Dr Jim MacPherson

Biography content


Reader in History - Postgraduate Research Co-Ordinator

Dr Jim MacPherson smiling at the camera while holding a garden tool and wearing a red beanie hat 

I am a collaborative cultural historian of modern Britain and my research focuses on empire, diaspora, migration, decolonization and the continuing legacies of colonialism in the Scottish Highlands.

I work closely with museums and local communities, including the Clan Macpherson Museum which Dr Mairi MacPherson and I re-designed during 2021. Community-led research is at the heart of my work, especially helping communities to explore the ongoing impact of empire, such as in my recent work with Historylinks museum in Dornoch on a project about the town's connections with enslavement.

My most recent book was a co-authored monograph (with Dr Mairi MacPherson) on James 'Ossian' Macpherson and his history writing. Macpherson the Historian (EUP, 2023) argues that writing about the past was key to all of Macpherson's published works, where he wrote history to defend and promote the British imperial state.

Research content



Growing out of all my research, from the Irish diaspora to James Macpherson’s Highland Enlightenment history writing, has been an interest in empire. Fundamentally, I see the British Empire – and ‘imperial racial formation and its contestations’ – as constitutive of a modern, Euro-centric world. It’s our challenge, as historians, to interrogate the networks of imperial and colonial power that shaped the past and to confront those legacies in the present.

Much of my current research looks at how the Empire influenced the Highlands and how this connection continues to have legacies and consequences in the present. I am particularly interested in how we can use elements of the Black Radical Tradition and postcolonial thought to help understand the Highlands and its position within the British imperial state.

I’ve explored these themes in my work with museums, such as the Clan Macpherson Museum in Newtonmore and Historylinks in Dornoch. Here, we’ve worked collaboratively with local communities to begin the process of decolonizing collections and interpretation: at Dornoch, with the Young Curators’ Club; and at the Clan Macpherson Museum, with Scottish Gypsy/Travellers, where we commissioned creative responses to Jamie Macpherson’s fiddle and explored their potential for promoting anti-racism.

I welcome research proposals from students interested in any aspect of modern British, Scottish and Highland social and cultural history, including themes of gender, migration, diaspora, empire, decolonization, anti-racism, museums, Enlightenment historiography, associational culture, cricket, and British identities.

Completed PhD Students

Clive Abbott, 'The Irish Boundary Commission Episode: Northern Nationalist Narratives and Political Culture, 1924-1939' (University of Bristol, 2013).

Deborah Butcher, 'Ladies of the Lodge: A History of Scottish Orangewomen, c. 1909-2013' (London Metropolitan University, 2014).

Mel Manwaring-McKay, 'Curating the Highlands: Charles Fraser Mackintosh and Victorian Book Collecting' (MLitt by Research, UHI, 2018)

Linda Ross, ' "Nuclear fission and social fusion": the impact of the Dounreay Experimental Research Establishmen on Caithness, 1953-1966' (PhD, UHI, 2019) - AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Partnership studentship, with Historic Environment Scotland.

Mary Souter, 'A Peculiar Diversity: Public Health in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, 1845-1912' (PhD, UHI, 2019).

Aila Schaefer, ‘Landscape's Constitutive Agency in Macpherson's Ossianic Collections: The Liminal Sublime in Ossian's Landscape’ (MRes, UHI, 2021).

Current Research Students

Maureen Hammond, 'Badenoch Textiles: Economy, Innovation and Identity in the Eighteenth Century' (PhD) - AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Award, with High Life Highland and the Highland Folk Museum.

John Macdonald, 'Gallanan Buidhe Fodhairis: Imperial Jacobite Gaels, 1746–1763. Local, National and Imperial Networks in the Mid-Eighteenth Century Gàidhealtachd' (PhD)

Alex Dold, ‘Intertextuality, Historical Fiction, and Public History in Diana Gabaldon's Outlander Novel Series' (PhD).

Vicki Jagger, 'Landed elite evangelical networks in the north of Scotland during the first half of the nineteenth century: their networks and identities' (PhD).

Charlotte Evans, ‘Eighteenth-Century Women and Their Clothes: Understanding Women's Lived-Experience of Clothing, and How Sartorial Choices Influenced Their Wider Lives’ (PhD).

Publications content




(co-authored with Mairi MacPherson), Macpherson the Historian: Historiography, Nation-building and Identity in James Macpherson's Historical Works (Edinburgh University Press, 2023).

(co-edited with Rebecca Langworthy and Kristin Lindfield-Ott, Defying Genre: Critical Essays on Michel Faber (Gylphi, 2020).

Women and the Orange Order: Female Activism, Diaspora and Empire in the British World, 1850-1940 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2016).

(co-edited with Mary J. Hickman) Women and Irish Diaspora Identities: Theories, Concepts and New Perspectives (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2014).

Women and the Irish Nation: Gender, Culture and Irish Identity, 1890-1914 (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012).


‘Fraser in Fearn: Migration, Diaspora, and the Ghosts of Empire in the Return Visits of Peter Fraser (New Zealand Prime Minister) to the Highlands, 1935–1949’, Northern Scotland, 14:2 (2023), pp. 170-93.

