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The recent past

The biggest event of recent years has been the long-awaited completion of the new Scottish Parliament Building at Holyrood, which was officially opened by the Queen on 9 October 2004. A minor scandal arose in the wake of the opening when it was revealed that hasty, last-minute landscaping to prepare for the Queen's visit had involved the planting of many mature trees. These were planted at such an advanced age that they were unable to take root, and had died by the following summer. Not to worry; a week after the official opening, the cranes were back on site. Despite the pomp and ceremony, the building wasn't quite finished; in fact it was another year before it was finally signed off.

The initial public reaction to the building was mostly negative, ranging from baffled incredulity to downright hostility, but the opinion of architectural experts was much more positive. In fact, the building won a slew of awards in the year following its official opening, culminating in October 2005 with the prestigious Stirling Prize, the 'Oscars of the architectural world', awarded by the Royal Institute of British Architects for the building that has made the greatest contribution to British architecture.

Whatever. There are at least two groups of Edinburghers who are delighted with the new complex. Local skateboarders and BMXers have discovered that the ramps and embankments of the Parliament's landscaped grounds make a most excellent skatepark, dude. And the local pigeons have started roosting and nesting in the abundant nooks and crannies provided by the intricate architectural detailing.

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From the beginning

Diners tucking into steaming bowls of mussels or sucking juicy oysters from the shell in seafood restaurants along the Shore in Leith are enjoying a feast whose traditions date back more than 10, 000 years. Archaeologists at Cramond, on the northwestern edge of Edinburgh, have recently uncovered huge piles of discarded shells (known as middens, a Scots word meaning 'rubbish heap') which prove that Scotland's earliest inhabitants made good use of the oyster and mussel beds of the Firth of Forth. These primitive encampments have been dated to 8500 BC - the earliest known traces of human activity in Scotland.

As the glaciers retreated in the wake of the last Ice Age, the climate gradually improved (yes, it actually used to be worse than it is now), encouraging people to make this place their permanent home rather than a mere foraging camp. Edinburgh's Castle Rock, a volcanic crag with three vertical sides, was a natural defensive position that must have attracted the first settlers; the earliest signs of habitation on the rock date back to around 900 BC. There is also evidence that people grew crops on the slopes of Arthur's Seat, where traces of ancient cultivation terraces have been found.

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Here come the Romans

The Roman invasion of Britain began in 55 BC, when Julius Caesar's legions first crossed the English Channel, but the Roman onslaught ground to a halt in the north. Between AD 78 and 84 the Roman governor Agricola marched northwards and spent several years trying to subdue the wild tribes he found there. The Romans called these tribes Picts (painted people), probably because they painted their faces or bodies with woad. Agricola's son-in-law, Tacitus, named the northern part of Scotland Caledonia after the Caledones - the first tribe he came across.

By the 2nd century Emperor Hadrian had decided that this inhospitable land of mist, bogs, midges and warring tribes had little to offer the Roman Empire, and between AD 122 and 128 he built the wall that took his name (close to the modern border between Scotland and England). Two decades later Hadrian's successor, Antoninus Pius, invaded Scotland again and built another rampart, the Antonine Wall, between the Firth of Forth and the River Clyde. An important Roman fort and supply station were built at Cramond, with other garrisons at Inveresk and Dalkeith, but they were only manned for about 40 years before the Romans once again withdrew. Cramond's Roman remains are uninspiring, but the village has provided one of Britain's most impressive Roman sculptures.

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How Edinburgh got its name

When the Romans first arrived in the Lothian region, the chief tribe they encountered was the Votadini, who had settlements on Castle Rock, Arthur's Seat and Blackford Hill. Little is known about these ancient Britons but it seems likely they were the ancestors of the Gododdin, who are mentioned by the Welsh bard Aneirin in a 7th-century manuscript. Aneirin relates how Mynyddog Mwynfawr, king of the Gododdin, feasted with his warriors in the 'halls of Eidyn' before going into battle against the Angles (the tribe who gave their name to Angle-land, or England) at Catraeth (Catterick, in Yorkshire).

