Highlands & Islands

Scottish Enlightenment 'helped end violent Highland code'

Jacobite re-enactor
Image caption Researchers said traditional clan allegiances were broken down in the 18th Century

Researchers have sought to shed light on how the Scottish Enlightenment aided the demise of a violence-dominated "code of manhood" in the Highlands.

Glasgow University's Centre for Gender History suggested the old clan system gave way to more modern social attitudes between 1760 and 1840.

The Enlightenment was an intellectual movement that encouraged new ideas in literature, science and medicine.

Researchers said it brought benefits to places such as Inverness.

The Scottish Enlightenment of the 18th Century followed changes that had swept across Europe during the previous century.

In Scotland, new ideas and attitudes were encouraged by philosophers Adam Smith and David Hume.

Image caption Philosopher David Hume was among Scotland's Enlightenment figures

Lynn Abrams, professor of gender history at the University of Glasgow, said by 1750 literacy rates in parts of Scotland were among the highest in Europe.

But she added: "Innovations that had paved the way for industrial and social modernisation had not yet gained a foothold in the Scottish Highlands and there still existed an archaic and violent 'code of manhood' whereby men, likely to be intoxicated and with few rules to follow, affirmed their social status, settled disputes and restored family honour through violence."

"Upheavals in the post-Jacobite era along with the social and economic 'improvement' were the cause of considerable social breakdown in traditional clan allegiances.

"Coupled with the civilizing effects of the Enlightenment, which offered a new model of disciplined masculinity underpinned by an effective legal system, a modern pattern of civility and restraint amongst the 'wild men' of the Highlands evolved."

Prof Abrams said improvements to farming technologies and growing trading links with the British Empire brought money and new employment opportunities to Highland towns, including Inverness.

New professional classes moved in bringing with them all the trappings of the new middle-class society that was evolving in the south, she said.

These included schools, banks and law courts.

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