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Innovative thinkers across every domain, the Scots are on the cutting edge of an intellectual revolution with far-reaching consequences.

From the late 18th century to the beginning of the 20th century, Scottish society was shaped by three major developments. Agrarian reform, the Scottish Enlightenment, and the Industrial Revolution resulted in major changes in the country over 150 years, which entailed a completely new social structure and way of life. The period, preceded by the signing of the Acts of Union between the kingdoms of Scotland and England in 1707, was a time when Scottish industry benefitted from its integration into the United Kingdom of Great Britain's world market. .

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During the 18th century, Scotland was a nerve center of the Enlightenment. Scottish thinkers were fully involved in intellectual exchange, reviewing, debating, and circulating new ideas; they made significant contributions to the advancements in the fields of philosophy, political science, economics, physics, biology, geology, and more. The period’s intense scientific competitiveness encouraged the discovery of new techniques, which would be put to practical applications in industry and engineering in later decades. Throughout the 19th century, Scotland went through one of the fastest industrial transformations in Europe. Its development was spurred by a flourishing textile industry that produced linen, cotton, and wool that was exported on a massive scale to Europe and the United States. Natural reserves of coal and iron ore that were easily mined supported the rise of heavy industry, primarily steel manufacturing and shipbuilding. At the turn of the 20th century, Scotland was responsible for 28% of British steel output and the Clyde shipyards ranked first in production globally. A population explosion lasting 150 years, between 1755 and 1911, effectively quadrupled the size of the Scottish population from 1.2 to 4.7 million people, and totally transformed its cities. Absorbing population from the countryside in addition to high birthrates, Glasgow's population multiplied tenfold in the 1800s and remained the second-largest city in the British Empire for a century.

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Immigration and emigration were two major trends during this period. While in the 19th century a large Irish community became established in Scotland, by the beginning of the 20th century there were as many Scots living outside Scotland's borders as there were inside.