I am honoured to publish on this site an academic paper on a very important topic. Lynda Baird is married to my good friend Professor Alf Baird and clearly has the same talent for explanation of important matters in Scotland. I firmly believe educating our fellow citizens about how colonialism worked in Scotland over the centuries and is still ever present in today’s Scotland can make a huge contribution to our nation winning our freedom. So get your tea or coffee ready and sit and enjoy reading about our past and how it still influences our future today.
Monument To First Duke Of Sutherland
(Lynda Baird has a BA Degree in Archaeology. Her main interests are in Cultural Heritage Management and Egyptology. She is currently undertaking research for an MSc in Archaeology.)
“Every statue, whether of Faidherbe or of Lyautey, of Bugeaud or of Segeant Blandan – all these conquistadors perched on colonial soil do not cease from proclaiming one and the same thing: ‘We are here by the force of bayonets’.”
(Frantz Fanon 1970, 66)
In recent times statues have been toppled in the wake of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. Also known as ‘fallism’, statues have been toppled in many countries around the world, particularly in instances where imperialism and colonialism occurred (Dirks 1992).
In this paper, the monument selected for analysis is the Duke of Sutherland statue near Golspie in the Scottish Highlands. This is a controversial and contested monument for a number of reasons. The essay provides appraisal of values and significance of the heritage from the standpoint of different stakeholders, with discussion of tensions between memory and forgetting in representation and commemoration, also taking into account postcolonial aspects of values in this context.
The 1st Duke of Sutherland
Duke of Sutherland was a title created by William IV in 1833 for English aristocrat George Levesen-Gower, 2nd Marquess of Stafford, the latter also holding a range of subsidiary titles in England (Richards 1999). The Scottish title came into the family in 1785 through the marriage of the first Duke to Elizabeth Sutherland, 19th Countess of Sutherland.
The Duke was appointed ambassador to France in 1790 and he and Lady Sutherland witnessed the French Revolution (Richards 2004). Subsequent Scottish clearances may have been a crude reaction on their part to reduce risk of revolution, which was real in Scotland as news from France spread (MacAskill 2020).
The Duke was also an MP and one of the richest men in England. Born in London, his family originated from Yorkshire and married into a wealthy Stafford family. The Duke and his family were English aristocrats who owned large tracts of Scotland, as was the case throughout much of Scotland. The Duke acquired additional land in Sutherland, bringing the proportion of the County he owned to around 63%, or 1.5 million acres, the largest private estate in Europe.
Concentration of English land ownership in Scotland intensified with government forfeiture of Jacobite sympathisers lands after the Scottish ‘rebellions’ in 1715 and 1745 (Pollard 2009). After the 1745 uprising, the clan system in Scotland was emasculated as a policy of the London government to prevent further nationalist sentiment (Pollard 2009). Head of the British army, the Duke of Cumberland (son of King George I, known as ‘Butcher’ Cumberland) planned to remove inhabitants of Highland glens to the colonies and burning their homes became part of that ‘process’ (Plank 2003). The enforced removal of Scots was therefore British Government policy.
British/English elites viewed the 1715 and 1745 ‘rebellions’ as culturally driven by Highland clans. The Scots language/culture had already been discarded by Scottish elites; however, Highlanders retained the Gaelic language which government viewed as a threat (Stewart 2021). The 1747 Act of Proscription banned Gaelic language, bagpipes and tartan; cultural oppression was combined with oppressive economic policies. Scots were viewed as inferior people, which is racism. Landowners helped pay the cost of transporting Scots to America and Australia.
Policies had the desired effect: in the early 18th century one third of Scots lived in the Highlands, by the end of the 19th century this had reduced to 15%. Of those who remained, many were put into the British army, sent to fight foreign and colonial wars. The ‘Heritable Jurisdictions Act’ stated that anyone who did not submit to English rule automatically forfeited their land. Empire Resettlement Acts provided added ‘incentives’ for Scots to leave. Legislation was therefore employed by British governments to remove Scots, take their lands and obliterate their culture, which is the aim of Cultural Imperialism (Phillipson 1992).
