Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Scots Traders Create Communities

“At Home Abroad: Ethnicity and Enclave in the World of Scots Traders in Northern Europe, ca. 1600-1800” by Douglas Catterall is a wide-ranging article which examines the development of Scottish enclaves (or communities) in the North Sea and the Baltic.

From the 15th century onwards, Scots merchants had to have burgher affiliation before they left Scotland to ensure they were a “good and respectable sort.” Thus they were already disposed to maintain ties to their home community. Additionally, behavior expected of burghers in Scotland became expected of Scots in overseas communities.

The associations formed by these enclaves centered around poor-relief of their fellow Scots instead of confessional (Presbyterian or Catholic) associations. Even those associations that were “British” in scope tended to be dominated by Scots. Thus it seems that the St. Andrew’s Societies established in the American Colonies for the relief of fellow Scots were part of a much longer tradition.

Scots formed these associations, and in where allowed their own churches, to help keep themselves aware of their ethnic background and outsider status. However, in a few countries, including Denmark and Sweden, they were economically and politically useful to the host countries. Consequently, Catterall describes these Scots as insiders-outsiders.

Within the text, Catterall lists where these Scots communities existed and if they were able to establish their own churches (this was not always possible due to the confessional laws of the host countries). Extensive secondary and archival sources are listed in the notes.

For family historians, this work, along with that of Steve Murdoch, will help provide insight to the world of the North Atlantic in the 17th and 18th centuries. Hardly any individuals are listed by name. For students and academics, this article obviously provides the same context, but I think provides many ideas for future studies of Scottish communities in Europe during this period.


Catterall, Douglass. “At Home Abroad: Ethnicity and Enclave in the World of Scots Traders in Northern Europe, ca. 1600-1800” Journal of Early Modern History, 8, 3-4, pp. 319-357. Access the abstract here; see if your local librarian can help you track down the rest of the article. 

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