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The Highland Clearances (1969)

de John Prebble

Outros autores: Veja a seção outros autores.

Séries: The Highland Trilogy (3)

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502836,491 (4.02)16
In the terrible aftermath of the moorland battle of Culloden, the Highlanders suffered at the hands of their own clan chiefs. Following his magnificent reconstruction of Culloden, John Prebble recounts how the Highlanders were deserted and then betrayed into famine and poverty. While their chiefs grew rich on meat and wool, the people died of cholera and starvation or, evicted from the glens to make way for sheep, were forced to emigrate to foreign lands. 'Mr Prebble tells a terrible story excellently. There is little need to search further to explain so much of the sadness and emptiness of the northern Highlands today' The Times.… (mais)
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Mostrando 1-5 de 8 (seguinte | mostrar todas)
Scotland - History; Clans; Clearances - Scotland;
  yarrafaye | Apr 27, 2020 |
A good coverage of the human tragedy of the highland clearances. I had previously read Set Adrift on the World by James Hunter, but that book is limited to the area under the control of the Duke and Duchess of Sutherland. Prebble's book has a more extensive coverage and seems to provide information about clearances across the whole of the highlands.
Both books focus on the human tragedy. The details are deeply disturbing and make for troubling reading. I think the Prebble book delivers this aspect better than Hunter's book. Prebble is more opinionated, while Hunter is better documented.
But both books lack context. What were the details of land tenure in the highlands? Were there similar problems elsewhere in the UK? How did the de-fanging of the clans after Culloden change the nature of the relationship between Lairds and tenants? Did the creation of the Free Church ameliorate suffering? (Established church ministers were effectively appointed and paid by the local landowner.) What about the financial impact of the Poor Law on landlords - was this significant enough to warrant depopulation?
I am still waiting for the definitive book on the clearances. ( )
1 vote mbmackay | May 2, 2019 |
Lochaber no more
Sutherland no more
Lewis no more
Skye no more
— C&C Reid


Scotland is currently much exercised about its history, and in particular whether what took place between the middle of the 18th century and the middle of the 19th century constituted a genocide. We have become accustomed these days to thinking of genocide as involving a systematic industrial extermination programme, as in the Endlösung of the Nazis or the mass killings of Tutsi in Rwanda in the 1990s. By those standards the elimination of thousands of Gaelic speaking Highlanders from their homes in Scotland's northernmost counties may not strictly be genocide. It certainly fits the definition of "ethnic cleansing" as practiced in the Yugoslav wars and elsewhere. To the English, the Lowland Scots, even the clan chiefs the Highlanders had looked to as fathers for generations, now growing accustomed to the sophisticated ways of Edinburgh and London, the Gaels were an embarrassment, less than human and squatting in the way of profit. The hardy Cheviot sheep was found to be well-suited to the harsh climate and terrain, lucrative in mutton and wool, and worth rich rents from southern would-be sheep ranchers who didn't need peasants getting in the way. The people had to go.

John Prebble's account of the brutal removal of the Highlanders, first to barren, boggy coastal plots to gather seaweed and ultimately to be crammed into unhealthy and often unseaworthy ships bound for the colonies is chilling. Though there was stiff resistance to the removals, the agents of the Lairds enforced the writs as they had once raised armies: by tearing down the houses and burning them if the people didn't cooperate and often by burning or grubbing-up crops in the fields. Even the potato famine of the 1840s, which hit the Highlands just as hard as it hit Ireland, brought scant pity and was used as an extra excuse to cleanse the land. The Highlanders could drown or die of smallpox or starvation before they reached Canada or Australia, so long as they were out of the way. Even if they made it to the new lands, there was nothing there waiting for them so they had to start from scratch or perish. And it was all done in the name of "Improvement".

All this happening just as, down in London, a hubristic Britain was showing off its industrial might to the world at the Crystal Palace Great Exhibition. The Clearances are a hidden shame; not much taught in our schools I fear. This is angry stuff, and so it should be.







  enitharmon | Jan 14, 2019 |
Lochaber no more
Sutherland no more
Lewis no more
Skye no more
— C&C Reid


Scotland is currently much exercised about its history, and in particular whether what took place between the middle of the 18th century and the middle of the 19th century constituted a genocide. We have become accustomed these days to thinking of genocide as involving a systematic industrial extermination programme, as in the Endlösung of the Nazis or the mass killings of Tutsi in Rwanda in the 1990s. By those standards the elimination of thousands of Gaelic speaking Highlanders from their homes in Scotland's northernmost counties may not strictly be genocide. It certainly fits the definition of "ethnic cleansing" as practiced in the Yugoslav wars and elsewhere. To the English, the Lowland Scots, even the clan chiefs the Highlanders had looked to as fathers for generations, now growing accustomed to the sophisticated ways of Edinburgh and London, the Gaels were an embarrassment, less than human and squatting in the way of profit. The hardy Cheviot sheep was found to be well-suited to the harsh climate and terrain, lucrative in mutton and wool, and worth rich rents from southern would-be sheep ranchers who didn't need peasants getting in the way. The people had to go.

