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Recovering Scotland's Slavery Past

The Caribbean Connection

Edited by Tom M. Devine

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The first book to strip away the myths and write the real history of Scotland’s slavery past

For more than a century and a half the real story of Scotland’s connections to transatlantic slavery has been lost to history and shrouded in myth. There was even denial that the Scots unlike the English had any significant involvement in slavery. Scotland saw itself as a pioneering abolitionist nation untainted by a slavery past.

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List of Figures and Tables
Maps and Images
Introduction: Scotland and Transatlantic Slavery, T. M. Devine
1. Lost to History, T. M. Devine
2. Yonder Awa: slavery and distancing strategies in Scottish literature, Michael Morris
3. Early Scottish sugar planters in the Leeward Islands c.1660-1740, Stuart M. Nisbet
4. The Scots penetration of the Jamaican plantation business, Eric J. Graham
5. ‘The habits of these creatures in clinging one to the other’: Enslaved Africans, Scots and the plantations of Guyana, David Alston
6. The great Glasgow West India house of John Campbell, Senior and Co., Stephen Mullen
7. Scottish Surgeons in the Liverpool Slave Trade in the Late Eighteenth and Early Nineteenth Centuries, Suzanne Schwarz
8. Scotland and Colonial Slave-Ownership: the evidence of the Slave Compensation Records, Nicholas Draper
9. 'The Upas Tree, beneath whose pestiferous shade all intellect languishes and all virtue dies': Scottish public perceptions of the Slave Trade and Slavery, 1756-1833, Iain Whyte
10. 'The most unbending Conservative in Britain': Archibald Alison and Pro-slavery discourse, Catherine Hall
11. Did Slavery make Scotia great? A question revisited, T. M. Devine
Conclusion: History, Scotland and Slavery, T. M. Devine

About the Author

T. M. Devine is Sir William Fraser Professor Emeritus of Scottish History and Palaeography at the University of Edinburgh. Author and editor of many books on Scottish history and related subjects, he is a Fellow of the British Academy, the Royal Society of Edinburgh and an Honorary Member of the Royal Irish Academy. In 2014 he was knighted for services to the study of Scottish history and he is the only historian to have been awarded the Royal Gold Medal, Scotland's supreme academic accolade, by the HM The Queen on the recommendation of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.


'Recovering Scotland’s Slavery Past is an illuminating marvel.'

- Rosemary Goring, The Herald

'The history of eighteenth-century Scotland will never look the same again...'

- Thomas Christopher Smout

‘The bones are rattling once more in Scotland’s closet and they are throwing down a challenge to our cultural and civic authorities. The full extent to which this nation was involved in the most brutal form of human trafficking has been laid bare in one of the most important books to be published in Scotland this century. Recovering Scotland’s Slavery Past (The Caribbean Connection) is a collection of essays by academics who have begun properly to study and analyse Scotland’s part in the African slave trade and why the country has been in complete denial about it since slavery was abolished in 1807.'

- Kevin McKenna , The Guardian

‘Scotland’s involvement in and relationship to slavery has long been hidden in full sight. Several Jamaica Streets were evidence of wealth made in the sugar and tobacco trades and few Scots, reading his biography, do not breathe a sigh of relief when Robbie Burns decided not to take the manager’s job on a plantation – the type of job which tempted many young Scots to wealth or an early death. This valuable collection of essays draws together the wide variety of work done in recent years to explore the many aspects of Scotland’s links with slavery that need to be set alongside the ‘enlightenment’ contribution to the abolition of chattel slavery, and Scotland’s reputation as the ‘abolitionist nation’.’

- R. J. Morris, University of Edinburgh, The Journal for Edinburgh History

Thomas Devine’s impressive team of scholars confirms, individually and collectively, the pervasive and ubiquitous influence of Scots and Scotland on the shaping of Atlantic slavery. This pioneering volume also has a resonance far beyond slavery, underlining the impact of slavery on Scotland itself. Here is a book which ultimately demands a broader reappraisal of modern Scottish history.

- James Walvin, author of Crossings. Africa, the Americas and the Atlantic Slave Trade

Scottish history has been subjected to sustained revision over the past generation. Many uncomfortable episodes and themes have been exposed but the one major exception has been the nation’s involvement in slavery. This superb collection opens the field to intense academic scrutiny, suggests new areas of investigation and invites a long overdue national conversation.

- Sir William Fraser Professor of Scottish History and Palaeography at the University of Edinburgh, Ewen Cameron

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