5.1 Introduction

This theme challenges us to find archaeological answers to the question: What is Scotland and how did it come to be? Archaeological research can provide critical insight into the origins, development and contested history of the complex ideas, structures, institutions and relationships denoted by terms such as Scotland, Scottish, Britain, British, Europe and European.

A black and white aerial photograph showing a complex of ruined remains on a prominent mound comprising two large three-storey blocks occupying two sides of a large enclosure and a substantial stable block

Ruthven Barracks ©RCAHMS

Ruthven was one of a series of Highland barracks built in the wake of the 1715 Jacobite Rebellion (or Rising). Prior to that time troops had been billeted in forts such as Fort William, or old Fort George in Inverness, or indeed on private citizens (it was such an arrangement which put troops amidst the people of Glencoe prior to the infamous Massacre of 1692). Built on a modified mound previously occupied by a castle, Ruthven Barracks, designed to accommodate 120 men, was completed in 1724, though it had been occupied for some time before then. Along with the roads constructed by Wade and Caulfield between 1725 and 1744 the barracks represent an obvious military footprint on a landscape which had previously been regarded as lacking infrastructure and order. The military presence would have been made more obvious by patrolling and recruiting and it has been suggested that the introduction of door locks on local settlements such as the township at Easter Raitts is a manifestation of increasing levels of stress among the local population due to this presence. This was to boil over most violently in 1745, when Ruthven was besieged unsuccessfully by the Jacobites during the last Rebellion.

Nation and state are terms which are often used interchangeably (e.g. the ‘nations’ in United Nations are the member states), but they are treated here as related but not necessarily coincident terms, nation referring to ideas of ‘the people’ and state to the processes, practices, structures and institutions of government. There are three reasons to single nation and state out for special consideration in a research framework for the modern Scottish past. The first is that definitions of modernity (Thomas 2004, 2) tend to consider the emergence of nation-states as an important characteristic of modern society. The second and third reasons are specific to the ScARF context. While discussion of nation and state could have been folded into chapter 4 (the Modern Person) – both nation and state comprise relationships between people – it is worth singling them out here because:

  1. any research framework whose remit is defined with reference to a nation and/or state (in this case, Scotland) should reflect, explicitly, on the research context thus created, in order to guard against the uncritical perpetuation of particular national narratives. This point takes on specific meaning in relation to the modern period, which saw the development of the very nation/state which forms the context within which this research framework is being developed (This development has a longer genealogy, of course: both nation and state existed here before the dawn of the modern age. However, their meaning and character do change in quite significant ways in the period under discussion);
  2. issues of nation and state are of explicit and ongoing interest and concern in the present (national identity, the role of the state in society and in everyday life, all feeding into debates about devolution and independence). The development of a critical and historical perspective on these issues will be of wide relevance and value.

Archaeological approaches to nation and state focus on their manifestation and materialisation in particular circumstances. The general historical, sociological and political question ‘how do nation and state come to be?’ becomes ‘how have nation and state been constructed and contested through the material world?’

It is implicit in all of this that research will adopt a critical perspective on ‘nation’ and ‘state’, refusing to take the easy option of producing unquestioning and chauvinistic booster histories which promote essentialist understandings of Scottishness (and/or Britishness) and chart the inexorable rise of the modern political order. Research in this field will consider nation and state as historical in character, originating and developing in particular historical circumstances. And, in addition to producing new understandings of nation and state, alternative narratives should be developed which question and explore the meaning and relevance of state and nation in the modern past. There is more than one Scotland and there are multiple, sometimes contradictory, ways of being Scottish. Research should consider the complex relationships between Scottish and other co-ordinates of nation and state and it should provide insights into historical interactions between nation and state and other reference points of being (such as Gaelicness). Research should consider that, for some, experience of modern Scotland is about a lack of belonging or a problematic belonging.

In Scotland, there has long been archaeological interest in certain material forms of the State (e.g. forts, military roads), but the focus has been on empirical questions (What? Where? When? Who?). Within archaeology at least, there has been little attempt to explore the meaning of ‘nation’ and ‘state’ from a critical material perspective (How? Why?), but there is great potential to explore how nation and state came to be from this perspective.

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