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This paper examines the interactions between religious co-existence and Scottish military experience, c. 1690-1763. I seek to use the history of religion within the British army – itself a historiographical lacuna – as a microcosm to discuss whether the eighteenth century was the ‘Age of Reason’, when soldiers fought in a secularising world, or ‘an Age of Faiths’, where a new, pluralist religious culture was fostered.

At the national level, this paper investigates the representation of and discourse on war in Scottish print and pulpit. It asks whether anti-Catholic warfare against France, Spain, and the Jacobites united Scottish Protestants and forged the British nation, or rather deepened the divisions within Presbyterianism (not least the Moderate-Evangelical divide in ecclesiastical politics) and gave rise to religious pluralism. At the institutional level, it focuses on the relations and interactions between the military and religious authorities. The first half of the eighteenth century saw the transformation of Scotland from a persecuting society to a religiously diverse one; the army’s role in enforcing religious policy changed accordingly. 

By examining the religious policy (or lack thereof) pertaining to the military – as exemplified by army chaplaincy – this paper charts a substantial change in the relationship between the army and the Church of Scotland, as well as dissenters. Both public discourse and institutional conditions had far-reaching impact on the individuals involved with, or affected by, warfare.

This paper then utilises a range of autobiographical sources to reconstruct the complementary and contrasting experiences of Scottish officers and rank-and-file soldiers. Overall, this paper argues that the early to mid-eighteenth-century military was a religiously pluralistic and diverse space – both the product of, and a catalyst for, wider religio-political changes in the Scottish, British, European, and transatlantic contexts.

All welcome. This event is free to attend, but advance registration is required.

This will be a ‘hybrid’ seminar with a limited number of places available in person and a larger number of bookings for online attendance via Zoom. Those attending in person are asked to bring a Wi-Fi enabled laptop, tablet or phone.