Set Adrift Upon the World

The Sutherland Clearances

By James Hunter

Format: Multiple Formats

A new book from one of the bestselling and most highly regarded Scottish historians.

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Birlinn Limited

Birlinn publishes mostly non-fiction books, ranging from biography to history, military history and Scottish interest. Their imprints, Polygon Books, Arena Sport Books and John Donald Books, publish a wide variety of genres including culture, literary fiction, poetry and sports.

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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.

Additional Information

Additional Information

Format Multiple Formats
Imprint Birlinn Limited
Publication Date 11 Aug 2016
SKU 9781780273549-grouped
Number of Pages 620

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Press Reviews

'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'

'[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'

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