The Highland Clearances

What were the Highland Clearances?
The Highland Clearances was the removal of people living in the Scottish Highlands.
When was the Highland Clearances?
The Highland Clearances occurred from 1750 to 1860.
Where were the Highland Clearances?
The Highland Clearances led to Scots leaving the Highlands of Scotland. They migrated to various places, such as America and Canada, although many also migrated to England.
What were the Scottish Highlands before the Highland Clearances?
Life in the Highlands in the early 1700s was very different from that in the rest of the country:
  • In the beginning of the 18th century, over half of the population of Scotland lived in the Highlands and spoke Gaelic.
  • People in the Highlands also lived in clans, supporting their chief in return for protection and leadership.
  • Most of the those living in the Highlands were farmers, whose families had lived on the same small farms for many generations.
  • The families lived in crofts, which were small cottages made of stone. They lived off the money they made from the wheat they grew.
  • The Highlanders were mostly Catholics, and supporters of the Stuart royal family. They are often known as the 'Jacobites'.
  • On the other hand, people living in the Lowlands of Scotland were experiencing an economic boom, due to the development of manufacturing and trade in the growing towns and cities.
Why did the Highland Clearances happen?
The forced eviction of people during the Highland Clearances occurred for a number of reasons.
  • Many Highland Scots supported the Stuart dynasty, which had been expelled from England in 1688. Their loyalty to the new, Hanoverian dynasty was suspect.
  • The Highland Scots had rebelled against the Hanoverian dynasty in 1715, and again in 1745-6, so were considered traitors.
  • As a result the English wanted to reduced the power of the Highland clans, and to get rid of those they considered traitors.
  • The Highland Scots were also Catholic, while England was a Protestant country. The English also wished to stamp out Catholicism in the kingdom.
How were the Highlands cleared?
There were different tactics used to clear the Highlands.
  • From the 1780s to the 1820s the Highlanders were forcibly evicted from their homes. Evictions of around 2,000 families a day were not unusual.
  • The Highland families were often forced into the coastal lands of Scotland, which were barren, or to other barren lands. Many starved to death.
  • Those who refused to leave their homes would be killed and had their homes burned.
What was the significance of the Highland Clearances?
These are some of the ways in which the Highland Clearances were significant.
  • As a result of the Clearances, thousands of Scots migrated to different countries, such as Canada, America and England.
  • Scottish migrants contributed to the economic development of England, by working on road-building and on the railways. Many also worked in factories, in industrial cities around Britain.
  • Scottish migrants played an important role in the development of the British Empire, either as soldiers in the British Army, or as explorers in remote parts of the world.
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