Culloden by Murray Pittock

Many people, including myself, who have visited the battlefield of Culloden report being underwhelmed. It amounts to little more than a rickle of stones on a heather moor. The battle itself in 1746 had lasted less than an hour, and the forces on each side were small, even by the standards of the day. The modern day visitor centre ( does its best to present the truth of what must have been an inglorious and miserable scrap. Nevertheless, Culloden has gone down as an event with great significance for British history. Murray Pittock explains why in this book.

Culloden was the last pitched battle to be fought in Britain with regular troops on both sides, and the defeat of Prince Charles Edward Stuart’s army marked the end of the Jacobite cause. In time, though, Culloden was caricatured as a fight between the English and the Scots or, worse, a battle involving romantic kilted Highlanders on one side and dastardly red-coated English and Lowland Scots on the other. These distortions came to be accepted largely as a result of deep-seated needs to mythologise the former and demonise the latter, and it has taken time for historians to set the record straight.

To that end Professor Pittock has previously written about the Jacobite army, and his study The Myth of the Jacobite Clans (2009) is rightly regarded as the benchmark for any investigation into the fighting forces of Jacobitism. Above all, Pittock scotched the notion that Highlanders were ‘savages’, as contemporary propaganda described them in order to belittle them. On the contrary, most were skilled in field craft and were proficient in handling weapons, sword or musket. Having served in clan regiments they had officers who had some experience of the military life or had served in wars in Europe.

With the publication of Culloden, which is part of the Oxford University Press ‘Great Battles’ series, Pittock builds on his deep knowledge of Jacobitism to produce a concise account of a battle that he claims is ‘the key to both the breaking and making of Britain’. Like Bannockburn, it is a battle that demands constant re-interpretation to strip it of misleading accretion.

Enquire at your local library to check if this important title is in stock.

224 pages in Oxford University Press

First published 2016

ISBN  978-0199664078

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Professor Murray Pittock

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