The 'capital' of the Gododdin was called Dun Eiden, which meant 'Fort on the Hill Slope', and almost certainly referred to Castle Rock. The Angles, from the kingdom of Northumbria in northeastern England, defeated the Gododdin and captured Dun Eiden in 638. It is thought that the Angles took the existing Celtic name 'Eiden' and tacked it onto their own Old English word for fort, 'burh', to create the forerunner of the name Edinburgh.

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The Macalpin kings

Scotland is thought to have taken its name from the Scotti, or Scots, a Gaelic-speaking Irish tribe that colonised the west of Scotland in the 6th century. The Scots and Picts were eventually united by the threat of invasion by the Norsemen (Vikings) and by their common Christianity.

In 843 Kenneth MacAlpin, the king of Dalriada (modern-day Kintyre and Argyll) and son of a Pictish princess, took advantage of the custom of matrilineal succession to take over the Pictish throne, uniting Scotland north of the Firth of Forth into a single kingdom. He made Scone (near Perth) his capital and brought to it the sacred Stone of Destiny used in the coronation ceremonies of Scottish kings.

Nearly 200 years later, Kenneth MacAlpin's great-great-great-grandson, Malcolm II (r 1005-18), defeated the Northumbrian Angles led by King Canute at the Battle of Carham (1018) near Roxburgh on the River Tweed. This victory brought Edinburgh and the Lothian region under Scottish control and extended Scottish territory as far south as the Tweed.

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The Canmore dynasty

Malcolm II's grandson was Malcolm III Canmore (r 1057-93). Malcolm III's father, Duncan, was murdered by Macbeth (as described in Shakespeare's play), and Macbeth himself was killed by Malcolm at Lumphanan in 1057. With his Saxon queen, Margaret, Malcolm Canmore founded a solid dynasty of able Scottish rulers. They introduced new Anglo-Norman systems of government and religious foundations to Scotland. Malcolm and Margaret had their main home in Dunfermline but regularly visited the castle at Edinburgh.

Until this period there was no record of a town at Edinburgh - just the castle - but from the 11th century a settlement grew along the ridge to the east of Castle Rock. It had been made into a royal burgh (a self-governing town with commercial privileges) by 1124, when Malcolm's son, David I (r 1124-53), held court at the castle and founded the abbey at Holyrood.

David's mother, Margaret, had been a deeply religious woman and either he or his brother, Alexander I (r 1107-24), built a church in her honour on Castle Rock; today St Margaret's Chapel is the city's oldest surviving building. David I increased his power by adopting the Norman feudal system, granting land to noble Norman families in return for their acting as what amounted to a royal police force.

The royal burghs - which included Edinburgh and its suburb, Canongate - were permitted to conduct foreign trade, for which purpose Edinburgh created a port at nearby Leith. Edinburgh at the beginning of the 12th century was still something of a backwater, playing second fiddle to the wealthy burghs of Stirling, Perth and Berwick. That all changed when David I's successor Malcolm IV (r 1153-65) made the castle in Edinburgh his chief residence and royal treasury.

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Wars of independence

Two centuries of the Canmore dynasty came to an end in 1286 when Alexander III fell to his death over a cliff at Kinghorn in Fife. He was succeeded by his four-year-old granddaughter, Margaret (the Maid of Norway), who was engaged to the son of King Edward I of England.

Sadly, Margaret died in 1290 during the sea voyage to Scotland from her home in Norway, and there followed a dispute over the succession to the throne. There were no fewer than 13 claimants, but in the end it came down to two: Robert de Brus, lord of Annandale, and John Balliol, lord of Galloway. As the greatest feudal lord in Britain, Edward I of England was asked to arbitrate - he chose Balliol, whom he thought he could manipulate more easily. But instead of withdrawing, as the Scots nobles had expected, Edward tightened his feudal grip on Scotland, treating the Scots king as his vassal rather than his equal. The humiliated Balliol finally turned against Edward and made a treaty with France in 1295 - the so-called 'Auld Alliance'.

The first recorded treaty for mutual self-defence between European nations, the agreement declared that if either member was attacked by England, the other would invade. It also gave all Scots dual French citizenship (a right that was not officially revoked until 1903), provided Scotland with a choice of fine French wines and introduced many French words into the Scots language.

