16 Sep 2013
The Reintroduction of Bird and Mammal Species in Nineteenth-Century Scotland

BRANTA — Matthew Holmes

The Reintroduction of Bird and Mammal Species in Nineteenth-Century Scotland

Institute: University of St Andrews, UK
Supervisors: John Clark
Details: MLitt 2012 (Completed)


Subject Keywords: Reintroduction, Nineteenth-Century Scotland
Species Keywords: Capercaillie, Tetrao urogallus



This dissertation examines the reintroduction of five bird and mammal species in nineteenth-century Scotland (namely the Capercaillie, Red Squirrel, Reindeer, Beaver and Mountain Hare). For each species discussed, the factors behind their reintroduction and subsequent treatment are scrutinised through a variety of primary sources. The primary source material consulted consists of contemporary correspondence, articles, books and newspapers. Sportsmen's guides, such as Knox's Autumns on the Spey and Scrope's Days of Deer-Stalking in the Forest of Atholl are vital when studying a period which saw the persecution of wild birds and mammals at its height. Articles on forestry and archaeology in philosophical, antiquary and naturalist society journals provide us with the nineteenth-century understanding of natural history and species behaviour.

Species histories, including the Vertebrate Fauna series and the works of J.A. Harvie-Brown are also consulted. A more socially encompassing view comes from newspaper articles, ornithological works and The New Statistical Account of Scotland, compiled by local clergy. Within all these sources are found contemporary analysis and reaction to reintroductions, especially as the economic and ecological consequences of returning arrivals became clear.

This dissertation argues that reintroductions were ultimately judged upon foundations of utility and ornament. However, growing nineteenth-century interest in nature and natural history gave rise to new factors to be considered. The indigenous status of species became of increasing importance when justifying their introduction or persecution. Victorian humanitarian and conservationist concerns made themselves heard, in tandem with rising fears of extinction. While reintroductions remained grounded in traditional values towards nature, their arrival revealed evolving currents of thought within nineteenth-century society.
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