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History in Focus

the guide to historical resources • Issue 11: Migration •


Book cover: A Global Clan

Author's response


A Global Clan: Scottish Migrant Networks and Identities since the Eighteenth Century

by Angela McCarthy (ed.)
London: I. B. Tauris
ISBN: 1845110676; pp. 248, 2006

Lucille Campey

Whilst acknowledging the book's value for its examination of migrant networks, Lucille Campey nevertheless claims that the exploration of identities in A Global Clan is seemingly flawed by three apparent omissions. I would like to address these one by one.

The first of Campey's objections relates to the types of Scots covered by this book. In her words, 'Examples abound of Scots in an urban environment while the more typical Scots, who settled as farmers, in what were initially scattered rural communities, are not well-represented'. This is a strange claim, as the historiography of Scottish migration does not suggest that the 'typical' Scottish migrant was a farmer, either before or after departure. Instead, there are variations according to settlement in specific destinations at particular times. Scottish migrants in the late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth centuries, for instance, were frequently dispossessed peasants, unemployed craftsmen and labourers, and small farmers (1). The agricultural sector (24 per cent), predominantly farmers, was a strong element of the outflow to North America between 1773-6 but was outnumbered by artisans (37.7 per cent) and labourers (31.9 per cent) (2). Moreover, Scots in the Caribbean were 'planters, merchants, colonial officials, attorneys, doctors, overseers and tradesmen' while in India they were mainly the sons of the gentry, professional and mercantile classes (3). During the 1800s emigration was increasingly occurring from urban industrial areas, one element in the 'paradox of Scottish emigration' (4). Of those adults moving to the United States between 1885 and 1888, 77 per cent were from 'towns', while most Scots settled in urban areas of Australia from 1860 on (5). In the early 1920s, when the Scottish outflow reached its peak, 55 per cent of adult male emigrants were skilled workers while 15 per cent were from commercial and professional classes (6). Such empirical data challenges the validity of Campey's claim, and reveals that the demographic profile of Scots varied by time and location. We cannot therefore conclude that the 'typical' Scottish migrant followed a farming career.

Campey's second objection is that the volume excludes the non-literate Scot, by whom she means Gaelic-speaking migrants. While this criticism has some merit, because Gaelic was far more predominantly a spoken rather than written language, it is a far from accurate assessment. The Gaels are, in fact, incorporated in chapters by Richards and, to a lesser extent, me. At the same time, we must position Gaelic-speaking Scots within the larger framework of overall Scottish migration. Gaels were not the dominant outflow, though in certain periods such as 1768-1775 and the 1840s and 1850s their emigration was disproportionate (7). Moreover, Jeanette Brock's analysis of census data shows that in the mid-nineteenth to early-twentieth century, Highlanders were more likely to migrate within Scotland than move abroad (8). I would like to suggest that A Global Clan therefore rightly engages fully with a more typical Scottish migration flow – that of Lowlanders who spoke English and, occasionally, Scots. In this respect it would seem that Campey is contributing to the traditions that have seen Gaelic Scots assume a disproportionate position within Scotland's emigration story because of the Clearances and their unique linguistic, cultural, and folk traditions.

In launching her third and final substantive objection, Campey states that the volume's 'most glaring omission' is the exploration of group identities despite '[t]he Scottish propensity for group migration and settling together in close-knit communities'. Admittedly, the book is weaker on group identities, but this is essentially due to the nature of the source material deployed. Personal testimonies are generated by individuals rather than groups, and few private accounts from migrants who participated in group migrations were located. Yet how does Campey's claim fit with the historiography of Scottish migration?

Certainly, group migration from Scotland occurred, but was generally undertaken by Highlanders; Lowlanders usually moved and settled as individuals or small families in networks or chain migration (9). Moreover, Campey's contention is also suspect at a global level when we contemplate the character and consequences of Highland group migration to other destinations and in other time periods. As Eric Richards astutely observes elsewhere, after the mid-nineteenth century Highland migration became increasingly individualistic, and 'even when emigrants departed in groups there was no guarantee, or even likelihood, of continuing communal solidarity' (10). Furthermore, the experiences of group migrations have been ably documented by other scholars, such as Marianne McLean's study of Scots in Glengarry, Canada, and Maureen Molloy's study of Highlanders at Waipu in New Zealand (11). A Global Clan has sought to go beyond these easily located and atypical geographical 'communities' by engaging with more personal and less easily unearthed conceptualizations of Scottishness, rather than formal- and group-oriented expressions of ethnic identity.

