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Abstract

The Highland Clearances of the late 18th and early 19th centuries were a tragic period in Scottish history. All of Great Britain was changing as a result of the Industrial Revolution but the rural structure of the Highlands experienced a social and economic transformation unparalleled among European societies of the time in its speed, scale and intensity. This change was a revolution and affected the ancient Highland culture drastically. Not only was Gaelic culture mostly destroyed, but thousands of native Highlanders were forced to emigrate from their ancestral lands. Many landlords and factors during the Clearances were notoriously inhumane including Patrick Sellar on the Sutherland Estate.

On April 23, 1816, Patrick Sellar was brought to trial for the crimes of culpable homicide, real injury, and oppression. Sellar was a respected and educated man with a spotless record but in the county of Sutherland in the Scottish Highlands he had become the most hated man and now a possible murderer. Considering the events in Sutherland during this time, Patrick Sellar became the main target for the tenants on the Sutherland Estate, because he represented the tragic changes that were being forced on the native Highlanders. The estate was determined to both, give their tenants a more prosperous life, and make a large profit. However they failed to improve the lives of their tenants due to their prejudices. Instead of improvement: violence, rebellion, famine, and mass emigration ensued. The Improvement Policy of the Sutherland Estate was unsuccessful because the cultural gap between the Highland tenants and the Lowland administrators of the estate was unbridgeable. They loathed one another and the resulting mistrust made cooperation nearly impossible and success, unlikely.

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