The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #15639 Message #1044420
Posted By: robinia
30-Oct-03 - 07:51 AM
Thread Name: Origins: Smile In Your Sleep / Hush, hush
Subject: RE: Origins: Hush, hush time to be sleeping
Re the Highland evictions and English cruelty, I quote from Arthur Herman's enlightening new (2001) book, "How the Scots Invented the Modern World" : "So many misconceptions surround the terrible 'clearing,' or eviction of tens of thousands of Highland residents by their landlords, that it is worth taking time to get the story straight.
The most outrageous misconception is the charge that somehow the English were really to blame. In fact, the principal instigators of these mass evictions were the Highland chieftans themselves, and their Scottish farm managers or 'factors.' In fact, some of the aristocrats who were most sentimentally attached to the traditions of Highland culture, such as the Chisholms of Strathglass and Alistair MacDonnell of Glengarry, were the most remorseless evictors. In their minds, they had little choice. Faced by an increasingly competitive agricultural market, and the need to liquidate enormous debts . . . chieftans looked for ways to make the land pay." (p. 256)
Nor were these Clearances the result of the defeat at Culloden, says Herman. Almost fifty years elapsed before the first forced clearings of villages and farms in the Highlands, though the same thing had happened earlier in the Lowlands (not to mention in England?). As he says, "landlords were responding to economic rather than political pressures . . . the Highland chiefs abandoned the old ways because it profited them to belong to the modern world. Their followers did not, because they could not." I.e., in the south, "the land was more fertile, the opportunities for alternate employment more numerous, and the culture not as self-limiting"; so "clearings" there did not exact as terrible a human price.
Herman shows the human suffering without finding any easy scapegoats for it. He debunks the sentimental myths even as he writes, in all seriousness, "the True Story of how Western Europe's Poorest Nation Created [with some assistance, to be sure!] our World & Everything in It." An inspiring story, full of historical ironies, that deserves to be better known. . . .