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.
performances. The popular
search for history since 1945 has had a strong focus on physical sensation, and
Scottish history – with its bagpipes, kilts, and swords – makes a better weekend
history than others. Finally, the Scottish dreamscape is charged with ideas of
heroism and martial valour. To play Scotsmen means to play soldiers. Scottishdreams are warrior dreams. This martial charge appears to resonate with many of
today’s history enthusiasts in north-western Europe.
There may be another reason for Scotland’s popularity. The European heritage
enthusiasts portrayed here
mercantilist and imperial aspirations which went badly
awry. The scale and ambition of the project were beyond the financial
scope of the Scots, who also lacked adequate political leverage in the
context of Caribbean rivalries among the European powers.
The original scheme had generated
spectacular excitement across Scotland and its manic enthusiasm puzzled
British and Irish diasporas: societies, cultures and ideologies
Donald M. MacRaild, Tanja Bueltmann, and J.C.D. Clark
British Atlantic World,
1689–1764 (Princeton, NJ, 2001).
For example, Suzanne Rigg, Men of Spirit and Enterprise: Scots and Orkneymen
in the Hudson’s Bay Company, 1780–1821 (Edinburgh, 2011).
Hechter, Internal Colonialism.
british and irish diasporas
21 See, for example, John Prebble, Darien: The ScottishDream of Empire (Edinburgh, 2000 edn).
22 A new study by two of the co-editors of this collection challenges that
established view: Tanja Bueltmann and Donald M. MacRaild, The English
Diaspora in North America: Migration, Ethnicity and Association, 1730s–1950s
, I would still argue that the Scots of Europe have
a number of transnational features and local peculiarities which this study was
able to identify.
All this said, fieldwork was not enough. The contemporary enthusiasm for the
Scottish dreamscape has a deeper history. While the continental pipe bands and
clan societies described here do not predate 1945, the ideas that inspire them are
much older. Twenty-first-century Scottish play-acting draws depth and energy
from a European and Western tradition of dreaming Scottishdreams, and this