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The Journal of Scottish Historical Studies

The Journal of Scottish Historical Studies (formerly Scottish Economic and Social History) is published by Edinburgh University Press on behalf of the Economic and Social History Society of Scotland. It is a fully double-blind peer-reviewed outlet for the best research in social, economic and cultural history, in historical geography and anthropology, and in historical theory. It includes regular research and review articles, news and book reviews, and also has occasional interviews, symposia on key books, and appreciations of incidents, sources and ideas in the writing of Scotland’s history.

Here is a little from one article that is currently available to read for free...

Women at Work: Innkeeping in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland 1790–1840

Between 1790 and 1840 Scotland's Highlands and Islands saw a rise in the number of travellers due to transportation changes, war on the Continent, and popular fiction. Consequently, the number of inns increased in response to this shift in local travel patterns and influx of visitors. By examining where the growth in inns happened, who managed them, and what services were offered, this article argues that the Highlands and Islands economy was both complex and commercial. It establishes that rural women were innkeepers of multifaceted hospitality operations responding to market demands and enabling economic diversity in their communities, the result of which was the hospitality infrastructure for tourism.

In 1834 Janet McLaren was the sole innkeeper at Amulree Inn. Managing a business that was a hub of activity, her long days were spent juggling the competing demands of guests, suppliers, and locals stopping in for refreshment. If not providing overnight accommodation or renting horses to travellers, she was hiring men to work her hay fields, buying bread from the local baker, or selling bottles of whisky to road construction workers.2 Janet was innkeeping in Scotland's Highland Perthshire when people were increasingly travelling into and throughout the Highlands and Islands. Between 1790 and 1840, global developments, literature, and transportation improvements affected travel decisions. English gentry, fascinated by Macpherson's Ossian or the works of Sir Walter Scott, ventured north, away from a warring Continent in search of the Romantic and sublime. New public transportation options, such as steam ships, stagecoaches, and mail-coaches, and the construction of Thomas Telford's roads and canals, eased the journey and improved access.3 This influx of visitors and greater movement of locals within the Highlands and Islands led to an increase in accommodation provision and related services. Women, like Janet, were innkeepers throughout the Highlands and Islands responding to the opportunity by commercialising their domestic responsibilities and either opening their own doors or renting and managing the inns being built by landowners.

Historians position the Highlands and Islands at this time as having a subsistence economy, but this research on innkeeping will demonstrate that it was far more commercialised. Reinforcing the work of David Taylor, Marianne McLean, Adamson et al and others, this paper argues that there was a thriving cash economy in the Highlands and Islands and that inns, through the exchange of money, services and ideas, were centres of commercial activity.4 This presents an opportunity to argue against historiography that positions the rural Highlands and Islands as a ‘backward economic region’, as suggested by Martin Rackwitz, and Highlanders, and especially women, as uninterested in, or incapable of, identifying economic opportunities and managing successful businesses without assistance from outsiders.5 Like their urban counterparts, both male and female innkeepers in the rural Highlands and Islands developed trade networks to support servicing their customers and operating their establishments. Innkeepers played a primary role in connecting locals to commercial opportunities and as a result were influential business leaders, a position that elevated the status of women in these roles. The hospitality businesses and supporting frameworks that resulted from the efforts of innkeepers in this commercialised economy became the infrastructure for tourism in the Highlands and Islands.

The experience of the tourist in the Highlands and Islands attracts the attention of historians, as do urban inns, as a backdrop for research on related topics, such as whisky and the development of public buildings. The rural innkeeper, and especially women doing this work, is neglected. Rather than take Kevin James' path of focussing on the male travel writer and their tourist rituals, this paper centres the discussion on the person delivering, rather than receiving, the service.6 Specifically, it takes us into the life of rural female innkeepers in the Highlands and Islands, re-positioning women from drink-selling curiosities, as suggested to some degree by Anthony Cooke, to strategic businesswomen.7 It draws parallels to Bob Harris' and Charles McKean's work on inns as gathering places for economic and social interactions, but considers the services delivered and the business generated from the perspective of the female innkeeper, rather than the meeting attendee. In contrast to Harris and McKean, the research demonstrates that not all Scottish inns were ‘something … to be shunned or endured’ and that female innkeepers took an entrepreneurial approach to their business.8 Whether opening their own doors or managing a landowner's inn, female innkeepers acted on changing circumstances and enabled commercial opportunity. This paper focuses on women at work as innkeepers in the rural Highlands and Islands, thus addressing this neglected area of research.

Information on female innkeepers and observations on lodging operations are primarily found in sources produced by observers and outsiders. Diaries written by gentry provide colourful detail as seen through the traveller lens, whereas travel guidebooks and newspaper articles, some clearly dictated by the women themselves, are often more pragmatic. Adding to this, the first and second Statistical Account of Scotland provides a bookended perspective of inns in the period under study, while including data from maps and post office directories serves to corroborate and expand the research in terms of numbers.9 Only occasionally do we find primary sources from a woman's hand in the form of receipts or accounting notes, so other sources are included, such as archaeological evidence. Building on the work of Donald Beck Adamson and Warren Bailieaza and the excavation of the drovers' inn, Tigh Caol, in Strathlachan, this article incorporates the material culture findings into the discussion on work environment.10 This connects inns to landscape and provides material evidence of objects used by innkeepers in the spaces in which they worked. Together archaeological and archival sources suggest a more comprehensive picture when evidence from female innkeepers' hands is lacking. Addressing leisure tourists, as discussed by Alastair J. Durie, this research also considers other income sources for an inn, including locals, people who travelled for their work, such as drovers, and ancillary services, such as horse and cart rentals.11 This builds on discussions by Richard Edward Lowden, and A. R. B. Haldane on drovers, and establishes that inns in the Highlands and Islands had multiple revenue sources.12 Available archival information has resulted in a sample of inns and related housing from across the area, including some Hebridean islands, the western seaboard, the southern and central Highlands, and the far north. Examples from the Highland/Lowland border area are included, particularly places near tourist draws such as Loch Lomond and the Trossachs. The discussion excludes the Northern Isles.

This paper will first identify the types and locations of lodgings in the Highlands and Islands and then analyse how and why numbers increased. It will argue that the response by locals and landowners to the increase in travellers resulted in a hospitality infrastructure and in related services for travellers that supported tourism, the rural economy and presented opportunities for women. Building on the knowledge of urban female innkeepers from England and Aberdeen as discussed by Leonore Davidoff, Catherine Hall, and Deborah Simonton, the prevalence of female innkeepers in rural areas will then be considered, particularly their options for income generation and how they commercialised domestic tasks in response to market demands.13 It will become apparent that a woman's status increased when she became an innkeeper due to her social and economic power and connection to the cash economy. The final section will consider an innkeeper's work environment and use Amulree innkeeper, Janet McLaren, as a case study to take a close look at the daily life of women in this role. It will discuss inn operations, types of customers, the provision of credit, revenue sources, waged workers and the hiring and firing of suppliers. It will demonstrate that female innkeepers went beyond domestic tasks in their service delivery and experienced unique operational challenges due to distance from urban centres. In addition, it will argue that female innkeepers were entrepreneurial businesswomen who had agency, enabling economic diversity in their communities. This paper will argue that female innkeepers in the Highlands and Islands, like Janet McLaren, played an active role in the increasingly commercialised and cash economy, creating diversified hospitality businesses that benefitted locals and the burgeoning tourism industry.

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