Scotland, Scottishness, British Integration and the Royal Navy, 1793-1815

13 Apr 2018

With few exceptions, existing research in British social and maritime history has never focused on the presence and role of Scotsmen in the Royal Navy of the French Wars era (1793-1815), on their identification and self-presentation within this institution, and on attitudes towards naval warfare in Scotland more generally. Situating the problem within current debates on ‘four nations’ history and the development of British identity, this article aims to fill this gap. It will consider, in turn, the Navy's institutional language and practices, individual experiences, and, chiefly employing as a case study the 1797 victory of Camperdown, achieved by the Scottish Admiral Duncan, public representations in the Scottish press. This will help to illustrate the often ambiguous relationship that Scots in the Navy – and particularly on the quarterdeck – could have with their homeland, and the powerful attraction, reinforced by the naval environment and administrative structures, which Englishness exerted on them. More broadly, it will be shown how the late Hanoverian Navy, as a markedly Anglo-centric institution, acted as a key instrument of cultural, social and political assimilation of Scots into Britain, thus offering a valuable case study for an investigation of patterns of British integration.