Scots and the Colonial Built Environment c.1700-1920
The involvement of Scotland and its people in the history of the British empire is now well understood. Whether as merchants, planters, soldiers, explorers, doctors, scientists, teachers, administrators, engineers, or even architects, Scots were to be found throughout the empire and in considerable numbers. But the particular contribution that Scots made to the colonial built environment remains obscure if not entirely unknown. In most accounts of British imperial and colonial architecture little or no effort is made to distinguish Scottish from English, Irish, or Welsh agency; nor is it ever asked how, if at all, Scottish building culture and practice consequently affects our appreciation of ‘British’ colonial architecture. This is despite the fact that the legacy of Scottish enterprise across the Atlantic and India-Pacific regions includes a substantive material presence in architecture (civic, ecclesiastical and domestic) and building (wharves, stores, mills, factories, agricultural infrastructure etc.) that spatialised that involvement. Together, these buildings can be understood as elements in a global and imperial arrangement of corporate and private acquisition, speculation and investment spanning Europe and the Americas, India and Australasia, the Pacific and beyond.
If one of the legacies of New Imperial History has been that we can no longer view British imperialism as an undifferentiated cultural phenomenon, then does not the same apply to the built environment of empire? This symposium will consider the nature of Scotland’s contribution to this environment, and ask how we might understand it in a geographically continuous and expansive capacity.
This symposium takes as a point of departure, colonial cultures of Scottish entrepreneurship operating and building in the hemispheres of the Atlantic and the India-Pacific from the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries. It seeks contributions that explore Scottish traders, merchants, agents, missionaries and others influential in colonial arenas of the Atlantic and India-Pacific ‘worlds’, especially within the analytical frameworks of regional, oceanic, and World/Global historiography, methods of cultural and historical geography, as well as economic and business history. We are interested in research that maps diasporic networks—familial, professional, entrepreneurial, religious etc.—and their material presence with a view to better understanding the significance of Scottish modes of operation, particularly (but not exclusively) those that demonstrate their achievement as entrepreneurs in a networked, international environment. In sum, we seek a range of disciplinary perspectives on the spatial and material dimensions of Scottish entrepreneurship in the colonial arena.
Related questions include (but are not limited to): how do we begin to understand the particular Scottish contribution to the colonial built environment, and why is it important? Does reference to a ‘British’ empire in this context too readily encourage coagulation, even confusion, especially where clear ethnic predominance was seen to occur? And how might architecture have been used to forge, or even dissolve, distinctive forms of Scottishness within the wider limits of British identity?
Please send paper abstracts of no more than 300 words, plus a brief bio of 150 words, to buildscotdiaspora at gmail.com by 24 July 2017.
- Organisation: Scottish Centre for Diaspora Studies (University of Edinburgh) in conjunction with the Globalisation, Entrepreneurship and the South Pacific project (RMIT, University of Tasmania, and University of Sydney)
- Sponsors: Scottish Centre for Diaspora Studies, and Edinburgh School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, University of Edinburgh