Please note: there may be some adjustments to the teaching arrangements published in the course catalogue for 2020-21. Given current circumstances related to the Covid-19 pandemic it is anticipated that some usual arrangements for teaching on campus will be modified to ensure the safety and wellbeing of students and staff on campus; further adjustments may also be necessary, or beneficial, during the course of the academic year as national requirements relating to management of the pandemic are revised.

Gaelic in Scotland: the History of a language, 1400-1914 HIST4248

  • Academic Session: 2022-23
  • School: School of Humanities
  • Credits: 20
  • Level: Level 4 (SCQF level 10)
  • Typically Offered: Semester 1 (Alternate Years)
  • Available to Visiting Students: Yes
  • Available to Erasmus Students: Yes

Short Description

This course will study the history of the Gaelic language in Scotland and explore the mechanisms by which a language, spoken by up to half the population in Scotland around 1500, was spoken by only 4.5% of Scots by 1901 (and 1% today). The spotlight will fall on initiatives taken by a scotophone (and latterly anglophone) government and church, by means of education, administration and religion, to curb and control Gaelic and the various ways in which Gaelic speakers responded to such initiatives and to the declining status of their language over the centuries.


1x1 hr lecture; 1x1hr seminars per week over 10 weeks as scheduled in My Campus.

This is one of the Honours options in History and may not run every year. The options that are running this session are available on MyCampus.

Requirements of Entry

Available to all students fulfilling requirements for Honours entry into History, Celtic Civilisation, Celtic Studies and Gaelic and by arrangement to visiting students or students of other Honours programmes who qualify under the University's 25% regulation.

Excluded Courses





Essay (2,500 words) - 20%

Seminar presentation of 10 minutes accompanied with handout and powerpoint - 10%

Seminar participation - 10%

Examination (2-hour duration) - 60%

Main Assessment In: April/May

Are reassessment opportunities available for all summative assessments? Not applicable

Reassessments are normally available for all courses, except those which contribute to the Honours classification. For non-Honours courses, students are offered reassessment in all or any of the components of assessment if the satisfactory (threshold) grade for the overall course is not achieved at the first attempt. This is normally grade D3 for undergraduate students and grade C3 for postgraduate students. Exceptionally it may not be possible to offer reassessment of some coursework items, in which case the mark achieved at the first attempt will be counted towards the final course grade. Any such exceptions for this course are described below. 

Course Aims

This course will provide the opportunity to:


■ develop the intellectual and analytical skills acquired during the first and second years.

■ provide students with an overview of the pressures being brought to bear on a speech and language group from central authority - and how Gaelic speakers reacted to these pressures.

■ introduce students to the ways in which historical analysis can help in understanding the dynamics that affected Gaelic Society.

■ develop an understanding of the interaction of the Gaidhealtachd with the Anglophone, Scotophone and wider world from a variety of perspectives.

■ help develop critical and analytical skills through the close reading of sources by studying historical documents and historiographical debate.

■ develop primary source research and essay writing skills.

■ encourage the development of transferable skills by fostering individual initiatives, personal choice and group discussion.

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

By the end of this course students will be able to:


■ describe the forces at work in changing the dominant speech in communities. 

■ discuss critically and fairly assess the distinctive features of Gaelic society in Scotland and identify a variety of responses to anglicisation and acculturation.

■ critically and fairly evaluate the intentions and motivations of politicians, educationalists and administrators and their agendas regarding language in the Highlands.

■ engage with and comment on debates in historiography and Gaelic Studies.

■ contextualise and analyse a number of primary sources (accessed either in English or in Gaelic, in translation, as may be necessary).

Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits

Students must submit at least 75% by weight of the components (including examinations) of the course's summative assessment.