When the Duke died, his wife decided to erect a statue of him on the top of Beinn a’Bhragaidh (397m) near Golspie. Locally the statue is referred to as ‘The Mannie’, which in Scots means ‘little man’. The statue is described as ‘huge’, being 9 metres and set on a plinth making the total height 33 metres. Its construction was considered a feat of engineering, and it is visible from land and sea for many miles around (Figure 1). Payment for the monument was raised from the estate’s remaining tenantry.
The Duke’s statue sits in a prominent and significant position atop a hill, in full view of communities in and around Golspie, and in sight of travellers on the busy main A9 trunk road and adjacent Highland rail line from Inverness (Figure 1).
The statue (Figure 2) is classified as a 19th century commemorative monument to the first Duke of Sutherland (Canmore 2021). Site name is: ‘Beinn A’ Bhragaidh, Monument To First Duke Of Sutherland’. Site Number is NC80SW 43, NGR NC 81441 00914, Datum OSGB36 – NGR, Permalink http://canmore.org.uk/site/76116.
The monument, erected in 1836, commemorates the Duke. This may be contrasted with his infamous involvement in Highland Clearances, evictions undertaken throughput many straths and glens from 1790 onwards (Figure 3). That plan was to restructure the estate into sheep farming to secure higher returns. Evictions of over 15,000 people occurred on the Duke’s estate.
Figure 1: Location of Duke of Sutherland monument. Source: CANMORE (2021)
The Duke and Westminster governments running Scotland post-1707 were regarded as imperial tyrants (Clark 2020). Debate relates to events referred to as ‘Clearances’; however, elsewhere forced displacement of an ethnic group is known as ethnic cleansing, with those responsible prosecuted by international courts were they still around.
It is argued that educators seldom adequately cover the subject and that British propaganda sought to sanitise events (Kay 2006). In terms of memory, the Duke’s family and British elites wanted him remembered, and state educators arguably still deliver the historic narrative from that pro-British ‘union’ perspective that ‘clearances were naughty, but not genocide’ (i.e. criminal).
Figure 3: Map of the Highland Clearances. Source: Mapmania (2021)
Perceptions may also be influenced by an Anglicised education system and narrative, and elevation of Anglophone elites and discourse, as opposed to indigenous Scots culture and language; this is considered a legacy of Cultural Imperialism (Phillipson 1992). The statue honours a man who made a desert of the land which he had acquired through marriage and who, it is argued, betrayed the people whose families had lived there for centuries; former MEP Winnie Ewing is reputed to have said that it was like having a statue of Hitler outside Auschwitz (Clark 2020).
Contested Cultural Heritage
It is important to understand how heritage is valued, and by whom, and to consider the period when a statue was installed and what was happening at the time. A range of heritage values and typologies are applied in heritage management (Harrison 2013). Values-based approach “seeks to identify, sustain and enhance significance, where significance is understood as the overall value of heritage, or the sum of its constituent ‘heritage values’ (Fredheim and Khalaf 2016, 466). Values-based approaches may fail, however, where “decisions are based on incomplete understandings of heritage and its values” (Fredheim and Khalaf 2016, 467). This may be due to mis-understanding of the heritage and cultural environment in question.
What exactly does the monument commemorate? The purpose of Imperialist monumentalism and symbolism, and the values it seeks to express, is part of Cultural Imperialism, which “is the practice of promoting the culture or language of one nation in another” (Phillipson 1992); this enforces an alien culture on a people, reflecting an unequal relationship (Tomlinson 2001), influencing beliefs, attitudes and ultimately behaviour of the oppressed people (Schiller 1989).
Alois Riegl (1902) referred to the ‘Modern Cult of Monuments’ in which six types of values are set out (historic, artistic, Age, commemoration, Use, Newness); these became fundamental principles of the 1964 Venice Charter (ICOMOS 1964). The ‘age value theory’ and ‘theory of historical evolution’ suggests whatever history has since changed is irreversible and hence more or less set in stone as an artefact or building. This implies that, whilst the original idea or concept may no longer be considered authentic, the building or structure continues to exist, handed down to future generations who continue to interpret its meaning.
