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Monday, April 3, 2023 @ 3:00 pm - 5:00 pm

Archival and Special Collections (A&SC) at the McLaughlin Library invites you to attend the launch of the Truth or Treason? Sources for the Study of the Jacobites exhibit on Monday, April 3 from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. in the Robert Whitelaw Room in the library. The launch will include a keynote talk by Dr. Leith Davis, professor in the Department of English and the Director of the Centre for Scottish Studies at Simon Fraser University and will be live streamed via Zoom and recorded. Should you plan to attend the event virtually, kindly register online to receive the Zoom link.

About the Exhibition

This exhibition was curated by students in Dr. Kevin James’ HIST 3560 and Melissa McAfee’s HIST 3480 experiential learning classes offered jointly by the History Department and the McLaughlin Library (please see full curator and contributor list included below.) It showcases the library’s outstanding collection of rare Jacobite pamphlets, manuscripts, artifacts, and maps. Highlights include an encoded intelligence letter from 1715, four original Jacobite medallions, and eighteenth-century propaganda pamphlets both for and against the Jacobite cause. Each document offers insight into long standing assumptions about the role of Jacobitism in British history.

Who were the Jacobites?

The Jacobites were the followers of King James II and VII (ruler of England and Scotland) and his descendants, who went into exile after the “Glorious Revolution” of 1688. The “Glorious Revolution” ended the reign of King James II and VII and initiated a long period of political instability across England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland. Replaced by the King’s daughter Mary II and her Dutch husband, William of Orange, the exiled James and his supporters publicly challenged the legitimacy of their right to reign, dubbing themselves Jacobites. The 1701 Act of Settlement’s exclusion of Catholics in the line of succession brought further seismic changes to British politics, as Anne, the last Stuart monarch, was replaced in 1707 by George, Elector of Hanover, the most senior Protestant descendant of James I and VI. After the Act of Union in 1707, Scotland and England were united politically, but deep-seated tensions plagued this newly united “Great Britain”. Taking full advantage of this strain, the Jacobites would go on to pose a significant threat to the authority of Crown and Parliament during the eighteenth century.

While the English monarchs from 1688 onward were proud Protestants, the exiled Catholic James and his heirs threatened to undermine the Church of England. Yet, as this exhibition demonstrates, the story of the political struggles between the Jacobites and their detractors is much more complex than a religious conflict. Neither was it a struggle between Scottish Highlanders and Lowlanders. Indeed, the persistent conflicts over the succession to the British Crown exposed deep cleavages in Scotland and beyond.

Historians have debated whether Jacobitism was a sustained movement, or a sporadic set of loosely connected uprisings. They have explored its politics, the dynamics of armed struggle, and the intersections of theology and political thought. Historians have also expanded their scope to explore the role of women, material culture, and the presence of Jacobitism in popular lore and literature, notably in the works of Sir Walter Scott. Faced with this complexity, it has been tempting to simplify the origins and dynamics of these conflicts. Indeed, analysing historiographic distortions forms a part of the contemporary approaches to the Jacobites.

Today historians are working to understand how the Jacobite cause was framed and reinterpreted, and what these changes in interpretation reveal. The exhibit, which will be available in the A&SC Exhibit Gallery on the second floor of the library from April 3, 2023 to March 1, 2024, invites visitors to decide whether it narrates a tale of truth or treason.


Exhibit Curators: Julia Bifolchi, Brayden Boersma, Julia Di Castri, John Cleland, Megan Gable, Gavin Huges, Riva Lewis, Cameron MacKay, Gregory McDonald, Manuel Muncaster, Emma Noble, Andrew Northey, Dylan Parry-Lai, Amraj Sahota, Patricia von Holstein-Rathlou, Wilda Thumm

Exhibit Design and Promotion: Julia Bifolchi, Eva Gabler, Alex Goddard, Aysha Grewall, Molly McNeely, Amy Moffat, Manuel Muncaster, Christian Quattrociocchi

McLaughlin Library Exhibit Consultants: Graham Burt, Emily Clarke, Ashley Shifflett-McBrayne


Monday, April 3, 2023
3:00 pm - 5:00 pm


McLaughlin Library
480 Gordon Street
Guelph, Ontario Canada
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Additional Info

Room Number
McLaughlin Library, Robert Whitelaw Room
Event is open to
U of G students, U of G faculty and staff, The public