Debating the Highland Clearances

Debating the Highland Clearances

Debating the Highland Clearances

Debating the Highland Clearances

Excerpt

Storm clouds regularly gather over the story of the Highland Clearances and show no sign of dispersing. After more than a century the historical dispute about the eviction of the Highlanders from the glens continues unabated and unresolved.

Debating the Highland Clearances introduces the Clearances as a classic historical problem: it focuses on the ways historians and others have approached the question and it concentrates on the methods and sources employed by the combatants. Half the book is devoted to a selection of documents which represent their main types of source material. Most of the book is about the perceptions, mentalities, politics and interpretations that dominate the noisy and continuing public debate about the Highland Clearances.

The great evictions were documented by eyewitnesses and were also recalled in many reminiscences. These descriptions, and the responses they often provoked, provide the first step in the process of historical under standing. Just as important were the contexts in which the Clearances were implemented. History is a perspective-seeking activity and without context it cannot yield historical explanation. One par ticular Highland context is inescapable: the controversy is entangled with political implications that influence all the issues. For more than two centuries (and now more than ever) the central question looming over the debate has been: who should possess and control the land in the Highlands?

I must thank Dr Robert Fitzsimons for every variety of assistance and advice with the preparation of the documents; and also Dr Malcolm Bangor-Jones for many references. I have received much help from the National Archives of Scotland, the National Library of Scotland and the Flinders University Library. Dr Ewen Cameron and Edinburgh University Press provided excellent editorial advice. I am grateful also to the Adelaide Club and the School of Scottish History at the University of Edinburgh who gave a lively but un-stormy hearing to my prelimin ary thoughts on the current state of the debate about the Clearances. The Faculty of Social Sciences at Flinders University provided a timely research grant towards the preparation of this volume.

Eric Richards Brighton, South Australia . . .

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