Dr Alison Cathcart

Senior Lecturer


Personal statement

Having grown up on the edges of the Atlantic (in Derry City), I decided to contemplate a different body of water while continuing with my education.  I made my way (after a short stop beside the Irish Sea) to Aberdeen where I graduated with a BA (Hons) in History in 1996 and a Ph.D. in History in 2001.  After working for a few years at the University of St Andrews I decided that the average rainfall level in the east simply was not substantial enough so I moved back west, joining the University of Strathclyde in 2005.  I am currently a Senior Lecturer in History.  Much like my own past, my interests lie on either side of the Irish Sea, and predominantly the communities that existed around the edges of the North Channel during the long sixteenth century.  This is reflected in both my research and teaching profile.


Has expertise in:

    Kinship and clientage in Scottish clan society

    Scottish and Irish relations within an archipelagic context in the long sixteenth century

    Maritime communities in the Irish Sea and specifically the North Channel

    Plantation in Scotland and Ireland c.1550-1625


BA (hons) in History, II.1, University of Aberdeen, 1996

Ph.D. in History, University of Aberdeen, 2001


The maritime dimension to plantation in Ulster, c.1550-c.1600
Cathcart Alison
Journal of the North Atlantic (2017)
Early evidence of the impact of preindustrial fishing on fish stocks from the mid-west and south east coastal fisheries of Scotland in the ninteenth century
Jones Peter, Cathcart Alison, Speirs Douglas C
ICES Journal of Marine Science Vol 73, pp. 1404-1414 (2016)
A spent force? The Clan Donald in the aftermath of 1493
Cathcart Alison
The Lordship of the Isles (2014) (2014)
The forgotten '45 : Donald Dubh's rebellion in an archipelagic context
Cathcart Alison
Scottish Historical Review Vol 91, pp. 239-264 (2012)
The view from Scotland : the Scottish context to the flight of the earls
Cathcart A
The flight of the earls imeacht na nIarlaí (2010) (2010)
The statutes of Iona : the archipelagic context
Cathcart A
Journal of British Studies Vol 49, pp. 4-27 (2010)

more publications


My research interests are reflected in my teaching, which covers aspects of Scottish, Irish and British history during the late medieval and early modern period.  I teach level 2, level 3, honours and postgraduate where I co-ordinate and teach PGI skills classes and offer taught optional classes.

Research interests

My research focuses primarily on connections between Scotland and Ireland within an archipelagic context, albeit highlighting the importance of continental and Atlantic connections too.  I am currently completing a monograph that explores plantation in Ireland and Scotland during the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries by examining social, political, economic and confessional aspects of communities that existed around the edges of the North Channel.  This moves beyond traditional national history and examines interaction between and integration of communities within a geographic region that are brought together by a body of water.  As a result of this my research has become increasingly more focused on maritime issues and my next forthcoming research project explores the insular communities of the Atlantic archipelago.  As such my work engages with current historiographical trends, challenging the usefulness of the ‘new’ British and Irish histories, theories of state formation and core-periphery frameworks.  In addition, my forthcoming project it will raise issues regarding the place of local and regional political structures within wider national contexts and point to the importance of devolved government, thereby providing a historical background for the current political climate.


Professional activities

Lords and lordship in the British Isles, 1300 to 1600
External Examiner
Donegal Diaspora
Identity, Independence and Interdependence
The Plantation of Ulster: a(nother) interpretation
Anglo-Scottish Migration

