled as a centrepiece of the material representation of Britain’s colonial regime in Africa, Nick Shepherd also argues that the urban relationship between the university and other sites within Cape Town were also part of the Neoclassical architectural and urban plan,12 set out to facilitate this same dialogue of overarching imperial power.

  • 13 For further discussion on Imperial geographies and the how the design of the urban realm in associa (...)

13The pattern of defining architectural rhetoric and urban landscape design as a form of power and control is also highlighted within Mabel Wilson’s work on the Neoclassical buildings and streetscapes of Virginia and Washington (2021). According to Wilson they can be read as landscapes of white supremacy, through the ideals in which they were created to support a narrative of white superiority over black enslaved people. While Wilson also highlights segregated and racialised America within her reading of the city around the early years of the Republic, she also argues that the broader concepts of the urban and architectural form can be traced to Enlightenment theories around the relationship of Neoclassicism with landscapes, memorials, and the urban realm. This provides a dialogue of resonance that uses cultural outputs of architecture and urban design to reflect national and political ideologies (Carter McKee 2015; Carter McKee 2023a). To date, Enlightenment discourse around architectural form, philosophical thought, and scientific discovery and its physical outputs within Scotland’s built environment have been framed as separate from the drivers of global colonial commerce that influenced and shaped them. By acknowledging that the layout of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century built environments have resonance within theories which tie it to wider Enlightenment conversations of land, ownership, and power – ideologies used to justify the atrocities of the transatlantic slave trade and imperial exploitation – it is clear that the urban landscapes of Scotland can be associated with the same political structures and aesthetic narratives found throughout imperial geographies.13 As argued by Shepherd in Cape Town and Wilson in Washington, we cannot therefore solely consider memorials to influential individuals or buildings linked to imperial constructs as the representations of white supremacy within urban space, but must also discuss what whole urban landscapes represent as symbols of imperial power and identity when addressing the legacies of Empire and the transatlantic slave trade. It is possible to argue, then, that highlighting these Enlightenment ideologies and their relationship with white supremacy, entitlement, and power in historic terms, would further amplify conversations on how this links with ongoing social inequities through both direct and structural racism in the present day.

  • 14 Also highlighted by Linpää (2018) above.

14This link between the visual literacy of the neoclassical urban form and constructs of power can also be identified in conversations around the current day management of our built environment. In recognising that many western countries who have established their fortunes and societies on the enslavement of African people, the exploitation of indigenous communities, and the outputs of colonial land grabbing over the last 300 years, we can address the role that the built environment plays in sustaining societal structures of white supremacy through architectural rhetoric and the urban form. That neoclassical ideals on public building and memorialisation have been used as a nationalist tool to sustain and perpetuating imperial rhetoric, as an identified part of imperial representation of state and power within the colonies (Chopra 2016) is only half the conversation.14 In modern times, the use of Neoclassicism as a trope to support extreme right wing ideologies within political discourse through the veil of heritage shows that upholding linear histories of white heteronormative male consciousness within our interpretations of the historic landscape is still a huge part of nationalist dialogues. Examples of this can be identified in the protection of the neoclassical urban form, adopted in executive orders by the former US presidency to “Make Federal Buildings beautiful again” (Henni 2020) and UK government directives to “retain and explain” England’s statues (New Legal Protection 2021), as well as the political intervention around the ‘Colston 4’ verdict (Allegretti 2022; Gayle 2022).

Authorised Heritage Discourse

15The significance of a more comprehensive reading and acknowledgement of Scotland’s colonial and imperial past in addressing conversations around the links between heritage, national identity, and racism in Scotland can be further explored when we turn to the academic theoretical approaches around authorised heritage discourse (AHD). Laurajane Smith discusses the premise of AHD through arguing that “[heritage] is itself a constitutive cultural process that identifies those things and places that can be given meaning and value as ‘heritage’, reflecting contemporary cultural and social values, debates and aspirations” (2006: 3), and points out that in “providing a sense of national community, [established AHD] must by definition, ignore a diversity of sub-national and cultural experiences” (2006: 30). In general, AHD as a phenomenon has prioritised the experiences and values of the elite, white, male social classes. Through focusing discussions on the resonance and management of existing elite properties memorials to elite individuals within heritage conversations, this is exactly what is being perpetuated in our current reading of Empire and the TSE in Scotland.

  • 15 An example of this can be found in the recent discussions surrounding Henry Dundas’ legacies and hi (...)

