Map: The 18th century territories of Scotland’s clans

A centuries old map of Scotland shines a light on the distribution of Highland clan territories after the crushing Jacobite defeat at Culloden in 1746.

A centuries old map of Scotland shines a light on the distribution of Highland clan territories after the crushing Jacobite defeat at Culloden in 1746.

The map, which features in the National Library of Scotland’s (NLS) extensive archive, depicts a country still very much divided by the Highland fault line that served as a boundary between two peoples: the Gaelic clans and Lowland Scots.

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The drawing was created in 1746 and 1747 and featured many years later by the author and soldier Major General David Stewart in his 1822 book, ‘Sketches of the Character, Manners, and Present State of the Highlanders of Scotland.’

By 1746-47 the clan system was in decline.

The last Jacobite rebellion of 1745 had been crushed and the Hanoverian government had begun to suppress the culture and traditions of the proud Highlanders by disarming their warriors and forbidding the wearing of kilts and tartan.

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Quiz: How well do you know Scotland’s clans?

Although the fortunes of the clans was on a downward trajectory at this time, they still held vast swathes of land in Scotland.

They dominated the Highlands and islands of Scotland as well as other remote areas.

The clans are even older than Scotland itself, formed from necessity in the harsh and untamed glens of the country’s northern and western regions.

Yet not all of the clans originated in Scotland.

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The Frasers for instance - popularised in the TV series Outlander -, originally came from France, and then settled in the Borders before to areas surrounding Inverness as the NLS map highlights.

Many clans like the Campbells - who had influence over a large stretch of Argyll and Bute - were made up of a patchwork of smaller clans that were held together by family ties.

However, despite popular belief, it is almost certainly not the case that everyone in a clan belonged to the same family. Often clan members would simply be people who lived locally and looked to a chief for protection.

Nevertheless, the clan ties and loyalty were extremely strong - in the case of the Lordship of the Isles for instance, the Clan Donald effectively established its own kingdom, with only tenuous ties to the rest of Scotland.

David Stewart published this map in the nineteenth century when Gaelic culture was being romanticised and revised.

“It’s clear Stewart was very sympathetic to the clans.” explains NLS map curator Chris Fleet.

He continued: “ He was describing the clans to an early industrial era audience who were fascinated by them.

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“Interest in the Highlands across Britain rose in 1822 when King George IV came to Edinburgh, becoming the first monarch to do so in two centuries.

“During this visit Sir Walter Scott picked out aspects of Highland life that were appealing, and crucially, not threatening and presented them to the King as a tourist spectacle.”

Only after the wild Highlands had been tamed and any military threats pacified did Gaelic culture become fashionable.

Today Highland culture is frequently used to represent Scotland as a whole both inside and outside the country.