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on 8 January 2010
Murray Pittock has produced a fine study which challenges commonly accepted views of the Jacobite clans and the part they played in British history. The author has drawn on a vast array of sources- both primary and secondary- to discuss the motivations behind 'revisionist' historians whose writings have come to dominate understanding of the Jacobite clans, especially those who partook in the most famous of all the risings, the '45.

Pittock argues competently that Whig history which dominated this period was the main factor behind this marginalisation of the Highland clans with the intention of playing down the Jacobites' threat and significance to a supposedly settled, civilised and victorious society. On the flip side of this the author shrewdly points out that those who seek to romanticise the Highland Jacobites as a nationalist, heroic group drawn out purely by unswerving loyalty to the House of Stuart increase the construed view of an ancient society fighting for it's existence on the peripheries of this island against civilised Great Britain.

Pittock appears to share the view of the renowned and respected 18th century warfare authority, Jeremy Black, that the rising of 1745/46 was 'the most serious military threat faced by the country in that century,' which is contrary to the accepted view that catholic France along with Spain were the most potent threat at this time. Far from being a small scale, localised uprising of a few ill-trained, savage Highlanders, Pittock demonstrates that the Jacobites had in fact enjoyed widespread support both in Scotland and also from abroad by utilising evidence available from sources such as local parish records and official government documentation.

Pittock carefully examines the numbers who rose in support of Charles Stuart and the areas where these adherents were in fact drawn from and his discoveries go a long way to quashing the myth that the Jacobite army of the '45 was an overwhelmingly Highland army with little support from the Scottish Lowlands. The author has undertaken a thorough investigation of parish records, taking into consideration the number of potential recruits available and this reveals that a surprising number of men outside the Highlands rose for the Jacobites which gives the army more of a 'nationwide' aspect than many give it credit for. Similarly, Mar's army of the '15 is assessed with the same result although the author admits that Dundee's army of the first rising was very much a Highland host. The author highlights the fact that historians generally portray Montrose's royalist army of the civil wars as having fought against overwhelming numbers in the Convenanting armies yet the Jacobite armies compare more favourably with the latter for numbers, especially so in the '15. These are not revelations, most historians on the era are well aware of the numbers who rose under Mar and the existence of a second Jacobite army in Scotland during the invasion (by 5-6000 men) of England in 1745, yet history has saddled Jacobitism with being deeply unpopular in Scotland through their work. Pittock is one of very few historians who has looked at the subject in a wider context without overlooking bare facts.

The author is clearly a gifted writer- the narrative is cool, level-headed yet incisive and his arguments are put forward with ample evidence and force. The style of writing may be a negative to some as the language used is fairly complex throughout and one new to the subject may be at a severe disadvantage tackling this book as their first on Jacobitism. On the positive, if one new to the subject felt up to tackling this piece as their introduction to the subject, they would have a huge advantage in future study in that they would be aware of the pitfalls which appear in many books on the subject and they would approach them conscious of the fact that biased and inaccurate accounts of this period are commonplace, be they sceptical pro-Hanoverian texts or romantised pro-Jacobite works. This book certainly gives a clearer idea of the men who fought for the Stuarts, their reasons for doing so and also the composition of these forces, clearing the mists over an army 'much written about but little understood.'
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I approached this book from the other direction: much of my reading has been from the historians who are firmly on Pittock's side, to me there was no myth. But I dug out my copy of Peter Watkins's CULLODEN and there I was back in the mists of the myth.

Pittock's issue is that various groups for various reasons (not the same groups or same reasons) chosen to reclothe the various Jacobite risings in the tartan of the Jacobite Clans. Pittock sees this an essentially a romantic/barbaric explanation for Jacobitism as a vision of Catholic tartan-clad teuchters waving swords and Lochaber axes, formed in clumps of tribal bands, facing the scientific methods of the enlightenment as evidenced by the measured soldiery of Cumberland. This view I have always summarised as being from the lid of a shortbread tin.

But as Pittock points out defining Jacobite is harder than defining Highlander (which is hard enough). Loyalty crossed geographical features as the Manchester Regiment and John Roy Stuart's Edinburgh Regiment show. Loyalty crossed religious and political boundaries with Jacobites being more likely (in Scotland anyway) to have been Episcopalian or Non-Jurant than Catholic. Loyalty crossed class, it crossed from countryside to burgh. Pittock's view however is that if one thing helped Jacobitism in Scotland in was the 1707 Act of Union. Suddenly Scots Jacobitism added nationalism to its heady list of contents.

