The Fatal Land War, Empire, and the Highland Soldier in British America Matthew P. Dziennik

The Lewis Walpole Series in Eighteenth-Century Culture and History
Publication date:
14 Aug 2015
Yale University Press
320 pages: 235 x 156 x 24mm
18 b-w illus.
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More than 12,000 soldiers from the Highlands of Scotland were recruited to serve in Great Britain’s colonies in the Americas in the middle to the late decades of the eighteenth century. In this compelling history, Matthew P. Dziennik corrects the mythologized image of the Highland soldier as a noble savage, a primitive if courageous relic of clanship, revealing instead how the Gaels used their military service to further their own interests and, in doing so, transformed the most maligned region of the British Isles into an important center of the British Empire.

Born and raised in the Scottish Highlands, Matthew P. Dziennik is currently a fellow at the University of Saskatchewan.

"Scottish Highlanders, we are often told, were the savages of Georgian Britain — a conquered, subaltern people, who had more in common with subaltern peoples elsewhere than they did with the British Empire’s English core.  In this refreshing study, Matthew Dziennik shows that the reality, at least in British America, could not have been more different.  Whatever their lives in Scotland were like, Highland soldiers who crossed the Atlantic did so as committed imperialists, and they willingly played a central role in the expansion of Britain’s empire before the American Revolution and in the dramatic collapse that followed."— Eliga H. Gould, author of Among the Powers of the Earth, The American Revolution and the Making of a New World Empire

"The Fatal Land is an engaging and provocative work, important not only for the history of Scotland but more broadly for Britain, North America, and the British Empire as a whole. Dziennik gives fighting men a respect they rarely receive from historians. Analyzing the motivations and interests of Scottish Highland soldiers in the Seven Years’ War and the American Revolution, he makes a strong case that a man’s social status as a soldier mattered as much or more than any ethnic identity in defining that man’s relationship with his neighbours, both at home and abroad in the empire. This is an insight that could alter our understanding of the dynamics that drove British imperialism on a global scale."—Geoffrey Plank, University of East Anglia

The Fatal Land is a groundbreaking study that challenges long-established ideas about the Highland soldier in North America and the impact of the British imperial military enterprise on the Scottish Highlands. Dziennik adopts the perspective of the Highland soldier, emphasizing the agency of individuals as they negotiated their opportunities in the emerging imperial world, and demonstrating how the  Highlands adapted to these new opportunities and challenges. A valuable, stimulating , and indeed challenging contribution to the field.”—Wilson McLeod, University of Edinburgh