16This siphoning of societal discourses around racism and other inequities in heritage seems even more incongruous when we consider that the majority of the public’s interaction with history comes through its built environment. It is our own surroundings that shape our sense of ownership and belonging – that we travel through every day and live out our lives – and it is in these as cultural outputs, and their historic values that present-day society reacts with a national consciousness. Be it stopping the consequences of hostile immigration policies through the gathering at Kenmure Street to impede the attempted deportation of settled migrants, or the removal or defacing of public statues, it is within our own public realm that we have chosen to demonstrate our protestations against current societal inequities. Our relationship with our built environment is therefore inextricably linked to, and intertwined with, our own sense of identity – but when it comes to Scotland’s imperial histories, and the legacies of Empire, only an elite few have so far been discussed in historic terms when it comes to our built environment.15 More detailed focus around the architectural form as a symbol of state and imperial power, alongside how the organization of space informs our consciousness of our own identity and our societal values is clearly sorely needed with this in mind, in terms of how we address and engage with our historic environment within heritage discourse.

  • 16 See quote from Hearn (2022) above.

17It is in further exploration of this that we might begin to ‘make sense’ of the ‘moral implications’ of discussing Scotland’s history and heritage in terms of Empire and its legacies in the present day16 and move away from the constructs of AHD to truly engage with anti-racist practice by reading our built environment, and the society within which we operate as a product of Imperialism or, as Smith argues “[recognising] the ideological and political underpinnings of the discourse [in order to achieve] real systemic challenge.” (2006: 299)

The Operative Processes of the Scottish Economy in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries

  • 17 This indeed is not a new phenomenon, being highlighted in Eric William’s seminal text Capitalism an (...)

18If we consider the whole of Scotland’s landscape with ideological and political parameters of nineteenth-century Scotland in mind, our consciousness of how we can read Scotland’s links with the transatlantic slave trade and Empire through our built environment becomes much wider than just specific individuals, buildings, or mercantile connections with identified historic links to economic operations of the TSE and imperial economy – instead it brings us to engage with all of the processes that operated within the capitalist values of these. This touches everything about our society and brings the legacies of white supremacy to everyone’s doorstep – not just the named few.17

  • 18 See also connections between the city and the mercantile class and their power: Dresser (2016), Mul (...)

19Taking this into account it is clear that much of Scotland’s environment as a whole can be linked to the imperial networks and the industrial processes of Empire. Studies on the fortunes amassed by prominent Ayrshire families (Graham 2014) and historic links between highland estates, their landscapes, and the Caribbean (Kehoe and Dalgleish 2018; Mackinnon and Mackillop 2020; Alston 2021; Renton 2021), have brought to light the intertwined nature of social, economic, and political constructs of imperial expansion with familial connections in Scotland. These have also recognised that was a period of radical transformation within Scotland’s urban and rural landscapes, with Scottish exports to “the Caribbean […] being calculated at least 50% greater than that to the European continent combined” by the beginning of the nineteenth century (Devine 2011: 48-9), and “many industries dependent on the trade in enslaved people and slavery-run plantations accounted for 12 per cent of British GDP at the start of the nineteenth century.” (Renton 2021: 3). It is clear, therefore, that investment in Scotland’s urban realm and wider built environment during this period derive from economic capital coming into Scotland from Empire. Tangible links with the transatlantic slave trade and wider imperial economy can therefore be made with the buildings and landscapes which supported, upheld, and represented the operative, cultural, and industrial processes of eighteenth-century Scottish society, as well as the monuments and buildings linked to specific individuals and colonial processes.18

  • 19 A two-year network between the University of Edinburgh Historic Environment Scotland, and the Coali (...)

