The concept of "Lowland Clearances" was hardly known until a BBC radio programme of May/June of 2003 on this subject. This led to the publication in 2003 of "The Lowland Clearances, Scotland's Silent Revolution, 1760-1830" by Peter Aitchison and Andrew Cassell the researchers for the BBC radio programme.
The Lowland Clearances in Scotland were one of the results of The Agriculture Revolution, which changed the traditional system of agriculture which had existed in Lowland Scotland for hundreds of years.
The Agricultural Revolution in Scotland began in the mid-eighteenth century with the improvements of the lowland farmland and the beginning of a transformation of Scottish agriculture from one of the most backward into what was to become the most modern and productive system in Europe. The tradional system in Lowland Scotland had existed unchanged for hundreds of years. In many ways it was a total rural economy, the land being worked by the cottars on the centuries-old runrig system of subsistence farming.
Recent research is showing that the Agricultural Revolution led directly to what are now known as the Lowland Clearances, when hundreds of thousands of cottars and tenant farmers from the southern counties of Scotland were, in many cases, forcibly moved from the farms and small holdings they had occupied for hundreds of years.
Many small settlements were torn down, their occupants forced either to the new purpose-built villages built by the land owners such as John Cockburn of Ormiston to house the displaced cottars on the outskirts of the new ranch-style farms, or to the new industrial centres of Glasgow, Edinburgh or northern England.
As a result, between 1760 and 1830, many tens of thousands of Lowland Scots emigrated taking advantage of the many new opportunities offered in Canada and the United States after 1776 and also the opportunities in the colonising of Tasmania, Australia and New Zealand.
Although the causes were different, the lowland Agricultural Revolution is being seen as the forerunner of the Highland Clearances half a century later. Consequently, with new research (2003-2004) about the forcible uprooting, expulsion, emigration and resettlement of hundreds of thousands of Central and Southern Scotland, these events have become known as the Lowland Clearances.
During this time there also commenced an "urbanisation" migration to the cities from the rural areas.
The Lowland Clearances were not all bad news. Most of those that emigrated did well and there were some success stories back home as well. One of these home grown successes was my own ancestry - see the Hopes of West Calder page.
The inspiration for the inclusion of this page and for most of the content I am indebted to the Porteous Research Project.