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Devine's main research interest is the history of the Scottish nation since c. 1600 and its global connections and impact. He is regarded as the leading authority on the history of modern Scotland and its diaspora.
Devine was born in Motherwell, Scotland. He was educated at the University of Strathclyde from 1964 to 1968, and graduated with first class honours in Economic and Social History, followed by a PhD and DLitt. He rose through the academic ranks from Assistant Lecturer to Reader, Professor, Head of Department, and Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences; he was Deputy Principal of Strathclyde University from 1993 until 1997. He was appointed to the Sir William Fraser Chair of Scottish History and Palaeography at the University of Edinburgh in 2005.
Irish and Scottish studies
In 1998 he accepted the Directorship of the world's first Centre of advanced research in Irish and Scottish Studies at the University of Aberdeen (the Research Institute of Irish and Scottish Studies), which was formally inaugurated by President Mary McAleese of Ireland on St Andrew's Day 1999. Over the following five years, over £2.5m was raised for the Centre's research programmes from AHRC – which led to the establishment of the AHRC Centre for Irish and Scottish Studies, funded competitively over 2 phases – the Leverhulme Trust and the British Academy, and a further £1.6m endowment given by the Glucksman family in the USA for a Research Chair in Irish and Scottish Studies, which Devine held as Founding Professor until 2005.
He is the author of close to 100 articles on topics as diverse as emigration, famine, identity, Scottish transatlantic commercial links, urban history, the economic history of Scotland, Empire, the Scottish Highlands, the Irish in Scotland, sectarianism, stability and protest in the 18th century Lowlands, Scottish elites, the Anglo-Scottish Union, rural social history, Caribbean slavery and Scotland, merchants in the China opium trade, the global impact of the Scottish people and comparative Irish and Scottish relationships.
Devine is the author or editor of some three dozen books. One of these The Scottish Nation (1999) became an international best-seller, and for a short period even outsold in Scotland the adventures of Harry Potter when first published. In 2013 the volume was listed first in the '100 Best Books to Build a Better Scotland' compiled by ListMuse.com and in September 2015 remained the top-selling Scottish history book in Amazon UK.
Honours and awards
Devine has won all three major prizes for Scottish historical research (Hume Brown, Saltire and Henry Duncan Prize Lectureship of the Royal Society of Edinburgh), is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (elected 1992). Devine is a Fellow of the British Academy (elected 1994), and an Honorary Member of the Royal Irish Academy (elected 2001): the only UK Humanities scholar elected to all three of the national academies in the British Isles for which he is eligible.
He is also an elected Fellow of the Royal Historical Society(FRHistS), the Royal Society of Arts(FRSA) and the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland(FSAScot). Professor Devine holds the honorary degrees of DLitt from Queen's University Belfast and the University of Abertay Dundee, the honorary degree of DUniv from Strathclyde and the Honorary Fellowship of the University of the West of Scotland.
In 2001 he was awarded the Royal Gold Medal of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, Scotland's supreme academic accolade, by Queen Elizabeth II (the only historian so honoured since the inauguration of these awards in 2000). Candidates for the Medal, in the words of the Royal Society, have to be 'outstandingly distinguished'.
Devine was appointed OBE in the 2005 New Years Honours List for "services to Scottish history". In 2006 he was awarded the first John Aikenhead Medal for services to Scottish education by the Institute of Contemporary Scotland and in the same year Bell College (now part of the University of the West of Scotland) conferred on him an Honorary Fellowship in recognition of his contributions to Scottish culture.
In 2012 he won the Senior Royal Society of Edinburgh/Beltane Prize for Excellence in Public Engagement across all Disciplines and also the Society's Inaugural Sir Walter Scott Senior Prize for Excellence in the Humanities and Creative Arts. He received the 2016 Wallace Award of the US-based American Scottish Foundation for his outstanding contributions to the building of ties between the United States and Scotland.
Devine was listed in the Top Twenty of The Herald newspaper's 'Scotland's Power 100: The 100 Most Powerful and Influential People in Scotland 2015' and the highest placed university academic on the list : 'The nation's preeminent historian, a towering and fearless intellect ... an academic tornado from early in his career (who has) reshaped the way the Scottish past is viewed' [The Herald, 30.11.2015]. He was nominated seventh in The Tablet ( the international Catholic journal) list of 'Top 100 Catholics in the UK' in May 2015 [The Herald, 14.05.2015; The Tablet, 15.05.2015].
