In 1960, John Highet surveyed the religious demographics of the nation in one of Scotland’s earliest full-length works of sociology. Highet was a devout member of the Church of Scotland and was effectively their ‘in house’ sociologist. Yet his statistics revealed that even in the immediate aftermath of a large-scale religious revival, the number of Scots who were affiliated with churches was surprisingly low at around 66% of the adult population. Highet was keen to mitigate this perhaps embarrassing statistic, recruiting into the number of the absent 34% an unknowable number of ‘four door Christians’ – those whose only attendance at church might be when they were delivered for baptism in a pram, were driven in a taxi for their wedding and finally, arrived in a hearse for their funeral. He further asserted – without recourse to evidence – that in any theological dispute most Scots would be ‘found on the side of the angels.’
In pre-war days, cinema was a popular Scottish pastime. Admission charges were very low, making it a relatively affordable leisure option. It was especially popular with the working classes and with youths, demonstrated by a 1937 survey that found 36% of West Lothian children attended the cinema at least once a week. During the war, cinema continued as one of Scotland’s most popular forms of entertainment. In response to a 1943 questionnaire on cinema habits, Scottish respondents mentioned the pleasure of being able to lose oneself in a film featuring a favourite actor, going to the cinema ‘for a good laugh’, and using film as a way of avoiding ‘the usual fit of depression of a Saturday afternoon’.
People have been researching history through objects for centuries. The Antiquarians of the eighteenth-century fascinated over artefacts as survivors from ancient pasts. Most of us are familiar with looking at objects in museums as a way to learn about history. Historical artefacts offer a tangible connection to past peoples and places. But when we are taught the basics of history in school – and, indeed, in the early years of university history training – ‘things’ are rarely presented as historical sources. Often they are used as illustrative material, or supporting artefacts for documentary sources. Through this learning resource, I wanted to introduce school pupils to the ways in which they can examine material culture as evidence. It encourages them to consider the objects themselves but also the way people used, exchanged, and thought about things in the past to shed light on broader cultural, social, economic, and political histories.
In March 1700, the Scots colony of New Caledonia on the Isthmus of Panama was abandoned for the second time. Already overwhelmed by “the Extreamity of famine” the previous year, the colony was finally and forcefully dislodged by the Spanish. Despite the ultimate failure of the colonial project, the Darien scheme – by its very existence – underlined a fundamental contradiction in Iberian colonial doctrines of occupation and highlighted a significant chink in the imperial armour of the “Spanish” Americas.