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Building the Scottish Diaspora: Scots and the Colonial Built Environment, c.1700-1920

The involvement of Scotland and its people in the history of the British empire is now well understood. Whether as merchants, planters, soldiers, explorers, doctors, scientists, teachers, administrators, engineers, or even architects, Scots were to be found throughout the empire and in considerable numbers. But the particular contribution that Scots made to the colonial built environment remains obscure if not entirely unknown. In most accounts of British imperial and colonial architecture little or no effort is made to distinguish Scottish from English, Irish, or Welsh agency; nor is it ever asked how, if at all, Scottish building culture and practice consequently affects our appreciation of ‘British’ colonial architecture. This is despite the fact that the legacy of Scottish enterprise across the Atlantic and India-Pacific regions includes a substantive material presence in architecture (civic, ecclesiastical and domestic) and building (wharves, stores, mills, factories, agricultural infrastructure etc.) that spatialised that involvement. Together, these buildings can be understood as elements in a global and imperial arrangement of corporate and private acquisition, speculation and investment spanning Europe and the Americas, India and Australasia, the Pacific and beyond.

This symposium takes as a point of departure, colonial cultures of Scottish entrepreneurship operating and building in the hemispheres of the Atlantic and the India-Pacific from the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries. It will explore Scottish traders, merchants, agents, missionaries and others influential in colonial arenas of the Atlantic and India-Pacific ‘worlds’, especially within the analytical frameworks of regional, oceanic, and World/Global historiography, methods of cultural and historical geography, as well as economic and business history. The research presented will map diasporic networks — familial, professional, entrepreneurial, religious etc. — and their material presence with a view to better understanding the significance of Scottish modes of operation, particularly (but not exclusively) those that demonstrate their achievement as entrepreneurs in a networked, international environment. A range of disciplinary perspectives will be showcased on the spatial and material dimensions of Scottish entrepreneurship in the colonial arena.

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SAH thanks The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Fund at The Chicago Community Foundation for its operating support.
Society of Architectural Historians
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