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T. M. Devine

1 CLANSHIP I The conventional and familiar division of Scotland into ‘Highlands’ and ‘Lowlands’ is a comparatively recent development. Before the later fourteenth century there was apparently little consciousness of the ‘Highlanders’ as a people with a distinctive language, customs, dress and social structure. The inhabitants of the north of Scotland and the Western Isles did not yet possess a special identity, and Gaelic was still spoken widely in districts as far south as Fife in the east and Galloway in the west. The state did not govern in terms of

in Clanship to crofters’ war
The social transformation of the Scottish Highlands
Author: T. M. Devine

This book charts the story of the people of the Scottish Highlands from before the '45 to the great crofters' rebellion in the 1880s - a powerful story of defeat, social dissolution, emigration, rebellion and cultural revival. The conventional and familiar division of Scotland into 'Highlands' and 'Lowlands' is a comparatively recent development. Strangely, fourteenth century chroniclers who noted differences in culture, dress, speech and social behaviour between the Highlands and the Lowlands failed to comment on clanship as a distinguishing characteristic. During the Wars of Independence against England, soldiers from the Highlands fought on the Scottish side but were not given clan affiliations. The penetration of feudal structures into the Highlands blurred the distinction between clanship and social systems elsewhere in Scotland and many of the greatest clan chiefs were feudal lords as well as tribal leaders. This can be best illustrated from the history of the Lordship of the Isles. Successive heads of the MacDonald dynasty practised primogeniture, issued feudal charters to major landowners in the lordship and employed feudal rules in marital contracts. It used to be thought that Highland clanship died on Culloden Moor in 1746 and was effectively buried by the punitive legislation imposed on Gaeldom after the final defeat of the last Jacobite rebellion. It is clear that clan society was undergoing a process of gradual and protracted decline long before the '45 and that the climax to this was reached in the decades after the failure of the rebellion.

T. M. Devine

argument can be seen from the history of Jacobitism in Scotland. By 1688 James VII had managed even to alienate the majority of his conservative supporters and his huge unpopularity can be judged by the fact that the first attempt at an armed restoration of the Stewarts by Viscount Dundee in 1689 attracted only a couple of 20 CLANSHIP TO CROFTERS’ WAR thousand men and no leading member of the nobility. By 1715, however, the Jacobite star was in the ascendant. The rebellion of that year attracted considerable magnate support together with enthusiastic commitment from

in Clanship to crofters’ war
T. M. Devine

3 THE TRANSFORMATION OF GAELDOM I Gaelic society and clanship were in decay long before the later eighteenth century. However, in the 1760s and 1770s there was a marked acceleration in the rate of social change and, in subsequent decades, material, cultural and demographic forces combined to produce a dramatic revolution in the Highland way of life. In simple terms traditional society was destroyed in this period and a new order based on quite different values, principles and relationships emerged to take its place. Before this time, elite attitudes were

in Clanship to crofters’ war
T. M. Devine

longer figures of fun and ethnic contempt but in the ‘45 had threatened to overthrow the protestant succession itself and this elicited an almost hysterical reaction. One commentator, ‘Scoto-Britannus’, depicted the Highlanders as men beyond the pale of civilisation. The Young Pretender had secretly landed in the remote parts of the kingdom ‘amidst dens of barbarous and lawless ruffians’ and a ‘crew of ungrateful villains, savages and traitors’.4 For Lowland presbyterians, the Highland Jacobites 86 CLANSHIP TO CROFTERS’ WAR posed a dreadful threat because of their

in Clanship to crofters’ war
T. M. Devine

church and state, a partnership designed to civilise the inhabitants of the region by destroying clanship, eradicating popery and inculcating loyalty to the Hanoverian crown. In 1724, George I provided an annuity of £1,000 through the royal bounty to support catechists and itinerant preachers and even more significant was the foundation in 1709 of the Scottish Society for the Propagation of Christian Knowledge (SSPCK). This organisation was intent on using schools to disseminate religious instruction and knowledge. The General Assembly gave moral and financial support

in Clanship to crofters’ war
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Illicit whisky-making, 1760–1840
T. M. Devine

seized in the Highland zone, a figure which represented only a fraction of the total number in operation, and the flow of illicit liquor was so great that, according to some 120 CLANSHIP TO CROFTERS’ WAR observers, it threatened to engulf the market of the Lowland licensed producers. John Stein of Kilbagie, the greatest distiller in Scotland at the time, asserted that over half the whisky consumed in Scotland was illicitly manufactured and that illegal spirits had cornered the lion’s share of the market in Perth, Stirling, Glasgow and other Clydeside towns

in Clanship to crofters’ war
T. M. Devine

decade. The Clanranald plan of 1827 referred to above envisaged the shipping of at least 3,000 people to British North America from South Uist and Benbecula alone. 56 CLANSHIP TO CROFTERS’ WAR In some areas these strategies were actually put into effect. McLean of Coll successfully transported 300 people from Rhum to Canada, and between 1838 and 1843 Lord MacDonald assisted around 1,300 people to emigrate from North Uist. In each case the emigrations were related to widespread evictions and the subsequent conversion of considerable tracts of land to sheep farms. But

in Clanship to crofters’ war
T. M. Devine

were seen to be ‘different’ from the Lowlander in the basic element of speech. Not only were the population in some areas dangerously subversive, especially when Jacobitism became significant from the later seventeenth century, but their language was alien and ‘Irish’. Just as the people had to be pacified and integrated, so Gaelic, the great symbol of their different culture, had to be subordinated and removed. The rationale for anglicisation was in place. 112 CLANSHIP TO CROFTERS’ WAR Nevertheless, the returns made to the General Assembly’s Committee anent

in Clanship to crofters’ war
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Highland migrants in the Scottish city
T. M. Devine

records of the larger towns but they were never a significant group and were always vastly outnumbered by the Irish. Again, Highland involvement in general and casual labouring was not surprising since many migrants came to the Lowlands on a temporary or seasonal basis and sought employment mainly in the unskilled labour market. It does not necessarily follow, however, that those who were more 242 CLANSHIP TO CROFTERS’ WAR permanently settled in southern towns and cities were similarly confined. Fortunately, through a scrutiny of census, church and other records it

in Clanship to crofters’ war