MANY Scots think they know a lot about Scotland’s history but even the most knowledgeable often struggle to understand the culture and history of the Highland clans.

The clans are one of the most immediately recognisable parts of Scotland’s history but centuries of misrepresentation and romanticisation have created a range of persistent myths and stereotypes.

Now a new free online three-week course from the University of Glasgow called The Scottish Highland Clans: Origins, Decline and Transformations, on the FutureLearn platform, hopes to debunk some of these misconceptions to provide a critical overview of how the clans functioned in Scottish society.

It emphasises the need to see clans as highly sophisticated social communities, with complex economic functions and a rich, unique language and culture.

Dr Andrew Mackillop, a Senior Lecturer in Scottish History at the University’s College of Arts, who has led the creation of the Clans course said: “It has been a wonderful experience helping to bring this course together. The College of Arts here at the University of Glasgow has world-class levels of expertise on all aspects of Scottish society, language, history, literature and culture.

“One of the most exciting aspects is the inclusion of Scottish Gaelic material in the form of songs and poems. Making these unique historical sources more accessible is a key objective. Learners will be able to engage with Gaelic but will also have full English translations – so there is no need to worry if you have no Gaelic.

“The course explores the nature and function of clans from the fall of Clan Donald’s Lordship of the Isles in 1493 until clanship broke apart in the final decades of the eighteenth century. Then it explores how literature, art and social trends such as Highland Clubs and Games ‘reinvented’ clanship.

“Novels, films and programmes such as the TV series Outlander ensure the process of reimagining continues to the present day. Learners taking the course with get a unique, multi-disciplinary perspective as well as an accessible introduction to some of the very latest research on the Highland clans.”

Designed and delivered by the College of Arts, the course draws on the expertise of academics from across a number of Arts and Humanities research disciplines including Archaeology, Celtic & Gaelic, History and Literature, to bring the story of Scotland’s iconic clans to life.

Professor Roibeard Ó Maolalaigh, Vice Principal and Head of the College of Arts, said: “This exciting new course exemplifies the breadth of knowledge and world-class research being undertaken in the Arts and Humanities at the University of Glasgow in the broad area of Scottish history and culture.

“We drew on this vast expertise for the course’s creation to give the best and most up to date picture of Scotland’s iconic clan system.

“As Professor of Gaelic, I am also delighted to see that the course reflects the central importance of the Gaelic language in Scotland’s history – and many of our songs, poetry, historical legends and tales are still alive today thanks to the clans’ Gaelic bards and seanchaidhs (‘tradition-bearers, storytellers’).

“I hope that the many disciplines being showcased in the Clan course will whet the appetite for our online learners and encourage them to engage in further education and study opportunities in Scottish history and culture.”

You have until Monday to register.