Malcolm Laing - Encyclopedia




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MALCOLM LAING (1762-1818), Scottish historian, son of Robert Laing, and elder brother of Samuel Laing the elder, was born on his paternal estate on the Mainland of Orkney. Having studied at the grammar school of Kirkwall and at Edinburgh University, he was called to the Scotch bar in 1785, but devoted his time mainly to historical studies. In 1793 he completed the sixth and last volume of Robert Henry's History of Great Britain, the portion which he wrote being in its strongly liberal tone at variance with the preceding part of the work; and in 1802 he published his History of Scotland from the Union of the Crowns to the Union of the Kingdoms, a work showing considerable research. Attached to the History was a dissertation on the Gowrie conspiracy, and another on the supposed authenticity of Ossian's poems. In another dissertation, prefixed to a second and corrected edition of the History published in 1804, Laing endeavoured to prove that Mary, queen of Scots, wrote the Casket Letters, and was partly responsible for the murder of Lord Darnley. In the same year he edited the Life and Historie of King James VI., and in 1805 brought out in two volumes an edition of Ossian's poems. Laing, who was a friend of Charles James Fox, was member of parliament for Orkney and Shetland from 1807 to 1812. He died on the 6th of November 1818.

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