Professor Leith Davis receives SSHRC Grant for her project on the Jacobites

July 14, 2021

We are delighted to announce that our director, Professor Leith Davis, has received a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Insight Grant for her project, Mediating Jacobites in Cultural Memory, 1688-1845.

Insight Grants aim to build knowledge and understanding about people, societies and the world. By supporting and fostering excellence in social sciences and humanities research, the program deepens, widens and increases our collective understanding of individuals and societies, as well as informing the search for solutions to societal challenges.

Please read Professor Davis' description of her project:

The runaway success of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander books and the television series based on them has made the subject of eighteenth-century Jacobitism—the political ideology surrounding the attempt to restore the Stuarts to the throne of Great Britain—globally popular. It has also reinforced negative stereotypes of the Jacobites as superstitious, primitive, and ultimately doomed to failure. These stereotypes in fact originated in eighteenth century anti-Jacobite works of popular print culture; they were subsequently repeated in nineteenth-century works of history and literature and in turn have gone on to influence scholarly as well as popular understanding of Jacobitism in the present. The new popularity of Jacobitism thus offers a rich case study of the way in which cultural memory, the expression of "the memorial heritage" of national communities (Nora), is constructed and reinforced over time. My project investigates the historical connection between cultural memory and media, as I analyze the how the literary productions of the Jacobites themselves have been lost, displaced in cultural memory by representations produced in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

I begin by focusing on what remains of the voices of Jacobites themselves as I analyze little-known Jacobite literary manuscripts in select archives in the United Kingdom and Ireland. Manuscripts were a preferred method of communication by Jacobites who sought to avoid government prosecution. The ephemerality of manuscripts, however, combined with scholars’ tendency to view scribal culture as less important in the print-saturated environment of the eighteenth century, has meant that these manuscripts have been ignored in “mainstream” literary scholarship. My research sheds new light on the Jacobites’ complex uses of the medium of manuscript, their attempts to forge their political identity through literature, and the networks in which they communicated. Jacobite manuscripts, which are written in English, Scots Gaelic, Irish Gaelic, and Latin, also demonstrate the multi-lingual manuscript communities that existed in eighteenth-century Britain and Ireland. The second part of my investigation moves from investigating manuscripts to analyzing how key printed texts of literature and history published between 1745 and 1845 shaped the cultural memory of the Jacobites for the general British public. My research will examine the recurrent tropes and images in the developing disciplines of literature and history that dismissed the earlier Jacobite threat by creating negative representations of the Jacobites as sometimes uncivilized, sometimes effete, and ultimately predestined to fail.

Visit Professor Leith Davis' website for further information about her project.