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Title: Shapinsay : the transformation of an island society, 1830-1875
Author: Barker, Douglas
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 2004
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In the time-scale of one generation the island of Shapinsay, Orkney, was transformed into one of the most progressive and productive farming communities in Scotland. A number of small estates, run by three separate and distinctive landlords, were brought under the stewardship of one Orcadian born proprietor. David Balfour invested much of his inherited wealth, and government grants, in converting the subsistence based agriculture of Shapinsay into a 7,500 acre ‘floating farm’, complete with 160 new farms and a network of square, ten-acre, fields. Shapinsay is a microcosm of the nineteenth century agricultural improvement that transformed Orkney, fully three generations after the same developments in the Lothians, Borders and North East Scotland. The disruption of the population (never in excess of 950) caused considerable initial hardship and brought conflict between the small tenantry, many members of the United Presbyterian Church, and their Episcopalian land-lord. The introduction of a rival denomination, the Congregationalists, and a number of overt (and covert) elements of social control, forced the tenantry into conforming to Balfour’s ideal of a planned island economy. The pragmatism of these farmers in accepting his diktats on six-phase rotation, enclosed fields, over-wintered live-stock and long-term performance leases, led eventually to stability of tenure and owner-occupancy. In addition to an ethos of competition, exemplified by a calendar of public events on Shapinsay, Balfour promoted the island as an example of ‘uniqueness’ and as a community that could be prosperous and progressive while staving-off the catastrophic effects of emigration and cyclical famine. To this end he lauded his ‘blueprint’ through voluminous correspondence with landowners through Highland and Hebridean Scotland.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available