Friday, November 12, 2010

Tour Culloden with the BBC History Magazine

Monument to the MacGillivray, Culloden Battlefield

The BBC History Magazine podcast from June 2008 contains a tour of the new visitor center at the Culloden Battlefield, just outside Inverness. One might not think that the Battle of Culloden has anything to do with emigration. However, this particular battle was thought to have led to the Highland Clearances (when landlords “cleared” their estates of tenants by evicting them) in the second half of the eighteenth century. In fact, migration to North Carolina in the 1740s was thought to have been directly related to government pressure placed on Highlanders to emigrate in the wake of the Jacobite defeat. Discounting this myth is a primary component of Duane Meyer’s classic, The Highland Scots of North Carolina, 1732-1776. The podcast participants did not assert that Culloden caused the Clearances either, only that it "accelerate(d) those events." This last statement is a bit vague as what the commentator really meant was that government policy towards the Scottish Highlands increased the pace of social and economic change in the region which, in turn, led to increased evictions. 

Except for this minor quibble, the tour is quite good. Listeners are led right round the gallery and comparisons between the old and new centers are made. Additional items discussed include how they tried to educate the visitors about the Battle (it was not Scotland v. England) and that they incorporated recent academic research after discussing it in seminars. The archaeological research was done by GUARD, the Glasgow University Archaeology Research Department, and the Centre for Battlefield Archaeology. Read more about their work at Culloden here. The other academic consultants do not appear to be listed on the website.

I visited the battlefield in 2002, before the new center was built. I remember the old one as being small, dark and poky, Has anyone visited the new center? Is it as neat as it sounds?

This podcast is well worth a listen as Culloden is one of the defining moments of Scottish history. The tour is the first story and lasts for about 17 minutes. Download just this episode or subscribe to the podcast here (June 2008 is near the bottom of the page).

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