Professor James Hunter CBE, FRSE, PhD

Biography content

Biography

Senior researcher

Prof James Hunter

Jim Hunter, Senior Researcher, was the first Director (and first staff member) of the Centre for History where, between 2005 and 2010, his principal task (with much help from others) was to get the Centre up and running. The author of fourteen books about the Highlands and Islands and about the region’s worldwide diaspora, Jim has also been active in the public life of the area. In the mid-1980s he became the first director of the Scottish Crofters Union, now the Scottish Crofting Federation. Between 1998 and 2004 he was chairman of Highlands and Islands Enterprise, the north of Scotland’s development agency. In the course of a varied career, Jim has also been an award-winning journalist.

His two most recent books, both published by Birlinn, are Set Adrift Upon the World: The Sutherland Clearances and Insurrection: Scotland's Famine Winter. The first attracted a Saltire Society award as Best History Book 2016. ‘Rarely have the clearances been written about so evocatively,’ the Saltire panel commented. ‘Hunter’s empathy with those involved speaks to us with elegant restraint in an account that sweeps from the Sutherland straths to the struggles of those forced to seek new lives in North America.’

Jim’s most recent publication arose from his having been asked by the Scottish Land Commission to help mark the centenary of a notable milestone in the story of land reform in Scotland. The outcome, Repeopling Emptied Places: Centenary Reflections on the Significance and Enduring Legacy of the Land Settlement (Scotland) Act 1919 is available in print from the Land Commission and can also be read on the Commission's website.

Jim Hunter’s first book, The Making of the Crofting Community, described by a contributor to Scottish Historical Review as ‘one of the most significant books of its generation’, has been in print for 44 years. His other books include A Dance Called America: The Scottish Highlands, the United States and Canada (1994), Last of the Free: A History of the Highlands and Islands (1999), Scottish Exodus: Travels Among a Worldwide Clan (2005) and, From the Low Tide of the Sea to the Highest Mountain Tops (2012), an account of the development of community ownership in the Highlands and Island. Professor Hunter was made a CBE in 2001. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 2007.