The period 1650 to 1790 was such a turbulent one for Scottish seafarers that much of this fast-flowing narrative reads like Treasure Island. Colourful characters abound in a story teeming with incident and excitement: John Paul Jones descends upon the Scottish coast creating widespread panic; press gangs prowl the coastal towns; wartime conditions turn merchantmen into privateers fighting the French, the Spanish and the American Colonists - almost anyone flying a different flag; quaintly named vessels like The Provoked Cheesemaker are on the lookout for trouble. And the stakes were high. Glasgow became wealthy through the tobacco trade. Glasgow merchantmen could beat the English ships and sail to Chesapeake Bay in record time. Eric Graham traces the development of the Scottish marine and its institutions during a formative period, when state intervention and warfare at sea in the pursuit of merchantilist goals largely determined the course of events. He charts Scotland's frustrated attempts to join England in the Atlantic economy and so secure her prosperity - an often bitter relationship that culminated in the Darien Disaster.
In the years that followed, maritime affairs were central to the move to embrace the full incorporating Act of 1707. After 1707, Scottish maritime aspirations flourished under the protection of the British Navigation Acts and the windfalls of the endemic warfare at sea.