Current Research and Public Engagement Projects
The UHI Centre for History is committed to research that impacts civil society, cultural life, public discourse and public policy in the Highlands and Islands region and Scotland more broadly. Through close collaboration with cultural heritage bodies, policy makers, schools and local communities, the Centre for History disseminates its research to a wide range of audiences and aims to influence public understanding of the past in the region and its diaspora. The Centre’s research aims to have impact in three key areas: on museums within the Highlands and Islands; on Highland schools; and on public policy debate about land reform and community ownership in Scotland.
The Kildonan Clearances
Dr Elizabeth Ritchie acted as historical advisor to the Timespan Heritage Centre in Helmsdale as they developed a host of activities and projects to commemorate the 200 year anniversary of the start of the notorious Sutherland clearances. There have been a number of talks and workshops already held in Timespan, including Elizabeth's lecture on 'Why did the Clearances happen?' The main feature of the project is an innovative digital trail iphone app. The app takes visitors on a tour of the cleared Strath of Kildonan and involves the stories of local people who were cleared, reconstructions of pre-clearance houses, maps, documents and the reflections of folks whose ancestors were cleared. The app can be used as a tour guide for those who visit the Strath (iphones can be borrowed from Timespan) or accessed virtually, so people can explore the history of the region and learn about the clearances from anywhere in the world. Along with new exhibitions and various talks, the app was launched in 2013. Further information on the Timespan project.
The Timespan project connects with the Centre for History's Masters level short course 'Contemplating the Clearances'. The course assesses both the events, with an especial focus on Sutherland, and the community memory of Highland clearance through literature, poetry, song and politics.
In connection with these, the BBC interviewed the Centre's Dr Elizabeth Ritchie about women's role in resisting the clearances for a website, radio and television news slot. Read the article here.
Coastal History and the 'Firthlands'
Dr Worthington has given a series of talks on this topic, and on coastal history, more broadly, to the UHI Research Conference, at UHI Executive Office, to the Moray Firth Partnership and to local history societies throughout the region. He has also been interviewed for BBC Alba on the subject. Furthermore, as a member of the organising group, he participated in and presented a paper at a conference on Sir Thomas Urquhart of Cromarty in 2011. Since, he has published an article in The International Journal of Maritime History on the theme and, in 2013, was successful in securing the support of Royal Dornoch Golf Club and the UHI Development Trust towards funding a PhD studentship ('The Royal Dornoch PhD Studentship') which focuses on golf in Dornoch as well as the sport, intellectual and cultural history of the broader Moray Firth region, c.1600-c.1800. There were features on the launch at Royal Dornoch Golf Club, on the BBC, Scotsman, and Northern Times websites. Even more ambitious was the 'Firths and Fjords' conference, the first ever Coastal History conference, which took place in the spring of 2016. More detail can be found via the 'Firths and Fjords' blog and through the 'Moray Firth History' Facebook and Twitter pages.
The Historiography of the Scots in Early Modern Poland
In July 2011, and with the help of a Royal Society of Edinburgh / Polish Academy of Sciences grant, Dr Worthington carried out two weeks of archival research in Poland on wills and testaments relating to Scottish migrants in early modern Poland-Lithuania. This combined with the development of an undergraduate module, 'Scots in Poland, Poles in Scotland', as well as numerous lectures, public talks throughout the UHI region, a BBC radio interview, and wider newspaper and internet coverage regarding his work on this topic. In 2014, he was appointed to the board for the Polish-Scottish Heritage Trail, and, more recently, has joined the Scottish Parliament's cross-party group on Poland. He contributed a chapter on Highland emigrants in sixteenth and seventeenth century Poland to the T.M. Devine and David Hesse edited volume Scotland and Poland: Historical Encounters, 1500-2010 in 2011 and published a 2015 article on the historiography of the Scots in Poland in
Social History of Forestry in Twentieth Century Scotland
The Centre was responsible for a major research project (with a budget of more than £350,000 from Forestry Commission, Scottish Forestry Trust and EU sources) on the social history of forestry in twentieth-century Scotland. The project culminated in 2016 with the publication of an authoritative book. The project was conducted by Mairi Stewart, the main researcher and writer, Dr Fiona Watson, a freelance writer and historian, Dr Hugo Manson, the Centre’s oral history consultant and Dr David Worthington, Head of the Centre. In April 2011, the team was joined by James Miller, author of The Foresters, published by Birlinn in 2009. For more information about the wider aspects of the project and, in particular, the image library and archive that has grown up as a result, see the affiliated Forestry Memories website.