Just the other day the news was announced that starting in early 2021 I will be contributing to History Scotland magazine with a regular column of original content, which we are calling Spotlight: Jacobites. Like the usual posts here on Little Rebellions, this content will be presented as short, digestible essays about a wide range of different topics concerning the Jacobite era. It is a huge opportunity for me as a scholar to reach a wider audience, of course, and to raise awareness about the JDB1745 project in general. But I am also looking forward to engaging with and encouraging thousands of casual readers who might have only heard about the Jacobites or Jacobitism in passing, as well as those whose primary frame of reference is the Outlander books or television series and who would like to delve a little bit deeper into the subject. To this end, I thought I’d take just a bit of time to explain what you can expect to see in the coming months and also some of my thoughts about the impetus behind the column.
Similar to the case studies written and posted here on the JDB1745 research blog, my vision for Spotlight: Jacobites is to create a public space in which we can present fresh perspectives on the entire Jacobite century (1688-1788) based upon archival research and a modern reassessment of primary sources. When we think of the broad ‘Jacobite cause’ or the military risings that manifested from its aims, the things that many remember most vividly are often shrouded in mythology and romance. This is the natural way of history as tradition and how it passes through our collective memory. Indeed, history is less of a single, static timeline and much more of a set of parallel experiences, and it is here that the historian’s craft comes into focus to offer valuable context. While a significant part of the Jacobite era’s appeal is that romantic narrative, its tales of noble savagery and the fateful doom of exiled kings and gallant Highlanders, that is only a small part of the much larger story.
Looking back on 275 years of Jacobite historiography since the end of the Forty-five alone, those of us who are interested in the subject truly are faced with an embarrassment of riches. Despite the dissonant, alternating cycles of Whiggish and sympathetic interpretation and the repeated calls for scholars to stop writing about Jacobites already(!), the broad narratives and fine details of this intricate and mythologized era continue to inspire, challenge, and entice both specialists and the wider public. For those who have recently found themselves drawn into the history of the Jacobite century (1688-1788), knowing just where to start can be overwhelming. Even experienced readers and researchers who are already familiar with the subject’s historiography might have missed some excellent titles due to restrictions on access, lack of availability, or simply not knowing that they are out there.
With this in mind, we present a series of short articles to help acquaint folks with finding sources that advance the discipline through rigorous, professional scholarship. This series of posts will cover a number of disparate categories of historiography, starting with academic monographs intended for readers who seek more ‘formal’ material concerning Jacobite studies. Other categories will include, for example, edited anthologies, popular history, antiquarian sources, journal articles, archival collections, and scholar spotlights.
What follows is one passionate historian’s list of ten scholarly works of Jacobite history – or, more accurately, works about historical Jacobitism – that are worth considering as ‘essential’ secondary-source references. A few notes about the formation of this list:
• The sources herein are presented in no particular order of value or importance.
• Most, but not all, of the following sources are monographs that focus on broad aspects of the Jacobite century.
• Representing a relatively modern phase of scholarship, books included here were published between 1971 and 2019.
• If a source has not been included in this list, this does not mean it is neither excellent nor worth your time.
• Readers are welcome to chime in with other choices in the comments as long as they are respectful and constructive.
• Keep in mind that this is only the first of a series of ‘essentials’ relating to Jacobite studies!
• A comprehensive (and growing) bibliography of historical Jacobite sources can be found in the JDB1745 Zotero Library.
Hugh Blair to Colin Mitchell, Edinburgh, Tuesday, 26 September 1745
One of the benefits of working with a prosopographical database for historical research is being able to find commonalities in large amounts of data hitherto disconnected and, therefore, often unnoticed. A most intriguing example of this within my studies is the discovery that about one-half of the active goldsmiths, or ‘hammermen’, in Edinburgh during and just after the Jacobite Rising of 1745-6 gave evidence against the other half, citing rebellious activities to the government authorities. That the extent of this strange web of blame occurs nowhere else and within no other occupation with such frequency is striking, and while there is no direct evidence yet uncovered that marks this as anything other than a curious coincidence, one gets the feeling that there might be something more to the story.
I beg the
favour you will come to my house this
day att half an hour after two precisely
about a piece of Necessary business. I am