About the Book
Duncan McLaren was a dominant (and at times domineering) figure in nineteenth-century Edinburgh and Scotland. Yet he has virtually disappeared from public view. 'The Member for Scotland' was the nickname given him at Westminster because he took up all manner of Scottish issues and initiated the campaign for a Scottish Secretary. McLaren's political base was among the religious and political radicals of Edinburgh. As a young councillor he saved the city from bankruptcy and established free schools for poor families. He challenged the Whig lawyers who controlled Edinburgh politics, became Lord Provost and successfully sued the Scotsman for libel. From his draper's business in the High Street he moved into railways, banking and the suburban property boom. Married to the sister of the free-trade liberal leader John Bright, he helped draft bills to reform the electoral system and voted for women's rights. Of his nine children, three became Liberal MPs. Yet he tried to frustrate one daughter's marriage hopes and another's ambitions to be a doctor. This biography is based on a wide range of political and family letters never previously used.
It opens a door on Victorian public and family life and contributes to an understanding of why Scotland so ardently embraced Gladstonian Liberalism.