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Course Structure

The MSc in Material Culture and Gàidhealtachd History is divided into three parts. In order to achieve the first part, the PG Cert, you must successfully complete three core modules. In order to achieve the PG Diploma, you must complete two core modules in addition to one optional module. For the MSc itself, you must successfully complete the Research Dissertation, worth three modules in itself.

Programme Delivery

You can study the MSc in Material Culture and Gàidhealtachd History on a part-time basis. This allows you considerable flexibility regarding your programme of study, as well as the number of modules you take each semester. Normally it will require three years to complete the MSc on a part-time basis.

PG Cert

Semester 1 Semester 2

Material Culture and European Ethnology

Settlement and Land-use

Research Methods

The Research Methods module is taught over two semesters.

PG Diploma

Semester 1 Semester 2

Historical Perspectives

Contemporary Issues

Environmental Evolution and Sustainability

Regions and Identities

Migration: Cultural Continuity and Change

According to student requirements, the optional modules may be taught in one semester, or over two.

MSc in Material Culture and Gàidhealtachd History

Semesters 1 & 2

Research Dissertation
(Core: 60 credits)

Material Culture and European Ethnology (Core)

In this module you will investigate the concepts behind ‘Material Culture’ and ‘European Ethnology’. Beginning with deceptively simple examples such as the hearth in the home, you will acquire deeper perspectives concerning just how fundamental material culture is in our daily lives.

You will also investigate different landscapes, whether natural or imagined: what appears as an ‘empty wilderness’ in one perspective looks entirely different in another, alive with place-names, landmarks, and memories, a landscape worked by people for many centuries.

European Ethnology considers the rich scholarly work concerning the life and communities of the peoples of Europe, highlighting in particular the connections between the Gàidhealtachd and Scandinavia, for example in fisheries and in transhumance and the shieling system.

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Settlement and Land-use (Core)

In this module you will receive a comprehensive introduction to the life of the people of the Scottish Gàidhealtachd over the past three centuries. You will learn how townships were run and organised; how men and women were involved in agriculture, sowing, harvesting, and processing crops; how different tools were used in daily life; and also about animal husbandry.

The life of Scottish Gaels obviously did not remain static across the centuries. In this module we shall investigate the historical processes that spread across the Gàidhealtachd, and their various effects on the communities of the region.

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Research Methods (Core)

In this module, over two semesters, you will learn to carry out a research project at postgraduate level, from the first tentative steps to the final draft. You will be advised concerning:

choosing a topic;
converting that topic into a research question;
gathering evidence;
crafting arguments in order to answer the research question.

You will also learn how to undertake fieldwork and oral interviews; how to present your research findings in a format suitable for different groups of readers; and how to take part in international scholarly debates. Throughout the module you will have the opportunity to consider how Gaelic vocabulary and styles might be encouraged and developed in the academic sphere.

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Historical Perspectives (Core)

In this model you will investigate a significant and exceptionally controversial period in Gàidhealtachd history, crucial in explaining how the Gaelic world is as it is today: the Age of Clearance (c. 1750–c. 1860).

You will learn to analyse a variety of historical events and processes during this period, their causes and effects, in different contexts: Scottish history, British history, Atlantic history, and even world history.

As might be expected, the module lays particular emphasis upon evidence derived from material culture and from the environment. You will have the opportunity to evaluate perspectives on the Age of Clearance from different groups of historians, whether indigenous scholars or scholars from elsewhere.

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Contemporary Issues (core)

Why is the Gàidhealtachd as it is today? What are the major contemporary issues affecting it? Drawing upon the most recent scholarship, this module will give you new perspectives on the many different factors that created the Gàidhealtachd as we know it today.

The module begins by investigating the strong relationship between Gàidhealtachd communities and the land around them, before examining the people – or the different peoples – of the region during the past century.

You will investigate a number of ‘contemporary issues’ that have been exceptionally controversial over the past few decades: the fishing industry; conservation initiatives; Gàidhealtachd politics; and the effect of the Cold War upon the region. Finally, there is an opportunity to consider the significance of historical memory – whether entirely true or otherwise – for the self-identity of Gàidhealtachd communities.

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Environmental Evolution and Sustainability (Optional)

What are the different ways in which people have regarded the environments of the Gàidhealtachd, both natural and built, and what effect have their perspectives had upon our contemporary regional landscape? In answering such questions, we shall make use of a number of concepts borrowed from sociology and anthropology, but given specific Gaelic angles to make them more suitable for our particular circumstances..

In this model you will adopt broad perspectives on landscape and environment, past, present, and future, assessing it according to a number of different standpoints, whether social, economic, or ethical.

We will interrogate rigorously the concepts of ‘sustainability’ and ‘conservation’, both in the contemporary world and that of the past, in a variety of different contexts: land fertility; the household economy; and the creation and maintenance of the built landscape.

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Regions and Identities (Optional)

In this module you will investigate the history and material culture of the Gàidhealtachd from the time of the Crofters’ War at the end of the nineteenth century up to the present day, a period of major transformations in the environment, population, economy, society, politics, language, and culture of the region.

In particular, you will examine the different claims made on behalf of the people of the Gàidhealtachd during the period, both by outsiders and by the indigenous population themselves. You will investigate the various strategies employed by the authorities in attempting to find a solution to the ‘Highland Problem’. Where appropriate, comparisons will be made with other ‘peripheral’ areas in Europe.

Throughout the module you will have the opportunity to research key topics at a broader, more abstract level, before employing them in fieldwork at a local level, using oral evidence where relevant. You will thus be able to contribute to the growing body of Gàidhealtachd historiography concerning the past century.

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Migration: Cultural Continuity and Change (Optional)

In this module you will examine and research Gaelic emigration, settlement, and culture overseas over the past three centuries, drawing upon a diversity of source material, including evidence derived from oral history.

You will employ recent scholarly perspectives concerning travel and migration during the early modern and modern eras. You will investigate the many-sided ‘push and pull’ factors influencing the emigrants, and the challenges and the opportunities facing them when they reached their destination. Finally, you will assess the various successes and failures of the emigrants.

Following a chronological framework, you will examine the tacksmen-led ‘people’s migrations’ in the eighteenth century, before turning to the ‘assisted migrations’ organised against a background of congestion and famine. Particular attention will be paid to contemporary debates concerning the value of migration; the involvement of Highland estate economies in British imperial investments; migrants’ relations with indigenous peoples; cultural survivals and transformations; and how immigrant identities were created and developed.

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Research Dissertation (Core)

This module will provide you with the opportunity to plan and bring to fruition a sustained, rigorous, and innovative piece of research concerning a particular topic in material culture and Gàidhealtachd history.

In this original work you will pull together the knowledge and expertise you have acquired and developed during the course, in order to present a solution to a research question dealing with a topic of interest that you have chosen yourself, with advice from the lecturers. The resulting dissertation will not only present and interpret your research findings, but also evaluate existing scholarly literature concerning the topic, the research design, and the research methods employed. The finished dissertation will be accompanied by a dissemination plan concerning how the findings might be publicised beyond the university, especially in the communities in which your research was undertaken.

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