The English king responded to the French treaty with a bloody attack. In 1296 he marched on Scotland with an army of 30, 000 men, razed the ports of Berwick and Dunbar and butchered the citizens, and captured the castles of Berwick, Edinburgh, Roxburgh and Stirling. Balliol was incarcerated in the Tower of London, oaths of allegiance were demanded from Scottish nobles and, in a final blow to Scottish pride, Edward I removed the Stone of Destiny, the coronation stone of the kings of Scotland, from Scone and took it back to London.

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Bands of rebels led by local warlords attacked and harried the English occupiers. One such band, led by William Wallace (whose life was romanticised in the popular 1995 film Braveheart), defeated the English army at the Battle of Stirling Bridge in 1297, but Wallace was later captured and executed in London in 1305. Inspired by Wallace's example, the Scots nobles looked around for a new leader and turned to Robert the Bruce, grandson of the lord of Annandale who had been rejected by Edward in 1292. Bruce murdered his rival, John Comyn, in February 1306 and had himself crowned king of Scotland at Scone the following month.

Bruce mounted a campaign to drive the English out of Scotland but suffered repeated defeats. According to legend, while Bruce was on the run he was inspired by a spider's persistence in spinning its web to 'try, try, and try again'. He went on to win a famous victory over the English, led by Edward II, at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314. Continued raids on the north of England forced Edward II to sue for peace, and in 1328 the Treaty of Northampton (also known as the Treaty of Edinburgh) gave Scotland its independence, with Robert I, the Bruce, as its king.

One of Robert's last acts before his death in 1329 was to grant Edinburgh a charter giving it control over the port of Leith, the mills on the Water of Leith and much of the surrounding countryside, effectively making it Scotland's most important royal burgh.

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A medieval Manhattan

Bannockburn and the Treaty of Northampton had no lasting effect. After the death of Robert I, the country was ravaged by civil disputes and continuing wars with England. Edinburgh was occupied several times by English armies, and in 1385 the Kirk of St Giles was burnt to the ground. Robert was succeeded by his five-year-old son, David II (r 1329-71), who returned from exile in France in 1341 and made Edinburgh his main residence, building a tower house on the site of what is now the Half Moon Battery in Edinburgh Castle. When David II died without a son, the crown passed to his nephew, Robert II (r 1371-90), the child of his sister Marjory and her husband Walter, the third high steward of Scotland. Thus was born the Stewart dynasty, which would rule Scotland and Britain for the next 300 years.

By the mid-15th century Edinburgh was the de facto royal capital and political centre of Scotland. The coronation of James II (r 1437-60) was held in the abbey at Holyrood and the Scottish Parliament met in the Tolbooth on High St or in the castle. The city's first effective town wall was constructed at about this time, enclosing the Old Town as far east as the Netherbow, and the Grassmarket. This overcrowded area - by then the most populous town in Scotland - became a medieval Manhattan, forcing its densely packed inhabitants to build upwards instead of outwards, creating tenements that towered up to 12 storeys high.

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Renaissance king

James IV (r 1488-1513) married the daughter of Henry VII of England, the first of the Tudor monarchs, thereby linking the two royal families through 'the Marriage of the Thistle and the Rose'.

James was a true Renaissance man, interested in science, technology and the arts. He commissioned the Great Michael, the largest ship in Europe, encouraged the establishment of Edinburgh's first printing press and oversaw the foundation of Edinburgh's Royal College of Surgeons. He was fluent in several languages, wrote his own poetry, and was an enthusiastic amateur dentist, going so far as paying local people to allow him to pull their teeth.

His reign was a golden era that saw Edinburgh Castle become one of Britain's biggest gun foundries, the establishment of a supreme law court and the creation of a Scottish navy. Much graceful Scottish architecture dates from this time, and the Renaissance style can be seen in the alterations and additions made to the royal palaces at Holyrood, Stirling, Linlithgow and Falkland.

Renaissance ideas flourished throughout James IV's reign. Scottish poetry thrived, created by makars (makers of verses) such as William Dunbar, the court poet of James IV, and Gavin Douglas. The intellectual climate provided fertile ground for the rise of Protestantism, a reaction against the perceived wealth and corruption of the medieval Roman Catholic Church that would eventually lead to the Reformation.

