Men and Place: Male Identity and the Meaning of Place in the Nineteenth-Century Scottish Gàidhealtachd

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The perfunctory noting of name, dates, family relationships and a location on gravestones initially suggests that such details are unprofitable sources for evidence of male identity. However the sheer commonplaceness of stating a placename, particularly when it is noticeably associated with men rather than women, and when not all cultures do the same, indicates that it may reveal something of how men thought of themselves and how they felt. Canadian and Australian studies have suggested that recording placenames on a headstone was a marker of Scottish ethnicity, like an image of a thistle. However, in the nineteenth-century Scottish Highlands ethnicity was not a key component of identity. Indications of place, at least in the ‘home’ country, must therefore signify a different element of identity. This article examines headstone inscriptions of men from across the Gaelic-speaking Highlands and Islands of Scotland who died in the nineteenth century. The resulting evidence indicates that place was a significant element of male identity, indicating personal or ancestral connection with a particular location; a regional affiliation; professional success; social status; national and international mobility; an imperial or patriotic mindset; or even geographical dislocation. In short, place was highly significant to nineteenth-century Highland men, and was a key element of their personal identity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-20
Number of pages20
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 26 Sept 2020


  • masculinity
  • gender
  • gravestone
  • Scotland
  • Highlands
  • identity


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