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Reviewed by:
  • Rebellion and Savagery: The Jacobite Rising of 1745 and the British Empire
  • Arthur Sheps
Geoffrey Plank . Rebellion and Savagery: The Jacobite Rising of 1745 and the British Empire. University of Pennsylvania Press. 272. US $39.95

This interesting book, despite its title, is not about the Jacobites themselves. Rather, it examines public and government anxieties about, and responses to, Jacobitism in Britain, Ireland, and throughout the empire in America, the Caribbean, and the Mediterranean. The focus initially is on the suppression of the 1745 uprising, the punishment of the rebels, and the prevention of further irruptions of Jacobitism after the defeat of the Stuart cause at Culloden. It then turns to military encounters with the Spanish and French empires and the attempts at assimilation of alien populations into the cultural, political, and economic worlds of the Britain's empire. Many of the themes of interest to current historical scholarship are touched upon here: Atlantic (as opposed to exclusively American or Anglo-European) history, the metropolitan centre and its hinterlands, national 'British' identity, and how the dominant, establishment culture relates to the 'other,' in this case Roman Catholic or Episcopalian semi-feudal Highlanders, the Irish, the French in Quebec, Acadians in Nova Scotia, native Americans, and Mediterranean and North African Muslims, Jews, and Roman Catholics.

The author shows how the army came to be not only the instrument for military defeat of the Stuarts but also the engine for a policy of fully integrating the Scottish Highlands, the heartland of Jacobite support, into the modern world of commercial, Protestant Britain. The task for the army was not just to win a battle. In their own view and that of many, '[T]he army was engaged in a project of enormous magnitude – the transformation of a region and a people. It was a task, they assumed, that would take decades to achieve.'

Responsibility for executing this policy fell to the effective head of the army, the Duke of Cumberland, younger son of George II, who was captain-general throughout most of the period covered in this book, and the coterie of senior officers who served along with him in Scotland [End Page 250] and the overseas empire. The Scottish Highlands in the middle of the eighteenth century were still seen as 'a zone on the edges of civilization' and their experience in the Highlands during and after the '45 led Cumberland and his officers 'to believe that their expertise extended beyond the Highlands and that they were especially qualified to direct the administration of exotic lands.'

From Scotland Cumberland's generals took what they thought they had learned and tried to apply it to other marginal places in the British Empire such as Gibraltar, Minorca, Nova Scotia, Quebec, and the western outreaches of the other mainland colonies in America.

The first task was putting down disorder or rebellion. The unrestrained battlefield violence that characterized Cumberland's suppression of the Jacobite uprising was mirrored, to some degree, in the Mediterranean and more so in America, where James Wolfe was especially ferocious in dealing with natives and French Canadians. Vacillation, or ambiguity, about whether the enemy were a people outside the bounds of civilization or part of the British nation made little difference to the harsh way in which the army treated enemy combatants or prisoners. Either they were savages whose uncivilized behaviour meant that the normal rules of war did not apply, or they were rebels whose treason called for swift retaliation. Captives, therefore, were often treated as rebels guilty of a capital offence and not as normal prisoners of war.

After the defeat of the Jacobites the army remained in the Highlands to undertake a policy of reform or reconstruction. Conflicts arose about whether the army was an occupying or a liberating force. Cumberland, in his defence, claimed the military presence had improved communications and transport, made private property secure, and promoted commerce, the English language, true religion, and civility among the rude inhabitants. By the late 1750s one indication that the project seemed to be succeeding was that Highland soldiers were now employed to assist in the same tasks in America. There, as the author sees it, Cumberland's...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 250-251
Launched on MUSE
2008-06-04
Open Access
No
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