On the Spot.

Now that it’s been confirmed, I thought I’d put the word out about my next lecture, to be given once again this May at War College, an adjunct of the Bay Area’s excellent KublaCon gaming conference. While drawing not the most discriminating of crowds, the War College lectures are great because they allow me to touch on subjects I’d otherwise avoid in the academic realm, due to either contextual irrelevance or controversial subject matter. This one has a bit of the latter, but being so far removed from what’s going on overseas, any mordancy that blossoms is mollified by disassociation. Regardless, I’m looking forward to it quite a bit, and many of my recent nights have been taken with learning the minutia of Keynote in order to better present the material. In any event, an abstract of the seminar follows:

Saturday, May 26th 7:00 PM
Hyatt Regency San Francisco
1333 Bayshore Hwy, Burlingame

Like Foul Weeds of Charlock: The Old Story and New Archaeology of Culloden Moor

The last land battle to be fought in Britain and widely considered the last gasp of the Highland clans, the Battle of Culloden in 1746 was the definitive end of the Jacobite Rebellions in Scotland. 260 years later, the field and its context are being renovated and reinterpreted by a broad network of historians and researchers. Drawing upon both visual and textual primary sources synthesized with the very newest scholarship on the battle, this seminar will explain what we once knew about Culloden versus what we now know, the myths and realities of the armies and their tactics, and exactly what the archaeologists are digging up on the moor.


The idea for this presentation had been germinating for some time, as more and more media drivel about the National Trust‘s reinterpretation of the Culloden property had been released in the past year. We ironically await the summer opening of the finished project on this, the 300th anniversary of the Union, to much acclaim and speculation by both scholar and citizen, hoping that this time, they finally get it right – especially with all the resources in the world at their disposal. My lecture is really an examination of the changing context of the field since the time of the battle, evolving through its century as a Forestry plantation and into the modern day, when the NTS obtained sections of the property for upkeep and posterity. Shrewd scholars and historians have known for some time that there were some distortions and inaccuracies on the field, and though the huge effort and monetary output appointed to the project should yield a positive result for the ages, to accept how it’s being hyped with no scrutiny would be a mistake – one more case of the mythologizing of history and the historical record.


Drawing upon the network of resources I’d established during my postgraduate studies, I’ve collated a generous breadth of information that lifts the veil of hype about the new Culloden project. These pictures, interviews, articles, reports, and plans go some way to help inform the interested just what they’re doing with all those millions of pounds. Elements from construction, interpretation, battlefield delineation, archaeological evidence, and consultation will be examined to better explain what is changing, how accurate and relevant these changes are, and what is still left to be done – whether in the official plan or not.


The research has been incredibly fun and enlightening, and I’m thankful for the assistance I’ve received from many people deeply entrenched in various aspects of the reinterpretation. From Trust staff to academic consultants, military historians to museum curators and beyond, everyone went out of their way to help me collect this information, and at almost all levels, the consensus on the efficacy of the project was similar, as was the desire to have the story told on a broader scale. Outside of Scotland, this is not a subject that is garnering much interest, so it is an honor and a delight to raise the issue on this side of the Pond.


I’ll withhold judgement on the project until the presentation is complete, but even then there will an ongoing effort to restore and restate what has happened – and is still happening – on the field. Historical monuments of this nature are living organisms that require a permeable skin to allow them to mutate and grow in relation to what we know of them. And, of course, to what we haven’t yet uncovered. If you’re in town and have any interest in hearing the talk, it’s open to the public, so do feel free to attend. You can bet there’ll be plenty of time for drinks and catching up afterward in the hotel bar.


Also of interest! Pictures from the filming of the re-enactment to be shown at the new Visitors’ Centre (shot in Lauder Moor, not at Culloden) can be found here. A bunch of the consultants got to dress up in Jacobite gear and smear mud on their faces. Trying to spot them is a bit like Where’s Waldo from this end.

23 Responses to “On the Spot.”

  1. jacesan Says:
    April 8th, 2007 at 9:49 pm

    I enjoyed your last lecture, and will mark my calendar.

  2. FunkyPlaid Says:
    April 9th, 2007 at 8:28 am

    You, sir, are a glutton for punishment. 🙂
    I think this will be far more interesting than the last, presented in a much more accessible way.

  3. elessa Says:
    April 8th, 2007 at 11:01 pm

    whilst i would love to attend, i shall be camping with folk who enjoy bashing each other on a battlefield with swords and boards that weekend.

  4. FunkyPlaid Says:
    April 9th, 2007 at 8:29 am

    The next best thing, right? Just make sure they don't start up with the bashing while inside the tent.

  5. elessa Says:
    April 9th, 2007 at 9:59 am

    aye! inside the tent i would prefer some thrashing! 😉
    i am truly bummed to not be able to make the con and the lecture. so many things happen that weekend and am only able to participate in one.

  6. FunkyPlaid Says:
    April 9th, 2007 at 7:21 pm

    It is a busy weekend, and thanks for the desire and support.

  7. steel_bonnet Says:
    April 9th, 2007 at 3:00 am

    Nice one!
    If you ever head back over here then I can get you in touch with Stuart Reid(he's a friend of a friend) and my mate Tod organised all the extras for that filming, since he runs http://www.lacewars.co.uk/, one of the DDS also blagged onto it.
    Happy lecture- I'd like to hear it even if it ain't my main period of history (other than the weapons :))

  8. FunkyPlaid Says:
    April 9th, 2007 at 8:25 am

    Reid was one of the consultants with which I'd been corresponding for the project, a contact I've used before during my studies, in fact. He's met with much resistance from the the old academic sector, but it seems now they're finally willing to have a listen to him. You'll also know Bob Savage from Leeds, who spared me quite a long phone conversation, and is really a great guy.
    If you're around, I'd love to get together this summer in Edinburgh and chat about the material if you're up for it. We managed to miss each other last time around; hopefully we'll both have the luxury of time this year. Looks like early August.

