School of Divinity

Clan Campbell

The Clan Campbell and the earls of Argyll were early modern Scotland's most successful kindred group.

They functioned as a Highland clan and a Lowland surname. The clan benefited from a close relationship with Stewart monarchs as well as significant military clout. Supporters of the Protestant Reformation, the Clan also enjoyed unparalleled unity and cohesion under their chief.

The Clan's success in the 16th century

There were a number of key factors driving the Clan's success.

The earls of Argyll

Three earls spanned the period covered by the Breadalbane Letters.

The rise of the Glenorchy Campbells

The first Campbell of Glenorchy was called Colin. His long and important career established the family's fortunes and demonstrated many of the characteristics that brought success for subsequent generations.

Expansion and castle-building

Beginning in the 15th century, Clan Campbell expanded widely and embarked on an ambitious castle-building scheme.

The Letters and national events

The Letters reveal how national issues intersected with regional and local concerns.

Clan Campbell and the Scottish Reformation

From the Clan's beginning, Protestantism and religious dissent were important beliefs for the kinship group.

The interconnections of political life in 16th-century Scotland

The Breadalbane Letters reveal the interlocking levels of national, regional and local politics in 16th-century Scotland.

The 'frontier' between Highlands and Lowlands

Perthshire was a 'frontier' area where the politics of the Central Highlands and the Lowlands met.

Power politics in 16th-century Argyll

Although united by a common Gaelic language, culture and social structure, clan rivalries fragmented and localised Highland politics.

The Campbell-MacGregor feud

The struggle between the MacGregors of Glenstrae and the Campbells of Glenorchy was essentially a fight for control over the manpower, lands and other resources of Breadalbane and Lorn.

Clan Campbell and Highland warfare

During the unsettled times of the 'age of forays' (Linn nan Creach) following the suppression of the Lordship of the Isles in 1493, raiding and warfare were endemic within Highland society.

References and Campbell-related publications

There is a rich body of scholarship and archival resources available to researchers.