Was there a British Georgian town? A comparison between selected Scottish burghs and English towns


  • This article forms part of the A.H.R.C.-funded research study ‘The Scottish town during the Enlightenment’. The author is grateful to his colleagues in that study, Bob Harris and Chris Whatley, for their guidance and, in particular, to our researcher Natalie Rosset.


This article examines the nature of Scottish urban ambition during the Enlightenment period, through assessing the pattern of public building construction in selected burghs against the general historiography of Georgian towns. Using principally Scottish burgh council minutes and contemporary publications, it studies the improvement agenda as the context for civic building, and questions whether it provided a discernible process and chronology for the construction activity. In reviewing the symbolic role of public buildings in particular, the article ponders whether there was indeed a British urban experience toward the end of the first century of parliamentary union. [1] It concludes that both in the historically different Scottish urbanism and the distinctive manner in which Scots burghs responded to improvement, the urban experience north and south of the border was significantly different.