However, James' marriage to an English princess didn't prevent the French from persuading him to go to war against his in-laws, and he was killed at the Battle of Flodden in 1513, along with 10, 000 of his subjects. To protect Edinburgh from a feared English reprisal its citizens hurriedly built another wall, the Flodden Wall, around the city. The wall, which took more than 40 years to build, was over 1.25 miles long, 25ft (7.5m) high and 5ft (1.5m) thick.

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Queen of Scots

In 1542 King James V lay on his deathbed in Falkland Palace in Fife - broken-hearted, it is said, after his defeat by the English at Solway Moss. His French wife, Mary of Guise, had borne him two sons but both had died in infancy. On 8 December a messenger brought word that his wife had given birth to a baby girl at the Palace of Linlithgow. Fearing the end of the Stewart dynasty and recalling its origin through Robert the Bruce's daughter, James sighed, 'It cam' wi' a lass, and it will gang wi' a lass.' He died a few days later, leaving his week-old daughter Mary to inherit the throne as Queen of the Scots.

In 1548 Mary (r 1542-67) was sent to France, leaving the country to be ruled by regents. Henry VIII of England wanted the infant queen to be married to his son, but the Scots rejected him. Henry was furious and sent his armies to take vengeance. Parts of Edinburgh were razed, Holyrood Abbey was sacked and the Border abbeys of Melrose, Dryburgh and Jedburgh were burnt down. The 'Rough Wooing', as it was called, failed to persuade the Scots to see the error of their ways, and in 1558 Mary was married to the French dauphin, becoming queen of France as well as Scotland.

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When Mary met John

While Mary was in France being raised as a Roman Catholic, the Reformation tore through Scotland. The hell-fire preachings of John Knox, a pupil of the Swiss reformer Calvin, found sympathetic ears in Edinburgh - Knox was the minister at the kirk of St Giles - and in 1560 the Scottish Parliament created a Protestant church that was independent of Rome and of the monarchy. The Church of Scotland abolished the Latin Mass and denied the authority of the pope.

Following the death of her sickly husband, the 18-year-old Queen Mary returned to Scotland, arriving at Leith on 19 August 1561. A week later she was formally welcomed to her capital city, and dined in Edinburgh Castle before proceeding down the Royal Mile to the Palace of Holyroodhouse, where she held a famous audience with John Knox.

Knox's views were extreme: he believed that the people had a right to depose their monarch, and saw this Catholic queen as a threat to the Protestant cause. He also believed that there was no middle ground when it came to religion, that one was either of God or of the Devil - and he was in no doubt that Mary was not of God. Mary in turn described Knox as the most dangerous man in her kingdom, and feared a church that denied both royal and papal authority. At their meeting at Holyroodhouse the great reformer harangued the young queen ceaselessly and challenged her Catholic faith; she later agreed to give royal protection to the Protestant Church in Scotland, but for her own part continued to hear Mass in private.

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In my end is my beginning

Mary married Henry Stewart, Lord Darnley, in the Chapel Royal at Holyrood and gave birth to a son (later to become James VI) in Edinburgh Castle in 1566 - you can still visit the tiny room where he was born. Any domestic bliss was short-lived and, in a dramatic train of events, Darnley was involved in the murder of Mary's Italian secretary Rizzio (rumoured to be her lover), shortly before he himself was murdered at his Edinburgh home, probably by Mary's new lover and second-husband-to-be, the Earl of Bothwell.

Mary's enemies - led by her bastard half-brother Lord James Stewart, the Earl of Moray - finally confronted her at Carberry Hill, just east of Edinburgh, and Mary was forced to abdicate in 1567. She fled to England for safety, while her supporters occupied Edinburgh Castle, and a state of near civil war descended on the capital and continued for the next five years. Knox himself fled to St Andrews in 1570, returning in 1572 to live in the famous house on the Royal Mile that still bears his name before dying later that year.

Meanwhile, having appealed to her cousin, Elizabeth I of England, for protection, Mary found herself a prisoner instead. Elizabeth, a Protestant, feared a Catholic uprising in England and suspected Mary of treason. After 20 years spent pining and plotting in various prisons, the Queen of Scots was beheaded in 1587. Her motto, embroidered on her Cloth of State, had been 'In my end is my beginning', a prescient phrase for a woman whose gruesome end is still remembered in books, plays, poems and songs.

