Highlanders and the City: Migration, Segmentation, and the Image of the Highlander in Early Modern London, 1603-c.1750

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    Abstract

    The study of Scottish migration in the early modern period has experienced extensive growth in recent decades, but has tended to privilege overseas movement over the presence of Scots elsewhere in Britain. This is particularly true of migrants from the Scottish Highlands: much has been written about Highlanders in America or Continental Europe, but almost nothing is known about their experiences in England and Wales, and in particular in London, consistently the major destination of Scots moving southwards. This article seeks to address that gap by exploring the extent and nature of Highland migration to London during the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. It begins by surveying the surviving evidence for Highlanders’ presence in the English capital, suggesting that they were most readily to be found in the elite and mercantile sectors, and were comparatively rarer among the ranks of artisans, professionals, or the poor. It is also argued that Highlanders tended not to form a coherent ethnic ‘bloc’, but instead were subsumed within the wider Scottish diaspora. This, however, was paradoxical, because London was during this period developing a strong image of ‘the Highlanders’ as distinctive from ‘the Scot’. The article therefore goes on to explore the origins of Highlander imagery, and concludes that those Highlanders actually resident in London contributed very little to it. Instead, image-makers drew predominantly on pre-existing Scottish stereotypes, travellers’ reports, outlaw tales, and political discourse, for example surrounding Jacobitism. All of this suggests a degree of invisibility around the Highland community in early modern London, and that, the article suggests, underlines the fundamental blurriness of the Highland/Lowland divide within Scotland. It also indicates that a segmented, rather than ethno-cultural model of assimilation might offer the most reliable means of understanding the Scottish diaspora in early modern London.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)111-131
    Number of pages21
    JournalNorthern Scotland
    Volume12
    Issue number2
    Early online dateNov 2021
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2021

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