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Thank you for visiting us at Little Rebellions, the public research blog of the Jacobite Database of 1745 team. Below are the latest posts on the blog for you to read through and comment upon, and we encourage you to find further content using our archive page. You may use the search form in the upper right of the sidebar to track down specific terms, or you may select discrete categories and tags, also in the sidebar, to find the most relevant content for your interests. Please feel free to ask questions or provide feedback either in the comments or with our dedicated contact form. Thanks once again for stopping by!

Believe It or Not

Examination of John Bruce, allegedly a soldier in Lord Sempill’s Regiment, 30 April 1746

Deceptions and mistruths in eighteenth century judicial cases are rarely different from those in the modern day. The indicted have always lied to save their own skins or to provide cover for people and institutions they wish to protect. Though overloaded with prisoners and casework by the end of the last Jacobite rising, the British justice system was fundamentally sound enough to make the necessary adjustments to expedite an effective method of processing that massive influx of suspected persons. Many of those lessons were learned in the aftermath of the Fifteen, wherein the first Georgian administration sought to balance victory and clemency, hoping to establish an indelible hallmark upon the nascent regime.1 Thirty years later, the system was much the same, and though the categories of punishment scaled with an increased number of prisoners taken from a significantly smaller number of total participants, a fair and accurate penal process was again pursued by many of the Hanoverian ministers who were in charge of prosecution.2

A handful of high-profile Jacobite trials have since been published, offering readers a glimpse into the legal mechanics of treason cases against the Crown, but these are especially focused on prominent characters who were singled out to be made examples of.3 The best way to learn more about the regular folks who were involved in the last Jacobite rising is to go through the plethora of original documents housed in archives across Scotland and England, and sometimes further afield. The paper trails of these individuals are often fragmented on account of them facing examinations in the different places they were held, and subsequent prison transfers and other movements can sometimes make tracking them quite difficult. Nonetheless, the raw information left behind by the accused and by the witnesses in favor of or against them can shed valuable light on both the large and small events of 1745-6. It is worth the time spent piecing together these archive-driven stories, which is a focal objective of the JDB project.

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Lost Lectures

What follows below are the abstracts for two papers that were accepted for presentation this spring at two respective conferences in Florence and in Glasgow. Due to the dangers posed by the coronavirus pandemic early in the year, both of these events – like thousands of other conferences and gatherings around the world – have been canceled. We can hope that these will be rescheduled in the near future and I will be sure to report here and on JDB1745’s social media accounts when and if new dates are chosen. More important than any conference, of course, is our collective health, and the entire JDB team hopes that yours remains or once again becomes robust.

Both of these papers stem from my extended work on the nature of plebeian Jacobite culture through the collection and analysis of large-scale prosopographic data compiled from archival and published sources. Please take care of yourselves; we have much to discover together!

Yours,
Darren


Fifth Colloquium of the Jacobite Studies Trust
Middlebury School, Florence
22-24 May 2020 (Canceled)

By Hook or by Crook
A Modern Reassessment of Jacobite Impressment

Little scholarly debate surrounds the ubiquitous tale of recruits being forced to join and fight in the Jacobite armies during the 1715 and 1745 risings. The general historiography of the later Jacobite era flatly consigns the widespread prevalence of impressment tactics to the status of myth, or otherwise marginalises claims of forcible recruitment as simply a means to evade punishment. Many of these assertions, however, are built upon incomplete, published transcriptions of prisoner lists or without the extensive analysis of large bodies of archival case records. This paper addresses some missed opportunities by considering the context and process of the British penal system in the mid-eighteenth century to re-examine how cases of impressment at Jacobite trials were handled and how they were resolved. Using a prosopographic approach to collect, analyse, and track hundreds of impressment accounts juxtaposed with primary-source evidence that illustrates the nature of Jacobite recruitment through the final campaign in 1745-6, a modern, data-driven reassessment will be presented. This study will also consider the role of the Scottish Presbyterian clergy in vouching for those claiming force, as well as the distinction of Jacobite recruiting tactics compared to other coeval eighteenth-century European armies. The results in total provide some fresh perspectives about the popularity of Jacobitism in its final stage and what that meant to the ‘legitimacy’ and effectiveness of the cause.


Outlander International Conference
University of Glasgow
2-6 June 2020 (Canceled)

‘What Makes Heroic Strife?’
Practical Jacobitism and its Burial at Culloden

The early Outlander novels and television episodes are set against the dramatic background of the final Jacobite rising in Britain and they portray both the movement and its adherents in an uncomplicated and decidedly alluring manner. An entirely new audience has therefore been exposed to the concept of Jacobitism and its place within a larger historical context. But what did it really mean to be a Jacobite in the mid-eighteenth century and how accurately are the common people characterised in the world of Outlander? This presentation digs a bit deeper into the historical reality of the Jacobite ‘cause’ and specifically examines the conflict between ideology and practice and the crossroads between them as exemplified on Culloden Moor in April of 1746. Was it only the hopes of a Stuart restoration that died with the hundreds of Jacobite soldiers on that bleak spring day, or something far greater? Dispelling the myths and casting light on the realities of popular Jacobitism using the latest research on motivational agencies of the numerous Jacobite causes, this brief paper explores the experience of the common soldier against the backdrop of a calamitous civil war.


Darren S. Layne received his PhD from the University of St Andrews and is creator and curator of the Jacobite Database of 1745, a wide-ranging prosopographical study of people concerned in the last rising. His historical interests are focused on the mutable nature of popular Jacobitism and how the movement was expressed through its plebeian adherents. He is a passionate advocate of the digital humanities, data and metadata cogency, and Open Access.

Yours Till Death

Anne Abernethy to Robert Forbes of Corse, 21 October 1745

Of the many archival sources relating to the last Jacobite rising that still survive, one category of documents that is noticeably thin is that of personal letters from rebel soldiers. This makes sense for a number of reasons. For one, the army led by Charles Edward Stuart was almost constantly on the march during its eight-month campaign in Britain, leaving little time to write to family back home. Literacy among the rank-and-file troops was not particularly pronounced, and this is borne out by the number of Jacobite prisoners who claimed they could not write, instead leaving ‘their mark’ on government documents in place of a signature. Postal service through the Royal Mail and by private couriers was indeed active during the crisis, but was notoriously unreliable due to poorly maintained roads through often difficult and remote terrain, as well as the fact that the kingdoms were in the midst of a civil war. Packets of sealed letters were regularly seized by agents on both sides of the conflict and were broken open in the search for seditious material and intelligence within.1 As a result, thousands of missives never made it to their final destinations.

The signature marks of numerous illiterate Jacobite prisoners and witnesses against them

This dearth of important evidence means that it can be a bit more difficult to study the context of the common people who were caught up in the rising, both within the Jacobite army and on the home front. Newspapers and magazines of the time were valuable for getting out basic (and sometimes pointed) information to the masses, but they are nowhere as intimate or revealing as the personal letters themselves. Thankfully, a few significant collections of these letters written by plebeian soldiers and their family members are still preserved in various archives, and they shed a fascinating light on what it was like for some of the ‘ordinary’ people in Britain who were involved – willingly or not – in Jacobite designs during such a tumultuous period.

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