A significant contributor to literary representation of Anglo-Scottish Unionism was the prolific Andrew Lang (1844-1912) whose historical works valorized the Stuarts and judged the 1707 Union as an inevitable stadialist development necessary for Scotland’s advancement. Born to a petit-bourgeois family in Selkirk, the young Lang experienced a similar Borders upbringing to John Buchan’s formative years.
In Lang’s fiction he mythologised and romanticised his subject matter and thereby provided a national mythos for Scoto-British readers to access and adopt as a national narrative. Lang also edited all of Sir Walter Scott’s Waverley novels and published them as a forty-eight volume series in 1893. Likewise, his works of Scottish biography mythologised vital figures such as his two volume treatment of John Gibson Lockhart (1897) and his popular biographies of Charles Edward Stuart (1903) and Sir Walter Scott (1906). However, his largest historical work, A History of Scotland from the Roman Occupation was published as four volumes (1900-1907) and traced national history from Claudius’s onslaught against the Picts to the Stuarts’s last stand at Culloden. Published by William Blackwood and Sons, it provided a narrative of Scotland’s history reminiscent of Patrick Fraser Tytler’s History of Scotland (1828-1843). Lang offered his readers a sentimental treatment of the Jacobite cause and closed his work with praise for the Union and hope for Scotland’s future.
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He also revealed his preference for a civilised South versus savage North when he averred that Southern Picts proved slightly more domesticable than Northern populations. Lang thereby raised the prospect of Celtic assimilation into an Anglo-Saxon led polity. Lang summarily concluded with the assertion that Scotland’s ‘true makers’ would arrive from England and settle the Lowlands in later centuries. The Roman Empire’s retreat signified Scotland’s relapse into Celtic barbarism and clan warfare. Such depiction neatly fitted into his dominant thesis of Celtic backwardness in a distinctly sui generis approach to Scottish history.
Lang reiterated and strengthened notions of civilisational differences. He then extrapolated further contrasts through his extended discussion of Teutonic qualities exhibited by Anglo-Saxon settlers. Such pioneers brought recognisable surnames, durable architecture and a semblance of order into a land plagued by barbarism since Rome’s retreat. This constitutes a historic advancement for Scotland as subsequent centuries would establish and strengthen Teutonic culture in the Lowlands. Lang’s metanarrative of Anglo-Saxon colonisation prefaced his continued emphasis on Southern-led development throughout The History of Scotland from the Roman Occupation.
The History of Scotland from the Roman Occupation devoted multiple chapters to the Jacobite uprisings and concludes with the failed 1745 rising and thus the close of Lang’s history. Lang offered extensive descriptions of Jacobite intrigues within the Stuart court while contrasting this with unionist politics after 1707 in order to emphasize the advantages of the modern British state. Once Jacobitism finally departed from Scotland’s political history, a now united Great Britain could continue on a unilinear path of economic and political advancement. Lang closed his discussion of the Young Pretender with his strong assertion that the 1745 uprising occurred against the wish of a ‘pacific majority’. He explicitly described the 1707 Union as both harmonizing and consummating as a marriage between two great nations. Therefore, Jacobitism proved discordant and its defeat ushered in progress for the Scottish people. Lang romanticised the Stuart cause through a discourse of sentimental antiquarianism in which its passing marked the felicitous advance of civilised progress for the British state. As part of this stadialist narrative, he wrote in approving tones of the 1707 Union and its historic inevitability for both nations.
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While describing Jacobitism’s political eclipse as a natural evolutionary process, Lang also praised the Union as the ‘greatest of all possible goods in an imperfect world’. He does qualify this emphasis by pronouncing that political and economic objections to Anglo-Scottish union did possess some validity for Scottish elites. However, the advantages of Union quickly appeared in the form of economic prosperity and political stability. Notably, Andrew Lang also utilized Daniel Defoe’s voluminous treatise The History of the Union of Great Britain (1709) when discussing the 1707 Union. Andrew Lang made reference to Defoe’s The History of the Union of Great Britain precisely because of its importance as both unionist history and propaganda. The History of Scotland from the Roman Occupation made little use of Andrew Fletcher of Saltoun’s writings or the Duke of Hamilton’s speeches but almost exclusively emphasised unionist sources in depicting the events of 1706-1707.
Echoing Defoe, Lang disdained the ‘Scots rabble’ who rioted in Dumfries and Edinburgh against the Union. He portrayed such resistance as ignorant, provincial and ultimately doomed to defeat against successful union. Instead of a balanced critique of the Opposition, he wrote that it used both obstructive and dilatory tactics to forestall the blessings of a united British state. He also dismissed evidence of English bribery by averring that such a financial transaction did not invalidate the political, economic and social inevitability of Anglo-Scottish union with a centralised state. Andrew Lang’s Union came into being precisely because destiny necessitated its creation and Jacobitism’s long retreat did not alter this. Ultimately Southern civilisation triumphed over Northern clannishness and such mythographic narratives proved almost universally accepted in Nineteenth century Scotland. The Twentieth century would witness challenges to such histories with concomitant political and intellectual reformulations.
Prior to beginning doctoral studies at St Andrews, he held adjunct faculty appointments at Providence College and the University of Rhode Island. He currently holds active memberships in several professional associations including the Northeast Conference on British Studies, the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, the Berlin-based Bibliothek des Konservatismus, the International Society for Intellectual History and the University of St Andrews Institute of Intellectual History.