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Uniting the kingdom?

By 1700 England, Scotland and Wales were linked at various levels. In the 16th century, legislation had united England and Wales. As a result, law and justice in Wales were now the same as in England; the English language was confirmed as the language of administration; and Wales was represented in the English Parliament at Westminster.


Articles of Union with Scotland, 1707 - opens new window
Articles of Union with Scotland, 1707
Document (219k) | Transcript
England and Scotland had also drawn closer together following the Reformation. In 1603 the crowns of the two countries had been united; and there were also religious, linguistic and commercial factors that linked them. Early in the 18th century, English politicians feared that on the death of Queen Anne Scotland might offer the Scottish crown to her Catholic half-brother, instead of agreeing with England and Wales that the Hanoverians should succeed as the ruling Protestant dynasty, as laid down in the Act of Settlement of 1701.
In order to prevent this, a political settlement was sought; and in 1707 Acts of Union were passed by the Parliaments of England and Scotland, forming the United Kingdom of Great Britain. These Acts abolished the Scottish Parliament and transferred the Scottish representatives to Westminster.
Attempt to dissolve the union with Scotland, 1713 - opens new window
Attempt to dissolve the union
with Scotland, 1713
Document (409k) | Transcript
Proclamation of Bonnie Prince Charlie, 1745 - opens new window
Proclamation of Bonnie Prince Charlie, 1745
Document | Transcript

Political union, separate identities

Despite the political ties that had been established, differences between England, Scotland and Wales remained strong. Scottish society retained its distinctive characteristics. North of the border attitudes to the union were mixed; and in England perceptions of the Scottish were coloured by the threat posed, until 1745, by JacobitismGlossary - opens new window. Although England's relations with Wales were less fraught, the Welsh language remained predominant outside border areas and certain towns. To some extent, however, the emergence of distinct national identities was restricted by regional variations and often, especially in remote areas, feelings of isolation were intensified by limited means of transport.

A common cause

From the middle of the 18th century powerful forces began to create a sense that a British nation had come into being. The building of turnpike roads and canals led to improvements in internal communications, and commerce had been boosted by the introduction of free trade between England and Scotland in 1707. Trade and the development of empire provided Scots with opportunities not only to build careers, and sometimes fortunes, but also to take part alongside English and Welsh colleagues in something that was seen as a British adventure.


Crown All of these activities were played out against the background of a century of wars against France, in which the British people were conscious of being a primarily Protestant island nation in combat with a Catholic enemy. The threat of a French invasion launched from Ireland, coupled with the Irish rebellion of 1798, led to the Act of Union of 1800, which created the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.

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