Iain Robertson:Landscapes of Protest in the Scottish Highlands after 1914: The Later Highland Land Wars, (Ashgate, 2013)
25th October 2013
Not unlike the actions of the cottars and crofters who are its subjects, it has taken some time to bring this work to fruition. Indeed, we might push this analogy even further and suggest that the trajectory to final publication matches that of the Highland Land Wars as a whole: initial furious activity, followed by a period of comparative inactivity, which in turn is replaced by a resumption of peak levels stimulated by supportive colleagues and students. Whether this analogy holds or not, there can be no doubt that the journey to final publication has been marked by many deviations and false turns, but also, and more significantly, much fun!
Drawing on both archival and oral material, the book is an attempt to detail and discuss the historical geography of social protest in Highland Scotland between 1914 and 1939. It has involved much blood, sweat and tears, not least when turning up at the front door of a potential interview on some small island just off the west coast of Scotland, after walking a mile in driving rain, only to have it slammed in my face accompanied by a refusal to ‘talk about anything like that’!! That failure notwithstanding, one reviewer has been kind enough to call this ‘a critical landmark in protest history’ and say that it ‘transforms our understanding of the causes, form and consequences of agitation over access to land in the post-1914 Scottish Highlands’. Finally, I must say that major cause of this success has been the input of all the students who took my third year module on rural social protest over the years, notwithstanding the certain knowledge that they would hear yet more from E. P. Thompson!!!