Living in Atholl: A Social History of the Estates, 1685-1785

Living in Atholl: A Social History of the Estates, 1685-1785

Living in Atholl: A Social History of the Estates, 1685-1785

Living in Atholl: A Social History of the Estates, 1685-1785


I am sure anyone who reads Dr Leneman's book Living in Atholl 1685-1785 will soon appreciate it is not the normal history book; it is not concerned with Kings and Politicians, but with the local people living their ordinary lives. Whilst it would obviously be impossible to write about Atholl in the eighteenth century without mentioning the Jacobite rebellions, they feature here much more for the effect they had on the countryside, than for the course of the battles. If there is a hero in this book, it is not Lord George Murray, Prince Charles Edward or even General Mackay or the Marquis of Montrose, but Commissary Bisset, the Atholl Estates factor, who succeeded in both pleasing his Masters and representing the feelings of the employees, farm tenants, cottars and wad- setters on the Estate.

In the early eighteenth century, the great landowners were much more than just landlords, for they were responsible for the well being, both physical and spiritual of their tenants; and in carrying this out voluminous records were kept in the charter rooms of their houses, and what is in the Charter Room at Blair Castle forms the basis of this book.

Of course, it was chiefly for administrative purposes that rental books, legal documents and business letters were kept, and therefore there are inevitably many questions which these records cannot answer. What is wonderful, however, is just how much they are able to tell us about life two to three hundred years ago.

The study of social history, particularly in Scotland, is as yet hardly touched; it is impossible to say with our present knowledge how typical the Atholl Estates are; little research has been done on other estates, and if Dr Leneman does tackle another estate, I look forward to reading the result of her researches. I suspect Atholl may not have been typical, and that the further north and west one goes, the worse things were, but at any rate thanks to Commissary Bissett and his assistants, things here do not seem to have been too bad.

What I am sure is that anyone who has studied Dr Leneman's book will find a visit here enormously rewarding.

Blair Castle . . .

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