The Highland Destitution of 1837

The Highland Destitution of 1837

Government Aid and Public Subscription

Edited by John MacAskill


Currently out of stock

Scottish History Society



First published edition of documents relating to the major destitution in Scotland in 1837, shedding new light on its full impact and significance.
Successive harvest failures in 1835 and 1836 meant that the people of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland began 1837 with an almost total lack of food for the present and of the seed needed for the future. Severe destitution in 1837 was the result - out of a population of 167,000 some 86,000 people were said to be destitute. But although the conditions experienced have been described as a "full dress-rehearsal" for the famine of 1847, the1837 crisis has received little attention from historians. Indeed, it has been said that, apart from evidence given to a select committee on emigration in 1841, the destitution of 1837 is otherwise virtually unrecorded. However, there is in fact a large body of unpublished source material relating to the destitution of 1837, which is presented in this book for the first time. It comprises the letters of the two agents sent by Government to examine the conditions and to administer aid, Robert Graham of Redgorton and Captain Sir John Hill, RN; memorials, petitions and resolutions seeking Government aid and subscriptions from the public; reports of the destitution committees; and official and private Government letters and minutes. Together, these documents provide an essential collection for the study of the Highland destitution of 1837 and shed light on important wider issues: clearance and emigration, demography, poor law reform, religious questions and the role of the state. They are presented here with an introduction and full explanatory notes.

John MacAskill is an Honorary Postdoctoral Fellow in Scottish History at the University of Edinburgh. He has published articles on the economic and social history of the Scottish Highlands in the nineteenth century, and on contemporary crofting community issues.


August 2013
1 black and white, 2 line illustrations
386 pages
21.6x13.8 cm
Scottish History Society 6th Series
ISBN: 9780906245378
Format: Hardback
Scottish History Society
BISAC HIS015000, HIS037060
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Table of Contents

Biographical Notes
Editorial Conventions
The Sources
Part 1 - The Letters of Robert Graham of Redgorton
Part 2 - The Journal and Letters of Captain Sir John Hill, RN
Part 3 - Petition, Memorials, Resolutions and Reports
Part 4 - Government Correspondence and Other Documents
Part 5 - Treasury Minutes


A significant contribution to nineteenth century Highland history. I was most impressed by the scholarship, contextualisation and forensic commitment to accuracy which was evident throughout the text....A superb editing achievement. PROFESSOR SIR TOM DEVINE

This is a superb volume which makes a real contribution to Scottish, rural and nineteenth-century British history. RURAL HISTORY

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