In 2016 Edinburgh University Press published Global Migrations. The Scottish Diaspora since 1600, edited by Professors John Mackenzie and Angela McCarthy, as 'a tribute to Professor Tom Devine FBA, the leading historian of modern Scotland and its diaspora' ISBN 9781474410045.
Named Lectures presented over the last decade include: Post Office Lecture; Edinburgh Lecture; Trades House of Glasgow Lecture; Educational Institute of Scotland Lecture; Haldane Tait lecture; Annual Adam Smith Memorial Lecture, Kirkcaldy, 2013; Annual University of the Highlands and Islands Lecture; Andrew Fletcher of Saltoun Memorial Lecture, Saltire Society; Prothero Lecture, Royal Historical Society; General Council Lecture, University of Edinburgh in Hong Kong; O'Donnell Lectures of the University of Wales; General Teaching Council for Scotland National Lecture; Royal Society of Edinburgh Annual Christmas Lecture; Royal Society of Edinburgh Sir Walter Scott Prize Lecture; Royal Society of Edinburgh/Beltane Prize Lecture for Public Engagement; AB Emden Lecture, St Edmund Hall, Oxford; Margaret Harris Lecture on Religion, University of Dundee, 2013; Roy Paterson Memorial Lecture, 2013; St Mungo Lecture, Glasgow Cathedral, 2014; Road Ahead Prestige Lecture, Engineering Scotland, Strathclyde University, 2014; Stevenson Lecture on Citizenship, University of Glasgow, 2014; John Durkan Centenary Lecture, University of Glasgow, 2014; Sir John A Macdonald Bicentenary Lecture, Glasgow City Chambers, Canadian High Commission, 2015; The Clayton Lecture, Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society,2015;TC Smout Annual Lecture, University of St Andrews,2015; Tannahill Trust Lecture, University of Glasgow,2016.
Edinburgh University and career
In April 2005, he was appointed to the Sir William Fraser Chair of Scottish History and Palaeography at the University of Edinburgh, the world's oldest and most distinguished Chair of Scottish History, which he took up in January 2006. In 2008 he became Director of the Scottish Centre for Diaspora Studies at Edinburgh, established by an external endownment of £1 million by a leading Scottish fund manager and his family. This is reckoned to be the single largest private donation ever made to a UK university for the development of historical studies.
Devine retired from the Fraser Chair in the summer of 2011 but returned to employment by invitation at the University of Edinburgh in January 2012 to a Personal Senior Research Chair of History which was especially founded for this purpose. He finally retired from Edinburgh in summer 2014 and is now Sir William Fraser Professor of Scottish History and Palaeography Emeritus in the University.
Tom Devine was a member of the Research Awards Advisory Committee of the Leverhulme Trust from 2003 to 2009 (adviser on all history fellowship applications) and holds Adjunct Professorships at the University of North Carolina and the University of Guelph, Canada. He was Head of the School of History, Classics and Archaeology from 2008 to 2010 in the University of Edinburgh. Devine has also been a member of the Board of Trustees of National Museums Scotland, a Member of Council of the British Academy and a Trustee of the Scottish Review of Books.
Devine has a high media profile both at home and abroad, regularly contributing articles and comments in the press and often appearing on TV and radio in historical, cultural and current affairs programmes.He has written for the New Statesman,Scotsman,Sunday Herald,Herald,TLS,London Review of Books and Scottish Review of Books among others.One of his books, Scotland's Empire 1600–1815, formed the basis of a six-part BBC2 series in 2005.
Devine was appointed to the advisory board of the European Association of History Educators – EUROCLIO in 2010.
- Scotland and the British Empire(joint editor and contributor, pbk. edition, Oxford University Press,2016)
- The Scottish Experience in Asia c.1700 to the Present:Sojourners and Settlers (joint editor and contributor,Cambridge Imperial and Colonial Series, 2016)
- Independence or Union: Scotland's Past and Scotland's Present (Allen Lane. The Penguin Press, 2016).Serialised in The Times.
