This is the first comprehensive and up-to-date biography of Henry Dundas, 1st Viscount Melville (1742-1811) and his son Robert, 2nd Viscount Melville (1771-1851). Aided by other members of their family, they ruled Scotland from the 1770s to the 1830s in a period of government later dubbed 'the Dundas Despotism'. Using a mass of new primary and secondary material culled from England, Scotland, Ireland and the United States, Michael Fry here challenges the traditional view that theirs was a corrupt and authoritarian regime. He shows that both father and son sought to achieve good government within the accepted political conventions of the age, and that many of the principles they set out to apply were owed directly to Scottish Enlightenment ideas. The Dundases were also of fundamental importance in drawing Scotland more fully into the United Kingdom and enabling the Union of 1707 to work. This is a sparkling reassessment of a crucial period of Scottish, British and imperial history. The Dundas Despotism was previously published by Edinburgh University Press.
"His massive book, with its detailed documentation, is a valuable contribution not only to the history of Scotland, but also to the overall history of the United Kingdom and of the emergence of a British rather than an English Empire - George Shepperton, Emeritus Professor of History, Edinburgh University."