by Merryn Somerset Webb, Money Week:
I’ve been reading up on Scottish history in advance of the independence debate heating up. The must-have book on the events in advance of the Act of Union that brought Scotland and England together in 1707 is Douglas Watt’s The Price of Scotland.
It’s a fantastic run-through of the “catastrophic failure” of the Darien scheme – the creation of the Company of Scotland to establish a Central American colony. This failure (a result of horrible financial mismanagement and shockingly bad strategy) and the huge financial losses that came with it, made Darien what Watt calls a “central ingredient” in the eventual marriage of convenience between the two countries. “The Price of Scotland” refers to the huge sum of money transferred from England to Scotland on union, the majority of which went to pay back the losses of the original investors in the Company of Scotland. I suspect we’ll be returning to this one here another day.
Not only is it a good lead-in to everything from joint stock mania to the periodically discovered evils of financial innovation, but there has been a good row going on in Scotland for 300 years about whether it was all the fault of the English or not.