I came across a videorecording today that contains excellent
coverage of the Highland Clearances. It was originally produced as
an episode of the BBC program Developing Stories and has now been
released on video in the U.S. by Bullfrog Films in Oley, Pennsylvania.
The piece is titled "The Legacy of Malthus" and explores whether the
English economist Thomas Malthus (the father of modern population theory)
was right in maintaining that overpopulation is the sole cause of
poverty. The conclusion is that the greed of both well-to-do persons
and nations is as much a cause of poverty as population pressures.
In the exploration of this question, the situation of the
crofters during the Highland Clearances is contrasted with that of
modern day rural peasants in India. Scottish actors re-create testi-
mony from the Napier Commission, the government commission charged
with investigating the situation of the Highlanders, which is juxta-
posed with interviews with the Indian peasants. It is amazing and
disturbing to realize how similar the two situations are. A 19th-
century crofter testifies that the landlords took away the good lands his
family had farmed for generations and in return gave them rocky, barren
land in which hardly anything would grow. In the next clip, an
Indian woman says the same thing. In the video, the class system in
Scotland seems little different from the caste system in India. A Highland
landlord testifies that the Clearances moved a "better sort of people" into
the areas once inhabited by the crofters.
Although this video is primarily about modern day economics and the
politics of population control, it contains a great deal of information
about the Clearances including some interesting drawings and photos.