"Afore the Highlands: The Jacobites in Perth, 1715-16 " by Kathleen Lyle is a fascinating book that looks at a little-known, yet in many ways pivotal, moment in Scottish history. There were a number of Jacobite risings in Scotland, all of which failed for one reason or another. In some cases the reasons for the failure are reasonably obvious. The '45 rising, of Bonnie Prince Charlie fame, arguably failed through a lack of conviction amongst Jacobites when they reached Derby and were within striking distance of London, followed by a disastrously conducted battle at Culloden.
The reasons for the failure of the 1715 rising are much less obvious, yet fail it did. What we enjoyed so much about "Afore the Highlands" was the light it cast on one particular aspect of this uprising, which in turn offered insights into some of the wider questions about events of the time.
The scene is well set in the blurb on the rear cover. "For a few months in 1715-16, when it was occupied by Jacobite forces, Perth was at the focal point of British and European history. Despite its importance, it is a part of the city's past that has largely been forgotten. Existing histories of the 1715 Jacobite uprising tend to concentrate on military events or national politics, rather than details of how it affected the local people. Perth, which then had a population of around 5,000, became headquarters for an army of perhaps 10,000 men. Where were they all accommodated? How were they fed? How many of the townspeople supported the Jacobite cause? What was life in Perth like under occupation? Afore the Highlands answers these question and more, shedding light on many aspects of the 1715 rising and the Jacobite occupation of Perth."
As you begin to delve between the covers, it is clear that Kathleen Lyle's book is based on detailed and extensive research. There are a few illustrations, including a couple of very helpful maps and a number of examples of original documents, but this book revolves very much around the author's clear and well written text. Although the focus is very much on the occupation of Perth, we begin with the background to Jacobitism and the events leading up to the 1715 rising. The heart of the book draws extensively on quotations from contemporary sources and the end result adds significantly to the available information about this particular corner of Scottish history.