migration is often thought of as a modern phenomenon, taking place towards the end of the imperial age. Scottish history, however, saw mass emigration begin as early as the late 17th century, with the agricultural revolution sweeping the better part of Great Britain and, in Scotland, with what became known as the “Highland Clearances”. The latter was a forced eviction of innumerable countrymen and their families off viable land in the Highland region, in order to free up the territory for more lucrative sheep farming. Astounding numbers of disenfranchised emigrants were moved to poorer areas or even shipped off to distant colonies in the British Empire, like those in North America. Of these, Canada became a popular landing point for thousands of emigrant Scots, where its Eastern-most coastal province was even baptised ‘Nova Scotia’, or New Scotland.
…we get to understand the reasons and the will behind Scottish emigration and the longing for the ‘home’ was left behind…
to employment and wealthier prospects, but were largely unprepared for city life. It also translated into the meeting of Scots from far and wide and a wealth of cultural sharing. Glasgow, the largest city in Scotland today, became a premier shipbuilding capital, a beacon for marine engineering. Edinburgh was the nation’s biggest merchant town and its history left its mark, as the city remains hugely important for politics and finance today. Finally, Dundee was dubbed the city of the three “J’s”, as its local economy revolved around jute, jam and journalism. All three cities bear the imprint of the Highland exodus, and have become manifest examples of how migratory trends shape both the areas left and those found. Tracing the footsteps back from America, Australia, England, or Scotland’s own Lowland centres to their source, we get to understand the reasons and the will behind Scottish emigration and the longing for the ‘home’ was left behind, in the past and in the heart, “amang the trees, where humming bees, at buds and flowers were hinging”*. * A Fiddler in the North Robert Burns.
Scotland was significantly impacted culturally and geographically by strong migratory trends that continued through the 18th and 19th centuries and well into the post-industrial era. The transformation was not exclusively limited to remote islands or the Highlands, which felt a dramatic decline in work force. Urban centres in the Lowlands were also affected, as ever-increasing numbers of Scots populated cities, forever shaping places like Glasgow, Edinburgh, and Dundee. This meant tougher conditions for many, as people gravitated