A City Invincible? Edinburgh and the War Against Revolutionary France



Macleod E (2000) A City Invincible? Edinburgh and the War Against Revolutionary France. British Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies, 23 (2), pp. 153-166.

First paragraph: Edinburgh was the most important centre of Scottish liberal and radical politics in the early months of the war against Revolutionary France in the 1790s, and opposition to the war and to government policy continued to be expressed in the city throughout the decade. Nevertheless, during the war the burgh authorities of Edinburgh sought to present their town as 'a city invincible', a stronghold of civic pride and of national loyalism and patriotism against domestic and foreign enemies. This paper examines their efforts and the reasons why they largely succeeded in doing so. It begins by discussing the position in which the elite of Edinburgh found themselves at the end of the eighteenth century, their concerns during the war, and the tactics they adopted. It then examines pro-war behaviour and dissension in the city. It argues that not only were the radical and liberal oppositions too small, too immature and too easily intimidated to resist the conservative civic elite, as has previously been argued, but also that they were too easily distracted from opposing the war, and that popular opposition to the war was too unreliable, to controvert greatly the image created for the city by its authorities. The war was therefore yet another aspect of public life that helped to build up and consolidate the status of propertied Scotsmen as well as Englishmen.

Edinburgh; French Revolutionary Wars; Civic identity; Whigs; Radicals; Loyalists; Public opinion

British Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies: Volume 23, Issue 2

Publication date30/09/2000
PublisherVoltaire Foundation, University of Oxford

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Dr Emma Macleod

Dr Emma Macleod

Senior Lecturer, History