Rural settlement in the age of reason : an archaeology of the southern Scottish Highlands from the sixteenth to nineteenth centuries A.D.
From the eighteenth century, the material environment of the southern Scottish Highlands underwent radical change. This material change formed part of a wider process of social change known as Improvement. In this, a re-ordering of space within the house and throughout the wider landscape was intimately linked to change in the daily routines of the farming population and, thus, to change in the ways in which people related to each other. Prior to Improvement, people routinely experienced their world as part of the community of the farming township or as part of the family. Houses, settlements, and fields were organised in such a way as to maintain these forms of experience. Against this background, an ideology of clanship, that is of a wider community, and concepts of hereditary tenure appeared as common sense. Improvement sought to re-order routine in such a way as to privilege experience of the world as an individual, apart from the community and the family. With this achieved, an ideology of the individual and concepts of private property would in turn be privileged. Improvement sought, in this way, to introduce capitalism to the countryside of the southern Highlands. This thesis is in part an exploration of this process of Improvement through two case studies, in Kintyre and in Kilfinan parish. Changes to the material environment and to routine practice are traced for these areas; the intellectual context of Improvement, the Scottish Enlightenment, is discussed as the source of inspiration and justification for Improvement on the landowners part; and the specific motives of the various Improving landowners are explored as the process is restored to its specific social and historical contexts. However, to conceive of Improvement as imposed by a small group of landlords on a passive population is to misunderstand the dynamics of that process. As such, the penultimate chapter focuses on understanding how that population accepted, rejected or manipulated their landlord's initiatives in negotiating their position as occupants of the land. Improvement in practice took on specific local forms that were primarily defined in relation to the question of land rights. The narratives of Improvement constructed in what is to follow are of more than parochial interest. They form part of the global story of the emergence of capitalism and capitalist society. A major aim of this thesis is to consider how we should go about writing social histories and archaeologies of capitalism. There are two main conclusions that will be drawn. First, that capitalism (an ideology of the individual made knowable in routine practice) should be differentiated from capitalist society (where capitalism is widespread, but not necessarily universally or homogenously accepted). This distinction allows us to perceive alternative forms of social relationship within capitalist societies. In accepting the distinction, writing histories of capitalism involves considering how capitalism emerges and interacts with those alternative forms of social relationship in particular historical situations. The second main conclusion is that, in accepting the definition of capitalism given above, archaeology has a significant role in understanding capitalist societies as it has the material environment and routine practice as one of its basic concerns. It is in those environments and through that practice that the conditions allowing or denying acceptance of the ideology of the individual are created.