Warfare in the West Highlands and Isles of Scotland, c. 1544-1615

Crawford, Ross Mackenzie (2016) Warfare in the West Highlands and Isles of Scotland, c. 1544-1615. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

Full text available as:
Download (2MB) | Preview
Printed Thesis Information: https://eleanor.lib.gla.ac.uk/record=b3154652


Warfare has long been associated with Scottish Highlanders and Islanders, especially in the period known in Gaelic tradition as ‘Linn nan Creach’ (the ‘Age of Forays’), which followed the forfeiture of the Lordship of the Isles in 1493. The sixteenth century in general is remembered as a particularly tumultuous time within the West Highlands and Isles, characterised by armed conflict on a seemingly unprecedented scale. Relatively little research has been conducted into the nature of warfare however, a gap filled by this thesis through its focus on a series of interconnected themes and in-depth case studies spanning the period c. 1544-1615. It challenges the idea that the sixteenth century and early seventeenth century was a time of endless bloodshed, and explores the rationale behind the distinctive mode of warfare practised in the West Highlands and Isles.

The first part of the thesis traces the overall ‘Process of War’. Chapter 1 focuses on the mentality of the social elite in the West Highlands and Isles and demonstrates that warfare was not their raison d'être, but was tied inextricably to chiefs’ prime responsibility of protecting their lands and tenants. Chapter 2 assesses the causation of warfare and reveals that a recurrent catalyst for armed conflict was the assertion of rights to land and inheritance. There were other important causes however, including clan expectation, honour culture, punitive government policies, and the use of proxy warfare by prominent magnates. Chapter 3 takes a fresh approach to the military capacity of the region through analysis of armies and soldiers, and the final thematic chapter tackles the conduct of warfare in the West Highlands and Isles, with analysis of the tactics and strategy of militarised personnel.

The second part of this thesis comprises five case studies: the Clanranald, 1544-77; the Colquhouns of Luss and the Lennox, 1592-1603; the MacLeods of Harris and MacDonalds of Sleat, 1594-1601; the Camerons, 1569-1614; and the ‘Islay Rising’, 1614-15. This thesis adopts a unique approach by contextualising the political background of warfare in order to instil a deeper understanding of why early modern Gaelic Scots resorted to bloodshed. Overall, this period was defined by a sharp rise in military activity, followed by an even sharper decline, a trajectory that will be evidenced vividly in the final case study on the ‘Islay Rising’. Although warfare was widespread, it was not unrestrained or continuous, and the traditional image of a region riven by perpetual bloodshed has been greatly exaggerated.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Scottish Highlands, West Highlands and Islands, Scotland, Warfare, Clan Warfare, Warfare in Scotland, Gaelic Warfare, History, Scottish History, Military History, Scottish Military History, Gaelic Scotland, Militarism, Feuds, Scottish Clan Feuds,
Subjects: D History General and Old World > D History (General)
D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D111 Medieval History
D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D204 Modern History
D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D901 Europe (General)
D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
U Military Science > U Military Science (General)
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts > School of Humanities > History
Supervisor's Name: MacGregor, Dr. Martin and Clancy, Prof. Thomas
Date of Award: 2016
Depositing User: Ross Crawford
Unique ID: glathesis:2016-7310
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 01 Jun 2016 10:32
Last Modified: 13 Jun 2016 11:25
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/7310

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year