20Further analysis of both the architectural resonance of urban landscapes and through ‘following the money’ of imperial exploitation is sorely needed within the analysis of Scotland’s built environment. While much work is still to be done, efforts through the Managing Imperial Legacies research network has aimed to bring more localised studies together to develop national conversations on both the legacies of Empire and the management of Scotland’s imperial heritage.19 As a result of this, geographical and chronological systems of connections can be further realised. For instance, the 1833 Emancipation Act demonstrates that by the nineteenth century the majority of Glaswegian benefactors of compensation monies after the 1833 Emancipation Act no longer solely resided in the city’s old town, where West India merchant’s houses have been identified (Mullen 2013), but rather the largest number of benefactors resided in the newly developed areas of the city at Blythswood Hill and Garnethill (Centre Study 2023) – suggesting that investment into this area of city expansion most likely came through money linked with the transatlantic slave economy. Other cities, such as Aberdeen and Inverness have also started to explore and recognise their urban links within the TSE and have placed plaques on public buildings and produced public exhibitions to create further discussion within public consciousness. Other beneficiaries of the 1833 Act have been linked to the funding of infrastructure development in nineteenth century Scotland through investment into the railway network (Rodger 2015). In addition, mercantile industries and its outputs from sugar to linen, flax, and cotton – known to have been the stalwart of the Scottish economy during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries (Durie 1973) can be read not only for the direct links found to import and exports, but also how the profits of these industries shaped our built environment. Linen, in particular, can be identified the length and breadth of Scotland – from local hamlets to world heritage sites, spinning schools, and even the establishment of whole villages and bleaching greens to tap into a predominantly at-home industry of flax spinning and weaving, and to encourage improvements in bleaching methods. There is also wider evidence of communities being educated, financed, and built through other links to Empire and its economy – the parish school of Birse in Aberdeenshire and Marischal College, Aberdeen (Aye It Was A’Abody 2019), and settlements throughout the Western Isles, whose economies were based around white herring fishing and curing, goods which were then shipped to feed enslaved people in the Caribbean (Dagg 2021).

21As Smith states: “claims to cultural identity often framed the political legitimacy with which policy makers viewed wider claims to sovereignty and economic and social justice” (2006: 50). The Scotland of today is therefore not only linked to the global economy of the British Empire and the transatlantic slave trade but was created by it – both geographically throughout the length and breadth of the county, and chronologically in the buildings linked to and supporting estates, systems, and economies in Scotland up to the present day. That the outputs of Empire can be found in cultural, political, and societal discourses articulated through a variety of architectural manifestations, urban landscapes, and its built heritage as a whole, shows us that the evidence of empire is right in front of us, if we choose to look for it. If Scotland truly wants to address anti-racist practice as a civic nation, it needs to engage with what it denotes as its national identity through the wider understanding and articulation of imperial networks, and how they have shaped and defined both the society we live in, and our historic built environment. Only then can it articulate the true impact of Empire through heritage discourse and address racist legacies in both its structural and direct form.

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Notes

1 Scotland currently does not control its own immigration laws - this is a reserved matter for the Westminster-based UK Government.

2 Scots phrase meaning that we are all the same and should help each other. Scots translated as: “We are all the children of John Thomson” – John Thomson being a phase used for a hypothetical person, similar to Joe Bloggs. It may have its origins through the Rev. John Thomson a nineteenth-century Minister of the Church of Scotland, and who was a close friend of the writer Sir Walter Scott, but this has not been substantiated by the author.

3 For clarity in the context of terminology, I am using Edward Said’s definition of imperialism and colonialism: “‘Imperialism’ is the imposition of power of one state over the people and territories of another, frequently by military force. Whilst imperialism originates in the metropole, what happens in the colonies resulting from economic, political, and cultural control and domination is deemed ‘colonialism’” (1993: 8). As we are addressing interchanging networks and cultural synthesis within a global context, both have been used in this discussion.

4 “And be it further enacted, That, from and after the first Day of August next after the passing of this Act, no Ship or Vessel shall be permitted to be entered or cleared Outwards, for the Purpose of shipping and carrying Slaves from the Coast of Africa, from any Part of his Majesty's Dominions, except the Ports of London, Liverpool, and Bristol.” (Anno Tricesimo 1799: XXXIX)

5 Some scholars are unsure of the growth of the rest of the country’s banking industry in the same manner as Glasgow in the eighteenth century (Draper 2015: 180), however this author believes that given the number of banks established at least within Edinburgh’s Old Town during this period, that further economic analysis in terms of plantation owners, and their links to investment banks throughout Scotland is needed to fully understand the nature and scale of investment into the banking industry in Scotland. Further resources on this in an English economic context for comparison include Morgan (2000), Richardson (1988), and Zahedieh (2010). Information on Edinburgh’s financial standing at the beginning of the eighteenth century can be found in Pittock (2019).

6 For more on Scotland’s involvement in the British Empire, see: Breitenbach (2009), Carruthers et al. (2012), Devine (2012), MacKenzie et al. (2011), McLaren (2001).

