The Highland Clearences

The Highland Clearances describe an english-initiated Exodus of the typical rural population and peasants of the scottish Highlands from the late 18th to the End of the 19th Century.


The Soil in the Highlands was not ideal for Agriculture, but was great for Livestock. While industrialization was gaining ground in Europe, demand for new and efficient production methods increased, as did the Price of Wool. In view of this, sheep farming in the Highlands in particular increased, but the smallholder Farmers could not keep up with these yields.

The Clearences

First, it is said that at the beginning of ‘Removals’ was spoken. It was not until the 19th century that people spoke of ‘clearances’.
The Crofters, those peasants without their own Land, did not have it easy. After the Clan-System disintegrated by the Act of Proscription, many Clan Chiefs became Landlords and assigned responsibility to their clan members. They saw the previous agriculture for self-sufficiency as obsolete and began together with newly arrived English Landlords to resettle the Population. As a result, the land was cleared for the Ranchers and last remaining Farmers were, partially by force, distributed to the coastal regions, North America and Australia.

As early as 1792 Crofter from Strathrusdale drove about 6,000 sheep from the estates. This ‘Ross-shire Sheep’ riot also engaged the Government and Secretary of State Henry Dundas mobilized the Black Watch Regiment to prevent further action and to condemn the ringleaders. Although they were arrested, but they managed to escape and disappeared without a trace. The “evictions” were legal, but even then were considered illegitimate. Nevertheless, there was little resistance and the gaelic-speaking Highlanders were even despicably referred to as “inferior Race”.

The Consequences

The Soil to which the Population was relocated and the weather conditions were not very suitable for agriculture.
By crop failure and a simultaneous strong population growth, it came in the mid-19th century to famine. Many Landowners subsequently went bankrupt, as they were obliged to provide for the impoverished population. Towards the end of the eviction, the previous clan system was destroyed and the gaelic Roots, as well as the Language disappeared.

Today, there are only about 1-2% of the original, gaelic-speaking Population. But here, too, shows the steadfastness of the Scots.
The Descendants of the then displaced searched for their Roots, whereby typical symbols such as Kilt, Tartan and Bagpipe again found their way into everyday life. The gaelic Language is gradually being taught again in schools and returns to normal language usage.

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