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‘Idly sauntering and lithering about’ The Scots in early modern England. Part 2

Concluding their study of Scottish migrants in early modern England, Professor Keith Brown and Dr Allan Kennedy explore how Scots were received by their English hosts, investigating the nature of anti-Scottish prejudice, how far Scots were able to assimilate into English society and how they dealt with the issue of identity
The accession of James VI to the English throne saw an entourage of Scottish nobles, courtiers and servants follow him to London, provoking English resentment of place-seekers

In the previous issue of History Scotland, we explored the basic shape of the Scottish diaspora in England between 1603 and the middle of the 18th century. We saw that Scottish migration to England, while impossible to quantify, was probably substantial, but was focused in particular on a small number of ‘hot spots’, particularly Northumberland and London. We traced the varied ways in which Scots earned their livings in England, learning that, in some cases, they ended up slipping into dangerous or marginal lifestyles.

In the second part of this study, the focus shifts towards the relationship between Scottish migrants and the society around them, and in particular, towards the question of how far those Scots assimilated in England. After considering the Scots’ reception in England, we will explore the mechanisms by which they could smooth their integration and what effect this process had on their identity.

The image of the Scot in England

When in 1603 James VI succeeded to the English throne as James I, he took with him to his new kingdom a sizeable entourage of Scottish nobles, courtiers and servants who were generously rewarded, provoking native resentment at what the English regarded as place-seekers and hangers-on. English hostility and Scotophobia gathered momentum between 1604 and 1607 when James’s attempts to forge a closer union between his English and Scottish kingdoms met with such overwhelming hostility in the English parliament (and, for that matter, in Scotland) that he was forced to back down. The failure of the king’s union agenda, combined with the sending home of much of his Scottish entourage, reduced tensions, though from time to time Scotophobia surfaced as a feature of English politics when Scottish inluence or threats, real and imagined, appeared to emerge.

Thus whenever the relationship between England and Scotland passed through periods of tension, politically-inspired anti-Scottish prejudice intensiied. This happened, for example, during the civil wars of the 1640s and 1650s, the ‘popish plot’ controversy of the late 1670s and early 1680s, the acrimonious opening years of the union debate in the early 18th century, the various Jacobite risings and the unpopular ministry of the Scottish nobleman, John Stuart, 3rd earl of Bute, who served as George III’s prime minister in 1762-63.

Moreover, anti-Scottish discourse tended again and again to deploy the same tropes as had characterised the early 17th-century spasm – poverty, avariciousness and uncleanliness above all. All of these ideas could be distilled into a characterisation of the Scots as a disease or plague ravishing England. A particularly caustic example of this was the anonymous poem Satyr on the Scots, probably written in the middle of the 17th century:

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About History Scotland

Explore centuries of history and archaeology in the first History Scotland issue of 2019. Inside you’ll find history, archaeology, genealogy and heritage from some of the country’s top experts. Top reasons to read this issue: • Discover the tough reality of life as a Dundee whaler – and why the city’s female population was crucial to the success of the whaling industry • Read about Mary of Guelders – the Stewart queen who used her European connections to succeed in her royal role • See amazing images from the restoration of Monteath Mausoleum • Discover history events around the country during the winter months • Explore a new project to discover what we know – and have yet to discover – about the uses of gold in prehistoric Scotland