For Want of Land
: A Study of Land Settlement in the Outer Hebrides, Skye and Raasay between the two world wars

  • Peter Robert Chambers

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (awarded by OU/Aberdeen)


The study analyses, in unprecedented detail, land settlement schemes in the Outer Hebrides, Skye and Raasay between the two world wars. Land settlement is a world-­‐wide phenomenon, which in the context of this research involves the examination of the creation of new crofts and the enlargement of existing ones from the breaking up of farms and estates. Crofting is a system of landholding unique to large parts of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. The Outer Hebrides, Skye and Raasay comprised the heartland of land settlement activity during the inter-­‐war period and represent the area in the Highlands and Islands most heavily influenced by the process – but have attracted relatively little detailed research attention on the topic to date. The years from 1919 to 1939 saw land settlement activity at its peak and the greatest number of new smallholdings created and existing ones enlarged.

The research breaks new ground by being the first to focus on the important planning and implementation phases of land settlement schemes. This increases our knowledge of how land settlement legislation and policies were translated into action on the ground. In so doing the study highlights the main issues and challenges that arose at both stages of the process and key influences that shaped them. It demonstrates how the various facets and consequences of land settlement varied within and between islands.

A number of research questions are addressed, including what influence land settlement activity had on settlement patterns and what issues did it raise in relation to crofting communities, landowners and government officials. It illustrates, for the first time, the importance of infrastructure provision (especially township roads) for the wellbeing and long term sustainability of the new crofting communities created by land settlement schemes. The highly detailed examination of the evidence from the Hebridean schemes, using a wide variety of documentary and other published sources, throws new light on the positive contribution of land settlement to the general condition and standard of living of the islands during the inter-­‐war period.
Date of Award13 Apr 2013
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Edinburgh
SupervisorJames Hunter (Supervisor) & Marjory Harper (Supervisor)

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