Scottish Studies Zoom Talk

It's "just" a statue to some people.

How commemorations cross boundaries within the Scottish diaspora

an online talk by Dr. Laura Harrison

On Saturday, February 10, 2024, Dr. Laura Harrison shared part of her PhD research which looks at modern monuments to the Scottish Wars of Independence, including some interesting Canadian examples.

In 1964, a statue of Robert the Bruce was unveiled on the site of the Battle of Bannockburn in Scotland — by far the most famous battle of the Scottish Wars of Independence (1296–1328). Two years later the sculptor, Charles D'Orville Pilkington Jackson, created an identical statue that was placed in Calgary, Alberta (photo above). It was commissioned by philanthropist Eric Harvie, as a means of highlighting the historic connection between Scotland and Calgary. This is just one of several examples of monuments and other dedications to the Wars of Independence across the Scottish diaspora. Reflecting on the theme of crossing boundaries, this talk will consider how commemorations often transcend national boundaries. This helps reinforce connections with Scotland from people around the world, but it simultaneously contributes to the idea of Scotland as something that is distinct and special. I will explore this dichotomy by comparing examples of commemorations of the Wars of Independence in Canada, Australia, and the U.S. with similar examples from Scotland, in order to consider how commemorations both transcend and reinforce national boundaries.

Dr. Laura Harrison (pictured above) is a Senior Cultural Resources Advisor at Historic Environment Scotland, the lead public body set up to care for Scotland's past. Dr. Harrison is Canadian and obtained a BA from Brock University before moving to Scotland to study at the University of Edinburgh where she earned her PhD which examined modern commemorations of the medieval Scottish Wars of Independence. She has published on the topics of medievalism, commemoration and heritage and has a forthcoming chapter on medieval Scotland in film. Laura is also co-founder of the Scottish History Network, which produces a regular digital digest highlighting news and events in Scottish history.