Yes, and that comes back to the point about the people on the land because in the late eighteenth century, right up until 1815 really, the Sutherland Estate wanted a high population on their estates so that they could raise troops for the Napoleonic Wars so, in that sense, the land is productive because it produces people who are exported out for military purposes but once all that comes to an end it’s productive in a more agricultural sense that they tend to talk about. So, is the land just heather and bog? That’s waste or unproductive. But if the land is under sheep and then later on under deer, that is seen as productive. There’s very little arable land in Sutherland where you could actually grow crops so when they talk about productive they mean stock, stock farming basically. So, again, it’s bringing the people back into the land equation really. The interesting change happens in the early nineteenth century. The Dukes of Sutherland, they want the people on the land because the people themselves are the product that they can make money on, basically. But as you go through, past the Highland famine and into the late nineteenth century, the people become what they call a burden on the land because they’re not producing anything. They don’t produce high rents. They are on the poor rolls. They are often in trouble, economically, with destitution. So you see a big change in that distinction between productive and unproductive over the course of the nineteenth century, I would say.

  • Annie Tindley
Thursday 13th May 2010