Sutherland and the Highland Problem
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Sutherland and the Highland Problem book
The environment of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway was a world removed from that of the Highland clearances. A greater contrast in the Victorian economy would be hard to find. The economic experience of the Highlands was set squarely in a pre-industrial context-yet the clearances were as much an expression of the 'Age of Improvement' as the promotion of railway capital in Lancashire. Both were responses to the burgeoning demands of the growing national economy; both were essentially experimental, speculative and capital-intensive. But there the similarity ends. The railway experiment carried all before it; the Highland experiment yielded little evidence of positive achievement, and many people regard the clearances as an unmitigated disaster. Pre-industrial economic history is littered with unfulfilled projects for development-one of which was the policy of clearance in Sutherland. Speaking of Sutherland in 1815, James Loch declared that 'in no country in Europe, at any period in its history, did there ever exist more formidable obstacles to the improvement of a people arising from the feelings and prejudices of the people themselves.' 1 Its problems were those of Highland economic development.