"Half a capital and half a country town, the whole city leads a double existence," Robert Louis Stevenson, the Scottish writer, wrote of Edinburgh in 1878. "It has long trances of the one and flashes of the other... it is half alive and half a monumental marble."
On Sept. 18, Scots voted to remain within the United Kingdom in the country's first-ever independence referendum. Had the results been different, Edinburgh would have become more than Stevenson ever imagined. The city would have been the capital of Western Europe's first 21st-century state, the seat of an independent government serving around 5 million people, setting taxes, directing a military.
Scotland will likely gain greater autonomy from Westminster in the coming years, even if it remains within the United Kingdom. But Stevenson's description of Scotland's capital should withstand any political change. Edinburgh will remain a city of marble, a city of old buildings and old streets. As it's grown -- from the busy seat of the Scottish Enlightenment in the 18th century, to an overcrowded commercial center in the 19th, to the financial and political hub of today -- Edinburgh has continued to turn around a slowly-changing historic backbone.
Here, Foreign Policy looks back at the steady monuments and shifting streets of a city that on Thursday made a watershed decision.
Above, Edinburgh Castle, once an important military garrison and now a major tourist attraction, is pictured here in the late 19th century.