- Recovering Scotland's Slavery Past: The Caribbean Connection (editor and contributor, Edinburgh University Press, 2015)
- Clanship to Crofters War: The Social Transformation of the Scottish Highlands (Manchester, 1994; Reprinted 2013, Manchester University Press)
- The Scotland Trilogy (2012, Penguin) (published as a set in new pbk format, pp 1630)
- The Oxford Handbook of Modern Scottish History, 1500–2010 (joint editor and contributor, 2012, Oxford University Press)
- Scotland and the British Empire (joint editor and contributor, 2011, Oxford University Press)
- To the Ends of the Earth: Scotland's Global Diaspora, 1750–2010 (US edition, Smithsonian Books, 2011)
- To the Ends of the Earth: Scotland's Global Diaspora, 1750–2010 (Allen Lane and Penguin Books, 2011, 2012)
- Scotland and Poland: Historical Connections (joint editor, John Donald, 2011)
- Scotland and the Union 1707 to 2007 (editor and contributor, Edinburgh University Press, 2008)
- The Scottish Nation 1700 to 2007 (revised editions, Penguin, 2006, 2012)
- Clearance and Improvement: Land, Power and People in Scotland 1700–1900 (John Donald,2006)
- The Transformation of Scotland; The Economy since 1700 (co-author with Clive Lee and George Peden, Edinburgh University Press, 2005, ISBN 0-7486-1433-8)
- Scotland's Empire, 1600–1815 (Penguin Books, 2003, 2012).Serialised in The Scotsman.
- Scotland's Empire and the Shaping of the Americas, 1600–1815 (Smithsonian Books, 2003)
- Being Scottish: Personal Reflections on Scottish Identity Today (2002, co-editor and contributor, Edinburgh University Press)
- Scotland's Shame?: Bigotry and Sectarianism in Modern Scotland (editor and contributor, Mainstream Publishing, 2000, ISBN 1-84018-330-6)
- The Scottish Nation: 1700–2000 (Penguin, 1999, ISBN 0-14-023004-1).Serialised in The Herald.
- Celebrating Columba: Irish-Scottish Connections, 597–1997 (co-editor,1999)
- Eighteenth-century Scotland (co-editor and contributor, Tuckwell Press, 1998)
- Scotland in the Twentieth Century (co-editor and contributor, Edinburgh University Press, 1996)
- Exploring the Scottish Past (John Donald,1995)
- St Mary's Hamilton: A Social History, 1646 – 1996 (editor,John Donald, 1995)
- The Transformation of Rural Scotland: Social Change and the Agrarian Economy, 1660–1815 (1994)
- Industry, Business and Society in Scotland since 1700 (co-editor and contributor,1994)
- Farm Servants and Labour in Lowland Scotland, 1770–1914 (editor,John Donald, 1994)
- Scottish Elites (editor and contributor,1994)
- Clanship to Crofters' War (Manchester University Press, 1994)
- Scottish Emigration and Scottish Society (editor and contributor, John Donald,1992)
- Irish Immigrants and Scottish Society in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Century (editor and contributor, 1991)
- Conflict and Stability in Scottish Society, 1700–1850 (editor and contributor, John Donald,1990)
- Improvement and Enlightenment (editor and contributor, John Donald 1989)
- The Great Highland Famine John Donald, 1988,1995, 2008). Saltire Prize for best book in Scottish history 1989.
- People and Society in Scotland, Volume 1, 1760–1830 (co-editor and contributor, John Donald 1988)
- Farm Servants and Labour in Lowland Scotland, 1770–1914 (editor and contributor, John Donald 1984)
- Scotland and Ireland, 1600 to 1850 (joint editor and contributor, John Donald1983)
- A Scottish Firm in Virginia, 1767–1777, William Cunninghame and Co. (Scottish History Society,1982)
- Lairds and Improvement in the Scotland of the Enlightenment (editor and contributor, Scottish History Society,1978)
- The Tobacco Lords: A Study of the Tobacco Merchants of Glasgow and their Trading Activities, c. 1740–90 ( John Donald 1975;Edinburgh University Press 1992). Senior Hume Brown Prize for best first book in Scottish history.
- Prof Tom Devine on Debrett's Limited website.
- "Scotland's Chronicler" (The Herald, 17 July 1999); "nobody has done more over the past thirty years to bring Scottish historiography into rigorous and unsentimental alignment with developments elsewhere than Tom Devine" (Colin Kidd, The Times Literary Supplement Scotland's Empire: The Origins of the Global Diaspora); "no individual has done more than Devine to advance our understanding of modern Scottish history at home and abroad over the last three decades" (Scottish Historical Review 2012); "the undoubted doyen of the field" (Prof David Armitage, Harvard, Times Literary Supplement, 13 January 2012); "Professor Tom Devine is as close to a national bard as the nation has" (Magnus Linklater (24 January 2013). "'Time to drop Burns myths that disguise true nature of Scotland'". The Times. Retrieved 26 January 2013.; "Tom Devine is Scotland's leading historian" (Scottish Review, 6 November 2013); "His three great works, published in the last fifteen years ... form the most extensive and lucid narrative yet published about Scotland" (The Observer, 21 June 2014).
- The London Gazette: . 14 June 2014.