Nicholls, Andrew (Buffalo State University)
Scottish Tradition, Vol. 26 (2001)
This volume seeks to consider the history and significance of one of the most important and inspiring aspects of Scotland’s contribution to the British Empire – the performance of the army’s Highland regiments. Among other things, discussions of their exploits in the Seven Years War, the American War of Independence, the Napoleonic wars, and India, will serve as noteworthy samplings of the range of their services. And yet, as impressive as the records of the Highland regiments clearly are, their very emergence as key components of the British military in the generation after Culloden presents certain ambiguities, particularly when one considers the factors that might have prevented such a scenario from developing.
Is it not puzzling, for instance, that the Highlanders would become such effective instruments of a state, and of institutions, that had worked diligently for nearly a century and a half, to suppress their very culture and way of life? This development appears to have been even more surprising when we consider that the eventual Highland companies were drawn from many clans that had been supporters of the exiled Stewarts. As mark of this, they had nearly succeeded, twice in the first half of the eighteenth century, in toppling the dynasty which they were now pledged to serve. Were Highland fighting men of the later eighteenth century thus turning their backs upon the principles of their forebears, merely to “take the king’s shilling”?