Student starts Carnegie Trust Vacation scholarship


The Social and Economic implications of the cotter class in the West highlands and Islands, c. 1790-1900

My Carnegie Trust vacation Scholarship: A Blog by Mark Mclaughlan.

My name is Mark Mclaughlan and I am a third year undergraduate student, reading History at the University of Dundee. The purpose of this blog is to chart my progress through the Carnegie Trust Vacation Scholarship project. The focus of this project is to examine the cottar or landless class in the Scottish Highlands in the 19th century, with a specific attention to be paid to the islands of Tiree and Coll, situated in the Inner Hebrides on the west coast of Scotland, Which is part of the Argyll Estate.

This proved to be an interesting proposition from the start, especially as studying the Scottish Highlands through the course of my degree, it became obvious that through time the cottars have not figured much in current historiography. With this in mind it seemed obvious to me that this was an area that required some attention, and when I was informed by my tutor that the Carnegie Trust awarded vacation scholarships to undergraduate students, it seemed like to good an opportunity to pass up on. So after applying and successfully being awarded the scholarship I find myself writing this blog.

So just how will I approach this large and rather daunting task? The following objectives should make the answer to that question a little clearer.

  1. How and why was the cottar class established in the Highlands and islands, with a specific case study focus on the Argyll estates?
  1. What effect did the cottar class in the early nineteenth century have socially and culturally on the islands of Tiree and Coll?
  1. In the harsh economic environment in the west highlands and islands in the 19th century what effect did the support of the cottar class have on the Argyll estate management?
  1. What economic issues did the cottars provide for the Argyll estate management through the periods of highland improvement?

By examining these questions I hope to present a clearer picture if the cottar class who undoubtedly represented a large percentage of the population of Tiree and Coll. This will be achieved by conducting archival based research at the National Archive of Scotland and the National Library of Scotland in Edinburgh, and by consulting the Argyll Papers situated in the archive at Inveraray castle on the Argyll Estate, and desktop research at the University of Dundee. Throughout the period of the six weeks of the project I will update this blog on a regular basis, an include Photos of my travels and interesting documents. More importantly as I progress through the project this will provide an outlet for my thoughts and ideas during the information gathering and analysis process, which I’m sure will uncover a number of interesting results.

I will therefore end this first blog entry by expressing thanks to the Carnegie Trust for presenting me with this fantastic opportunity, and also my supervisor who continues to provide advice and support that I am sure will be ever more required as the week’s progress.