Marianne McLean explores the relationship between economic changes in the Highlands and the clansmen's emigration to Canada in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. She challenges the currently accepted position endorsed in recent works by Eric Richards and J.M. Bumsted that the clearances and sheep farms did not have a central role in provoking mass emigration. While McLean does not argue that landlords forced people to leave, she uses local evidence to show that the economic changes brought about by these factors led many Highlanders to emigrate.
Using a wide array of published and unpublished sources, McLean examines in detail nine group emigrations that left western Inverness between 1785 and 1802 for Glengarry County in Upper Canada (now Ontario). She describes how, once in North America, they built a new Highland community in an attempt to ensure each family's access to the land. By revealing the pattern of Highland emigration to Glengarry County - families and friends leaving and/or settling together - McLean confirms Bernard Bailyn's notion of a "provincial emigrant stream," and offers a convincing explanation for the development of one of Canada's "limited identities."