An Age of Transition? Castles and the Scottish Highland estate in the 16th and 17th centuries

Dalglish, C. (2005) An Age of Transition? Castles and the Scottish Highland estate in the 16th and 17th centuries. Post-Medieval Archaeology, 39(2), pp. 243-266.

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In the archaeology of post-medieval rural Scotland, research traditions have inhibited understanding of social change prior to the 18th century as the emphasis has been on the dramatic overturn of ‘traditional’ society with Improvement and the Clearances. This contrasts with the situation for England and, indeed other parts of Europe, where there is an established concern for the much earlier ‘Age of Transition’ from medieval to modern. Here I explore the ancestry of Improvement by considering the genesis of the landed estate in the 16th and earlier 17th centuries, and this is primarily achieved through an analysis of the architecture and geography of castles in one area of the Highlands. This case study concerns the castles of the Glenorchy Campbells, a lineage emerging in the earlier 15th century and proceeding to become one of the most significant of Scottish, and British, landed families. In no small part through a changing approach to castle building, their rise was predicated on the transformation of clan territory into landed estate in the period after 1550. The usefulness of the ‘Age of Transition’ construct, in this specific context and in general, is appraised. In concluding, I argue for the alternative of the dialectical Marxist concept of contradiction. This places the focus on tension, fluidity, and lack of resolution in society, running counter to the idea of transition from one state to another. With contradiction, modern society as a simply definable entity is never established and cannot be delineated in a straightforward way. It is an itinerant process, constantly emerging and changing.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Dalglish, Dr Christopher
Authors: Dalglish, C.
Subjects:C Auxiliary Sciences of History > CC Archaeology
College/School:College of Arts > School of Humanities > Archaeology
Journal Name:Post-Medieval Archaeology

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