This chapter demonstrates the inappropriateness of models which regard to orality and literacy as invariable opposites and synonymous with 'popular' and 'elite' respectively, to understand the culture of late medieval and early modern Gaelic Scotland in general and the genealogical histories. Gaelic' genealogical histories are works of narrative prose composed in manuscript, typically in English, between the mid-seventeenth and mid-nineteenth centuries. The chapter proposes to comment in more detail on the main criteria of date, authorship, language, content and sources, before exploring the reasons for the birth of the genre. Some of the histories claim to rely on documentary sources no longer extant. The Matheson history written in 1838 made use of family papers of seventeenth-century provenance apparently now lost. The MacMhuirichs provide the only clear-cut instance of authorship by members of the learned orders.
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