John Prebble's account of the brutal removal of the Highlanders, first to barren, boggy coastal plots to gather seaweed and ultimately to be crammed into unhealthy and often unseaworthy ships bound for the colonies is chilling. Though there was stiff resistance to the removals, the agents of the Lairds enforced the writs as they had once raised armies: by tearing down the houses and burning them if the people didn't cooperate and often by burning or grubbing-up crops in the fields. Even the potato famine of the 1840s, which hit the Highlands just as hard as it hit Ireland, brought scant pity and was used as an extra excuse to cleanse the land. The Highlanders could drown or die of smallpox or starvation before they reached Canada or Australia, so long as they were out of the way. Even if they made it to the new lands, there was nothing there waiting for them so they had to start from scratch or perish. And it was all done in the name of "Improvement".

All this happening just as, down in London, a hubristic Britain was showing off its industrial might to the world at the Crystal Palace Great Exhibition. The Clearances are a hidden shame; not much taught in our schools I fear. This is angry stuff, and so it should be.







  enitharmon | Jan 14, 2019 |
I was confused about the topic of this book; I thought it had something to do with the military actions in the Highlands after the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745 (especially because it was by the same author, John Prebble, as the recently reviewed Culloden). Although related to the Jacobite conflict, the “clearances” were a later event, taking place in two major stages: 1782-1820 and 1840-1854.


In the aftermath of “the ‘45”, the English government adopted strict measures to ensure this sort of thing didn’t happen again. The traitorous lairds were executed and their titles lapsed or were taken over by cadet branches with less attachment to the Highlands. It was forbidden for anyone to wear, or even possess, a kilt or plaid (except for Highland regiments, and they could only wear the dark “Government” tartan). The new lairds tended to spend their time in Edinburgh or London rather than Inverness, and life in the capitals was expensive. The wealth of a Highland chieftain had always been measured in the number of armed followers he could gather, not in his rent roll, but a piper and a band of Highland warriors was not much use in a London drawing room or gambling den.


The Highlands had always been cattle country, but Highland cattle, though rugged and hardy, were small. It wasn’t believed that sheep could survive a Highland winter, but then a breed – the Cheviot – turned up that could. A landowner could make one or two orders of magnitude more by leasing his land for a sheepwalk than he could from rents, especially with the demand for wool uniforms for the military.


Prebble never fully explains why the sheep and the crofters couldn’t coexist; cattle could, after all. I’m guessing the reason is the complicated land use rules that had built up over millennia. A renter might have the right to a small garden plot here, grazing for a cow there, and part of a field planted in oats somewhere else. It might have been possible to rationalize things, but it was quicker just to tell all the tenants to “remove”. The removals were always done by a factor or agent; the landowner himself was away in London, and sometimes had never even seen his or her property and tenants.


In some cases, the landowners provided new homesites elsewhere – on land unfit for sheep. In other cases, assistance was provided for emigration – to Canada or Australia (Gaelic is an official language in Nova Scotia; however the Highlanders that ended up in Saskatchewan didn’t preserve their tongue). Most of the time, though, people who had lived on “their” land for generations were just told to pack up and get out – else the sheriff threw their belongings in the street and burned their house down.


In the midst of all this came cholera (1832) and famine (1836 and 1846). The Highlands was not quite as badly hit by the potato famine as Ireland, but there were still food riots as landowners exported grain south while their tenants were starving. The end result was depopulation; Highland regiments made up a substantial fraction of the British army during the Napoleonic wars, but recruitment dropped to next to nothing by the Crimean War (despite the famous painting of the Sutherland Highlanders at Balaclava, the original “Thin Red Line”). One remaining Highlander’s bitter comment to the recruiting officers was “Since ye preferred sheep to men, let sheep defend you”.


Dated (1963) but still interesting. No illustrations, but good maps (It puzzles me that old books often have much better maps than new ones, even though the computer tools available for mapmaking have mushroomed). An excellent list of notable people involved in the clearances, and a chronology; this last is especially helpful, since Prebble often jumps around in time to tell his story. I think all have to pick up some of Prebble’s other books. ( )
  setnahkt | Dec 23, 2017 |
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Prebble, JohnAutorautor principaltodas as ediçõesconfirmado
Brockway, HarryIlustradorautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
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In the terrible aftermath of the moorland battle of Culloden, the Highlanders suffered at the hands of their own clan chiefs. Following his magnificent reconstruction of Culloden, John Prebble recounts how the Highlanders were deserted and then betrayed into famine and poverty. While their chiefs grew rich on meat and wool, the people died of cholera and starvation or, evicted from the glens to make way for sheep, were forced to emigrate to foreign lands. 'Mr Prebble tells a terrible story excellently. There is little need to search further to explain so much of the sadness and emptiness of the northern Highlands today' The Times.

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