The story of modern Britain began 300 years ago, with the Treaty of Union between England and Scotland in 1707. In this fresh and challenging look at the origins of the United Kingdom, the first full study for four decades, Michael Fry traces the fault-lines of the present time right back to the treaty drawn up between the ruling classes of Scotland and England three centuries ago. In many previous histories this has been interpreted as mere dictation by England, which Scotland accepted for the economic gains it was supposed to bring.
Fry rejects the idea that the economy was of overwhelming importance and shows how Scots were able to exploit English ignorance of and indifference to their country, as evident now as then, to steer the settlement in their own favour. That left the future of Scotland, England and Britain open, not closed. The full implications are only being worked out in our own time. While focusing on the few years which led up to the Union, Fry's reassessment casts its net wider than existing interpretations. He includes the political history of England as well as of Scotland, all set against the backdrop of war in Europe and the emergence of imperialism. He compares the fate of the Scots with that of other small nations.
By a close, comparative reading of the evidence he manages to reconstruct the human as well as the political story, in the voices of the people where they can still be discerned, in plots and conspiracies long lost from view, in reports from battlefields and in the impassioned debates of the Scots Parliament as the nation steeled itself for the loss of independence which, even so, it would not allow to become irrevocable.