Robert Burns, Urban Scotland and Scottish Nationality in the Nineteenth Century
Focusing on the wave of statues of Scotland’s national poet Robert Burns that were erected in Victorian and Edwardian Scotland, the chapter explores the contests there were to ‘own’ and mould Burns’s legacy. Why did Burns matter so much to his countrymen in the century after his death? Revealed too are the various factors that led town councils and their allies to campaign in competition with one another for a Burns statue: these included finance (by attracting visitors), emulation, and civic standing, and the didactic role that public statuary could play in influencing the behaviour of working people. Critical too was the role of Burns statues in arousing Scottish patriotism and perhaps even popular nationalism, albeit within the Union context. Far from being ‘meaningless’, Burns statues mattered intensely to Scotland’s sculptors,to the bodies that commissioned them, and to the public at large.
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