Highland Clearances 1745–1881


Map Code: Ax02129

After the Jacobite defeat at Culloden in 1746, the British government were determined to erase the culture of the Scottish Highlands. They banned the speaking of Gaelic, playing of the bagpipes, the wearing of tartan and gatherings in public places. These deprivations were cruelly compounded by the Highland Clearances, described as the first modern example of ethnic cleansing, in which thousands of Highlanders were forcibly removed from their homes, many at the point of a musket. These clearances, between the 1770s and 1880s, were met with bitter resistance and have been described as ‘the absolute nadir of the entire Highlands and Islands existence’. Politically, the clearances were implemented to disperse Highlands populations, while the economic motives were to enable English and Scottish landlords to enclose their lands and use them for sheep-farming. The indigenous subsistence agriculture (cattle farming, kelp production) was considered unprofitable and unviable. Many thousands of Scottish tenants emigrated to Canada and the USA, some sponsored by their landlords. In some cases, people who had been uprooted were resettled and relocated in planned villages, often with limited access to poor, unproductive land.

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