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Set Adrift Upon the World
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Publication Date
15 October 2015
Hardback (also available as an eBook)
Out of Stock
Birlinn Ltd
16pp colour plates

Set Adrift Upon the World

The Sutherland Clearances
by James Hunter - Find out more about the author


eBook also available from the iBookstore


'His [Hunter's] scholarship is breathtaking' – Herald

They would be better dead, they said, than set adrift upon the world. They opposed and confronted men sent to evict them. They had a leading land agent brought to trial on capital charges. They won support in the press. But their landlords, Britain’s wealthiest couple, proved invincible. So set adrift they were. Thousands of them. Their land made over to sheep farmers, their communities destroyed, their homes burned and demolished. Such were the Sutherland clearances.

Never before has this extraordinary episode – the deliberate depopulation of much of a large Scottish county – been investigated in such detail. Here women, men, children who have long been nameless are central to the clearance story. They suffered, yes. But there is much to be celebrated in their accomplishments. In their well organised resistance. In their refusal to accept their landlords’ plans for them. In the remarkable journeys they made to North America – not least to previously unfarmed Manitoba prairies where they founded the settlement that is today the great city of Winnipeg.

James Hunter’s researches took him to archives in Scotland, England and Canada. To the now deserted straths of Sutherland. To the frozen shores of Hudson Bay. To a New Orleans battlefield where hundreds of men from Sutherland died fighting for a country that, back home, sent other soldiers north to enforce eviction, dispossession and expulsion. The outcome of Hunter’s travels and enquiries is a gripping, moving, definitive account of a people’s struggle for survival in the face of tragedy and disaster.


James Hunter is Emeritus Professor of History at the University of the Highlands and Islands. He has written extensively about the north of Scotland and about the region’s worldwide diaspora. In the course of a varied career Hunter has been, among other things, director of the Scottish Crofters Union, chairman of Highlands and Islands Enterprise and an award-winning journalist.

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