Aspects of Commerce, Community and Culture: Argyll 1730-1850

McGeachy, Robert A. A (1988) Aspects of Commerce, Community and Culture: Argyll 1730-1850. MLitt(R) thesis, University of Glasgow.

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During the period 1730 - 1850 traditional Highland society underwent wide ranging changes which effectively destroyed its social relations and subordinated the Highland economy to the market demands of the developing British capitalist economy. This transformation was generated by the latter's ascendency which, in the Highlands, was evident in the growth of the black cattle trade and in the social assimilation of the Highland chiefs and gentry. One aspect of this assimilation was the prevalence of the 'improvement' ethos amongst the landed elite. Their commitment to capitalist economic development was translated into attempts at 'improving' agriculture and developing industries. Within Argyll the clan chiefs and gentry were to be amongst the foremost exponents of the ascendant capitalist political economy and its vision of development. Their support for schemes to promote economic growth intensified in the aftermath of Culloden, particularly since economic development was regarded as vital to the destruction of Jacobitism and the 'civilizing' of the Highlands. This process also embraced a sweeping attack on the indigenous culture, language and on labour rhythms. The evidence in Argyll, however, suggests that landlords encountered intense resistance from the 'commonalty' who opposed the break-up of the traditional townships, the new regimen of agriculture and many of the initiatives to develop industry. Resistance was greatest between 1760 and 1850 when landlords transformed the agrarian system and developed crofting. The 'commonalty's' opposition to this process, and their defence of the traditional system and its culture, were also reflected in the use of community sanctions against the Revenue patrols, grain exporters, the Press Gang and other individuals and agencies perceived to have overstepped the bounds of their recognised authority or violated the traditional 'moral economy'. The economic depression following the cessation of hostilities with France in 1815 radically altered conditions in the Highlands. The concomitant collapse of kelping, and agricultural and non-agricultural income led to the intensification of Clearance as landlords undertook the wholesale eviction of the very crofting communities, which they had encouraged to exploit the war-time price boom. The escalation of Clearance and the correlated massive increase in emigration directly affected patterns of resistance. The opposition to arable 'improvement' remained a factor, but resistance to the landlords' schemes was increasingly characterised by class divisions. In the mid nineteenth century this conflict was expressed in the religious rivalries associated with the 'Disruption'. These involved the landlords and 'Moderate' clergy, with a few notable exceptions, on one side with the 'commonalty' and 'Evangelicals' on the other. Such resistance was a recurring factor throughout the period under consideration and indicates that the 'commonalty', rather than passively acquiescing in the landlords' vision of economic development, actively defended their traditional way of life and its culture. This tradition of resistance was to contribute to, and was evident in, the Crofters' struggles of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Item Type: Thesis (MLitt(R))
Qualification Level: Masters
Keywords: Economic history
Date of Award: 1988
Depositing User: Enlighten Team
Unique ID: glathesis:1988-77636
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 14 Jan 2020 11:53
Last Modified: 14 Jan 2020 11:53

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