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As all that is solid melts to air and everything holy is profaned...

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Levellers and Highlanders

Sent Prof Tom Devine copy of my Galloway Levellers Update [blogged below] and he e-mailed back saying please give me a ring to discuss. Which I did. We had a good chat - he suggested my introduction was setting up a 'straw {wicker?] man - which it is, the cattle trade was well underway by 1707...

He also mentioned this lecture.

UHI annual lecture will reveal Scotland’s secret history
by EO01AN — last modified 2006-09-28 09:36
Contributors: Glenda Johnson

Historian Tom Devine will shatter the Highlands’ cultural possession of the notorious clearances when he reveals Scotland’s secret past at the UHI Millennium Institute 2006 Annual Lecture on Friday (29 Sept).

He will tell a near-capacity audience of around 300 that, although the clearances are associated only with the Highlands, significantly more people lost their land in the Scottish Lowlands, yet history has failed to acknowledge this.

Professor Devine, one of the foremost experts on the history of modern Scotland, will be offering his own explanations for this in what he promises to be an “explosive” lecture at Dornoch Cathedral.

“I hope I’m not going into the lion’s den,” he added.

The lecture, which Professor Devine describes as a puzzle from the past, is entitled The Scottish Clearances - why were the Highlands different?

“In the Highlands, landowners had an unsavoury reputation – they were regarded as the clearers. In Lowland society, they were regarded as enlightened improvers. The curious thing is that both types of landlord adopted virtually the same policies. This deepens the puzzle,” he said.

“There was considerable protest in Highland society against removals which led to the great Crofters War of the 1880s, and resulted in the Crofters Holding Act of 1886, still the fundamental basis of crofting tenure.

“The dispossession in Lowland society, however, caused hardly any violent response. And there is no folk memory, despite the fact that, although precise numbers cannot be given, in my estimate significantly more people lost their land in Lowland society than in the better known clearances in the Highlands. Yet Highlanders have cultural possession of the clearances.”

Professor Devine, who is the Sir William Fraser Chair of Scottish History and Paleography at the University of Edinburgh, does acknowledge and will advance reasons why the human consequences of the clearances were more devastating in the Highlands.

“Attention focused on the Highlands because of the tragedy and drama, and the region represents the soul of Scotland,” he pointed out. “The Highland clearances have to this day, among all Scots, a considerable cultural and political resonance, but the term Lowland clearances have none.”

Tom Devine will be introduced by fellow historian Professor Jim Hunter, director of the Dornoch-based UHI Centre for History, part of North Highland College UHI, which is hosting the lecture.

Professor Hunter, a former chairman of Highlands and Islands Enterprise and author of eleven books on Highlands and Islands themes, said: “Tom Devine is easily the leading historian of modern Scotland. I hugely welcome that he has engaged so actively with the Highlands and is doing us the honour of delivering this lecture. His theme is obviously controversial, but controversy and Tom Devine tend to follow each other.

“It has been recognised for a long time that removal of people happened in other parts of Scotland, the UK and Europe. Karl Marx made the point that what was happening in the Highlands was no different, but far more compressed in time and carried out more brutally. This is what distinguishes the Highlands clearances from the others.”

Tom Devine first touched on the subject of his lecture in his 1999 best-seller, The Scottish Nation, and goes into greater depth in his new book, Clearance and Improvement: Land, Power and People, 1600 – 1900, due out imminently.

It was the 19th century English radical William Cobbett, who travelled throughout Britain, who first alerted Professor Devine to what he calls Scotland’s secret history. After visiting the Lothians in the early 1830s, Cobbett wrote: “Everything is abundant here but people who have been studiously swept from the land.”

Professor Devine said: “I read this in the early part of my career and it gave me the first inkling of a major puzzle and a remarkable oversight.”

He now hopes to inspire debate and attempt to correct “the distorted picture of Scotland’s past”.

“For too long, history has separated out the studies of Highland and Lowland societies. We should look at them together as both were affected by the same influences which made for cataclysmic change.”

Professor Devine will give the fifth UHI Annual Lecture which is being hosted by North Highland College UHI, home of the UHI Centre for History. Previous speakers have included Lord Puttnam of Queensgate, Irish President Mary McAleese, conservationist and founder of the Eden Project Tim Smit, and Canadian Supreme Court judge, the Honourable Madame Justice Rosalie Silberman Abella.

Some seats are still available for the lecture and anyone wishing to attend should contact Catherine Shearer at UHI on 01463 279000.

There will also be a formal presentation to the first UHI Student of the Year, Shetlander Margaret Johnston, while two staunch supporters of the campaign to create a university for the Highlands and Islands, Dingwall-based Robin Lingard and Ullapool Cllr Jean Urquhart, are to be made UHI honorary fellows.

Other events on the day will include a UHI students’ showcase, a golf handicap tournament, a ghost walk around Dornoch, and a ceilidh.


Professor Devine is happy to give interviews before or after the lecture. Journalists are also invited to attend. To make interview arrangements, please contact Glenda Johnson (PlatformPR at UHI) on 01463 279222.

Notes to Editors:

· Last year the BA (Hons) Culture Studies of the Highlands and Islands course won the Most Imaginative Use of Distance Learning category in the inaugural Times Higher Awards, run by the Times Higher Education Supplement.

· UHI Millennium Institute was designated by the Scottish Parliament in April 2001 as a Higher Education Institution. It provides university-level education and research through a partnership of 13 colleges and research institutions. Currently over 5,200 students are studying on UHI courses or undertaking postgraduate research with UHI.

· The UHI mission is to create a University of the Highlands & Islands by 2007. However until university status is attained, please do not refer to UHI as 'University of the Highlands & Islands' or 'University of the Highlands & Islands Millennium Institute', as this wrongly suggests UHI has already achieved university status. For more guidance on this see www.uhi.ac.uk/uhi/for-the-media.

· Dornoch Cathedral, in the county town of Sutherland, is the smallest cathedral still in use in Scotland today. The 13th century cathedral has seen an increasing number of high-profile events in recent years, including the baptism of Rocco Ritchie, the son of Madonna and Guy Ritchie.

About Tom Devine:

Tom Devine is the Sir William Fraser Chair of Scottish History and Paleography at the University of Edinburgh, and was previously the Glucksman Research Chair of Irish and Scottish Studies at the University of Aberdeen.

He was also Director of the Arts and Humanities Research Council Centre in Irish and Scottish Studies at Aberdeen, the world’s first centre of its kind which was formally inaugurated by the President of Ireland, Mary McAleese, on St Andrew’s Day in 1999.

Prof Devine is a leading expert in the comparative history of Scottish and Irish economic development. His many books include the best-selling The Scottish Nation and the more recent Scotland's Empire 1600-1815 which inspired a six-part BBC2 series. A new edition of The Scottish Nation is due to be published next year on St Andrew’s Day, bringing Scotland’s story up-to-date, and will coincide with the 300th anniversary of the Act of Union.

Winner of all three major prizes for Scottish historical research, Professor Devine is also a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh; an Honorary Member of the Royal Irish Academy, and a Fellow of the British Academy, one of only five historians of Scotland elected FBA in the last hundred years.

He holds Scotland’s highest academic accolade, the Royal Gold Medal, which was awarded in 2001 by The Queen. Last year he was awarded the OBE for services to Scottish history.

UHI annual lecture will reveal Scotland’s secret history Poor literacy and numeracy skills are a problem for the economy Creative projects lure men into education UHI Sabbatical Scheme - application closing date 30 September UHI student of the year More news…

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