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My recent publications


David Alston’s Slaves and Highlanders: Silenced Histories of Scotland and the Caribbean, which won the Saltire Society History Book of the Year before going on to claim the overall Saltire Society Scottish Book of the Year prize, was described by the judges as:

'The best book to date on Scottish involvement in chattel slavery and the impact of the gains from this on Highland Scotland. From his local, Cromarty, base the author engages forcefully with major historiographical debates relating to Scottish participation in the slave economy and challenges presentations of this in tourist literature and major heritage institutions. An informative book based solidly in research but immensely accessible.'

New article (18 January 2023)

'The Guyana Maroons, 1796–1834: Persistent and Resilient until the End of Slavery' in Slavery & Abolition (2023) at this link.

August 2023: 'Christian Robertson (1780–1842) and a Highland network in the Caribbean: a study of complicity' in Scottish Highlands and the Atlantic World: Social Networks and Identities (Edited by Chris Dalglish, Karly Kehoe, Annie Tindley), EUP 2023.


May 2018: 'Scottish Slave-owners in Suriname: 1651–1863' in Northern Scotland, Volume 9.


This is an account of Scots in the Dutch colony of Suriname from 1651 until the emancipation of slaves in the Dutch Empire in 1863, when Scottish owners of slaves received nine per cent of the compensation paid to slave-owners in the colony by the Dutch Government. Before 1790 the small Scots presence in Suriname was a product of the outward looking nature of the Dutch Atlantic and the willingness of some Scots, most with with family, religious or military ties to the Netherlands, to seize the opportunities this offered. After 1790 the British presence in Suriname expanded, with a significant involvement of Highland Scots who came to work new plantations in the colony from the neighbouring British controlled colonies of Berbice and Demerara.

After the emancipation of slaves in the British Empire in 1834, a number of these Scottish slave-owners campaigned against emancipation in the Dutch Empire. Despite buying and selling slaves in breach of British law, and despite public criticism, none of these British-based slave-owners were prosecuted. The article concludes with an examination of the legacies of this Scottish slave-ownership, both in Scotland and in Suriname.

EUP's best selling title of 2015-16

Tom M Devine (ed), Recovering Scotland's Slavery Past: The Caribbean Connection (EUP, 2015).

'One of the most important books to be published in Scotland this century.' Kevin McKenna, Observer (22 Nov 2015)

'Recovering Scotland's Slavery Past is an illuminating marvel. But the very fact that it illuminates is a measure of the darkness that prevailed until recently.' Ian Bell, Herald, 10 Oct 2015.

'The paramount truth to emerge from the essays in Recovering Scotland’s Slavery Past is that this little country was a big player in a hellish business.' Rosemary Goring, review article in the Herald (10 Oct 2015)

My essay in this book: ‘The habits of these creatures in clinging one to the other': Enslaved Africans, Scots and the plantations of Guyana'.

'This pioneering volume also has a resonance far beyond slavery, underlining the impact of slavery on Scotland itself. Here is a book which ultimately demands a broader reappraisal of modern Scottish history.' James Walvin, author of Crossings: Africa, the Americas and the Atlantic Slave Trade.

June 2016

David Alston, ‘You have only seen the fortunate few and drawn your conclusion accordingly’: Behavioural economics and the paradox of Scottish emigration

in Angela McCarthy & John Mackenzie (eds), Global Migrations: The Scottish Diaspora since 1600 (EUP, 2016): A tribute to Professor Sir Tom Devine, FBA, the leading historian of modern Scotland and its diaspora.


Published May 2015:

David Alston, 'A Forgotten Diaspora: The Children of Enslaved and ‘Free Coloured’ Women and Highland Scots in Guyana Before Emancipation' in Northern Scotland, Volume 6, Issue 1, Page 49-69 available online from Edinburgh University Press.


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