This project investigates the Scots’ diasporic organisation over time to assess what it can tell us about Scottish present-day migrant life in continental Europe, offering a new reading of Scotland’s European diaspora as one of ‘transeuropean Scots’: connected with each other and to Scotland, but also with a continental Europe post-Brexit in which they now live as Europeans who no longer are EU citizens.
Why this research matters
While we know of this rich fabric of Scottish diaspora communities, including the rich array of Scottish ethnic associations and their vital roles, one example close to home—continental Europe—has received only little attention. Much of the existing work is concentrated in the period prior to the 1800s and little attempt has been made to deepen our understanding of the characteristics of Scotland’s European diaspora as an interconnected part of a ‘global Scotland’.
This lack of knowledge is brought into sharp focus by Brexit: it constitutes a rupture—in many fundamental ways—in Scotland’s relationship with continental European countries and this, in turn, has real impact on the Scottish immigrant community there now. Historically, immigrant collective action has been a key response at such points of crisis and has usually been managed through ethnic associations. When the City of New York failed to adequately cater for the needs of the city’s immigrant communities in the late nineteenth century, for example, immigrant associations came together to form a board to manage support. The local St Andrew’s Society played a vital role in this. For continental Europe, however, we have only scant knowledge of the history of this type of Scottish immigrant collective action and the role it played over time.
Situated within this wider context, the ‘Transeuropean Scots’ project offers the first sustained reading of the present-day Scottish diaspora in continental Europe within a longitudinal approach to associationalism, utilising a transnational and comparative framework. This longitudinal perspective enables consideration of how historical patterns of immigrant activism can provide us with a better understanding of challenges faced by immigrant communities today. This will also aid the assessment of how the timing of Scottish migration and divergent local circumstances in different European locations shaped the collectivism of Scotland’s European diaspora over time, deepening our understanding of how actions have been adjusted to the needs of modern migrants.
The project is funded with a Personal Research Fellowship for Prof Tanja Bueltmann by the Royal Society of Edinburgh.