Scotland in 1750 was still a poor country, economically backward compared with England. Many features of Scottish society had only changed marginally during the previous century. The average Lowland cottar or Highland sub-tenant was little better clothed, fed, or housed in the mid-eighteenth century than in his great grandfather’s time. Yet change was in the air. Scotland was poised on the threshold of major economic and social developments though this was not necessarily apparent to contemporaries. Developments which were unspectacular in the 1740s became more widespread in the 1750s, accelerated in the 1760s and were of major significance by the 1770s. The period from cl750 to cl780 has been called an age of improvement. This term was not confined to agriculture but embraced a wide range of economic and cultural changes which interlinked and reinforced each other in such a complex pattern of interactions that it is hard to isolate and evaluate the importance of the elements which were at work. Accelerating economic growth in the third quarter of the eighteenth century was an indispensable prelude to the onset of industrialisation from the 1780s. During this phase, Mitchison has suggested, Scotland achieved almost as much economic growth as England had in the previous two centuries. 1 Scotland in 1780 was still a predominantly rural country, still markedly poorer than England. Nevertheless, during the previous 30 years the pace and direction of economic and social change had begun to differentiate Scotland from its European neighbours and place it far closer to England. Scotland’s ability in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries rapidly to adopt innovations from England and then to improve upon them would have been impossible without the phase of pre-industrial expansion which was under way by the 1740s and 1750s.