Culloden : Great Battles
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The battle of Culloden lasted less than an hour. The forces involved on both sides were small, even by the standards of the day. And it is arguable that the ultimate fate of the 1745 Jacobite uprising had in fact been sealed ever since the Jacobite retreat from Derby several months before.
But for all this, Culloden is a battle with great significance in British history. It was the last pitched battle on the soil of the British Isles to be fought with regular troops on both sides. It came to stand for the final defeat of the Jacobite cause. And it was the last domestic contestation of the Act of Union of 1707, the resolution of which propelled Great Britain to be the dominant world power for the next 150 years.
If the battle itself was short, its aftermath was brutal - with the depredations of the Duke of Cumberland followed by a campaign to suppress the clan system and the Highland way of life. And its afterlife in the centuries since has been a fascinating one, pitting British Whig triumphalism against a growing romantic memorialization of the Jacobite cause.
On both sides there has long been a tendency to regard the battle as a dramatic clash, between Highlander and Lowlander, Celt and Saxon, Catholic and Protestant, the old and the new. Yet, as this account of the battle and its long cultural afterlife suggests, while viewing Culloden in such a way might be rhetorically compelling, it is not necessarily good history.