Today, Scotland's history is frequently associated with the clarion call of political nationalism. However, in the nineteenth century the influence of history on Scottish national identity was far more ambiguous. How, then, did ideas about the past shape Scottish identity in a period when union with England was all but unquestioned?
The activities of the antiquary Cosmo Innes (1798-1874) help us to address this question. Innes was a prolific editor of medieval and early modern documents relating to Scotland's parliament, legal system, burghs, universities, aristocratic families and pre-Reformation church. Yet unlike scholars today, he saw that editorial role in interventionist terms. His source editions were artificial constructs that powerfully articulated his worldview and agendas: emphasising Enlightenment-inspired narratives of social progress and institutional development. At the same time they used manuscript facsimiles and images of medieval architecture to foreground a romantic concern for the texture of past lives.
Innes operated within an elite associational culture which gave him access to the leading intellectuals and politicians of the day. His representations of Scottish history therefore had significant influence and were put to work as commentaries on some of the major debates which exorcised Scotland's intelligentsia across the middle decades of the century.
This analysis of Innes's work with sources, set within the intellectual context of the time and against the antiquarian activities of his contemporaries, provides a window onto the ways in which the 'national past' was perceived in Scotland during the nineteenth century. This allows us to explore how historical thinkers negotiated the apparent dichotomies between Enlightenment and Romanticism, whilst at the same time enabling a re-examination of prevailing assumptions about Scotland's supposed failure to maintain a viable national consciousness in the later 1800s.
Shortlisted for the Saltire Society History Book of the Year Prize (2014)
Shortlisted for the Royal Historical Society Whitfield Prize (2015)
‘This is a masterly scholarly monograph that fills an important gap in the literature on Cosmo Innes and Scottish antiquarianism and its long afterlife in the nineteenth century. Situating Innes in an older antiquarian tradition, the author is able to convincingly demonstrate the importance of his work with primary sources in making him such an accepted authority on Scottish national history. Marsden’s historiographical discussion of Innes and his contextualisation of him in the wider Scottish, British and European scenarios are extremely lucid and helpful.’ – Stefan Berger (Ruhr-Universitat Bochum, Germany)
‘Marsden deserves to be read by scholars across the social sciences and humanities, as his work engages with comparative literature (particularly on romanticism), sociology, and political science (especially on civil society and nationalism in Europe) … It is difficult to do justice to such rigorous and nuanced scholarship in a short review’, Journal of Modern History
‘This is a splendid and comprehensive book. For such a substantial work, it is highly readable, illuminating a neglected figure in Scottish historiography, and using Cosmo Innes as a much needed corrective to claims that Scottish history was unwilling or unable to align itself with the demands of Scottish national identity in the mid-nineteenth century.’, Parliaments, Estates and Representation
‘Marsden makes his volume all the more indispensable by revealing how Innes’s life and work complicate some of the broad generalisations that have taken hold regarding Scottish historiographers in the nineteenth century … The book’s introduction (which focuses on the wider field of nineteenth-century Scottish history) should be recommended reading for any student studying modern Scotland.’, British Association for Victorian Studies
‘This text is a valuable addition to the study of nineteenth-century Scottish historiography and adds to our understanding of the character of Scottish national awareness and political nationalism.’, Victorian Periodicals Review
Contents: Introduction; Innes’s antiquarianism; The Acts of the Parliaments of Scotland; Burgh sources; Ecclesiastical cartularies; University records; Family papers; manuscript facsimiles; Illustration and photography; Conclusion; Appendix: Innes's periodical contributions; Bibliography; Index.