  9. steel_bonnet Says:
    April 9th, 2007 at 10:35 am

    Aye- Stuart (while having an uncanny ability to release the same book several ways but with different pictures;)), is finally getting some recognition despite huge resistance, and very weird rumors about his own politics influencing his interpretation of the past-he does a lot of good in the documentary world too.
    Never met Bob- have a few of his books and have "met" him in t'interwebnets on a forum or two but he knows his stuff too.
    Let me know when you arrive in the Auld Country and I'll see what I can do to head up for a chinwag and a decent brew or two 🙂

  10. FunkyPlaid Says:
    April 9th, 2007 at 8:27 pm

    …having an uncanny ability to release the same book several ways but with different pictures…
    HA! It's true! I think his secret is continually finding different publishers who don't know each other. That, and fake mustaches. 🙂
    There's little doubt that Stuart fails to present his ideas in a sober, objective manner, but then again, he's a military historian, and he doesn't pretend to be an academic. This directly leads to his work being passed over by the academic community. I tried with all my might to dangle Like Hungry Wolves in front of many of my supervisors' eyes, but it took Chris Duffy's proselytizing to make them actually pay attention. Now it's being used as the basis for the Culloden reinterpretation. Last year I spied Stuart's new battlefield guide on the shelf of Harry Dickinson – a coup in any sense of the word!
    Let me know when you arrive in the Auld Country and I'll see what I can do to head up for a chinwag and a decent brew or two.
    Chinwags R Us. Can't wait.

  11. handworn Says:
    April 9th, 2007 at 9:27 am

    Sorry I won't be able to make the lecture; it sounds fascinating.
    Was that stone fence there back then?

  12. FunkyPlaid Says:
    April 9th, 2007 at 9:59 am

    That's the north-east corner of the Culwhiniac enclosure, reconstructed by NTS volunteers just a few years back. The complete stone dyke was present at the battle, but was much higher than its modern reconstruction. In fact, the Government army had to bring up engineers to knock down a section of the wall (farther down by the River Nairn) in order to let one wing of their dragoons through. To Culwhiniac's right in the picture is the turf horseshoe-shape of the Leanach enclosure. The foundations of both were found by geophys survey and layered up using period methods. Pretty cool stuff!

  13. scotis_man Says:
    April 9th, 2007 at 9:54 am

    What a wonderful birthday present. (You did know that the date chosen was my birthday, right?) Unfortunately, I am obligated to be at the graduation from college of my sister-in-law in Sacramento that same day. 🙁

  14. FunkyPlaid Says:
    April 9th, 2007 at 8:47 pm

    I had no idea. Now I've got to come up with a more timely present that you can actually attend. I know! I'll break into your bedroom in the middle of the night and lecture to you NAKED.

  15. scotis_man Says:
    May 4th, 2007 at 10:48 pm

    Um, it looks like I will not be in Sacramento after all. (Really, this has nothing to do with your threat of breaking into my bedroom to lecture at me naked, and only a little to do with Lachlainn not being available for lunch.)
    Would I need to pay full con price to be there just for the lecture?

  16. FunkyPlaid Says:
    May 5th, 2007 at 2:04 am

    The only price you'd have to pay is listening to me blather on for an hour. Entry into the hotel is free and you can certainly skirt the convention fees – just come up to the room at the slotted time and grab a seat. Preferably away from the podium because I spit when I get excited.

  17. sleepycinderell Says:
    April 9th, 2007 at 12:49 pm

    You planning to record the lecture and YouTube yourself? I want to watch!

  18. scothen_krau Says:
    April 9th, 2007 at 5:53 pm

    My God – online learning through YouTube University. It's the wave of the future.

  19. FunkyPlaid Says:
    April 9th, 2007 at 8:31 pm

    Gods, no. I wouldn't want to lower the quality bar of what's floating around out there.

  20. sleepycinderell Says:
    April 10th, 2007 at 4:48 am

    Rampaging Jacobean Bunny Historian coming to streets near you!
    I'm going to have to miss your lecture…

  21. hermiston Says:
    April 12th, 2007 at 2:19 am

    The theme's a good one, and your insights are a sorry thing to miss. Come July, of course, we will be able to get the chat at the place. Good luck, though you'll not need it. How have you found Keynote?
    A wee dram on Monday?

  22. FunkyPlaid Says:
    April 12th, 2007 at 8:55 am

    Yes, I suspect by the end of July you'll be quite finished with hearing my voice. Whisky will make it easier on both of us.
    Keynote is a marvel, created with everything you'd expect from the Apple interface. Total integration with OS and other apps, and it just looks beautiful. I'll post the raw files with my notes when it's done. That way you can enjoy the show without my stammering and draw conclusions for yourself.
    I'm at work all Monday day and night, but I shall be at home during the day on Sunday, your evening. Then it's dinner with a horde of French. Andre's bringing a white and thinks he wont get stampeded.

  23. hermiston Says:
    April 12th, 2007 at 12:09 pm

    The French stood firm in '46. Could better company be wished for?

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