Monash University

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Weaving the tartan: culture, imperialism, and scottish identities in Australia, 1788-1938

posted on 2017-02-16, 02:45 authored by Wilkie, Benjamin Vincent
Over the last two decades, a major theme in historical studies of Scotland and its diaspora has been the relationship with Empire. Historians have argued that the Scots’ contribution to the British Empire was disproportionate and that, in the spheres of education, engineering, exploration, medicine, commerce, and shipping, the Scots earned a reputation for empire building. Furthermore, Scotland was one of the first British nations to develop an imperial identity, an identity through which Scots were celebrated as the supreme component of the Empire. This thesis contributes an important Australian case study to the growing literature on Scotland and Empire by offering a broad social and cultural history of the Scots in Australia from the late eighteenth to the early twentieth centuries, situating this within the context of the British Empire. It addresses the question of Scotland’s contributions to the Empire in Australia and the consequent rise of an imperial identity in the nineteenth century, and argues that the realities of a changing Scotland challenged and complicated ideas of Scottishness in Australia, most notably during the early decades of the twentieth century. Overall, this thesis offers an imperial context for the history of the Scots in Australia, and expands our understanding of their experience by considering the marginal voices of Scotland’s diaspora. The themes and issues of Scotland’s imperial relationship with Australia are examined using a variety of case studies that draw upon a range of primary materials and associated methodologies, including historical census data, oral history interviews, newspaper reports, immigration files, and historical government reports. These social and cultural explorations take in Scottish imperial contacts with Australia, the instruments of imperial endeavour in the new colonies, and Scottish imperial cultures in Australia. This thesis also complicates the imperial experience by investigating the political, social, and cultural diversity of Scotland’s diaspora in Australia. Therefore, a variety of sources and a range of historical approaches are drawn upon to present the evidence in a novel and ultimately more illuminating manner.


Principal supervisor

Seamus O'Hanlon

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Philosophical, Historical and International Studies


Doctor of Philosophy

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Faculty of Arts

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