Darien: A Journey in Search of Empire
The Darien scheme was an unsuccessful attempt by the Kingdom of Scotland to become a world trading nation by establishing a colony called "Caledonia" on the Isthmus of Panama on the Gulf of Darién in the late 1690s. The aim was for the colony to have an overland route that connected the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. From the beginning the undertaking was beset by poor planning and provisioning, divided leadership, a lack of demand for trade goods particularly caused by an English trade blockade, devastating epidemics of disease, collusion between the English East India Company and the British monarchy and English government, as well as a failure to anticipate the Spanish Empire's military response. It was finally abandoned in March 1700 after a siege by Spanish forces, which also blockaded the harbour.
As the Scottish Darien Company was backed by 25–50% of all the money circulating in Scotland, its failure left the entire Lowlands almost completely ruined and was an important factor in weakening their resistance to the Act of Union (completed in 1707). The land where the Darien colony was built is virtually uninhabited today although recent research has suggested that the venture could have been a major economic success providing major economic competition to England and Spain.
Based on archive research in the UK and Panama, as well as extensive travelling in Darien itself, John Mckendrick explores this fascinating and seminal moment in Scottish history and uncovers fascinating new information from New World archives about the role of the English and Spanish, and about the identities of the settlers themselves.