Volunteer bands and local identity in Caithness at the time of the second Reform Act

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Caithness lay outside the national railway network in 1868, but as this article demonstrates, used the band music of its local volunteer military units, embedded within a wider contemporary British context of imperial music-making, as a means to express and shape local political identities. The second Reform Act of 1867, enacted in Scotland by the Representation of the People (Scotland) Act 1868, prompted wider reimagining of what it meant to be a citizen of Scotland and Britain. Regular references to civic bands in contemporary newspapers and carefully posed photographs in local archives provide evidence for the popularity of Silver and Brass bands connected with the Caithness Volunteer movement. As they marched around towns, villages and countryside, especially around the time of the national elections and local by-elections of 1868–9, their music created powerfully affective soundscapes that connected traditional local identities with the modern British fiscal-military state, helping people to imagine their place as British citizens in a period of widening political engagement. The county’s band music provides a microhistory that allows exploration of contrasts between rural and civic patterns of political behaviour in this period.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)83
Number of pages110
JournalScottish Studies
Publication statusPublished - 24 Jan 2024


  • Scottish Music
  • Brass Band
  • Caithness
  • Scotland
  • Victorian
  • 19th Century


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