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From Chiefs to Landlords

Social and Economic Change in the Western Highlands & Islands

Robert A. Dodgshon

Paperback (Printed to Order)

This new approach to Highland history before the Clearances draws attention to little-studied yet important economic and social processes within the Highland clan system and argues that we should consider the problems of traditional Highland society, economy and environment together. Exploring how the different aspects of the clan system - chiefs and kinsmen, landlords and tenants, farming systems, production strategies and marketing - changed between the 16th-18th centuries, it shows how the character and ideology of clans and chiefdoms are inextricably part of the twin problems of socio-political control and food production. Shifting the emphasis away from depictions of Highland society as lawless and disorganised, this is a welcome antidote to the many romanticised views of pre-Clearance society.

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About the Author

Emeritus Professor Robert A. Dodgshon was formerly Gregynog Professor of Geography and Director of the Institute of Geography and Earth Sciences at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth (now Aberystwyth University). His previous books include Land and Society in Early Scotland (1981), From Chiefs to Landlords: Social and Economic Change in the Western Highlands and Islands, c.1493-1820 (1998) and The Age of the Clans (2002).


[This book] represents a substantial advance and is especially welcome…a great amount of detailed evidence has been amassed, sifted and critically interpreted. One of the features of the book in addition to its comprehensive and detailed rerencing, is its variety of maps and tables giving concrete illustration and quantification.
Substantial and scholarly work ... splendidly fills a major gap in the economic history and historical geography of Highland Scotland.
By any standards this is an impressive and important work characterised by meticulous archival research, a heartening willingness to constantly slaughter sacred cows and, above all, ambition... The author takes us closer to the practical and, above all, non-romanticised aspects of clanship than any other previous commentator. This achievement alone means that anyone seriously wishing to understand the early modern Scottish Highlands must read From Chiefs to Landlords