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Title: The Island of Iona : aspects of its social and economic history from 1750 to 1914
Author: MacArthur, E. Mairi
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 1989
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This study centres on the inhabitants of the Hebridean island of Iona from the mid-eighteenth century until the First World War. It examines the events and influences which, over this period, affected the people's economy, society and way of life. The first Chapter sets Iona in its geographical and historical context and outlines the reasons for undertaking the research. It then assesses the wide range of sources used, both documentary and oral, and describes the methodology by which these have been gathered together and integrated. Chapters 2 to 17 trace the history of the islanders chronologically, starting with the profound shift in landlord/tenant relationships in the Highlands, already underway on the Argyll Estates from the 1730s and which accelerated everywhere after 1745. The specific attempts by the fifth Duke of Argyll to broaden the economic base of his Estate are detailed, as are the agrarian reforms he initiated in the late eighteenth century. By 1802 Iona's land was divided into individual lots, or crofts, marking an end to the former communal system of agriculture. The study goes on to look at how rents were met for the holdings, at the growing impact of visitors and at the steady rise in population to a peak by the late 1830s. The effects of the 1846 potato failure are considered at length as the ensuing decade proved to be a turning-point, both demographically and economically. Emigration reduced Iona's population dramatically and the amalgamation of crofts into larger units began. A combination of higher rents, lower self-sufficiency and decline in sources of cash income produced a financial strain, and a tension between tenants and the Estate, that did not ease until the Napier Commission of 1883 and the subsequent adjustment of rents by the Crofters' Commission of 1890. The educational and religious life of the island over the period is also documented, along with the role played within the community by schoolmaster and minister. The former first appears when a school was set up in 1774. A resident minister dates from the building of a Parish Church and Manse in 1828. A zeal for self-education, an active interest in current affairs and a lively recreational life are also commented upon as central aspects of parish life. A core of family names is identified early in the study, providing one of its basic unifying threads. Family history has been used throughout, as a tool for elucidating information, e.g. on emigration, and to illustrate the close-knit nature of the society. Attention is paid at several points to other factors which underlined the cohesion and mutual support of the community, such as traditional beliefs, communal working practices and occasions for song, dance and storytelling. The concluding Chapter highlights those points where, during this period of radical transformation throughout the highlands, the experience of Iona's population parallels that of other areas and where it differs. The most critical times for the island are noted and the lines of continuity, as reflected in kinship links, custom and culture, are summarised and their significance reinforced.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available