13 May 2021
Migration as human capital: the case of the HIghlands and Islands and Company empire in Asia, c. 1720- c. 1820
Online talk by Dr Andrew McKillop, University of Glasgow for UHI Centre for History
Details and booking from UHI Centre for HIstory website
Migration is rightly seen as central to the history of the modern Highlands and Islands. However, this human mobility is usually analysed as a reaction to changes in regional, national or international conditions, be it attitudes among the landlord class, sheep and kelp prices, or the availability of land in North America.
This paper views migration from a different perspective. It argues that the Highlands and Islands are a significant example of a region of Western Europe which lacked substantial reserves of finance capital but still participated disproportionately in a key phase of historic globalisation and empire. It did so by using its people as a proxy form of wealth - as human capital. Viewed in this way, the Highlands and Islands were not as ‘poor’ as conventional, monetary measures of wealth might suggest. Migration emerges as a more multifaceted phenomenon, both a social reaction to destabilising economic change and a highly effective investment strategy. Using this framework of 'human capital', the paper explores the involvement of individuals and networks from the Highlands and Islands in the United English East India Company’s early territorial expansion in Asia.more details »