This article examines and contests Scottish historiography's current assessment of the identity and concomitant ideology that formed a basis and motivation for collective political action taken by the indigenous population of the west Highlands and Islands during the second half of the nineteenth century in response to their territorial marginalisation and expulsion in the late modern period. Over the last forty years historians and historical geographers of the modern Highlands and Islands have accepted and developed James Hunter's argument that in the second half of the nineteenth century a 'crofting class' emerged in the area which, based on an underlying feeling of being in 'community' as crofters, understood its identity in class-based terms. Furthermore, this historiography takes the view that the members of this community, recognising themselves collectively as crofters, began to engage in acts of resistance to the law on the basis of their shared experience and identity as 'the crofting community'. This article demonstrates that there is almost no basis in the historical record to sustain claims that the fact of being crofters was ideologically significant in motivating those involved in the land risings. It concludes that, rather than being a class-based 'crofter' insurgency, the land risings of the late nineteenth century were the rising of a people in an insurgency whose ideological framework should properly be described in ethnic or in national terms.
Bibliographical note'The invention of the crofting community: Scottish historiography's elision of indigenous identity, ideology and agency in accounts of land struggle in the modern Gaidhealtachd' has been accepted for publication by Edinburgh University Press in the journal, Scottish Historical Review, vol. 98, no. 1, 4, pp. 71-102; https://www.euppublishing.com/doi/10.3366/shr.2019.0380
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- Highlands and Islands
- indigenous peoples
- land reform
- Napier commission
- Land risings
- Crofting community
- James Hunter
- Nineteenth century
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Geography, Planning and Development
- Political Science and International Relations