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The Highland Clearances Re-Examined

  • Date Submitted: 01/28/2010 02:23 AM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 52.6 
  • Words: 1548
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The popular conception of the Highland clearances depicts a simple, clear-cut tale of injustice depicted through sensational images of massacre and destruction. The clanship is often romanticised and the issues surrounding the clearances often trivialised to the extent that process of homogenisation occurs whereby all historical data becomes subsumed into one overriding dominant narrative. Usually glorifying the Higlanders and villifying the Southerners. Unsurprising as most accounts were written by one side or the other. Thus it is important to keep an objective viewpoint. For instance, many accounts talk of the years before the clearances having been a golden age.

The very idea of such a golden age is dubious. The clanship was very much a lawless society with constant jockeying for power between warring clans. The Southern Scots regarded Highlanders as primitive murderous barbarians and with good reason. In an earlier attempt to indoctrinate the Highlanders into the Southern way of life settlers from Fife had emigrated North (the Fife plantations) only to be completely massacred. There was bound to be a decisive clash of cultures at one point. The tensions had already flared up before such as at the battle of Harlaw.

Indeed power hungry clan chiefs often plotted extending their territory further south and made many more murderous forays into the Southern Kingdom including the jacobite rebellions. Added to the religious and cultural differences it is not hard to understand the mistrust and hatred that existed between North and South.

In Highland society, power was based upon clans’ millitary strength. Lands were frequently taken through force and rival clans settlements destroyed.

Although the Highland economy was self-sufficient it was certainly not rich.

’Every family has a small farm, which they are too poor to stock with sheep or cattle, and in a bad year, as the last, when all the oats were...


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