Postmodern ideas and shifting values require us to re-evaluate our definitions of monuments (Ahmer 2020). Riegl sought to protect cultural heritage in the context of a collapsing Austro-Hungarian empire; here there is a need to (re)consider the aims of such Imperial and colonial regimes.
A ‘peoples’ national cultural inheritance is important in reproducing and sustaining the nation concerned (Gibson 2015); this is especially so after a period of oppressive imperial/colonial rule by another dominant nation/people and culture. Cultural obliteration leaves a legacy of symbols and monuments commemorating oppressor elites (Fanon 1970). Much of Europe is defined by colonialism and the imposition of dominant oppressive cultures (Dirks 1992); oppression of cultures is a feature in that process, resulting in different versions of the past (Harrison and Hughes 2010).
In decolonizing colonial heritage in terms of memory politics and heritage, Scotland may be viewed in an internal colonialism context (Hechter 2017); this means we need to apply decolonial thinking to understanding cultural heritage (Knudsen et al. 2022). Conservative authorities and elites responses to anti-racist decolonial activism (and toppling) seek to defend imperial/colonial structures and narratives (Mignolo and Walsh 2018).
In the context of a building or monuments glory and sense of ‘voicefulness’, and how its beauty and maturity is considered over time, John Ruskin emphasised his ‘Seven Lamps’ or guiding principles: sacrifice, truth, power, beauty, life, memory and obedience (Northern Architecture 2021). Such typologies may be helpful for multiple stakeholder groups, aiding current understanding, judgement and taste (Barassi 2007), also in regard to legacy heritage due to oppressive exploitative regimes (Figure 4).
Figure 4: Ruins in a cleared highland village. Source: Scots Roots (2021)
Values include morals and principles, guiding actions and decisions; understanding the range of values attached to heritage requires mainly an anthropological perspective (Mason 2002, 27). Herein lies the importance of ’culture’ in determining significance of heritage influencing value assessments. There may be a range of values in a given heritage site, implying ‘heritage is multivalent’ (Mason 2002, 8) e.g. spiritual, historical, aesthetic, economic, and political/symbolic. Values differ for different stakeholders/cultures, hence multivalence as an essential quality of heritage value assessments.
The state struggles to redefine heritage in a postcolonial reality which liberates previous oppressor-dominant cultural narratives (Harrison and Hughes 2010), requiring decision makers to acknowledge and incorporate concerns. A difficulty arises in the Scottish context because colonialism (still) tends to be obscured, does not form part of the narrative of elites (mostly Anglophone), the latter holding dominant authority over culture and language (Memmi 2021).
Historic England defends contested monuments emphasising a ‘rich and complex history’ rather than ‘symbols of injustice and pain’, opposing removal; state agencies propose ‘thoughtful reinterpretation’ to allow ‘deeper understanding’ ‘adding new layers of meaning’ (Historic England 2021). Nevertheless, monuments are often reminders of oppression. Historic England as part of government does not support removal on the basis that it ‘teaches’ us about our past. But, what does it teach?
Accumulation of heritage and collective memory is influenced by forgetting, confusion further influenced by misunderstanding. Recent statues illustrate improved understanding of the past (Figure 5), moving towards heritage which reflects contemporary values of societies, acknowledging that past heritage decisions are not beyond question (Harrison 2013). The values on which criteria are based do change, and are seldom representative to begin with.
Figure 5: Emigrants memorial in Helmsdale, Sutherland. Source: The Ministry of History (2021)
Destruction of heritage is hardly a new phenomenon (Herscher 2010). Removing heritage is also about clearing the way for a new collective memory (Benton 2010), reflecting understanding of the cultural context. This gives rise to solution frameworks such as proposed by Foote (2003): sanctification, designation, rectification or obliteration, where examples include the toppling of statues.
Two dominant moral views in politics (Lakoff 2016) are that: Conservatives tend to believe that the rich are moral and not only deserve their wealth, they also deserve the power it brings, and; Progressives moral view has citizens caring about each other and acting responsibly. This division means people vote in line with their values, not necessarily their best interests, and that peoples’ values reflect primarily their dominant culture.
