Twenty-first-century Scottish play-acting draws depth and energy from a European and Western tradition of dreaming Scottish dreams, and this tradition dates back to at least the late eighteenth century, to the beginnings of European Romanticism. This book explores how contemporary celebrations of Scotland build upon earlier Scottish fantasies. The Scottish dreamscape is one of several pre-modern counter-worlds which have been approached through imitation in the past. The book examines the 'Scotland' that is on the play-actors' minds. The Scottish dreamscape was formed in an eighteenth- and nineteenth-century process now best known as Highlandism. It was then that Scotland became associated with the aesthetics and supposed characteristics of its Highland periphery. The book also explores the Scottish dreamscape's spread via the channels of the British Empire and American popular culture. It identifies five key carriers which helped to disseminate the Scottish aesthetic across the world, namely epic poetry, the Highland regiments, music hall entertainment, Hollywood films, and romance novels. The book further focuses on fieldwork conducted in 2009 and 2010. It sheds some light on the different forms of Scottish play-acting, on musicians, athletes, commemorators, and historical re-enactors. The pipers and athletes do not imitate the past; they perform in what they hope are old but living Scottish traditions. Commemorators and historical re-enactors have a different aim. They seek to recreate the past in the present. Finally, the book identifies some of the main reasons for the Scottish dreamscape's special resonance in northern and western Europe.
In Europe, North America, Australasia, and beyond, many dozens of hobbyist groups specialise in re-enacting Scottish history. This chapter investigates the European re-enactors. It examines the cultural practice that is historical re-enactment, its origins and meanings. The chapter explores the Scottish genre and the moments in Scottish history which re-enactors find usable for their performances. There are two reasons for the dominance of warfare in Scottish re-enactment. First, hobbyist re-enactment culture in general is preoccupied with martial themes, and secondly, Scotland's international image is inextricably linked with the Highland soldier. The chapter addresses the issue of authenticity and the re-enactors' efforts to separate myth from fact. Most re-enactors strive to reconstruct the past 'as it really happened', a creed which leads them into trouble when targeting Scottish history.
This chapter investigates how twenty-first-century Scotland relates to the Scots of Europe. It examines the Scottish approach towards international fans of Scotland, and in particular the Scottish government's recent efforts to connect with the Scottish 'diaspora'. The chapter explores the 2009 'Homecoming Scotland' campaign and the new rhetoric of 'affinity Scots'. The Scottish diaspora campaigns mainly target North America and try to profit from what has been called 'America's growing obsession with its Scottish connections'. The chapter describes clanship as a zone of contact and interaction. In the Scottish dreamscape, Scotland is a land of clans, and many play-actors hope to associate themselves with the remnants of the clan system. The chapter focuses on 'The Gathering', the Homecoming campaign's centrepiece festival, which took place in Edinburgh in 2009, following a Dutch pipe band on their journey to Scotland, the place on the map.
The Scots of Europe approach Scotland as a site of memory. This chapter examines the reasons for the Scottish dreamscape's striking resonance in Northern and Western Europe. It argues that the Scotland of popular imagination is 'charged' with four recurring themes, and that these themes may have a particular resonance in Northern and Western Europe at the beginning of the twenty-first century. These themes are tradition, resistance, victimhood, and masculinity. The Scots are appropriated as ersatz ancestors. The Scots of Europe create elaborate mythologies of kinship by which they turn the Scots into relatives. According to the well-rehearsed narratives of the Scottish dreamscape, the Scots are rebels: wild folk and tribal people. Their world has not been disenchanted by science and secularism. It has been argued (both by men and women) that if anyone has had a rough time since 1970 it has been the white male.
At the beginning of the twenty-first century, thousands of Europeans are searching for their past. A substantial number of European history enthusiasts find their past in Scotland, or rather, in a bundle of myths and images, which we have called the Scottish dreamscape. The Scots of Europe toss cabers at Highland Games, play soldiers in marching pipe and drum bands, commemorate Scottish heroes, and simulate kilted combat in historical re-enactment clubs. Scottish myths and aesthetics played an important role in the making of the modern European nations. Scottish play-acting is a social activity. There is a need for sociability and shared ritual in modern Europe, and Scottish play-acting appears to satisfy some of it. The Scots of Europe create social experience, usually without financial support and governmental guidance.
This chapter outlines the history of Scottish Highland Games and their international spread. It presents the Highland Games of Europe and identifies the major themes which characterise them. It is certainly true that the strength competitions were common in Scotland (as elsewhere in Europe) long before the nineteenth century. In 2010 at least 130 Highland Games took place on the European mainland, the majority of them in Germany, Austria, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and France. Many Europeans set up Highland Games without deep convictions about Scotland or their own relationship to Scottish tradition. The chapter shows how, in certain areas of Europe, the Games serve both as ersatz folklore and as an enhancement of existing custom. The commercialisation of Highland Games is an issue of some concern for many European Scots, mainly because they consider commercial mass production and Scottishness to be mutually exclusive.
This chapter investigates commemorations of Scottish history. It focuses on the public, festive, and spectacular forms which have multiplied with the late twentieth-century memory boom. The chapter examines a French festival which commemorates the late medieval Scottish noblemen who fought for the French king. This event, with its bewildering mixture of attractions, was explicitly set up to attract tourists. Many commemorative events recall the two world wars. The chapter provides an overview of the different commemorative events in Europe. It identifies some of the historical periods that have been chosen for commemoration. The chapter ends with a visit to Flanders, where local enthusiasts have erected a monument to the Scottish soldiers who fell in the First World War. It appears that commemorations of the Scottish past can become political statements in specific contexts.
This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book considers the Scots of Europe as musicians, re-enactors, commemorators, and athletes. It establishes the cultural context in which the Scottish play-acting phenomenon evolved. The book examines the 'Scotland' that is on the play-actors' minds. It explores the Scottish dreamscape's spread via the channels of the British Empire and American popular culture. The book presents the kilted pipe bands which were active on the European continent at the beginning of the twenty-first century. It explores the continental Highland Games circuit and provides some historical background on the Highland Games tradition and then presents key data for the European games. The book also examines what re-enactment means and how it has come to be a popular hobbyist approach to the past in recent decades.
This chapter examines the phenomenon's historical context and some of the broad cultural currents which inspire and shape it. The Scots of Europe are agents in the memory boom, a time of heightened public interest in the past and its commemoration. The Scots of Europe uphold musical, athletic, and sartorial traditions which they believe are rooted in distant Scottish history. The Scots of Europe dress up in colourful costumes and march down the high street, play the drums and pipes, make bystanders stop and marvel. The self-professed Highlanders engage in a Scottish masquerade. Like the play-acting Scots, the knights and princesses often hold views of their period which are not fully congruent with historical scholarship. Much more than a similarity of historical experience, the proximity of the Scottish and Indian mythologies indicates the Romantic preoccupation with archaic warrior societies and their colourful costumes and symbols.
The Scottish dreamscape has its origins in the period from 1760 to 1868 and emerged in the context of both British integration and European Romantic nationalism. By the late twentieth century, the Scottish dreamscape had become a thoroughly global fantasy of a local culture. At the beginning of the twentieth century, the Scotland of popular imagination is a land of kilts, tartan, bagpipes, clans, Celts, and Highland Games. In the course of the nineteenth century, the urban, Anglophone elites of Edinburgh gradually adopted the costume, music, and poetry of the Highlands. They also created new symbols and rituals in what they considered to be a Highland tradition. After the parliamentary Union with England in 1707, Scotland struggled with the concept of Britain and with English dominance in political and economic affairs.