Sarah Fraser

The Last Highlander

Nothing New Under the Sun

March 13, 2012

Something my brother-in-law said reminded me of the sense of deja vu I often had when I was writing. ‘A great period of history,’ he said, ‘Gin was cheap, the South Sea bubble financial collapse, and wars in strange places … not too different from today really.’ Hogarth expressed society’s anxiety over the effects of cheap booze in his ‘Gin Lane’ cartoons. Pubs advertised to get you ‘drunk for a penny. Dead drunk for 2 pence. Straw free’ – to pass out on, when you were too drunk to make it home.

In 1719, during the South Sea Bubble crisis, Treasury Minister, Walpole, was mocked as the ‘Screen Master General’ for protecting key players in the financial scandal that ruined the economy. They even used the same language we saw in our newspapers when the sub-prime catastrophe erupted – news sheets talked of ‘strange financial instruments’ that nobody understands.  Have we been here before?

On top of this were the debates about the Union. Jacobitism dramatised one side of the argument, and was a perennial theme in Lovat’s life.

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