Darién and the psychology of Scottish adventurism in the 1690s
in Imperial expectations and realities
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The Darien scheme was one of the most spectacular imperial misadventures of early modern history. The Darien scheme has all the hallmarks of an authentic Scottish 'El Dorado' moment. There were widespread symptoms of a genuinely El Dorado excitation across Scotland. The social psychology of El Doradoism entailed a heightened collective enthusiasm for a distant enterprise, and the implicit negotiation of risk in a colonial setting. Colonisation, especially in the seventeenth century, was always a speculative enterprise, associated with high risks and heavy persuasion, often also with exaggeration and deception. In 1684 Robert Barclay had sought emigrants for the colony of New East Jersey in a deliberate effort to recruit Scots. The emigrants were also to be accompanied by ministers who were 'enjoined to instruct the native inhabitants in the gospels'.

Imperial expectations and realities

El Dorados, utopias and dystopias

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