The History of Leith

November 10, 2004

Auld Reekie

Edinburgh in the warm September of 1745 was a handsome, cramped and discontented provincial town of approximately 40,000 people, just embarking on modernity. As a capital city, it was nothing much. It had lost its royal court to London in 1603, when King James VI succeeded to the English throne, and its nobility followed at the amalgamation of the Scottish and English parliaments in 1707. Edinburgh had no manufacturing, and its trade was a set of pettifogging monopolies, down to who had the right to rent out the pall at burials or run coaches to the port of Leith. The town lived off lawyers attending on the Court of Session and clergymen coming to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland and gentry sending their children up to school and spending the winter in town. In the first age of millionaires, an Edinburgh family was rich with £1,000 a year.

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