'History Writing and Agency in the Scottish Highlands: Postcolonial Thought, the Work of James Macpherson (1736–1796) and Researching the Region's Past with Local Communities', Northern Scotland, 11:2 (2020), pp. 123-138.

'The Scots Abroad: Recent Approaches to Migration, Diaspora and Identity', Northern Scotland, 8 (2017), pp. 87-95.

‘The Emergence of Women’s Orange Lodges in Scotland: Gender, Ethnicity and Women’s Activism, 1909-1940’, Women’s History Review, 22:1 (2013), pp. 51-74.

‘Migration and the Female Orange Order: Irish Protestant Identity, Diaspora and Empire in Scotland, 1909-1940’, Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, 40:4 (2012), pp. 619-42.

‘Personal narratives of family and ethnic identity: Orangewomen in Scotland and England, c. 1940-2010’, Immigrants and Minorities, 32:1 (2014, online early 2013), pp. 90-114.

‘The myriad-minded woman: public and private worlds in the journalism of Susan L. Mitchell’, The Irish Review, 42 (2010), pp. 15-26.

(with Donald M. MacRaild) ‘Sisters of the brotherhood: female Orangeism on Tyneside in the late 19th and early 20th centuries’, Irish Historical Studies, 137 (2006), pp. 40-60.

‘"Ireland begins in the home": women, Irish national identity and the domestic sphere in the Irish Homestead 1896-1912’, Éire-Ireland, 36, 3-4 (2001), pp. 131-52.

Essays in Edited Collections

'Irish Protestant Masculinities and Orangewomen in Scotland, Canada and England, 1890-1918', in Rebecca Barr, Sean Brady and Jane McGaughey (eds), Ireland and Masculinities in History (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2019).

'Cultural Transmission, Irish Associational Culture and the "Marching' Tradition", in Eugenio Biagini and Mary Daly (eds), The Cambridge Social History of Modern Ireland (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017), pp. 551-65.

‘Irish Protestant women and diaspora: Orangewomen in Canada during the twentieth century’, in D. A. J. MacPherson and Mary J. Hickman (eds), Women and Irish Diaspora Identities: Theories, Concepts and New Perspectives (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2014).

‘The Fifteen Streets: representations of Irish identity in Catherine Cookson’s novels’, in Julie Taddeo (ed.), Catherine Cookson Country: On the Borders of Legitimacy, Fiction, and History (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2012), pp. 158-74.

‘“Exploited with fury on a thousand platforms”: women, unionism and the Ne Temere decree in Ireland, 1908-1913’, in Joan Allen and Richard Allen (eds), Faith of our Fathers. Six Centuries of Popular Belief in England, Ireland and Wales (Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Press, 2009), pp. 157-75.

'Domesticity and Irishness abroad: Irish women’s associational life in the north east, 1880-1914', in Shane Alcobia-Murphy (ed.), What rough beasts? Irish and Scottish Studies in the new millennium (Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Press, 2008), pp. 102-20.

(with David Renton), ‘Immigrant politics and north-east identity, 1907-1973’, in Adrian Green and A.F. Pollard (eds), Regional identities in north-east England, 1300-2000 (Woodbridge: Boydell & Brewer, 2007), pp. 161-79.

'Mary Butler, domesticity, housewifery and identity in Ireland, 1899-1912', in C. J. Litzenberger and Eileen Groth Lyon (eds), The Human Tradition in Modern Britain (Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield, 2006), pp. 171-86.

'The United Irishwomen and the advanced nationalist press', in R. Gillespie (ed.), The Remaking of Modern Ireland, 1750-1950 (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2003), pp. 201-22.

Teaching content



I am Module Leader for the following courses, many of which have been developed from my research interests:

  • People, Protest and Power: Themes in Modern British History (1st year)
  • Historians and History (2nd year)
  • Queer Britannia: Gender, Sexuality and Performative Identities in Britain, 1800-1950 (3rd year)
  • The Empire Strikes Back: How the British Empire Shaped Scotland (4th year)
  • Fight the Power: Music and the Politics of Black America (4th year)
  • Global Scots: Re-imagining the Nation (Masters)
  • British Identities (Masters)
Additional activities content

Additional activities

Additional activities

    • Highlanders’ Museum Community Curators’ Project, ‘Re-thinking the Indian Rebellion’ (2022)
    • UHI Enchantment and Wonder, ‘The Poetry of Wonder and the Prose of History’ (2022)
    • Culloden Visitor Centre, BBC Civilisations Festival, 'The Empire Strikes Back: Highland Homecomings, Culloden and competing visions of "British civilisation"' (2018)
    • Highland Family History Society, 'Highland Homecomings: Twentieth-Century Highland Imperial Connections' (2017)
    • 'Meet the Books' workshop on the Napier Commission, Inverness Library; Annual Lecture at the Clan Macpherson Gathering on the MacPhersons of Skye and Land Reform (2016)
    • United Nations' 'Women and Diaspora' event, New York; School of Canadian Irish Studies, Concordia University; Irish Ambassador's Residence in Ottawa (2015)
    • Timespan in Helmsdale as part of their Diefenbaker's North project; Highland Family History Society on Hector Macdonald and Empire