more professional activities


Archipelagic insular communities and the early modern British state
Cathcart, Alison (Principal Investigator)
18-Jan-2016 - 31-Jan-2016
Archipelagic insular communities and the early modern British state
Cathcart, Alison (Principal Investigator)
01-Jan-2015 - 30-Jan-2016
What’s the catch? The environmental history of the north Minch fishery.
Cathcart, Alison (Academic) Maccoinnich, Aonghas (Academic) Speirs, Douglas (Academic) Heath, Mike (Academic) McCaig, Chris (Academic)
The project will explore the fishing industry in Scotland in its historical context focussing on the North Minch area. Current debates relating to the management, conservation and regeneration of fish stocks lack an appreciation of what the marine ecology of the area was prior to the advent of sustained commercial fishery, first recorded in the sixteenth century and which remained vibrant into the second half of the twentieth century but which has recently collapsed. By examining the historical profile of the fishery, this research will inform the current debate on the environment and the future viability of this industry.
01-Jan-2013 - 30-Jan-2013
Living on the Edge?: plantation and politics in the north Atlantic archipelago 1493-1637
Cathcart, Alison (Principal Investigator) Maccoinnich, Aonghas (Fellow)
The project consists of two distinct yet related topics which aim to explore a number of aspects of Gaelic society during the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. Topic A: The Irish Sea World in a British context c.1550-1625 adopts a geographic and maritime context, exploring interaction between the communities that existed on either side of the Irish Sea, and more specifically focusing on Scottish involvement in Ireland. Geographically the focus is on the Western Isles south of Ardnamurchan, Galloway and Ayrshire, the north of Ireland, and the islands of Rathlin and Man. While the Macdonalds and the Campbells are fundamental to this interaction, the project seeks to explore lesser-known kindreds for whom the Irish Sea was a bridge rather than a barrier. As this project is not limited by territorial or political, man-made, boundaries but instead is supranational in its perspective, this raises immediate issues of identity during a period where historians argue that national identities were developing (cf. Kidd, 1999; MacDonald, 2005; Ohlmeyer, 1999, 2007; Williamson, 1997). It will explore Scottish and Irish involvement in and reaction to plantation (official and unofficial), both in Ireland and Scotland, and question the impetus for movement across the Irish Sea, and back again, whether political, social, economic or confessional. Topic B: Native, Stranger and the Fishing of the Isles. The Plantation of Lewis c.1598-1640 takes as its geographic focus the north Isles, with the focus on the Mackenzies of Kintail. The Mackenzies was the other family central to the Stewart monarchy's control of the western seaboard of Scotland but to date they have received less scholarly attention. Like the Campbells, the Mackenzies were keen planters and both clans undertook complex and difficult settlements in Lewis (1611-) and Islay (1615-) respectively (MacCoinnich, 2004; Cowan, 1979). Meanwhile, research by MacCoinnich (2006, 2008, 2009) has highlighted that the Mackenzies do not fit the traditional paradigm of barbarous Gaels lacking in commercial spirit, pointing out that they pioneered the first blast furnace in Scotland on their estates, had an underrated entrepreneurial approach to estate management with Lowland Scottish, English and European business partners, and a keen awareness of British, European and Atlantic environments. \n Rather than view the Gaels as victims in plantation endeavours, this project acknowledges that Gaelic Scots and Irish were involved fully in the process. The reasons for participation in plantation, which usually involved the transplantation of one clan for another, will be explored, highlighting the extent to which Gaelic clans benefitted, or otherwise, from it. Far from lacking in commercial endeavour, evidence suggests that economic priorities were a key concern. At the same time, these Gaelic kindreds faced ongoing competition from Scottish, English and Dutch interests, whether concerning the acquisition of land in the north of Ireland, the exploitation of the fishing of the western seas, or other entrepreneurial schemes. Although differentiated by contexts, British and Atlantic, the two individual topics form a coherent project, examining the activity of Gaels, and bringing the historical development of the western Highlands and Islands, the west-coastal region and the north of Ireland into greater focus probing various issues from identity to commerce to the role of the sea.\n
01-Jan-2010 - 30-Jan-2013
Fellowship: The Maritime History Of The Atlantic Archipeligo C.1450 - C.1650
Cathcart, Alison (Principal Investigator)
01-Jan-2010 - 30-Jan-2010
Ernestine Richter Avery Fellow, Huntington Library, San Marino, California
Cathcart, Alison (Academic)
I was awarded a one-month research fellowship at the Huntington Library, San Marino. With additional support from the University of Strathclyde I was able to spend an entire semester working at the Huntington.
28-Jan-2009 - 18-Jan-2009

more projects