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Scotland and Islandness

Explorations in Community, Economy and Culture


Edited By Kathryn A. Burnett, Ray Burnett and Michael Danson

Scotland’s islands are diverse, resourceful and singularly iconic in national and global imaginations of places «apart» yet readily reached. This collection of essays offers a fascinating commentary on Scotland’s island communities that celebrates their histories, cultures and economies in general terms. Recognising a complex geography of distinct regions and island spaces, the collection speaks to broader themes of tangible and intangible cultural heritage, narratives of place and people, the ideas and policies of island and regional distinctiveness, as well as particular examinations of literature, language, migration, land reform, and industry. With a view to placing ideas and expressions of islandness within a lived reality of island life and scholarship, the collection provides a multidisciplinary perspective on the value of continued and expanding research commentaries on Scotland’s islands for both a Scottish and an international readership. 

This book should instantly appeal to scholars of Island Studies, Scottish Studies, and Regional Studies of northern and peripheral Europe. Readers with particular interests in the sociology and history of Scottish rural and northern Atlantic communities, the cultural histories and economies of remote and island places, and the pressing socioeconomic agenda of small island sustainability, community building and resilience should also find the collection offers current commentaries on these broad themes illustrated with local island examples and contingencies.

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These opening words are taken from the Gaelic song Eilean Beag a’ Chuain (Little Island in the Ocean) composed by the South Uist bard Donald John MacDonald (Dòmhnall Iain Dhonnachaidh) almost eighty years ago, while he was a Prisoner of War in Germany.

What image springs to mind when one hears mention of an island or islands? I think it is true to say that one pictures an area of land, probably a small area, surrounded by a greater vastness of sea or ocean. In the mind’s eye, add a bit of colour to depict the lush green grass and the expanse of yellow, sandy beaches.

I often find that bàrdachd is a good starting point when one is looking for words of wisdom regarding island life – and death, for that matter. The bards give sound advice and express opinions on a wide range of subjects to do with island life, in good times and bad, thus playing an important role in island life, particularly where the Gaelic culture is strongest and rich in the oral tradition of tales and poetry.

As you read this collection of chapters, you will sample a number of topics, ranging from ‘islands in the mind’ as expressed by the island bard as he thought of his native island from where he was imprisoned in Germany, to the debates of the present day where terms such as resilience and...

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