Beyond Tartan: Understanding Scottish National Identity with Alan Montgomery

Beyond Tartan: Understanding Scottish National Identity with Alan Montgomery


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Scotland is famous throughout the world as a land of craggy mountains and windswept moors. Just a mention of its name conjures up visions of ruined castles on the shore of glassy lochs, a noble stag on a heather-covered hillside, and perhaps even a lone kilt-wearing piper playing ‘Scotland the Brave’. Such images have appeared on countless whisky bottles, shortbread tins, and tourism posters over the last few decades, become something of a cliché in the process.

But the wild Highlands are only one aspect of this diverse and cosmopolitan nation. In times past, Scotland has been viewed very differently, both at home and abroad. Its changing political and social situations have influenced the way that Scots see themselves and their homeland, as also affected how they interpret their nation’s long, chequered history. So when and why did this particular notion of Scotland as a land of tartan and tam o’shanters become entrenched? And how has Scotland’s national identity evolved over the centuries?

Led by a scholar with a Ph.D. in early modern interpretations of Scotland ancient past, this interactive seminar is scheduled to coincide with the launch of Alan Montgomery’s new book on the subject, entitled ‘Classical Caledonia’. Taking in history, politics, literature, art, and architecture, as well as several notorious frauds, it will discuss the influences that have impacted the ways in which Scots over the centuries have viewed themselves and presented their nation to the outside world. Designed to inform curiosity as well as future travels, participants will come away with an increased understanding of how and why a nation constructs its own identity.

Alan Montgomery was born and raised in Scotland but has spent most of his adult life in London. Having achieved an MA in Art History at Glasgow University, he worked for many years in the art world at both an international auction house and an antique dealer. In recent years he has returned to academia, achieving an MA in Classical Civilisation in 2011, and has recently completed a Ph.D. in which he analyzed eighteenth-century attitudes towards the ancient Roman world. In addition to his work for Context Travel, Alan also writes catalog essays on Contemporary Art for a leading auctioneer. Elected a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland in 2017, he has just started work on a book inspired by his Ph.D. research, which will be published by Edinburgh University Press in 2020.

This conversation is suitable for all ages

90 minutes, including a 30 minute Q&A.

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