When Elizabeth died childless in 1603 Mary's son, James VI of Scotland, inherited the English throne in the so-called Union of the Crowns, thus becoming James I of England (usually written as James VI/I). James moved his court to London and, for the most part, the Stewarts ignored Edinburgh from then on. Indeed, when Charles I (r 1625-49) succeeded James in 1625, he couldn't be bothered to come north to Edinburgh to be formally crowned as king of Scotland until 1633.

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The killing time

The 17th century was a time of civil war in Scotland and England. The arrogant attempts by Charles I to impose episcopacy (the rule of bishops) and an English liturgy on the Scottish Church ignited public riots in Edinburgh, most famously the one set off by the chair-tossing talents of Jenny Geddes that resulted in the creation of the National Covenant.

The Presbyterian Scottish Church believed in a personal bond with God that had no need of mediation through priests, popes and kings. On 28 February 1638 hundreds gathered in Greyfriars Kirkyard to sign the National Covenant, a declaration affirming their rights and beliefs; you can see an original copy of the Covenant in the Museum of Edinburgh and read the full text online at www.covenanter.org/Westminster/nationalcovenant.htm. Scotland became divided between the Covenanters and those who supported the king.

Edinburgh remained mostly unaffected by the civil wars of the 1640s but was laid low by the plague that raged between 1644 and 1645, when a fifth of the population died. Although the Scots opposed Charles I's religious beliefs and autocratic rule, they were appalled when Oliver Cromwell's parliamentarians executed the king in 1649. They offered his son the Scottish crown as long as he signed the Covenant, which he did. Charles II (r 1649-85) was crowned at Scone on 1 January 1651 but was soon forced into exile by Cromwell, who invaded Scotland and captured Edinburgh; Citadel St in Leith commemorates the site of the fortress he built there.

Following the restoration of Charles II in 1660, the king reneged on the Covenant; episcopacy was reinstated and hard-line Presbyterian ministers were deprived of their churches. Even so, many clergymen continued to reject the bishops' authority and started holding outdoor services, or conventicles. Charles' brother and successor, James VII/II (r 1685-89), was a Catholic who made worshipping as a Covenanter a capital offence. This period came to be known as 'the killing time', during which the Covenanters endured relentless persecution, notably at the hands of 'Bloody MacKenzie'.

With the arrival in England of the Protestant William of Orange in 1688, the Catholic Stuart monarchy was doomed (the spelling 'Stuart' was preferred to 'Stewart' after 1603, in deference to their French allies, whose alphabet has no 'w'). Scottish royalists held on to Edinburgh Castle in the name of King James during the Long Siege of 1689, during which their leader, the Duke of Gordon, held a famous conference with John Graham of Claverhouse (known as 'Bonnie Dundee') at the western postern of the castle (a plaque in the Princes St Gardens marks the spot). Dundee then rode off to raise a Jacobite army and began five more months of civil war that ended with his death at the Battle of Killiecrankie.

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Union with England

By the end of the 17th century, Edinburgh was indisputably Scotland's most important city. It had been made a cathedral city by Charles I in 1633; the Parliament Hall was built next to St Giles in 1639; and the Bank of Scotland was founded there in 1695. Civil war had left the country and its economy ruined, however, and in the 1690s famine killed up to a third of the population in some areas. The situation was made worse by the failure of an investment venture in Panama (the so-called Darien Scheme, set up by the Bank of England to boost the economy), which resulted in widespread bankruptcy.

The failure of the Darien Scheme made it clear to wealthy Scottish merchants and stockholders that the only way to make money in the lucrative markets of developing colonies was through union with England. The English also favoured union, but for different reasons - fear of their French enemies exploiting Jacobite sympathies in Scotland. To make the choice even starker, the English Parliament threatened to end the Scots' right to English citizenship and ban the duty-free export of Scottish goods to England; it also offered a financial incentive to those who lost money in the Darien Scheme. Despite public opposition, the Act of Union - which brought the two countries under one parliament, one sovereign and one flag, but preserved the independence of the Scottish Church and legal system - took effect on 1 May 1707.