7 A Scottish missionary explorer who was, until recently, the most commonly frequently used to discuss Empire is also a common subject in the Scottish school curriculum. I am indebted to the Coalition of Racial Equality and Rights (CRER) and Zandra Yeaman, Curator of Discomfort, Hunterian Museum, for highlighting this monument and its resonance to me.

8 As of 2021, racially motivated hate crime is still the most reported hate crime in Scotland, with over a third of Black and Minority Ethnic people considering racial discrimination to be a widespread issue (Meer 2021: 5).

9 It should be noted that campaigners in Bristol had requested for the statue to be removed well before the 2020 BLM protests (Cork 2022).

10 This was rewritten as a result of the council’s response to the global BLM protests. However, activists such as Geoff Palmer had campaigned for this to be addressed for a number of years before this point (2017).

11 This would include further analysis similar to the architectural reading of the urban realm found in Shepherd (2020) and Wilson (2021) – as argued in this paper.

12 This can be most notably identified through Rhode’s posthumous memorial, which is visible to and from the UCT campus in Cape Town, South Africa.

13 For further discussion on Imperial geographies and the how the design of the urban realm in association with this, please see Arnold (2005, 2017), Bremner (2016), Gilbert (2000), Hunt (2015), Jackson (2013), King (2006).

14 Also highlighted by Linpää (2018) above.

15 An example of this can be found in the recent discussions surrounding Henry Dundas’ legacies and his role in delaying the abolition of slavery. Rather than further highlighting the systemic impacts and legacies of the TST and challenging the racial inequities that this has perpetuated in the present day, this has now diverted attention onto Dundas himself and put academics, scholars, and activists at loggerheads. See Lloyd (2022) who summarises a recent discussion of this.

16 See quote from Hearn (2022) above.

17 This indeed is not a new phenomenon, being highlighted in Eric William’s seminal text Capitalism and Slavery (1944).

18 See also connections between the city and the mercantile class and their power: Dresser (2016), Mullen (2009, 2022b).

19 A two-year network between the University of Edinburgh Historic Environment Scotland, and the Coalition for Racial Equality and Rights, titled Managing Imperial Legacies (https://blogs.ed.ac.uk/managingimperiallegacies/).

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List of illustrations

Title Figure 1. Statue of Scottish Explorer David Livingstone (1877), Glasgow
Caption Mossman, John (1817-1890), artist. 1877. Relief decorating the base of a monument to David Livingstone (1813-73). Monumental Relief / Bronze.
Credits Brian Suda. Dr Livingstone I Presume. 21 May 2009, https://www.flickr.com/​photos/​78506020@N00/​3550607117
URL http://0-journals-openedition-org.catalogue.libraries.london.ac.uk/angles/docannexe/image/7109/img-1.jpg
File image/jpeg, 148k
Title Figure 2: Lincoln Memorial/Emancipation Monument (1893), Edinburgh
Caption Bissell, George E. (1839-1920) artist. 1893. Lincoln Memorial/Emancipation Monument, Edinburgh. Monumental Relief/Bronze. George E. Bissell, 1893.
Credits Rae, Kevin. The Emancipation Monument, Edinburgh. 19 March 2006, geograph, https://www.geograph.org.uk/​photo/​138919. CC BY-SA 2.0.
URL http://0-journals-openedition-org.catalogue.libraries.london.ac.uk/angles/docannexe/image/7109/img-2.jpg
File image/jpeg, 119k
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References

Electronic reference

Kirsten Carter McKee, British Imperialism, National Identity, and Scotland’s Built EnvironmentAngles [Online], 16 | 2023, Online since 01 June 2023, connection on 24 June 2024. URL: http://0-journals-openedition-org.catalogue.libraries.london.ac.uk/angles/7109; DOI: https://0-doi-org.catalogue.libraries.london.ac.uk/10.4000/angles.7109

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About the author

Kirsten Carter McKee

Teaching Fellow at the University of Edinburgh. Research includes analysis of Enlightenment ideologies and constructs of the long eighteenth century, exploring the links between heritage, equalities and climate change. Kirsten Carter McKee is the author of Calton Hill and the Third New Town (2018), and heads an RSE/ESRC funded research network, Managing Imperial Legacies (https://blogs.ed.ac.uk/managingimperiallegacies/). Contact: kmckee[at]ed.ac.uk

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Copyright

CC-BY-4.0

The text only may be used under licence CC BY 4.0. All other elements (illustrations, imported files) are “All rights reserved”, unless otherwise stated.

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