Keypoints: Eric Richards, author of several well-known books on the Highland Clearances, re-examines many examples of factorial behaviour from different parts of the region. He puts the Highland Estate Factors in perspective and explains their notoriety.
Categories: History, Culture, Society, Literature
About the author: Eric Richards is Emeritus Professor of History at Flinders University, Adelaide, Australia. Born in Wales, he studied at University of Nottingham and first moved to Australia in the 1960s. Associated with many universities, he was lecturer in History at the new University of Stirling in its first four years. He has written several books, including an acclaimed biography of Patrick Sellar, which was awarded the prize for Scottish History Book of the Year by the Saltire Society in 1999. His most recent books have been about the history of international migration since 1600. In 2014 he was Carnegie Trust Centenary Professor at the University of the Highlands and Islands.
Contents: In the past, Highland estate factors had a very bad reputation. ‘The Tyranny of the Factor’ was known all around the Highlands and the Hebrides. Landlords, often absentees, left the management of their huge estates in the hands of their factors, who were entrusted with great responsibilities and discretionary local power. Most notoriously the factors implemented the Clearances which generated so much anger across the north of Scotland.
Factors were often tough, high-handed characters; but some were broken tools of their distant and unresponsive masters, the landlords. They presided over momentous and sometimes tragic changes – supervising the introduction of sheep farming, new crofting townships, managing the sporting tenants, and much else. Later they were required to rule over the mutinous crofter population that survived the Clearances.