Saturday, September 4, 2010

Out & About with the BBC

I was in Borders last week and tripped across the July issue of the BBC History Magazine which listed an article about the Highland Clearances on the cover. The Clearances refer to the removal of people from their traditional highland farms by their landlords to make room for sheep. The latter brought in more money to the landlord than the former. The plan of many landlords was to resettle their tenants on new farms or crofts along the coastlines where they could earn a living by fishing. This did not work out as planned. The process began in the 1760s and continued well into the 19th century. The evictions were often forced and generally unpleasant, the most famous of which were the Sutherland Clearances. What histories of the Clearances often overlook, is that many people from the Highlands emigrated, even if they weren't "cleared."  I've written about this as has Lucille Campey.

This BBC article is part of series "Out & About" which talks about visiting places "where history happened." Neat idea, I think. There is a brief background to the Clearances and then a detailed list of eight places to visit: New Lanark, Strathnaver, Helmsdale, Inverness, Barra, Glendale, Leverburgh, and the Scottish Parliament Building. It's a good list of places, mostly in the far north and west of the Highlands. This is pretty typical as the rest of the Highlands, particularly the region I studied near Inverness, are overlooked when dealing with the large-scale out-migration during this period.

I've only been to two of the locations on the list: New Lanark and Inverness. I really like Inverness - it's very walkable and it's within easy reach of many other historical sites, like Fort George, Culloden and Cawdor Castle. I've been to Edinburgh, of course, but the Scottish Parliament Building was still under construction when I lived in Scotland. What I remember most about the Parliament is that construction was constantly going over budget.

BBC History Magazine

If you've never seen the BBC History Magazine, it's well worth a look. It does focus on British History, but covers other parts of the world as well. If you are lucky you live near a library that subscribes, as it cost $9 an issue in the states, or $75 per year. I used to get several issues at a time from the library, but the last time I was there the magazine was gone and something else was in its regular place on the shelf. Bummer!

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