Institutions current focus on ‘decolonization’ relates to traditional perspectives of slavery. BLM happened following appalling state police violence inflicted on members of the black community. This led to re-evaluation of compensation paid to slave owners, not slaves, at the time slavery was abolished. There are also many records of white slavery (from Ireland, Portugal, Spain, Italy etc) perpetrated by African pirates such as Barbarossa’s corsairs from the 15th century onwards (Gillan 2021). Historically, many empires and colonisers were involved in white slavery, including the Romans, the Vikings, the English and Nazi Germany.
Emphasis on anti-black violence and dispossession is understandable, but the same imperial/colonial oppressions were levelled against white ethnic groups, including Scots and Irish, subjected to Anglocentric imperial superiority; colonialism is colonialism, irrespective of colour (Cesaire; Said 1994).
People rightly question if they should have to walk past symbols of oppression and inequality. Whether statues are ‘educational’ often depends on who is telling the story and what they say. Colonised peoples and cultures were/are mutilated and plundered; imperial museums are full of stolen artefacts in which “the mass of all the museums in the world could never outweigh a lone spark of human empathy” (Hicks 2020).
There are clearly ‘problem’ statues, such as the Duke of Sutherland monument. Is the latter merely a familiar signpost in a prominent location of being nearly home, or a symbol of colonial and ethnic oppression? Some public spaces are said to reflect a ‘white supremacist infrastructure’; the reality is clearly more complex in Ireland and Scotland where there remains an ‘infrastructure of colonialism’ directed at indigenous ‘white’ groups. We need to take a closer look at what many consider to be ethnic oppression and racism, which are features of colonialism (Cesaire 2000). In this we therefore need to better understand colonialism and its ‘values’.
We tend to think of colonialism as something that happened far away to other peoples and ethnic groups. Research evidence suggests nations within the UK and their ‘peoples’ have been and indeed remain subject to colonialism; this is reflected in continued demands for independence in Scotland and Wales, and Irish reunification (Hechter 2017). Historic dispossessions emptied the land of indigenous people, obliterating their culture and language. In their place went masses of “sheep, bird sanctuaries and shooting ranges for the well-to-do” (Devine 2018, 2). Here we move into the realms of ethnic cleansing, and genocide (Hunter 1977); in terms of ‘cultural genocide’ the process may not have ended (Grouse Beater 2021). Scotland ‘lost’ between 3-4 million of its people since the Union with England in 1707, proportionately more than any other north-western European country; this was not accidental, it was the outcome of British political decisions and policies (Anderson 2015).
Since the 1603 Union of the Crowns Scottish nobility married into English nobility, taking on an English education, language and culture; Scots elites abandoned Scottish culture and languages in the quest to become ‘English’ (Purves 1997; Devine 2012). The Scottish aristocracy, already heavily Anglicised by 1706, did not take much bribing (£385,000, termed ‘the Equivalent’) from the English government to ‘sell’ Scotland’s sovereignty and enslave its people: “bribes and money offered in advancement by the English… (to) the Scottish Commissioners…makes one of the sordid incidents in the whole history of Scotland” (Sitwell and Bamford 1948, 150).
Clearance policies and various Acts passed by Westminster were intended to remove Scots from their country of birth and transport them to British overseas colonies, facilitating a dramatic loss of population. This was combined with inflows of a meritocratic elite mainly sourced from England, a process the census indicates continues today (Anderson 2015), resulting in a colonial picture; ethnic divisions of labour are among the most persistent legacies of colonialism (Hechter 2017).
‘Ecological Imperialism’ implies that the imperial elite sought “to change the local habitat” (Crosby 1986, 196); this process was never ending as the elite imposed new plants, animals, and crops which “gradually turned the colony into a new place, complete with new diseases, environmental imbalances, and traumatic dislocations for the overpowered natives”. This reflects an imposed political system that alienated the people, destroying their traditions and way of life (Said 1994, 288). In this environment, “everything that belongs to the colonizer is not appropriate for the colonized” (Memmi 2021, 172), including his grand monuments.
