Jo, Michael and Robert tackled the topic of the ‘Overseas Soldier’ which chronologically was tightly wedged between the Jacobite topic and that of the World Wars. It was clear from the outset that this would guide the direction of the interpretation for the case, providing a natural bridge between the two topics.
After briefly flirting with the concept of the mercenary soldier, we decided instead to explore the experience of those recruited into the service of Britain: the imperial soldier. While recognising some men did carve our careers in foreign service, the group focussed on the disproportionate number of Scots who joined Scots or Highland Regiments for the service of the British Empire.
The challenge the group faced was trying to represent such a complex story of 200 years worth of changing loyalty and identity into one case. Given the rich and diverse collections held by the University of Aberdeen it was a difficult task to choose the ten or so objects that would tell the story of the period. Indeed, many objects we would have liked to display had to go.
We decided to stick to three main interpretative aims in the case. First – off the back of the Jacobites – we aimed to explore the transition from Jacobite rebel to imperial soldier. Secondly, we set out to contrast the imperial soldier against the ‘primitive savages’ they were sent overseas to ‘civilise’. This again was a nod to both the Prehistoric sub-topic, and indeed the Jacobites. Lastly how this overseas service to the empire was the only practical experience professional soldiers had gained in the lead up to the First World War.
The dominant feature of the case is a map of the world which pin points the footsteps of the Scottish Regiments oversea. It became clear very early on that this was a must have for the group, working as a striking visual showing the remarkable impact of the Scots soldier overseas. It helps to enforce the idea of the Scottish warrior as the exported muscle of the British Empire.