Fatal land: war, empire, and the Highland soldier in British America, 1756-1783
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This thesis examines the experiences and impacts of the deployment of Highland soldiers to North America in the mid to late-eighteenth century. Between 1756 and 1783, Britain sent ten Highland battalions to the North American theatre, where they fought for the duration of both the Seven Years‟ War and the War of American Independence. The pressures of recruiting, utilizing, and demobilizing these men created powerful new forces in the Scottish Highlands, occurring, and in some cases prefiguring, the region‟s severe socio-economic problems. The impact of military contributions to the imperial state also had significant implications for Gaelic self-perception and the politics of loyalty and interest. This thesis asserts the importance of imperial contacts in shaping the development of the Scottish Highlands within the British state. Rejecting the narrative of a centrifugal empire based on military subjugation, this thesis argues that Gaels, of all social groups, constructed their own experiences of empire, having tremendous agency in how that relationship was formed. The British Empire was not constructed only through the extension or strengthening of state apparatus in various geographical spaces. It was formed by the decision of local actors to willingly embrace the perceived advantages of empire. Ultimately, the disproportionately large Highland commitment to military service was a largely negative force in the Highlands. This thesis establishes, however, the importance of political and ideological imperatives which drove these decisions, imperatives that were predicated on inter-peripheral contacts with British America. It establishes the extent to which Highland soldiers willingly ensured the development of British imperialism in the late eighteenth century.