Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Highland Clearances” as Want to Read:
The Highland Clearances
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Highland Clearances

3.98  ·  Rating details ·  272 ratings  ·  32 reviews
In the terrible aftermath of the moorland battle of Culloden, the Highlanders suffered at the hands of their own clan chiefs. Following his magnificent reconstruction of Culloden, John Prebble recounts how the Highlanders were deserted and then betrayed into famine and poverty. While their chiefs grew rich on meat and wool, the people died of cholera and starvation or, evi ...more
Paperback, 336 pages
Published May 31st 1969 by Penguin Books Ltd (first published 1963)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Highland Clearances, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Highland Clearances

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
3.98  · 
Rating details
 ·  272 ratings  ·  32 reviews

Sort order
Well to start with I picked this up by mistake, that's not true, I picked it up quite deliberately, as a rule books don't slip into my hands accidentally, but there was a case of mistaken identity. The weather decided to ignore Chaucer and instead of drought piercing showers smiled sunshine and warmth. Naturally this inclines the heart to a mild temper and cheerfulness, both frightful tendencies to be guarded against. Spotting this book I assumed it was Glencoe by the same author - the tale of a ...more
Apr 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There is something wrong in the British education system if a person can reach my age and have virtually no knowledge of this whole affair, that lasted over a hundred years and involved the removal of poor people from the Highlands of Scotland. It isn't told as part of the working class struggle, nor as the progress of the industrial revolution - it seems to have been kept secret from our history. So this book was a great revelation to me, I'm afraid to say. What was most disturbing was the cros ...more
Oct 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing
If you are in a really cheerful mood and want to feel depressed, this is just the book for you.

After the 1745 rebellion, the Highland chiefs, due to the way society had changed, no longer needed to be able to raise large numbers of fighting men. They figured out that by running sheep on their land they could make a lot more money than by accepting the relatively low rents paid by their tenants. So guess what? The tenants had to go. Some were forced to the coasts, to take up fishing - of which th
Dawn Dorsey
Jul 22, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
This is a thorough history of a little-known chapter of Scottish history, covering the sixty-year period when the clansmen were evicted by the thousands from their ancestral lands in the Scottish Highlands and Islands, to make room for the more lucrative pasturage of sheep for lowland farmers.

Following the bloody defeat of the highland army at Culloden in 1746, the English crushed highland society and seized the property of the rebellious Chiefs. When their lands and titles were restored forty
Lochaber no more
Sutherland no more
Lewis no more
Skye no more
— C&C Reid

Scotland is currently much exercised about its history, and in particular whether what took place between the middle of the 18th century and the middle of the 19th century constituted a genocide. We have become accustomed these days to thinking of genocide as involving a systematic industrial extermination programme, as in the Endlösung of the Nazis or the mass killings of Tutsi in Rwanda in the 1990s. By those standards th
Jan 19, 2008 rated it it was amazing
The first 50-75 pages are a little dense on the financial reasons why the highlands were cleared. But you do need to know the bottom-line, monetary motivation of the land owners to make you truly appreciate the horror of people getting forced off their land to be replaced by sheep. Made me cry/get very angry at how people treat each other.
Marguerite Kaye
Jan 17, 2014 rated it liked it
I didn't give this the 4 stars it deserves as a history because it's not an easy read. It's case-based, but very dense, and though personal and emotive, I found it very hard to read in more than very short bursts. I bought it for research purposes and it certainly did the job on that - lots of meat on the causes and effects of the Clearances, and enough context to give you a good head start on such a difficult subject. I wasn't reading this to get a fuller understanding of the Clearances as a hi ...more
Apr 25, 2011 rated it it was ok
The author's case-by-case recounting of this tragic episode in Scotland's history was informative, and his sources are good, but I felt his tone was more that of a novelist than an historian. There is very little attempt at objectivity or finding truth that might not always jive with popular perception. There are much better books on this topic.
Richard Thomas
Nov 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: scottish-history
It's a harrowing story of aristocratic arrogance clearing people off land they had held for centuries for sheep. The clearances broke the bond of mutual obligation that had held highland society together and still scar today. Prebble's sympathies are obvious (and shared by this writer).
Oct 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing
An excellent book on the subject. I have read and re-read his books and own most of them. Interesting and readable, you don't want to put his books down.
Mar 03, 2017 rated it it was ok
I started reading enthusiastically, willing to learn (which I have) and buoyed by the Author's engaging writing style, however as the book progressed a common theme emerged: he increasingly offered his own view on how the Highlanders should feel towards their Chiefs. When mentioning the lack of hostility towards them by their clansmen he, 100-150 years after the events, offered his judgements that the Chiefs do not deserve the love of their people. With these personal comments made so long after ...more
Oct 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
I had heard of the Highland Clearances but knew little about them previously. I had assumed that they were an extension of the brutality meted out by Cumberland's Royalist army after the Battle of Culloden. I hadn't realised that they clearances went on for so long or saw so many Highland people driven from their homes and homeland. John Prebble's book charts very effectively this shameful chapter of our history drawing on contemporary accounts of the privations visited upon a population who wan ...more
Peter Harrison
May 15, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
A polemic against the Highland clearances. An interesting read for those who might be tempted to think that the English involvement in Scotland has always been benign, and a counter to 'traditional' readings of British history. It sits in roughly the same camp as "Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee" but isn't quite so well written.

