Scottish colonization before Darien : opportunities and opposition in the union of the crowns

  • Joseph Wagner

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis (PhD)


This thesis aims to provide a detailed account of Scottish colonisation efforts in the seventeenth century. In the first place, it seeks to provide an update to the only book-length study of the topic, George Pratt Insh’s 1922 Scottish Colonial Schemes, which covered Scottish efforts in Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, East New Jersey, and Carolina. This thesis critically examines these and other ventures in light of more recent scholarship, particularly in the fields of Atlantic history and transnational studies of the Scottish diaspora. While the insights provided by these newer approaches and a broader Atlantic view are incorporated into this study, it is necessary to understand the political, economic, religious, and constitutional context of Scotland, England, and Stuart Britain to understand Scottish colonial efforts in the seventeenth century. With these underpinnings, this thesis addresses the question of why Scotland failed to establish a formal empire and questions relating to the effects the 1603 union of the crowns had on Scottish and English commerce, Scottish sovereignty, and the distribution of royal patronage in the Stuart kingdoms. Scoto-English relations permeated each of the colonial designs undertaken by Scots in the period. Following these relations, it is argued that the first phase of the union of the crowns (1603-1638) saw new opportunities for Scots to become involved in colonisation. Scoto-English relations changed as a result of the Wars of the Three Kingdoms, the Commonwealth, and the Protectorate, setting the stage for the second phase of the union of the crowns (1660-1707), which was characterised by opposition rather than opportunity. By examining these developments, new insight is gained into how colonisation played a role in English, Scottish, and British state-formation. This examination also reveals the long-term context of the Darien venture and the role that colonisation played in the 1707 union between England and Scotland.
Date of Award2 Dec 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of St Andrews
SupervisorSteve Murdoch (Supervisor)


  • Scotland
  • Colonization
  • Seventeenth century
  • Union of the crowns
  • Britain
  • Stuart monarchy
  • Newfoundland
  • Nova Scotia
  • New Jersey
  • Carolina
  • Sovereignty
  • Transatlantic

Access Status

  • Full text embargoed until
  • 15th October 2025

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