Subtitle/Alternate Title

A Study of Robert Burns and his Influence on Modern Scottish Identity and History

First Advisor

Dr. Nicholas Myklebust


Dr. Mark Bruhn


Regis College

Degree Name


Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Number of Pages

70 pages


Begging the question of how the Scottish society has been reduced and commercialized to the romanticized, Scottish fantasy we see Scotland as today because of a process labeled ‘Highlandism’. The eighteenth-century poet Robert Burns became the focal point because of the impact of his major role in this creation and spread of this Sottish fantasy. Burns used his poetry as a method of delivery to sell nostalgia for a fictional, romantic, and exotic Scotland that had been created from symbols once associated with the Highlands to a now global audience.

Breaking down the historical, economic, and cultural shifts occurring around Scotland, that changed the culture Robert Burns would later step into and be able to capture in his poetry. First looking at a brief history of Scotland, highlighting the Union of the Crowns in 1603, the Union of 1707, and the Scottish Enlightenment. Analyzing Adam Smith’s effect on Burns and how Burns was able to commercialize Smith’s theories for a global audience while challenging Smith’s conclusions. Burns is known as the Ploughman Poet, so this thesis analyzes what caused the agricultural improvement movement and the urbanization of Scotland. Questioning how the rapid decline in living standards pushed the view of the rural and past ways of life to be viewed in this new romantic light.

Concluding by analyzing modern Scottish national identity, acknowledging that Scots still have a national identity of their own, and will affect the upcoming referendum because it's tangible effect on Scotland’s future.

Date of Award

Spring 2019

Location (Creation)

Colorado (state); Denver (county); Denver (inhabited place)

Rights Statement

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