Partners in empire
The Scottish diaspora since 1707
in British and Irish diasporas
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This chapter utilises the concept of diaspora framed through identity to examine the nature and scope of Scotland’s partnership with the British Empire. We begin discussion with a section focused on exploring how identity is a critical measure and structuring principle of the Scottish diaspora. We argue that ‘diaspora’ is not only a term that denotes the movement of people, their transnational connections and continued homeland affinity – though these characteristics are essential to it – but is also in itself an identity concept. Patterns of movement and migrant pathways switch from the interest of the migration historian to that of the diaspora historian only when migrant flows have a bearing upon social action: it is only when we can locate diaspora agents (individual migrants or migrant collectives) in diaspora structures (in essence these are all structures that help establish a transnational community of Scots, real or imagined) that we reach that point. We maintain Scotland meets the diaspora paradigm, and indeed is paradigmatic in this respect, with an identity that is neither national nor transnational, but stands in its own ground in imperial partnership. The space for this identity to form – between the national and the transnational – is captured within that partnership, the structural and conceptual interaction between Scotland and the British Empire.

British and Irish diasporas

Societies, cultures and ideologies

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