This chapter considers not only the victories, or the glorious defeats, of Scottish opposition to British military cutbacks, but also looks at occasions where Scottish battalions went down without a fight. The government's post-Suez credibility on foreign policy and defence matters, such as it was, rested on its ability to push through its defence economies and priorities in the face of opposition within the armed forces. The political storm over 1st Battalion Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders (1st Argylls) began before the threat to the battalion materialised. It was the service of the battalion in Aden itself, in the context of political and press criticism of the British authorities' handling of the British withdrawal, that brought 'the Argylls' to public notice. The 'Save the Argylls' public campaign which followed was led by retired senior officers, while the serving battalion and constituted regiment maintained the requisite distance.
Over 130 military museums in the United Kingdom preserve the historical collections of British regiments, corps and services (including two naval museums). Their collections contain artefacts acquired by British servicemen in colonial warfare and on imperial garrison duties across the globe. Outside military culture, the phenomenon of collecting in theatres of war is primarily associated with looting. However, those who encountered the British Army in its colonial garrisons and campaigns met with a remarkably heterogeneous enterprise. Drawing from a series of research workshops funded by the Royal Society of Edinburgh and case studies developed with British Academy/Leverhulme, support, the essays in this edited collection will combine the perspectives of anthropologists and historians to test current understandings of military collecting beyond Europe. Dividing the Spoils will variously address motivations and circumstances for collecting and appropriation, the place of collected objects in the context of military organisational culture and the legacy of military collections as material witnesses of encounters between non-European peoples and imperial forces. The book argues for an understanding of these collections within a range of intercultural relationships which embrace diplomacy, alliance, curiosity and enquiry, as well as conflict, expropriation and cultural hegemony.
The trajectory into the collections of National Museums Scotland made by two horn cups is explored as a means to discuss military culture and collections of the non-European world. Both cups are associated with storming at the fortress city of Maqdala, Ethiopia in 1868. These objects are examined here from a shared, interdisciplinary perspective embracing museum anthropology and military history. They represent the products of one end of a range of collecting practices, running from looting through to scientific collecting, and between which the boundaries are not always clear. The stories of their acquisition, and of their afterlives as museum objects, open up some of the complexities and fascinating ambiguities which can emerge from close study of material of this kind. These, and similar objects preserved in military collections across the UK, raise questions about the relationship between the British Army and Empire, the culture and practices of appropriation, collecting and memorialisation in British military culture, about the fluidity of the terminology applied to such objects, and about the challenges and opportunities inherent in interpreting such objects for museum visitors in the post-colonial era.
Eighteenth-century powder horns in British military collections
Stuart Allan and Henrietta Lidchi
Engraved power horns are a well-known aspect of the material culture of the Seven Years’ War (1756–1763), also known in North America as the French and Indian War. In looking at collections in military museums across the UK it emerged that powder horns were a distinctive form of material culture from this campaign. Powder horns were often personalised and artistically adapted, and they feature widely in North American collecting institutions and remain of considerable interest to private collectors. Though many are decorated with detailed maps of the theatre of war, others carry more personalised imagery or inscriptions and were made ‘on the hoof’ by amateur artists as mementoes. This chapter focuses on three examples which have an additionally important feature, the carrying straps likely procured from indigenous allies, which documentary evidence suggests might have been military issue. These include straps that are cut down tumplines (burden straps), glass wampum belts, woven belts or quillwork ‘prisoner ties’. Such items are known from early antiquarian collections. This chapter reviews the possible intercultural relationships encapsulated in the survival of these objects in military museums, and discusses their symbolic value within the military culture of the eighteenth-century British Army.