10.3 Existing Research Agendas

This research framework takes cognisance of relevant research agendas including the Scottish Archaeological Research Framework (ScARF) and that for the Island of Bute (Duffy 2012), while being tailored specifically to Argyll. The ScARF Modern Panel Report (ScARF 2012) has included eight themes- 1) Reformations, 2) Global Localities (including Reformation, industrialisation, the Enlightenment, Improvement, global capitalism, colonialism and Empire), 3) the Modern Person, 4) Nation and State, 5) People and Things, 6) People and Places, 7) People and Landscapes and finally 8) Modern Past, Modern Present. The agenda emphasises the need for collaborative as well as multi-disciplinary research, the need to be relevant to modern society and to enable scholars to challenge existing ideas about the past. Duffy has included six themes for the Island of Bute -1) Power and Prestige, 2) Religion and Burial, 3) Agriculture, 4) Resourceful Bute (natural resources), 5) Landscapes and Living and finally 6) Being Brandane (Bute identity) (Duffy 2012).

The themes suggested in this framework are intended to be specific enough to inspire and guide research, but not so specific as to be proscriptive or to suggest that topics not included here are not worthy of research. Perhaps even more than for other periods, as noted above, there is a problem of an overabundance of information, sites and possible processes that have created the Argyll that we see today. Some aspects of Argyll’s early modern and modern heritage are well served by individual clubs and societies dealing with specific site types of localities, but overall, there is a lack of any synthetic treatment or means to unite the study of the period itself.

This research framework for Argyll deals with the area under the administrative control of Argyll and Bute Council which has undergone changes in the recent past. For instance, Helensburgh and Lomond districts of the former Dumbarton District Council joined Argyll only in 1996 after Strathclyde Regional Council was reorganised. Like the temporal divide, it is recognised that the boundaries of the study area are therefore in part boundaries of convenience. It is also recognised that the contemporary landscape has been shaped by a plethora of actions working on different scales, from the individual act of one person to the repeated everyday actions of a community over generations.

10.3.1 Change and continuity

A consideration in addressing the archaeology of Argyll from c. 1600 up to the present is the issue of change and continuity. Contemporary perspectives on Argyll often romantically view the region as somehow more pristine and traditional than other, more developed parts of Scotland, given the overwhelmingly rural, sparsely populated nature of the region. There is an understandable desire to seek and find continuities with the medieval and earlier pasts, in terms of both physical landscape and cultural characteristics. But fact needs to be separated from fiction. The extant archaeological heritage clearly contradicts notions of a static Highland society remaining untouched by outside forces. The canals and ports of Argyll connected the region to the globe, while Argyll’s natural resources were intensively exploited.

We propose five key themes for the Argyll early Modern and Modern research framework:

  1. Society
  2. Material culture and buildings
  3. Land and economy
  4. Institutions
  5. Argyll in Scotland and the Empire

10.3.2 Historiography and overview of work to date

Notwithstanding the dearth of holistic archaeological study of Argyll, there is an extensive corpus of historical studies of the period that are extremely useful. These sources range from antiquarian reports that shed light particularly on rural community life; cartographic sources that are part and parcel of improvement efforts to control and demarcate lands, resources, and people; clan archives; artistic and photographic representations; and literature. The below section of the framework outlines these sources, and is then followed by a detailed consideration of relevant archaeological, architectural, and geographical studies.