The British Dimension

Rosalind Mitchison

  • The Life of David Hume by Ernest Campbell Mossner
    Oxford, 736 pp, £20.00, March 1980, ISBN 0 19 824381 2
  • ‘The People Above’: Politics and Adminsitration in Mid-18th-Century Scotland by Alexander Murdoch
    John Donald, 199 pp, £12.00, March 1980, ISBN 0 85976 053 7
  • The Laird of Abbotsford by A.N. Wilson
    Oxford, 197 pp, £8.95, June 1980, ISBN 0 19 211756 4
  • The Strange Death of Scottish History by Marinell Ash
    Ramsay Head Press, 166 pp, £6.50, March 1980, ISBN 0 902859 57 9

The first three books are studies within the narrow élite of landed society in a small, rapidly modernising country – Scotland. They concern men who took for granted the perpetuation of their society, of security for property and a due hierarchy of rank. For the most part, they are also of people who did not want this hierarchy to be totally fixed. There needed to be openings for talent or the right kind of obsequious effort to pass to a rank above. It has become fashionable to state that upper-class Scots bred in the 18th century suffered from uncertainties of identity. Their national base was changing from Scotland to North Britain, and a new system of political power and influence was being worked out, one in conflict with much of what had existed before. I am unconvinced about this problem of identity.

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