Pittock marshals his arrguments in the sort of formation Cumberland would have enjoyed. Using army sizes from 1640 to 1745 he demonstrates the Jacobite Army came from many places and for many reasons. He demonstrates that far from being an army of tartan Zulus the Jacobite army had a very large number of fire-arms and used those fire arms in its victories. He is also of the view that had Lord George Murray and his chums lost the debate at Derby there was little to stop the Jacobite Army reaching London. What would have happened then is a most delicious counter-factual.

This is an excellent piece of historical writing seeking to take us through the romance and the nationalist version to see, for once, what the Jacobite of 1745 might have thought and might have hoped for.
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on 9 September 2015
This book is not a general history of the Jacobite rebellions, it's academic history so probably a bit too dry for some general readers.

Pittock uses plenty of good evidence to attack several popular conceptions of the last Jacobite rebellion, also with plenty of discussion of the previous rebellions. His points can be summarised as follows -

The Jacobites had substantial support throughout most of Scotland, not just in the Highlands, though not necessarily Presbyterian strongholds like Ayrshire
The Jacobite army contained a far higher proportion of Lowlanders than is commonly perceived though many were employed as garrisons.
The Jacobite army had the character and structure of a typical army of the period so its perception as a clan army is mistaken.
The Jacobite cause had realistic hopes for success so its romantic portrayal as a lost cause is mistaken.
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on 21 May 2016
Murray Pittock is a Professor at the University of Glasgow, which seems the perfect qualification for producing this book, but he is Professor of English Literature, not of Early Modern Scottish Military History. He has, however, used many primary sources in Aberdeen, Dundee, the British Library, National Archives of Scotland and elsewhere. At first I feared it might be a modern SNP attempt to pretend that they, dour Lowland socialists, have something more in common with the reactionary but romantic Jacobites than just loathing the Union. Certainly many of the armed followers of Bonnie Prince Charlie in the '45 were Lowland city-dwellers, though their political allegiance to the House of Stuart has no serious analogy in 21st Century politics. Professor Pittock quite rightly points out 'that nationalism is itself a product of the very enlightenment the Jacobites existed to resist.' (p.149) He is mistaken, however, when he alleges that 'most of the banners carried [by Jacobite units] contain a saltire as their main or major component part' (152) - very few of them did; most were the heraldic coats of arms of the noble families that called their men out. He is particularly critical of the Culloden Battlefield Museum which (unsurprisingly) reinforces the popular impression that the Jacobite army was entirely composed of tough Gaels swathed in plaid carrying broadswords and targes. This myth is successfully demolished, Jacobite troops did in truth come from a much wider cross-section of contemporary Scottish - and indeed English and Irish - society. This truth has been well demonstrated by other, more militarily expert scholars, particularly Stuart Reid, who Professor Pittock does quietly acknowledge. There is a useful and fairly accurate 12 page Appendix of all Jacobite military units (including those in French service) 1688 - 1746. If the work were entirely original I would give it five stars, but what you get here is a concise and readable summary of the more accurate, less romantic, picture of Jacobite forces that you'll find if your interest in history goes beyond the odd museum visit and into reading a few books.
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on 12 May 2012
I have taken an interest in this subject for some years, thanks to Scottish and Scots-Irish ancestry and a Defense Department career. This one is now one of my favorites. Loads of splendid research in very readable form, casting a fresh light on what you thought you knew. I knew from my studies of the American Civil War (not the first one, 1776-1782, a genuine civil war, but the second one, 1861-1865, that is so-called with rather less justification, the South having no intention of controlling the whole country, if you please), that wartime prejudices and propaganda linger for generations, especially that of the winning side, while the side with an oral tradition (especially if in another language) is muted. This book restores the balance, with well-founded arguments such as its explaining how Jacobitism in its appeal, motivation and impact differed significantly from country/region to country. It should be read by everyone who cares about the time period of the rebellions at all.
My only quibble is that the title is not effective in conveying the breadth and depth of the subject matter covered, but I can't think of a catchy better one, either...

Mo\ran taing airson an leabhar seo, agus tapadh leibh! Se an obair math fhein ann, gu dearbh!
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on 22 October 2013
An academic book....lots of detail....good for the serious student regarding Jacobite history. It does turn the usual offering of certain historical facts on its head....and gives valid reasons as to why they should be accepted.
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on 9 September 2013
A very interesting and well researched book which cuts through all the myths surrounding the Jacobites and explains the reality of the movement.
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