An alien culture, language and cultural hegemony was/is imposed on Scotland ensuring “domination by the ruling class who manipulate the culture of that society-the beliefs, explanations, perceptions, values and mores…as artificial social constructs that benefit only the ruling class” (Buttigieg 1992). Cultural monuments such as the Duke’s statue reflect this imposed cultural hegemony and its ‘values’.
Here we note that “colonization is, above all, economic and political exploitation” (Memmi 2021, 193). In colonialism, ‘values’, moral or otherwise, tend to be a rather theoretical concept. Cesaire (2000, 34) noted that: “between colonization and civilization there is an infinite distance; that out of all the colonial expeditions that have been undertaken, out of all the colonial statutes that have been drawn up, out of all the memoranda that have been despatched by all the ministries, there could not come a single human value.”
Imperial/colonial procedures were also applied to “the humiliation of the white man” (Cesaire 2000, 36), an aspect confirmed in the context of imperial England’s historic consideration of the Irish (and Scots) as a subordinate “inferior race” (Said 1994, 302).
In the new colonially manufactured environment, an oppressed people develop a ‘colonial mindset’ which leads to denial and/or downplaying of the reality of discrimination or any past history of racism; for instance, wars, clearances, mass displacement, ongoing cultural and linguistic discrimination, and institutionalised oppression may be accepted as somehow ‘deserved’. Colonial bilingualism means the colonized participates in two psychical and cultural realms, which tends to obscure the oppressive nature of the relationship (Memmi 2021).
Colonial/imperial racism is incorporated in every act, the arrogance of the oppressor reflected in a propensity to erect monuments to his glorification and in positions which the native cannot avoid; imperial memorials and symbols represent memories of the crushing of the colonised and are intended to “keep him in his place” (Memmi 2021,147). The dominant coloniser is thus “custodian of the values of civilization and history” (Memmi 2021, 120).
Racism is an essential feature of colonialism: “Racism sums up and symbolizes the fundamental relation which unites colonialist and colonized” (Memmi 2021, 114). Colonialism aims to dehumanize the colonised, in much the same way that the oppressor “does not have a serious obligation toward an animal or an object” (Memmi 2021, 130). Colonial exploitation, always a co-operative venture aided by native elites, is the same whether in the Highlands of Scotland, potato fields of Ireland, rice fields of Asia, plantations of America, or mines of Africa, and occurs irrespective of the colour of the colonized.
The coloniser’s privileges are extended only because “he possesses a qualification independent of his personal merits; he is part of the group of colonizers whose values are sovereign” (Memmi 2021, 56). Under imperial rule it is only ever the ‘mother country’ which exudes “positive values” (Memmi 2021,104), as reflected in Supportive (i.e. conservative) authorities.
Imperial/colonial statues thus generate “incredible scorn for the colonized who pass them by every day”, celebrating only the oppressive deeds of colonisation (Memmi 2021,148). Such monuments may only be accepted by the more assimilated native who no longer learns his native tongue nor learns his true national history, whilst the coloniser ensures “he knows who Colbert or Cromwell was” (Memmi 2021,149). In other words “the crushing of the colonized is included among the colonizer’s values. As soon as the colonized adopts those values, he similarly adopts his own condemnation. This phenomenon is comparable to Negrophobia in a Negro, or anti-Semitism in a Jew” (Memmi 2021,165-166).
The statue to the Duke should be removed, as with all imperial/colonial symbols of oppression of the Scots on their land, whose (continued) oppression is no different to the Irish, Indians or Kenyans. Colonial monuments project only the alien culture and dubious values of colonial elites who erect them; as colonialism is devoid of human values, such statues have no place in any humane society.
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I want to thank Lynda for permitting me to publish her work on this site. I now feel I have much more knowledge about this particular statue than before. I was of course against this statue before I read this paper but now feel much more able to explain snd justify that opposition and it is that ability to explain my thoughts that will help me to convince others that ending colonial rule in Scotland would be the biggest possible step we could take to improve life in Scotland now and for all future generations.
I am, as always
Yours for Scotland.
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