Tom Devine

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Sir Thomas Martin Devine OBE FRSE FBA is a historian and author recognised for his work on Scottish and English history.

Early and personal life[edit]

Thomas Martin Devine was born into an Irish Catholic family in Motherwell, Scotland.[1] His father was a schoolteacher.[2] He graduated from the University of Strathclyde in 1968 with First Class Honours in Economic and Social History, the only first awarded in the subject from 1968 to 1978.[3][4] He is married to Lady Catherine and they have five children, Elizabeth, Noreen, Kathryna, Michael,and John+, and nine grandchildren.[5][6]

Academic career[edit]

In 1969, a few months after beginning doctoral research, he was appointed Assistant Lecturer in History at the University of Strathclyde and thereafter was promoted to Lecturer, Senior Lecturer, and Reader.[7] He was appointed Professor of Scottish History at the university in 1988 and later became Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, then Deputy Principal for a term of four years. In 1993, Devine was awarded the higher doctorate of DLitt (Doctor of Letters) by the university for the quality of his research.

In 1998, he moved to the University of Aberdeen and became the founding director of the newly-established Research Institute of Irish and Scottish Studies (RIISS). He was appointed to the inaugural chair of the externally funded Glucksman Professorship of Irish and Scottish Studies. RIISS soon became recognised by the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) as an AHRC Centre of Excellence, in receipt of over £2 million in grants over two competitive phases; it is one of only two centres in the UK.[8]

In 2005, Devine was appointed to the prestigious Sir William Fraser Chair of Scottish History and Palaeography at the University of Edinburgh, recognised as the premier professorial post in the field of Scottish Historical Studies.[9] He remained in this position until 2012, when he became Personal Senior Research Professor in History. He was also Founding Director of the externally funded Scottish Centre for Diaspora Studies from 2010 to 2014. Devine retired from Edinburgh in 2015, recognised widely as Scotland's foremost living historian. He was then appointed Sir William Fraser Professor Emeritus of Scottish History and Palaeography and Honorary Fellow in History in the School of History, Classics and Archaeology.

At his retirement celebration in a packed McEwen Hall at the University, messages of congratulation were received from then Prime Minister of the United Kingdom David Cameron, former PM Gordon Brown, the First Minister of Scotland, and the heads of the Scottish Labour and Liberal Democratic parties.[8] He has remained active in research with seven volumes authored or edited since his "retirement" to date.

Awards and honours[edit]

In 1992, Devine was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE), Scotland's national academy of sciences and letters,[10] and Fellow of the British Academy in 1994.[11] He was elected an Honorary Member of the Royal Irish Academy in 2001, making him elected to all three national academies in the British Isles for which he is eligible.[12] He is also a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, and the Royal Society of Arts.[13] Devine was awarded the Royal Medal, Scotland's supreme academic accolade, by Queen Elizabeth II in 2001, the only historian to receive the honour to date. The medals recognise "individuals who have gained the highest distinction and international repute for pioneering work in their field of expertise". He was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2005 New Year Honours for services to Scottish history.[14] In 2012, he was awarded the RSE’s inaugural Sir Walter Scott Prize for his contribution to Scottish history, and a year later he was awarded the RSE's Senior Beltane Prize for Public Engagement across all disciplines.[15]

He was knighted in the 2014 Birthday Honours for "services to the study of Scottish history", the first and only Scottish historian to be honoured. With Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859–1930), Devine is one of only two Scottish-born writers to have received a knighthood since 1707. The title conferred on Sir Walter Scott (1771–1832) in 1820 was a baronetcy. [6][16]

In 2016, Edinburgh University Press published Global Migrations, edited by Angela McCarthy and John M Mackenzie, which was a tribute to Devine. In July 2018, he received the Lifetime Achievement Award of the UK all-party parliamentary group on Archives and History of the House of Commons and House of Lords, the first historian from a Scottish university to be honoured. Previous awardees were Professor Eric Hobsbawm CH FBA, Lord Asa Briggs FBA, Sir Keith Thomas CH FBA, and Sir Michael Howard OM FBA.[17]

In total, Devine has received eighteen national and international awards and four honorary degrees.

