Set Adrift Upon the World
The Sutherland Clearances
by James Hunter
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a moving, gripping, definitive account of a struggle for survival
Rarely have the clearances been written about so evocatively. Hunter’s method and his empathy with those involved speaks to us with elegant restraint in an account that sweeps from the Sutherland straths to the struggles of those forced to seek new lives in North America
Hunter unravels and leads us through [the clearances] with the sharpest of eyes for telling details. His account is detailed and unsparing. His fellow-feeling for the cleared people is unmistakable…[he] is careful to present the evidence for all he records. No assertion is left unqualified
London Review of Books
[Hunter’s] scholarship is breathtaking
The best Scottish book I've read, not just in 2016, but probably in recent years. Hunter weaves a narrative which crosses continents and centuries as, in his own recent journey, he follows in the footsteps of cleared Sutherland emigrants to Winnipeg and onwards to the frozen expanses of Hudson Bay in what is a very compelling narrative underpinned by the authority of meticulous research
Bottle Imp, Best Book of 2016
About the Book
Winner of Saltire Scottish History Book of the Year
They would be better dead, they said, than set adrift upon the world. But set adrift they were - thousands of them, their communities destroyed, their homes demolished and burned.
Such were the Sutherland Clearances, an extraordinary episode, involving the deliberate depopulation of much of a Scottish county. What was done in the course of that episode was planned and carried out by a small group of men and one woman. Most of those involved wrote a great deal about their actions, intentions and feelings, and much of it has been preserved. There are no equivalent collections of material from those whose communities ceased to exist. Their feelings and fears are harder to access, but they are by no means irrecoverable.
In this book James Hunter tells the story of the Sutherland Clearances. His researches took him to archives in Scotland, England and Canada, to the now deserted straths of Sutherland, to the frozen shores of Hudson Bay. The result is a gripping, moving, definitive account of a people's struggle for survival in the face of tragedy and disaster which includes experiences which have not featured in any previous such account.
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. His book Set Adrift upon the World (Birlinn 2016) was Saltire History Book of the Year in 2016.
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