Mediating The Company of Scotland's Darien Expedition


Click HERE for a database of printed works concerning Darien, 1695-1715. [Research Assistant, Mark Perry]. 

The creation of the Company of Scotland Trading to Africa and the West Indies took place in 1695, the same year as the lapse of the Licensing Act in the English parliament. The Darien venture was in fact the first colonial enterprise to be constituted in the context of this newly expanding market for print. 

But the forging of the Company and the narrative of the expedition were facilitated by a combination of old and new media. In my chapter on Darien in Mediating Cultural Memory in Britain and Ireland From the 1688 Revolution to the 1745 Jacobite Rising, I focus on how a conjunction of manuscript and printed letters helped shape the ways in which the Darien venture—and its subsequent failure—came to be understood in the imaginations of readers in Scotland, Britain and the American colonies.

Letters in both manuscript and printed form helped establish the Company. Letters served to connect the Company directors with the colonists in Darien, and, when published in pamphlet form, they provided information and propaganda about the new colony to the nation back home. After the collapse of the Darien settlement, letters also became the evidence used to shape the cultural memory of the disaster, but, over the course of the eighteenth century, that memory was folded into the bigger controversy surrounding the implications for the Scottish nation of the 1707 Acts of Union.