Develop an understanding of the origins and functions of the Scottish Highland clans, and assess their social structures, economy and culture
Investigate the contrast between hostile stereotypes of the clans as barbaric and warlike and their day-to-day role as complex social communities
Reflect on the processes of feuding, civil war, revolt and social-economic change between 1500 and 1800 that resulted in the slow transformation and decline of the clans
Identify and assess the modern legacies of the clans in events such as Highland Games, Clan Societies and Tartan Parades, as well as their portrayal in film and television
Assess in an informed way the key characteristics of Scottish Highland clanship, their history, their decline and their modern reinvention
Assess the social and cultural basis of the new representations of clans, such as Highland games and clan societies, that developed in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries
The Highland, Gaelic speaking clans are a vital part of Scotland’s history. They also shape how the world imagines Scotland today.
This course uses the expertise of University of Glasgow academics to explain the structure, economy and culture of the clans. It covers the centuries between the fall of the MacDonald Lords of the Isles in 1493 until around 1800, when the clans dissolved away as a result of social economic change. It then discusses how the legacies of clanship shaped global images of Scotland up until the present.
Week 1: Defining the Clans: Meet the chiefs and the clan gentry. See how different forms of family, kinship and strong links to land helped bind a clan together. Learn about the ‘professional clans’, those families who provided bards, doctors and judges for Scottish Gaelic society. Explore how archaeology and history can help explain the castles, churches, defensive sites and overall function of the clans
Week 2: Clan Society and Culture: Explore daily life for ordinary people living under the authority of the chiefs. Using the case study of the Macgregors and Campbell, learn why and how clans feuded, and what made the Scottish Crown seek to ‘civilise’ the Highlands? Learn about Gaelic musical culture, poetry and dress. Discover how clan involvement in the religious and civil wars of the seventeenth century was high profile and traumatic. Lastly, consider how new cultural and social-economic changes resulted in a slow decline of the clans as a form of community.
Week 3: Decline and Transformation: Assess the debates around clan involvement in the Jacobite risings between 1689 and 1746. Discover the latest thinking on the Battle of Culloden and the ‘Clearances’. Finally, appreciate how the literature of Walter Scott, the romantic poets, as well as Highland Games, theatre and film reinvented the clans as a romantic Scottish and global emblem.
This course is for anyone interested in Scottish History, Gaelic culture, and the way Scotland is represented in the modern world. No prior knowledge is required; all learners are welcome.
While the Educators themselves aren’t available to facilitate this run, we encourage you to engage with other learners and there are opportunities to do this throughout the course.