On receiving the Act in Edinburgh, the chancellor of Scotland, Lord Seafield - the leader of the parliament that the Act abolished - is said to have murmured: 'Now there's an end to an auld sang.' Robert Burns later castigated the wealthy politicians who engineered the Union in characteristically stronger language: 'We're bought and sold for English gold - such a parcel of rogues in a nation!'

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The bonnie prince

One of the most over-romanticised episodes of Scottish history is the tale of Prince Charles Edward Stuart - better known as Bonnie Prince Charlie - and his ill-fated campaign to regain the British crown for his father and restore a Catholic king to the throne.

A series of Jacobite rebellions rocked Scotland in the first half of the 18th century (Jacobite derives from Jacob, the Latin form of James; the Jacobites were originally supporters of the exiled King James VII/II, Prince Charlie's grandfather.) In 1708 Charlie's father, James Edward Stuart, caused panic in Edinburgh when he arrived in the Firth of Forth with a fleet of French ships, but they were seen off by English men o' war. Another attempt in 1715 fizzled out after the inconclusive Battle of Sheriffmuir, which prompted the building of stronger defences at Edinburgh Castle.

The final showdown began in 1745 when Bonnie Prince Charlie himself landed in Scotland. Supported by an army of Highlanders, he captured Edinburgh (except for the castle) in September, holding court at the Palace of Holyroodhouse before defeating the Hanoverian forces of Sir John Cope at Prestonpans (near Musselburgh, just east of the capital). He got as far south as Derby in England but success was short-lived; a Hanoverian army led by the Duke of Cumberland harried him all the way back to the Highlands, where Jacobite dreams were finally crushed at Culloden in 1746. Jacobite prisoners were incarcerated in the vaults of Edinburgh Castle, which became an important military garrison.

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New town

Increasing stability in the second half of the 18th century allowed Edinburgh to expand. Desperate to relieve the pressure on the overcrowded and insanitary Old Town, the city council proposed to 'boldly enlarge Edinburgh to the utmost'. The council sponsored an architectural competition to design a 'New Town'; the winner was the unknown 23-year-old James Craig. Over the next 50 years elegant Georgian terraces spread across the low ridge to the north of the castle. Many of the finest houses were designed by architect Robert Adam, whose neoclassical style - a revival of Greek and Roman forms - swept through Europe in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

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A hotbed of genius

During a visit to Edinburgh in the late 18th century an English visitor is said to have remarked while standing at the Mercat Cross: 'Here I stand at what is called the Cross of Edinburgh, and can, in a few minutes, take 50 men of genius and learning by the hand.'

Although Edinburgh declined in political importance following the removal of the Scottish Parliament in 1707, its cultural and intellectual life flourished. During the period that came to be called the Scottish Enlightenment (roughly 1740-1830) Edinburgh was known as 'a hotbed of genius', famed throughout Europe for its great philosophers, scientists and artists. In 1762 no less a figure than Voltaire declared that 'today it is from Scotland that we get rules of taste in all the arts, from epic poetry to gardening'.

Edinburgh was home to philosopher David Hume, author of the influential Treatise on Human Nature, and political economist Adam Smith, who wrote The Wealth of Nations. Adam Ferguson, the founder of sociology, and historian William Robertson emerged as influential thinkers, nourished on generations of theological debate. Medic William Cullen produced the first modern pharmacopoeia, chemist Joseph Black advanced the science of thermodynamics, and geologist James Hutton challenged long-held beliefs about the age of the Earth. Publisher William Smellie established the Encyclopedia Britannica, and architect Robert Adam emerged as Britain's greatest exponent of neoclassicism.

After centuries of bloodshed and religious fanaticism, people applied themselves with the same energy to the making of money and the enjoyment of leisure. There was a revival of interest in Scottish history and vernacular literature, reflected in Robert Fergusson's satires and Alexander MacDonald's Gaelic poetry. The poetry of Robert Burns, a man of the people, achieved lasting popularity. Sir Walter Scott, the prolific novelist and ardent patriot, unearthed the Scottish crown jewels and had them put on public display in Edinburgh Castle.

