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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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Chapter 2 Little Islands on the Edge of the Ocean (Ray Burnett)



2.Little Islands on the Edge of the Ocean

This chapter undertakes to explore aspects of Scotland’s island culture and society in two overlapping periods –the late Iron Age (500 bc–ad 500) and the overlapping Early Christian era (ad 500–900). Using thematic frames, and with reference to recorded history and scholarship, observations are drawn on ideas of islandness and ‘ways of seeing’ islands through a prism of accounts of and emerging within the islands of the west.

The earliest layers of a Hebridean sense of place and identity were, from its inception, inextricably linked to that of Scotland. This was the age in which ‘the Hebrides’ and their occupants first emerged into early history; when early kinship alliances evolved into Pictland and Dal Riata; and when the foundations were laid of an Early Christian church that evolved to play a critical role in the emergence of the kingdom of Alba (Woolf 2007; Fraser 2009). The historical relationship of the Hebrides to the wider context of Scotland over time has been distinctively different to that of the Northern Isles. Furthermore, the wider premise that a variegated yet bonded grouping of islands with a singularly distinct islandscape richly textured over time by layered accretions of shifting notion of residual meaning as to islands, island living, islanders and islandness is not unique to the Hebrides is noted. Nonetheless a focus on ‘the Hebrides’ offers an opportunity to expand on the particular accretion of aspects...

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