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Scottish Fiction and the British Empire

Douglas S. Mack


Scotland was an active - albeit junior - partner in the British Empire. But the poorer and more marginalised parts of Scottish society shared something of Ireland's experience of being at the receiving end of British Imperial power. This created a long-lasting, complex, and eloquent debate among Scottish novelists about the nature of Scotland's involvement in the power-structures of British society.

Some Scottish writers, such as Sir Walter Scott and John Buchan, did much to generate and promote Imperial Britain's sense of itself, and these authors tended to be part of the Scottish elite. However, an alternative strand of Scottish writing was produced by authors with roots in non-elite, 'subaltern' Scotland - writers from the past such as James Hogg, Mary Macpherson ('Màiri Mhór nan Oran'), and Lewis Grassic Gibbon, as well as present-day writers such as James Kelman and Irvine Welsh.

Douglas Mack argues that such writers actively challenge the elite's Imperial Grand Narrative and demonstrates that Scottish fiction was active and influential both in shaping and in subverting the assumptions that underpinned the Empire.

Key Features:

  • Draws on recent research on Scotland's role in the British Empire, allowing new light to be thrown on the work of some of Scotland's best known writers
  • Exposes a radical, anti-establishment tradition of Scottish fiction that begins with Hogg and is carried on by writers such as Gibbon, Kelman and Welsh
  • Highlights the relevance and importance of Scottish fiction for all those interested in post-colonial studies and post-colonial fiction
  • Develops fruitful connections between the Scottish writers it examines and major writers of the Scottish diaspora such as Alice Munro and Alistair MacLeod.


1. Introduction: Opening the Boarded Window
2. 'We too Might have a Story to Tell': Competing Narratives and Imperial Power
3. The Journey North: Competing Narratives about the Scottish Highlands
4. 'The Rage of Fanaticism in Former Times': Competing Narratives about Lowland Radicals
5. 'King and Country': Competing Twentieth-Century Narratives about War and Empire
6. Post-Imperial Voices: Current Writings from Scotland and the Scottish Diaspora.

About the Author

The late Douglas S. Mack was formerly Professor Emeritus of English at the University of Stirling.


Mack's study is impressive in its ability to trace connections between such diverse texts as, for instance, Scott's Waverley and Buchan's Prester John, and in its smooth transitions between detailed analyses of individual novels, biographical sketches of both authors, and broader historical and cultural perspectives. As such, its appeal is both to readers who are not familiar with Scottish history and literature, and to the specialist.
- Archiv fur das Studium der neueren Sprachen und Literaturen is a welcome addition to the body of criticism on the international contexts of Scottish Literature...
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