The Transformation of Rural Scotland: Social Change and the Agrarian Economy, 1660-1815

The Transformation of Rural Scotland: Social Change and the Agrarian Economy, 1660-1815

The Transformation of Rural Scotland: Social Change and the Agrarian Economy, 1660-1815

The Transformation of Rural Scotland: Social Change and the Agrarian Economy, 1660-1815

Synopsis

"In the eighteenth century the old peasant society of lowland Scotland disappeared to be replaced by a new order of capitalist farmers and landless labourers. It was one of the most fundamental changes in modern Scottish history, but has never before been studied in detail. In this groundbreaking book, T. M. Devine uses original and extensive archive material from four representative counties to explore this social revolution - a revolution unparalleled in Western Europe for its speed and scale. He compares developments in the Highlands of Scotland and in agrarian England, and covers a wide range of issues, including: the seventeenth-century rural social structure; the eighteenth-century agrarian economy; landlordism and improvement; the evolution of the tenant farming class; and the dispossession of the cottar class. It is an important and controversial book on a subject which has received inadequate study in the past." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Excerpt

In the later decades of the seventeenth century Scotland was a relatively poor and underdeveloped country on the periphery of Europe. Around 100 years later it was in the throes of an extraordinary and remarkable transformation which laid the basis for the nation's world economic pre-eminence in the Victorian era. Two aspects of this 'great leap forward', the Industrial Revolution and the Highland Clearances, have been much studied. But a third and vitally important dimension, the process of transition in the rural lowlands from peasant to capitalist agriculture, has attracted less attention in recent years. In a sense, it was the most fundamental development of all. In the early years of the eighteenth century, at least eight out of ten Scots lived on the land and were employed in agriculture or related activities. The majority of them stayed in the Lowlands. Furthermore, urbanisation and industrialisation could not have developed as rapidly if the agrarian system had not been able to supply the foods and many of the raw materials for the growing manufacturing centres at acceptable prices.

There can be no doubt of the intrinsic importance of the lowland rural economy and society to the overall evolution of Scotland in its great age of material advancement and cultural change. General assessments are available from the pens of J. A. Symon and James Handley, but these can be criticised for an over-reliance on the abundant 'improving' literature of the later eighteenth century and a too easy acceptance of some of its conclusions. In the 1940s and 1950s valuable papers on landscape change were published by such historical geographers as J. H. G. Lebon and Betty Third. More recently, R. A. Dodgshon and Ian Whyte have produced substantial studies from a geographical perspective of agrarian economic and social change in the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, while Malcolm Gray has traced some of the social effects of the commercialisation of agriculture in the decades after c. 1760 on the basis of contemporary printed sources. Thus far, however, no sustained examination has appeared of the entire process of economic and social change in the rural lowlands which covers the period from the later seventeenth to the early nineteenth centuries.

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