Land nationalisation was slightly different and this is where you ... these people like Webb and so on and AR Wallace are very prominent advocates of land nationalisation. And, as always seems to happen with radical groups, they all end up hating each other almost as much as they hate the land owners and they argue against these other ... (laughs) Especially socialists and single taxers, end up very antagonistic towards each other in the early twentieth century because socialists are interested in thorough-going reform of society from the bottom upwards and often maybe from the top downwards but, anyway, every aspect of society whereas land nationalisers are then portrayed by socialists as kind of bourgeois and almost maintaining the status quo whereas in the early days, in the 1880s, land nationalisers are seen as almost beyond the pale of civilisation. In the British press, they are going to take the land from private ownership, especially thinking of coal mines and rentals from Highland estates and so on, and redistributing it amongst the entire population. It’s very hard to ignore the external context as well and, in the 1880s, anarchism, socialism, they’re big fears all around Europe and for example you’ve got a ... I’ve got a report from a Swedish newspaper which is discussing the Crofters’ War but the headline is: “Socialism In Scotland,” and I don’t think any of those crofters that it’s talking about would’ve necessarily identified themselves as big ‘s’ socialists. It’s just the way it’s being portrayed to the outside world and, of course, they are imposing their own local fears onto what’s going on and it’s almost seen as a ... It’s not necessarily being picked up on in the historiography of the Highlands but there is a sense in which the Highland land agitation is seen in the European context, as part of this threat of communism or anarchism stalking the continent. Osborne likes to think of it in those ways.

  • Andrew Newby
Thursday 29th April 2010