In offering this three-pronged critique, Campey appears oblivious to the subtleties of Scottish migration, which varied according to time and place. Her expansion of all migration into a story of rural-to-rural settlement also runs counter to the vast majority of Scottish experiences in the period in question. Quite simply, her rural Canadian model does not work for all, or even for a small majority, of Scots who left home for new lands.

Finally, I would like to address one of Campey's most baseless claims – that 'the book fails to meet the rather grandiose aims which are set out in the opening chapter'. Given the errors in Campey's conceptualization of Scottish migration, this assertion may now sound absurd. In fact, this volume had only a modest endeavour. The preface and introduction are unambiguous and explicit about this. The contributors sought to explore Scottish networks and identities through the use of personal testimonies. In doing this, they contributed to a growing field without the least expectation that their work constituted the final word. The aim was, therefore, hardly grandiose; nor do we fail to achieve the more modest designs we had for this project. Some endorsement comes from Campey herself as she repeatedly emphasizes important insights that the book makes. Here are some examples: 'personal accounts have considerable value when used in the study of immigrant networks and it is on this theme that the book makes its most valuable contributions'; 'the book's analysis of immigrant networks has provided some valuable insights of Scottish identity'; '[the chapters] allow valuable comparisons to be drawn of Scottish migrant behaviour and experiences in different parts of the world and offer new insights on issues relating to identity', and so on. Instead of being grandiose or overblown, I would hope that A Global Clan achieves a more judicious remit; to explore through personal testimonies Scottish networks and identities in a range of locations over several centuries.

  1. 'Population movements: emigration', in Scottish Population History from the Seventeenth Century to the 1930s, ed. M. Flinn (Cambridge, 1977), 452. Back to (1)
  2. B. Bailyn, Voyagers to the West: Emigration from Britain to America on the Eve of the Revolution (London, 1986), 150-1. Back to (2)
  3. T. M. Devine, Scotland's Empire, 1600-1815 (London, 2003), 230, 252. Back to (3)
  4. See T. M. Devine, 'The Paradox of Scottish Emigration', in Scottish Emigration and Scottish Society, ed. T. M. Devine (Edinburgh, 1992), 1-15, much of which reiterates R. H. Campbell, 'Scotland' in The Scots Abroad: Labour, Capital, Enterprise, 1750-1914, ed. R. A. Cage (London, 1985), 1-28. Back to (4)
  5. Cited in 'Population movements: emigration', in Scottish Population History, ed. Flinn, 454; E. Richards, 'Australia and the Scottish Connection, 1788-1914', in The Scots Abroad, ed. Cage, 141. Back to (5)
  6. 'Population movements: emigration', in Scottish Population History, ed. Flinn, 452-3. Back to (6)
  7. T. M. Devine, 'Landlordism and Highland Emigration', in Scottish Emigration, ed. Devine, 84-103. Back to (7)
  8. J. M. Brock, 'The Importance of Emigration in Scottish Regional Population Movement, 1861-1911', in Scottish Emigration, ed. Devine, 111. Back to (8)
  9. Bailyn, Voyagers to the West, Table 5.10, p.146; E. Richards, 'Varieties of Scottish Emigration in the Nineteenth Century', Historical Studies, 21 (1985), 476. Back to (9)
  10. E. Richards, 'The Last of the Clan and Other Highland Emigrants', in The Heather and the Fern: Scottish Migration and New Zealand Settlement, ed. T. Brooking and J. Coleman, (Otago, 2003), pp.46-7. Back to (10)
  11. M. McLean, The People of Glengarry: Highlanders in Transition, 1745-1820 (Montreal and Kingston, 2003); M. Molloy, Those Who Speak to the Heart: The Nova-Scotian Scots of Waipu (Palmerston North, 1991). Back to (11)

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