Skip to main content

Highlands history from Edinburgh University Press

Edinburgh University Press is the home of scholarship for Scottish history, in particular the history of the Highlands, having published the likes of Eric Richards' Debating The Highland Clearances, Tom Furniss's Discovering the Footsteps of Time, Robert Dodgshon's history of the rural environment called No Stone Unturned, and John Roberts' history of the Highland clans Feuds, Forays and Rebellions

A tremendous resource for the lay historian and scholar alike is the journal Northern Scotland, which is moving to two issues a year as of 2019. It is the home for seminal articles on the history of the Highlands and Islands, including such popular issues as land ownership, culture, emigration and diaspora, and biography. It is chaired by Annie Tindley who is Senior Lecturer in Modern British History at Newcastle University.

Annie is also editor of the new book series at EUP, called 'Scotland's Land' which has just published its first volume:

Title: The Land Agent 
Author: Annie Tindley, Lowri Ann Rees and CiarĂ¡n Reilly
Publication: Edinburgh University Press, June 2018
Hardback ISBN: 9781474438865

The first volume in the 'Scotland's Land' monograph series, this book was commissioned to examine the historical personalities involved in the controversial role of the 'land agent' in Britain between 1700 and 1920, darkly linked with the controversies of the Highland clearances in Scotland, but more broadly representing the British use (and abuse) of empirical power.

Land agents were variously known as 'factors', 'commissioners', 'stewards', 'bailiffs', or 'agents'. Today popular mythology might imagine them as Hollywood-style FBI agents exhibiting emotionless power, standardly suited to distinguish them as impersonal messengers of law, holding a hand to their ear-pieces. 'Don't blame the messenger . . .' - was that the case, or was it more sinister?

Agents were tasked with running landed estates, collecting rents, settling disputes, applying estate policy and were seen as the middlemen in the larger relationship between national economic interest and local rural community. The power invested in them, despite being based on legal statute (many were lawyers, such as Patrick Sellar), was in reality interpreted by the whim of personality and this book takes a number of case studies to show how policy was lensed through the personalities of the land agents themselves. These agents were often reputationally despised and set into folk memory as venal characters - there are many 'memories, not histories' of nefarious factors who populated the Highlands, as well as in  lowland Glasgow, for example a famous 'highland' public house The Lismore commemorates the factor/lawyer Patrick Sellar with a suitably positioned plaque in its urinals. But were they all so despicable?

The chapter 'Not a Popular Personage', by the historian Ewen Cameron, discusses various Scottish factors between 1870 and 1920. One poignant example of a compromised man is the Skye factor Angus Mackintosh, who was a Gaelic speaker from Daviot employed to mediate between local tenants and the Kilmuir estate when a lease on land expired. Forced to identify those who forcibly occupied the contested land ('raiders'), he was ostracized by the community, baptised with the contents of a night-bucket, and found himself unable to resolve complexities, powers and promises which were fundamentally irreconcilable.


Popular posts from this blog

Plato's Cave

In his famous 'allegory of the cave', the Greek philosopher Plato pondered the artificiality of reality in imagining how we could be fooled into thinking shadows on the wall (i.e. virtual reality) could be seen as 'real' life. I'm paraphrasing, of course. What has this got to do with climbing? Well, I was pondering this myself recently while sitting on an artificial concrete boulder at the new Cuningar Loop bouldering park in Glasgow. Does it really matter that a boulder is made of concrete, surrounded by plantation and skirted with kind gravel traps rather than tree roots and spikey boulders? Isn't the 'real' thing so much better: the isolated erratic bloc deposited by geology's long-term aesthetic artwork? Well, yes, that's entirely up to you, but sometimes the artificial saves the day ... I was scuppered by Glasgow's cross-town traffic and turned back to my local artifice that is Cuningar to climb the blue circuit I had imagined as

Timeline Walks of Scotland #Culbin Sands

The Moray Firth’s sand-bitten southern coast, between Findhorn and Nairn, is home to Scotland’s most cautionary tract of land. Now a wilderness of maritime forest, dunes, salt marsh and spits of sand, its human history has been dated to the Bronze Age, around 1300 BC, but it is a territory that since glacial times would have been mobile and mutable. The Laich of Moray is the fertile strip of plain squeezed between the foothills of the Cairngorms and the Moray Firth’s south coast. In Gaelic it is called Machair Mhoireibh (the machair of Moray), a perfect habitat for golf courses and rich arable farmland, threaded by the glacially-rivered straths of Nairn, Findhorn and Spey. Culbin is an old parish which is now buried under 28 square kilometres of duneland and recent forestry. Sweeping east of Narin and curving in to rise up to its greatest heights above the estuary of the River Findhorn, it is now managed by Forestry Commission Scotland, but it is notable that this is a humanl

Scottish Bouldering #New Glasgow climbing wall: The Prop Store

The Glasgow branch of The Climbing Academy (TCA) is just about to open its new bouldering and lead-climbing centre on Glasgow's north side. Its south-side twin ('The News Room')  is already a popular bouldering centre, but the new site will bring fresh inspiration to climbers on the north side of the Clyde. Situated in Maryhill, not far from the West End, this new centre is named after an old BBC prop warehouse, so it's been named ' The Prop Store '.  The centre feels roomy and spacious with a long profile. The holds and panels are super-grippy and there are some free-standing boulders to mantle out as well as an impressive offering of angles, roofs, slabs and subtly sweeping walls.  There is also a section of lead wall with auto-belays for top-roping practice, and a training centre upstairs. They should be open this December, but here are some preview shots.