PhD student, Graeme Millen, has contributed to two upcoming episodes of BBC Radio Scotland’s ‘Scotland and the Low Countries’ programme: ‘Will Ye Go tae Flanders?’ and ‘The Scots Dutchmen’. During the shows, Graeme discusses the Scots-Dutch Brigade and the importance of the Netherlands as a destination for Scottish military migration.
Graeme explains, “It’s long been understood that the Low Countries were an important destination for migrating Scots for all sorts of purposes, from education to economic to religious. We discussed the Brigade not just as a destination for migrants but as an active community of Scots who could and did have impacts upon the homeland. My own research has illustrated that the military migration of Scots was not just a one way street their participation helping to change the country’s political direction in 1689 by acting as the military vanguard of William’s fledgling Government and the Scottish Revolution.”
We caught up with Graeme to find out more about his PhD research and how this opportunity came about.
What is the focus of your PhD research?
My PhD thesis is entitled ‘The Scots-Dutch Brigade and the Highland War, 1689-91’ and examines the return of said Brigade, a unit of Scots in the Dutch Army, to Scotland in 1689. In the aftermath of the Revolution of 1688, divisions over the Royal succession were split between the reigning King James II & VII and his Protestant son-in-law and daughter, Prince William of Orange and Mary Stuart. This tumultuous shift in England, where James was considered to have abdicated the throne by fleeing to France, sparked divisions in Scotland. A constitutional assembly, the Convention of Estates, was elected to decide the issue. However, when James’ supporters realised they had been politically outmanoeuvred, a small group of loyalists led by John Graham 1st Viscount Dundee, took the decision to leave and raise an army from amongst sympathetic Highland Clans. So began the Highland War, or First Jacobite Rising, – a civil war which would only last three years but the impact of which would be felt throughout Scotland for decades to come, with subsequent Jacobite Risings occurring in 1715, 1719 and, most famously, 1745.
Reinvigorating the study of the short, but crucial, war during a tumultuous period of British and European history my thesis examines the Highland War through the eyes of the Scots-Dutch officers centrally involved in combatting the Jacobites. The thesis reappraises the war chronologically examining the different stages of the conflict through the role of the Scots-Dutch Brigade, who provided a nucleus of experienced officers to William’s nascent Scottish Army. Furthermore, I tackle less travelled areas such as the martial identity of the Brigade during the conflict, via the underused memoir of the unit’s commander Major-General Hugh Mackay, and the supply and financing of the war effort.
How did your contribution to the BBC Radio Scotland programme come about?
My contribution came about when I was approached by Scottish broadcaster and cultural commentator, Billy Kay, last August. Having been plugging away at my thesis for the last 3-4 years, I’ve built a small following on Twitter by posting wee tasters of my research for a broader audience. Billy heard about my research, the Brigade having been long neglected in Scottish historiography, from various Scottish early modern historians some of whom also contributed to the programme! Coming from Glasgow, I’ve been able to base myself up here, particularly for the latter half of my PhD, and actively participate in many conferences and events over the years; I guess that’s allowed me to network, making connections and promoting my research here!