England spent the late 1600s building its empire — a famously powerful realm that would expand all over the world and last for centuries. But just to the north, Scotland was in ruins.
Decades of warfare and famine had ravaged the kingdom, and its economic situation was dismal. To make matters worse, the country seemed to be nearing the end of its long independence.
By 1698, both England and Scotland were ruled by King William III — who had forcibly deposed James II and VII. As Scotland sensed its sovereignty slipping away, it was desperate to stave off English rule and retain its power.
Scotland’s solution was to take up the ideas of William Paterson, a banker and merchant who advocated for establishing “New World” colonies — like those founded by England — to revive the country’s fading fortunes.
Paterson’s ideas resulted in an attempt to establish a colony by the Gulf of Darién, in what is now Panama. But the colony ended in utter failure, bankrupting the kingdom and forcing it to give up its independence.
This is the story of the end of Scottish autonomy, the rise of the United Kingdom, and the devastation left in the wake of Scotland’s Darién scheme.