Highland Fling

Rosalind Mitchison

  • Clans and Chiefs by Ian Grimble
    Blond and Briggs, 267 pp, £10.95, December 1980, ISBN 0 85634 111 8

A book containing no reference apparatus and no bibliography is not claiming to be a work of scholarship in any of the usual senses. Carefully and spiritedly done, the interpretation and presentation of history for the general public is entirely respectable. But what we have here is neither careful nor spirited. That Dr Grimble has read, unevenly, but in places deeply, if without system or critical faculty, is shown by confused echoes of other people’s research. It is implied that he feels deeply about the wrongs experienced by Highland society over the centuries, but the extreme selectivity with which such wrongs are put forward for consideration makes it difficult to take the sentiment seriously. Fragments of various stories are put together to give a picture of a coherent, cultivated and gallant society which has never questioned the aristocratic dominance of its chiefs and which has been entirely sinned against by those beyond its borders. The important questions which historians ask about Highland society are ignored.

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