In the late 17th century, Scotland was being kept out of English colonies in America and India and a project was formulated which saw a group of Scots sailing for Darien in Panama to establish an overseas colony. A combination of disease, Spanish attacks and a lack of support from England resulted in the failure of the settlement. 2,000 Scottish settlers died and many wealthy Scots, who had put substantial amounts of capital into the project, were facing ruin. It was this which motivated many of the Scottish aristocracy to support the Act of Union in 1707. In addition to dissolving the separate Scottish parliament, it provided £400,000 to repay those who had lost money from the disaster. Over 300 years later, the National Archives of Scotland is loaning historic letters to Panama a part of an exhibition on the Darien colony. Three letters written from Darien by a Scottish settler in 1699 are being loaned by the National Archives of Scotland to the International Canal Museum in Panama and will form the centrepiece of their exhibition on the Darien settlement. They are the only surviving letters sent home from the Darien venture. The Keeper of the Records of Scotland says « These letters embody the hopes, the drama and ultimately the heartbreak of the Darien expedition. They are the authentic voice of the past, speaking to us down the centuries. »
Documents relating to the failed Darien scheme have been handed over to the National Library of Scotland
A collection of key documents detailing the failed Darien project has been put on show at the National Library of Scotland for the first time.
The key of the Universe display shows documents belonging to both the Royal Bank of Scotland and the library.
Inspired by banker William Paterson, Scotland invested a large proportion of its wealth in setting up a colony in Central America in 1698.
It turned out to be a disaster. The exhibition runs until August.
The plan was to set up a trading colony in Darien, now Panama, in 1698. Thousands died during the expedition and Scotland was plunged into economic crisis.
Ultimately the failure of the scheme led to the Act of Union in 1707 and some academics have drawn parallels to the economic crisis of the present day.
Now, for the first time, rare documents that tell the story of the Darien project and its demise are on display at the National Library of Scotland in Edinburgh