Category: Research (page 1 of 4)

Shining a Light on ‘Spotlight: Jacobites’

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.

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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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