Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Murray Pittock's "Culloden"

Murray Pittock is Bradley Professor and Pro Vice-Principal at the University of Glasgow, and one of the leading scholars of Jacobitism and Romanticism globally. His books include The Myth of the Jacobite Clans, Material Culture and Sedition, Poetry and Jacobite Politics, Jacobitism, Inventing and Resisting Britain, The Invention of Scotland, and many others. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and of the Royal Historical Society and has won or been nominated or shortlisted for fifteen literary prizes internationally.

Pittock applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, Culloden, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Culloden is the first page of Chapter 4, 'Aftermath and Occupation'. It addresses some of the central themes of the book: the lack of prisoners taken at Culloden, the scale of atrocities after the battle, the proposals for ethnic cleansing. The book's combination of a detailed examination of the engagement as it was fought using the cutting edge of both battlefield archaeology and archival research, is complemented by an exploration of the systematic misrepresentation of Culloden both by historians and in British cultural memory. This foundational battle in the development of the British Empire was not regarded at the time as an easy victory against a cause foredoomed to defeat: but that is what it became in the imperial narrative, the inevitable triumph of modernity over backward tribalism and its outdated politics. Yet the hugely expensive building of Fort George to contain the Jacobite threat tells another story, as do Cumberland's words in July 1746 on p99, 'I tremble for fear that this vile spot [Scotland, particularly Highland Scotland] may still be the ruin of this island and our family'. How would the Jacobites have ruined these? Not just by replacing the Hanoverians by the Stuarts, but by ending the constitutional settlement of the 1707 Union which underpinned British military power from that time onwards, and restoring England, Scotland and possibly Ireland to a looser political confederation. In the aftermath of Culloden, redoubled efforts were made to incorporate Scottish troops in the British Army, while the very British military policies that had been trialled in Scotland in the late 1740s were used in the Acadian deportations in Nova Scotia from 1755. Just as British memory and historiography portrayed the Jacobites as tribal, backward and savage, so their taming into the British military machine became a model for the incorporation of native peoples in the decades to come, while the actions taken to disrupt political identities in Scotland and Canada was also a lesson learnt in the policies adopted with respect to potential opponents of British power across the world. Page 99 of Culloden is the moment where history becomes memory: the point where a relatively small scale battle started to transmute itself into a story about the foundational moment of Britain's consolidation at home and the projection of its power abroad.
Learn more aboutCulloden at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue