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Gaelic books as cultural icons: the maintenance of cultural links between the Highlands and the West Indies.

Cambridge Scholars Publishing
Publication Date
  • Pb1501 Gaelic (Scottish Gaelic
  • Erse)


The study of émigré Highlanders, their language and their culture, this far, has been largely focused on the thousands of emigrants who settled in North America, particularly Canada, from the later decades of the eighteenth century to the mid-nineteenth century, and to a lesser degree on those who emigrated to Australia in the middle decades of the nineteenth century. The emigration of Gaelic-speakers, whether temporary or permanent, to other destinations, such as the West Indies, has however been almost entirely overlooked, in part due to the relative paucity of Gaelic sources relating to them, but also due to the relatively small number of emigrants involved as compared with mass emigrations to the aforementioned countries. This article draws on some of the limited evidence available which is specific to Gaels and the West Indies in the period c.1750–1830, examining both perceptions of the islands in Gaelic literature and the way in which subscribing to Gaelic books published in Scotland offered Gaels in the West Indies a tangible opportunity to retain links with their native culture. It is argued that the Gaelic books enabled this culturally distinct group of emigrants to re-affirm their identity as Gaels while simultaneously making an important financial contribution to Gaelic publishing.

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