The Scottish Highland Clans: Origins, Decline and Transformation

FutureLearn The Scottish Highland Clans: Origins, Decline and Transformation

University of Glasgow
4 hours/week
3 weeks
Paid Certificate Available
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Discover the important history of the Highland clans
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.

What topics will you cover?
  • 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. 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 the chiefs. Why and how did clans feud, 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.

Taught by
Andrew Mackillop
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