British newspaper The Times stated in 2013 that "Professor Tom Devine is as close to a national bard as the nation has ... Scotland's greatest living historian". In September 2014, Scottish Field said: "Sir Tom Devine is the rock star of Caledonian historians whose work in unraveling Scottish identity makes him de facto the father of the nation." He was listed in the top twenty of The Herald's Power 100: "The Most Powerful and Influential People in Scotland". The newspaper said: "The nation's preeminent historian, a towering and fearless intellect who has reshaped the way the Scottish past is viewed." The Journal of British Studies stated in 2017: "The contribution Tom Devine has made to the study of Scottish history is unequaled." The Guardian described Devine as "the doyen of Scottish historians" in November 2019.

Penguin Books confirmed in March 2020 that Devine's The Scottish Nation (1999) had sold 100,000 copies in the UK; when it was published, it outsold the Harry Potter books in Scotland for a short time.


  • The Tobacco Lords: A Study of the Tobacco Merchants of Glasgow and their Trading Activities, c. 1740–90 (John Donald, 1975; reprinted Edinburgh University Press, 1992).[a]
  • Lairds and Improvement in the Scotland of the Enlightenment (editor and contributor, Scottish History Society, 1978)
  • A Scottish Firm in Virginia, 1767–1777, William Cunninghame and Co. (Scottish History Society, 1982)
  • Scotland and Ireland, 1600 to 1850 (joint editor and contributor, John Donald, 1983).
  • Farm Servants and Labour in Lowland Scotland, 1770–1914 (editor and contributor, John Donald, 1984,1994)
  • People and Society in Scotland, Volume 1, 1760–1830 (co-editor and contributor, John Donald, 1988,1994)
  • The Great Highland Famine: Hunger, Emigration and the Scottish Highlands in the Nineteenth Century, John Donald, 1988,reprinted 1995, 2008,2020). [b]
  • Improvement and Enlightenment (editor and contributor, John Donald, 1989)
  • Conflict and Stability in Scottish Society, 1700–1850 (editor and contributor, John Donald, 1990)
  • Irish Immigrants and Scottish Society in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Century (editor and contributor, 1991)
  • Scottish Emigration and Scottish Society (editor and contributor, John Donald, 19
  • Clanship to Crofters War: The Social Transformation of the Scottish Highlands (1994; Reprinted 2013, Manchester University Press)
  • Scottish Elites (editor and contributor, 1994)
  • Industry, Business and Society in Scotland since 1700 (co-editor and contributor, 1994)
  • The Transformation of Rural Scotland:Social Change and the Agrarian Economy, 1660–1815 (Edinburgh University Press, 1994,reprinted 1998)
  • St Mary's Hamilton: A Social History, 1646 – 1996(editor, John Donald, 1995)
  • Exploring the Scottish Past(John Donald, 1995)
  • Scotland in the Twentieth Century(co-editor and contributor, Edinburgh University Press, 1996)
  • Eighteenth-century Scotland (co-editor and contributor, Tuckwell Press, 1998)
  • Celebrating Columba: Irish-Scottish Connections, 597–1997 (co-editor, 1999)
  • The Scottish Nation: 1700–2000 (Penguin, 1999).Multiple reprints and new editions,the most recent being The Scottish Nation:A Modern History.As at 2020 the book had sold over 100,000 copies in the UK alone.
  • Scotland's Shame?: Bigotry and Sectarianism in Modern Scotland (editor and contributor, Mainstream Publishing, 2000)
  • Being Scottish: Personal Reflections on Scottish Identity Today (2002, co-editor and contributor, Edinburgh University Press)
  • Scotland's Empire and the Shaping of the Americas, 1600–1815 (Smithsonian Institution Books,USA,2003)
  • Scotland's Empire, 1600–1815 (Penguin Books, 2003,reprinted 2012).[c]
  • The Transformation of Scotland; The Economy since 1700 (co-editor and contributor with Clive Lee and George Peden, Edinburgh University Press, 2005)
  • Clearance and Improvement: Land, Power and People in Scotland 1700–1900 (John Donald, 2006,reprinted 2012)
  • The Scottish Nation 1700 to 2007 (revised editions, Penguin, 2006,2012). [d]
  • Scotland and the Union 1707 to 2007 (editor and contributor, Edinburgh University Press, 2008)
  • Scotland and Poland: Historical Connections (joint editor, John Donald, 2011)
  • To the Ends of the Earth: Scotland's Global Diaspora, 1750–2010 (Allen Lane and Penguin Books, 2011, paperback, 2012). [e]
  • Scotland and the British Empire (joint editor and contributor, 2011, Oxford University Press)
  • The Oxford Handbook of Modern Scottish History, 1500–2010 (joint editor and contributor, 2012, Oxford University Press)
  • The Scotland Trilogy (2012, Penguin)
  • Recovering Scotland's Slavery Past: The Caribbean Connection (editor and contributor, Edinburgh University Press, 2015).[f]
  • Independence or Union: Scotland's Past and Scotland's Present (Allen Lane, The Penguin Press, 2016).[g]
  • The Scottish Experience in Asia c. 1700 to the Present: Sojourners and Settlers (joint editor and contributor, Cambridge Imperial and Colonial Series, Palgrave and Macmillan, 2016)
  • Scotland and the British Empire (joint editor and contributor, Oxford University Press, 2016)
  • Tea and Empire: James Taylor in Victorian Ceylon (joint author, Manchester University Press, 2017).[h]
  • New Scots: Scotland's Immigrant Communities since 1945 (joint editor and contributor, Edinburgh University Press, 2018)
  • The Scottish Clearances: A History of the Dispossessed 1600-1900 (Allen Lane: The Penguin Press, 2018,pbk 2019) [i]

