Principal Sir James Donaldson : education and political patronage in Victorian Scotland
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This thesis evaluates the career of James Donaldson whose life spans the long ascendancy of the Liberal Party in Scotland. Particular attention is accorded his contribution to Scottish education - at primary, secondary and University level - and the significance of political alignment in determining appointees to many positions at this time. Donaldson's life illustrates how social mobility could be achieved in Victorian Scotland when the structure of Scottish society presented features distinguishing it from that in England and which tended to seriously impede upward movement. Yet neither poverty nor illegitimacy necessarily proved insurmountable handicaps when ability attracted the benevolent interest of men enjoying influence and connection in the educational world. Recognizing Donaldson s potential, men of established position ensured his appointment to positions worthy of his talents. This - patronage seeking nothing in return beyond the satisfaction of helping an able young man move ahead despite a disadvantaged background - led on to the benefits of political patronage which opened to Donaldson consequent on his friendship with Lord Rosebery. Such patronage, while securing positions for the favoured, was in the nature of reward for services rendered. Men like Professor John Blackie ensured Donaldson's rise to the forefront of the professional middle class but it was access to the influence and connections of the nobility which facilitated his promotion from a rector - albeit of the most prestigious burgh school in Scotland - to the much smaller academic world of the Scottish Universities and effortlessly admitted him to the world of the still essentially landed aristocracy who with their interconnected webs of relationships and connections exercised a dominating influence in the social and political life of Britain. From original sources not only is Donaldson's stature as a Scottish educationalist for a period exceeding sixty years unequivocally established but also the extent and importance, formerly unappreciated, of his involvement in the high summer of Liberal politics.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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