In thousands of years, Scotland has never stood still. Since the first humans arrived here, we have constantly changed our relationships with each other and the wider world. Today, Scotland is again in the process of change. Recent years have seen mass mobilisations for independence, strikes for pay, and fierce arguments everything from the future of oil to nuclear weapons in the Clyde.
Some have portrayed Scotland as a dour backwater on the edges of Europe, late to adopt international changes. Others have styled Scotland as a trailblazer, and Scots as a people naturally resistant to injustice. What if the truth is more complex – a land of contradiction and conflict, where much depends on the agency of ordinary people?
This is what we argue in our new long-form podcast series, a People’s History of Scotland. It is the story of how generations have transformed Scotland, from ancient clans fighting the Romans to the independence referendum of 2014. In between, Scots helped pioneer the great transformations in human civilisation – from the emergence of feudalism to industrialisation. This is a story, above all, of the common people – the lives of those largely ignored by historians for generations.
Our modern Scotland was made by farm labourers, artisans, miners, and call centre workers. But these are not just tales of people living and dying in obscurity, in small worlds with private concerns. Our ancestors created great wealth but were forced to struggle for a share of the bounty, and a say in its use. By these struggles and over centuries, Scots created a sense of themselves and their democratic rights.
To explore the chaotic, inspiring, sometimes bloody but always fascinating story of Scotland, we will be joined by leading academic historians and activists engaged in the struggle for change today.
The Scottish people’s story is far from over. As a war, economic crisis, climate change and the a radicalising far right loom larger over the coming century, it is more important than ever that we understand how Scots came to our present strange conjuncture, and how to move beyond it.