In addition, Devine has contributed to numerous articles, journals, and book collections on Transatlantic Trades; Merchant Elites; Highland Society; Famine; Irish Immigration; Rural Society; Sectarianism; British Empire; Global Diaspora; Scots in India, South Asia, and China; Slavery and the Scottish Connection; and The Scottish Clearances.


  1. ^ Winner of the Senior Hume Brown Prize for best first book in Scottish history
  2. ^ Winner of the Saltire Society Prize for best book in Scottish history 1989.
  3. ^ Shortlisted for Saltire History Book of the Year Prize 2004
  4. ^ New Statesman and The Herald, Book of the Year, 2012
  5. ^ Book of the Year: The Spectator, New Statesman, Scotland on Sunday, 2011; Book of the Week: The Guardian 2011
  6. ^ Book of the Year 2015, The Herald
  7. ^ Book of the Year 2016, Scottish Review of Books
  8. ^ Shortlisted as Research Book of the Year 2018 Saltire Society
  9. ^ Book of the Year 2018 The Herald,Telegraph and The Times


  1. ^ "200 Voices".
  2. ^ "The SRB Interview: Tom Devine". Scottish Review of Books. 12 August 2010. Retrieved 17 April 2018.
  3. ^ "Helping to shape the future of your newspaper". The Scotsman. 26 January 2007. Retrieved 17 April 2018.
  4. ^ "Sir Tom Devine". University of Otago: Centre for Global Migrations. Retrieved 21 January 2019.
  5. ^ Template:Sir Tom Devine: The historian telling Scotland's story
  6. ^ a b Gerry Braiden, Gerry (2 July 2015). "Sir Tom Devine: Knighthood a recognition of Scotland's Irish immigrants and historical studies". The Herald. Glasgow. Retrieved 23 October 2018.
  7. ^ Taylor, Alan (14 June 2014). "Sir Tom Devine on past highs, present lows and future plans". The Herald. Glasgow. Retrieved 29 January 2019.
  8. ^ a b "Historian retires to write new chapter". Edinburgh Evening News. 14 May 2014. Retrieved 17 April 2018.
  9. ^ "Tom Devine doubling up". The Scotsman. 29 April 2005. Retrieved 17 April 2018.
  10. ^ "Fellow. Thomas Devine". Royal Society of Edinburgh. Retrieved 17 April 2018.
  11. ^ "Fellows: Professor Sir Thomas Devine". British Academy. Retrieved 17 April 2018.
  12. ^ "Prof Sir Tom Devine". University of Edinburgh: School of History, Classics and Archaeology. Retrieved 21 January 2019.
  13. ^ "Fellows - D" (PDF). Royal Historical Society. Retrieved 17 April 2018.
  14. ^ "New Year Honours". Times Higher Education. 7 January 2005. Retrieved 17 April 2018.
  15. ^ "Professor Tom Devine awarded Royal Society prize" (Press release). University of Edinburgh. 27 April 2015. Retrieved 29 January 2019.
  16. ^ Christie, Kevan; Gardner, Claire (14 June 2014). "Scots feature in Queen's Birthday Honours List". The Scotsman. Retrieved 17 April 2018.
  17. ^ "Sir Tom Devine is the first Scots historian to win this parliamentary award". The Scotsman. 19 July 2018. Retrieved 29 January 2019.