Highland Clearances

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  • Topic: Highland Clearances, Scotland, Scottish Highlands
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  • Published : March 7, 2012
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History B Assessment 2 The Highland Clearances Scott Cran L000043274 This essay will try to answer the question and describe the different interpretations of historians regarding the ‘Highland Clearances’. The decline of the highland society started with the end of the Jacobean uprising of 1745 after the battle of Culloden, this was to prove to be the final battle of war but the beginning of many years of a systematic approach to removing highland and lowland Scotts from their land. The clearances definitely show a connection to the agricultural and industrial revolution of the late 18th and 19th century which was sweeping all across Europe at this time, but although this may be true this a far too simplistic view and does not account for the evidence supporting many historians views that the highland clearances were an early version of ‘ethnic cleansing’. The British government at this time were looking to destroy the clan system in the highlands as they perceived the highlanders as a threat to the establishment, but many saw the highland ruling class just as much to blame for the situation as they were seen to supporting this clearance as a way to retain their wealth and lands by sacrificing the people, this left a bitter taste especially when it was expressed as economic and social reform. The most brutal part of the clearances began in 1760 with the introduction of sheep farming which was due to the soaring prices from wool and perceived as the new economic miracle which led to many farmers being forcibly removed from their homes forcing them from inland to coastal areas, the removed farmer was now provided with a small piece of land mostly in coastal areas as these were areas which were of no use to a sheep farmer and forced the coastal farmers to turn to other ways to make a living such as kelping for the manufacture of soap etc. This industry was able to absorb the excess population as it was very labour intensive and also provided the opportunity in the fishing industry, this led to many crofting townships which still exist today such as Bettyhill, 1.

Helmsdale and Spinningdale. ‘ Scottish wool accounted for 25% by early 1940s, behind these statistics lay the convulsion in Highland society unleashed by the sheep farms, although in different ways the manufacture of kelp and alkali extract used in soap and glass had a similar importance’ (Devine, T.M; 2006). The state too had attempted at resettlement and established many fishing stations in the hope of creating a new industrial base in the highlands which gave rise to many villages and towns such as Ullapool, Tobermory and Pultneytown. Respect for the clan chiefs was now altered forever and even if they had remained on their land they soon realized there was no real benefit and eventually were forced to sell of their remaining holdings to the upper class of the industrialized south. ‘The rank and file took part because being called to fight in the service of their clan chief was a traditional part of the system by which they held their land. Respect for the way of life involved dying for it when necessary.’ (Noble, R.2011 [online])’. Many of the initiatives such as the kelping and fishing stations failed mainly because of the vast distances between the crofting communities system and their potential markets in the south, even the education system was playing its part by promoting English instead of the native Gaelic language. The early clearances are seen to be the most brutal as the people little or no other option as emigration had been widely discouraged as the landlords felt this was not in their best interest or the countries. Although the landowner and the in some ways the crofter prospered within the kelping and fishing industry this was short lived as the iodine which the kelping industry manufactured was able to be bought in from overseas at a cheaper price. This situation led to the next phase in the...
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