This is not an attempt at even-handed history but is a straight out denunciation of how the Highlands were cleared of people. It is sometimes a struggle, and the parade of
Dec 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: scottish, history
I decided to read this after having seen The Cheviot, The Stag, and the Black Black Oil at Dundee Rep theatre. It's not an easy read, as it's page after page of the historical abuses of the landed classes against the people of the Highlands, their livelihoods, and their culture. I found that this history filled out the background to Iain Crichton Smith's Consider the Lilies, which I had read earlier this year.
Elizabeth Gates
Nov 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I love Prebble's vivid style. He tells history through story - how digestible is that? And I'm convinced of the fairness of his scholarship. Others may not be but his is a view and it may promote their own scholarship. What's not to like?
Jamie Bowen
Aug 31, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2018
An incredible piece of British History, a shameful episode. First published in the 60s, the writing style can sometimes make it a difficult read but you certainly get the story.
Lynn Rvh
Jul 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
Well written account of economic upheaval perpetrated at the cost of lives and welfare of indigenous Highland Scots.
Feb 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Im 18. Jahrhundert waren viele schottische “Clan Chiefs” bereits “anglisiert”, d. h., sie waren in England zur Schule gegangen und hatten sich an den Lebensstil und die englische High Society angepasst. Doch dieser Lebensstil kostete viel Geld. Gleichzeitig kam die Industrialisierung in Gange und den Lairds blieb nicht verborgen, dass man mit Schafen und ihrer Wolle sehr viel mehr Geld verdienen konnte, als die Landbevölkerung dem kargen Land in den Highlands jemals abringen konnte. So kam es da ...more
Elliott Bignell
Jun 20, 2016 rated it liked it
Billy Connolly has spoken of the wonder of the open landscape of Scotland: The brilliant thing is that there's no-one there! I wouldn't demur, as I like solitude as much as the next empty seat, but I know that Billy is enough of a scholar to understand that this is not the whole story. Indeed, much of upland Britain is not in its natural ecological climax state, which would mostly be forest and temperate rain-forest but is instead near-barren, sheep-burnt coarse turf and heather as far as the ey ...more
Apr 30, 2015 rated it liked it
In the sixty or so years between 1790 and 1850 the tenant-farming population of the Scottish Highlands were evicted - often brutally so - from their ancient homelands, forming a diaspora across the world and denuding the already barren landscape of the north of Scotland of such settlements as existed. This is a story little known south of the border but forms an important and tragic part of Scotland's history. John Prebble's classic book on the clearances shows passion, poetry and a good deal of ...more
Sep 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
I got lost amongst the names and places a few times, and it's not completely chronological, but for the most part, John Prebble makes it very easy and interesting to read about what happened in the north highlands in the hundred years following the Battle of Culloden. He conveys respect, reverence and a bit of indignation for the rich and tragic history of that beautiful and, now understandably, remote part of the country.
Jul 22, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: history, non-fiction
I really wanted to learn about the Clearances as it is something that hadn't been covered at school. This book didn't add much to my knowledge. There was a lot of information in it but it was so dry that I haven't retained any of it. It's not laid out in a way that you could just use it as a reference book but as prose it is just such a trudge to get through.
Jul 08, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: general
A hard-hitting tale of the History of the Scottish Highlands and the misery and starvation and abandonment of the Highlanders,some of the forced to emigrate to the USA and Canada. If you are interested in history,this should suit you.
Oct 14, 2014 rated it it was ok
I found this a slow, difficult read and wasn't able to finish it. I appreciated that Prebble was trying to give a 360 degree perspective on the Clearances but somewhere the story lost its impetus and I stopped reading.
Apr 22, 2010 rated it liked it
A university text from the 70's
Jun 10, 2015 rated it really liked it
Land possession in Scotland parallels land possession in South Africa. With an emphasizes on the international role of "capital" as the driver of globalisation.
Claire Gordon-Bouvier
rated it it was amazing
Dec 01, 2016
rated it liked it
Sep 27, 2016
rated it really liked it
Sep 01, 2011
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • The Lighthouse Stevensons: The extraordinary story of the building of the Scottish lighthouses by the ancestors of Robert Louis Stevenson
  • Europe Since Napoleon
  • Electric Brae
  • The First World War: An Illustrated History
  • Akenfield: Portrait of an English Village
  • English Journey
  • Lord of the Isles
  • A Tour Through the Whole Island of Great Britain
  • Scotland: A Concise History
  • Blue Above The Chimneys
  • A History of the Crusades, Vol. III: The Kingdom of Acre and the Later Crusades
  • The Spice Route: A History
  • The Reason Why: The Story of the Fatal Charge of the Light Brigade
  • The Celts
  • The Long Week-End: A Social History of Great Britain, 1918-39
  • Britons: Forging the Nation 1707-1837
  • Five Days in London, May 1940
  • The Quarry Wood
John Edward Curtis Prebble, FRSL, OBE was an English/Canadian journalist, novelist, documentarian and historian. He is best known for his studies of Scottish history.

He was born in Edmonton, Middlesex, England, but he grew up in Saskatchewan, Canada, where his father had a brother. His parents emigrated there after World War I. Returning to England with his family, he attended the Latymer School.