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Basil William Douglas, Lord Daer, was a remarkable man who left an indelible impression on those who knew him, including the poet Robert Burns and French intellectual and revolutionary the Marquis de Condorcet. Daer was a restless, energetic spirit in an era of youthful revolution. His political radicalism developed from connections made through his progressive education, his immersion in Scottish Enlightenment ideas at the University of Edinburgh under the tutelage of Dugald Stewart, and his experiences in three great cities: Edinburgh, London and Paris.
This is a story about the rise of a new kind of British politics in the late 1700s, when it was mixed with a profound cosmopolitan spirit that threatened briefly and gloriously to sink national difference in the cause of universal liberty and humanity. For Daer, this moment held the tantalising possibility of creating a new union between Scotland and England, a union of the people rather than the narrow, unequal union of states created in 1707. Who was the man behind this early unionist radical vision?
This book uses the life of Lord Daer to paint a fresh picture of Scottish and British political culture at the end of the eighteenth century, one which places the Union and its shifting meanings at its heart. As the Scots and the English re-think the nature of union in a very different world to that of the 1790s, Daer’s political vision is one that retains its power and relevance.
Bob Harris is Professor of British History, University of Oxford, and Harry Pitt Fellow in History, Worcester College, Oxford. He is the author of several books, including The Scottish People and the French Revolution; Politics and the Nation: Britain in the Mid Eighteenth Century and (with Charles McKean) The Scottish Town in the Age of the Enlightenment, winner of the Saltire Society Scottish Book of the Year and Research Book of the Year for 2014.