This is the first documented study of one of Scotland's most emotive subjects for many years. It traces the origins of the Clearances from the eighteenth century to their culmination in the crofting legislation of the 1880s, showing how the process of clearance was part of a wider European movement of rural depopulation. Eric Richards describes the appalling conditions and treatment suffered by the Highland people, yet at the same time illustrates how difficult the choices were that faced even the most benevolent landlords in the face of rapid economic change. The Clearances were the most rugged and painful of many 'attempted' solutions to the problem of how to maintain a population on marginal and infertile land. In drawing attention away from the mythology to the hard facts of what actually happened, this book offers a balanced analysis of events which created a terrible scar on the Highland and Gaelic imagination, the historical legacy of which still lies unresolved in the twenty-first century.