Building the Highland Empire: The Highland society of London and the Formation of Charitable Networks in Great Britain and Canada, 1778-1857
This dissertation explores the development of charitable networks by the Highland Society of London (est. 1778) in the late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth centuries—a period of rapid social and economic change in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. The Highland Society of London (HSL), a voluntary association, was formed exclusively for elite Highlanders living, working, and visiting in London. At this time, members of the HSL were able to exploit the expanding British fiscal-military state through active political lobbying, socializing, charity work, and the development of an institutional network for elite Highlanders. This was achieved first by attaching to sister societies, notably the Highland Society of Scotland (est. 1784), opening subsidiary joint-stock companies to undertake specific improvement projects, such as the British Fisheries Society (est. 1786), and developing a network of branch societies throughout the British Empire linking Highlanders in London to Highlanders in Scotland, India, and British North America. Through the development of these networks members of the HSL and their colleagues were able to lead social and economic development projects in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, help to preserve Highland culture, and provide charity for members of their own communities on their own terms. In the process, Highland elites found in HSL circles developed the notion of a ‘Highland Empire’, which linked the charitable networks they formed to a wider conceptual Imperial framework. This framework was one in which Highland Scots influenced their own communities, whether in Great Britain or abroad, as well as the broader sociopolitical British imperial community through political lobbying and garnering subscriptions for improvement projects from the general public that both supported Highland culture and Highland people. This directly challenges the idea that Highland Scottish elites were more than willing to sacrifice their own culture in order to integrate themselves into the dominant Anglo-Scottish elite in order to benefit from participation in the British Empire.