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Edinburgh makes an impression

The renaissance of Scottish culture brought about by the Enlightenment awakened interest in Scotland elsewhere. In 1822 King George IV (r 1820-30) made the first state visit to Scotland by a reigning monarch since Charles II's coronation in January 1651. George IV's procession through Edinburgh, clad in Highland dress, was stage-managed by Sir Walter Scott and marked the beginnings of Edinburgh's tourist industry. The royal association was cemented by Queen Victoria (r 1837-1901), who was famously besotted with all things Scottish and wrote, 'The impression Edinburgh has made on me is very great; it is quite beautiful, totally unlike anything else I have ever seen.'

Religious tensions, never far from the surface, broke out once again in the 19th century over who had the right to appoint Church of Scotland ministers. Since 1712 the civil authorities had held that power; the dissenters supported the right of the congregation to appoint their own minister. It all came to a head in Edinburgh in 1843 when 190 clergymen walked out of the General Assembly, then being held in the Church of St Andrew & St George on George St. The Disruption, as it came to be known, marked the founding of the Free Church of Scotland.

Although the Industrial Revolution affected Edinburgh on a much smaller scale than Glasgow, it brought many changes. Ironworks, potteries, glass factories and light engineering were added to the traditional industries of baking, brewing, distilling and publishing. Edinburgh's population increased rapidly, quadrupling in size to 400, 000 - not much less than it is today. The Union Canal was completed in 1822, allowing coal from the Midlothian mines to be transported by barge to the Forth and Clyde Canal and on to Glasgow. No sooner had the canal gone into operation than it was rendered obsolete by the arrival of the railways. New suburbs of Victorian tenement blocks spread over the country estates around the Old and New Towns as the city expanded, swallowing up nearby villages such as Stockbridge and Dean.

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World heritage site

In the 1920s the city's borders expanded again to encompass Leith in the north, Cramond in the west and the Pentland Hills in the south. Following the reorganisation of Scottish local government in 1975, the city expanded westwards to absorb Queensferry, Ratho and Kirkliston.

Following WWII the city's cultural life blossomed, stimulated by the Edinburgh International Festival and its fellow traveller the Fringe, both held for the first time in 1947 and now recognised as world-class arts festivals. The University of Edinburgh established itself as a teaching and research centre of international importance in areas such as medicine, electronics and artificial intelligence.

Ill-conceived development plans in the 1960s and '70s resulted in the demolition of large parts of Greenside (at the top of Leith Walk), St Leonards, Dalry and Tollcross, and the construction of various concrete monstrosities in and around the city centre, notably the St James Centre at the eastern end of Princes St. Fortunately, not all of the plans were realised, and Edinburgh was spared the horror of a motorway running the length of Princes St Gardens. In reaction, a strong conservation movement emerged to preserve and restore the city's old buildings and to control the impact of any new developments on the city's character. In 1995 both the Old and New Towns were declared Unesco World Heritage Sites.

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There shall be a Scottish parliament

Both Labour and Conservative governments had toyed with the idea of offering Scotland devolution or a degree of self-government, and in 1979 a referendum was held on whether to set up a directly elected Scottish Assembly. Fifty-two percent of those who voted said 'yes' to devolution but the Labour Prime Minister, James Callaghan, decided that everyone who didn't vote should be counted as a 'no'. By this devious reasoning, only 33% of the electorate had voted 'yes', so the Scottish Assembly was rejected.

From 1979 to 1997 Scotland was ruled by a Conservative government in London for which the majority of Scots hadn't voted. Separatist feelings, always present, grew stronger. Following the landslide victory of the Labour Party in May 1997, another referendum was held over the creation of a Scottish Parliament. This time the result was overwhelmingly and unambiguously in favour.

The opening clause of the Scotland Act 1998 declared, 'There shall be a Scottish Parliament', and the Labour government was true to its word. Elections took place on 6 May 1999 and the Scottish Parliament convened for the first time on 12 May in the Assembly Rooms of the Church of Scotland at the top of the Royal Mile. Donald Dewar (1937-2000), formerly the Secretary of State for Scotland, was nominated as first minister (the Scottish Parliament's equivalent of prime minister), and the Parliament was officially opened by Queen Elizabeth II on 1 July 1999.

However, it was not until October 2004 that the Parliament was able to move into its controversial new home in Holyrood at the foot of the Royal Mile.

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