- Iain J.M. Robertson, University of Gloucestershire, UK
- Series : Studies in Historical Geography
In November 1918, the implementation of agrarian change in the Scottish Highlands threatened another wave of unemployment and eviction for the land-working population, which led to widespread and varied social protest. Those who had been away on war service (and their families) faced returning to exactly the same social and economic conditions in the Scottish Highlands they had hoped they had left behind in the struggle to make ‘a land fit for heroes’. Widespread and varied social protest rapidly followed. It argues that, previously, there has been a failure to capture fully the geography, chronology typology and rate of occurrence of these events. The book not only offers new insights and a greater understanding of what was happening in the Highlands in this period, but illustrates how a range of forms of protest were used which demand attention, not least for the fact that these events, unlike most of the earlier Land Wars period, were successful. There are functioning townships in the Highlands today that owe their existence to the land invasions of the 1920s.
The book innovatively concentrates on formulating explanation and interpretation from within and looks to the crofting landscape as base, means and motive to disturbance and interpretation. It proposes that protest is much more convincingly understood as an expression of environmental ethics from 'the bottom up' coming increasingly into conflict with conservationist views expressed from 'the top down' It focuses on individual case studies in order to engage more convincingly with an important evidential base - that of popular memory of land disturbances - and to adopt a frame and lens through which to explore the fluid and contingent nature of protest performances. Based upon the belief that in the study of landscapes of social protest the old shibboleth of space as solely passive setting and symbolic register is no longer tenable is paid here to nature/culture interactions, to vernacular ecological beliefs and to the dynamic and formative role of landscape in people’s lifespaces. It suggests reading and engaging with event as text in anticipation of revealing their fluid and contingent nature rather than, as has previously been done, imposing single master narratives. Critically, this book draws on oral testimony. The view taken here is that historical events are dynamic. While written, primary source material is nearly always static - recording only particular 'moments' of an incident - oral testimony captures different 'moments' of the same event and, if interwoven with the written archival material as here proposed, can only enrich our understanding.
Contents: Introduction; Part I The Background: Agrarian change and rural social protest in Highland Scotland c.1700-1914; Protest paradigms. Part II Highland Social Protest after 1914: Detail and Debates: Performing protest; The geography of protest: regional and intra-regional perspectives; Testing the protest paradigm. Part III Protesting Bodies: Performing Tasks in Place and Space: Placing and anatomising protest; Spacing and dwelling: performing protest’s tasks in the crofting landscape; Conclusions; Bibliography; Index.
About the Author: Iain Robertson is Senior Lecturer in History at the University of Gloucestershire, UK.
Reviews: Shortlisted for the Saltire Society Research Book of the Year Award 2014
‘The so-called “Later Highland Land Wars" have long awaited systematic analysis. No longer. Robertson’s study transforms our understanding of the causes, form and consequences of agitation over the access to land in the post-1914 Scottish Highlands. Blending conceptual innovation, oral history, and subtle readings of the archive, this is a critical landmark in protest history.’
Carl Griffin, University of Sussex, UK
‘Skilfully interrogating rich archival sources, Iain Robertson reveals the extent and significance of rural protest in Highland Scotland after 1914 - protest led by men who, having fought for their country, were now fighting for their land. This is an insightful book about landscape and power, memory and morality, politics and resistance.’
Charles W.J. Withers, University of Edinburgh, UK
'Robertson succeeds admirably in his aim of shedding new light on the geographies, causes, and legacies of the land wars, and the book is a valuable and original contribution to the reinvigorated field of protest studies'. Journal of Historical Geography
'The book is logically structured and well-written … (its) clear strength lies in its telling of a social history of ordinary people and their everyday experiences of living in the borderlands … The authors are to be commended for producing a significant contribution to scholarship in border studies, social history, and ethnographic approaches in human geography'. Journal of Historical Geography
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