Centring transatlantic slavery in Scottish historiography

Mullen, S. (2022) Centring transatlantic slavery in Scottish historiography. History Compass, 20(1), e12707. (doi: 10.1111/hic3.12707)

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The historiography of Scotland's connections with transatlantic slavery across the British Empire has flourished in the last 20 years, promoting wider public discussion and civic recognition. Nevertheless, the view that historians of Scotland omitted slavery from Scottish historiography remains part of popular discourse. This article adds nuance by considering the absences and eventual centring of slavery in Scottish historiography. In the 1960s, it was argued by historians that foreign trade—and by extension Atlantic slavery—had a limited effect on the economic development of 18th-century Scotland. However, studies of the Atlantic trades and merchant capital undermined that orthodoxy in the 1970s, although works of that era that addressed Scotland's Atlantic economy tended to acknowledge slavery only in tokenistic fashion, if at all. Nevertheless, whilst slavery was not centred in these works, they established the view that Atlantic commerce and merchant capital were central to Scottish economic development. In the last 25 years, slavery has been centred in Scottish historiography and earlier works have taken on new significance. Studies after 1997 have revealed the involvement of Scots with the slave trade in Scotland and across the Atlantic world, patterns of Scottish slave-ownership in the Caribbean, the repatriation of slavery-derived wealth, the effects of West India fortunes and investments. Scottish historiography lagged behind the comparative body of work for England, although it is now generally accepted that Atlantic commerce and slavery affected Scottish economic development in a more substantial way. Historians of Scotland have led the way in transforming understandings of Scotland's Atlantic history in general, and chattel slavery in particular, and these ideas are increasingly part of popular consciousness.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Mullen, Dr Stephen
Authors: Mullen, S.
College/School:College of Arts > School of Humanities > History
Journal Name:History Compass
ISSN (Online):1478-0542
Published Online:03 January 2022
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2022 The Author
First Published:First published in History Compass 20(1): e12707
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons License

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