The Darien Scheme

Scotland’s short-lived, catastrophic Central American colony exposed its precarious relationship with England. Was closer union an inevitable result?

Map of Darien by Herman Moll, engraved c.1730 © National Library of Scotland.
Map of Darien by Herman Moll (detail), engraved c.1730 © National Library of Scotland.

In 1698 an ambitious new Scottish trading company established an outpost on the narrow isthmus between North and South America. A colony there, it was thought, would unlock trade between Europe, Africa, the Americas and even Asia, thanks to the short trek to the Pacific shore. The tropical forests would yield valuable timber and its hills would contain gold. Yet, within two years, the colony and its vast aspirations had collapsed. 

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