Outlander Historical Context 📖

Diana Gabaldon’s ‘Outlander’ is a beloved novel that follows the time-traveling adventures of Claire Randall, an English nurse from the 1940s.


Diana Gabaldon

The books have been made into a popular television series and have captivated readers around the world. Despite its fantastical elements, the series is rooted in real history, with events such as the Jacobite Rising of 1745 playing a major role in the plot.

The Scottish Highlands

The Scottish Highlands in the 18th century plays a significant role in Diana Gabaldon’s novel, ‘Outlander.’ The backdrop of the novel is set in the rolling hills and glens of the Highlands. 

It is here that the main character, Claire Randall, is transported back in time to 1743. The remote and wild setting of the Highlands was a key factor in allowing her to blend into her new surroundings and with the Highlander clans. 

The Highland clans were an important part of life in the Scottish Highlands during this era. Each clan was headed by a chief, and each clan had its own distinct culture and traditions. Clans were fiercely loyal to their own, and they fought battles amongst themselves and against their enemies. 

In ‘Outlander,’ Claire meets members of the MacKenzie and Fraser clans and forms strong friendships and bonds with them. She learns about their customs and traditions, as well as their struggles and losses during the time of the Jacobite Rising. 

The Highlands were also a center for Jacobite sympathizers who wanted to restore the Stuarts to the throne. The Jacobites saw the Scottish Highlands as a refuge away from British rule, and many Highlanders joined their cause. In ‘Outlander,’ Claire witnesses firsthand the violence and destruction brought on by the Jacobite Rising. She watches as the Highlanders are betrayed and defeated by the British forces at the Battle of Culloden. 

The Standing Stones

Standing stones, or megaliths, are large rocks or stones that have been erected by ancient civilizations for various purposes. Standing stones can be found throughout the world, from the British Isles to Africa and the Americas. In Scotland, many standing stones are found in the Highlands and are said to have spiritual and religious significance. 

In Diana Gabaldon’s ‘Outlander‘ series, the Standing Stones at Craigh na Dun are a key feature of the story. These mysterious stones form a circle on a hillside in the Highlands and, when touched by protagonist Claire Randall, provide an unexpected route for time travel between the years 1945 and 1743. 

The Standing Stones at Craigh na Dun have become a popular pilgrimage site for ‘Outlander‘ fans, many of whom flock to the Highlands to stand in the same spot where Claire began her incredible journey. 

It is believed that standing stones such as these were used in rituals and ceremonies by our ancestors and may have had symbolic significance in their lives.

The Jacobite Rising of 1745

Outlander‘ is set against the backdrop of the Jacobite Rising of 1745. This event was an attempt by Charles Edward Stuart, popularly known as Bonnie Prince Charles (who was in exile), to reclaim the thrones of Scotland and England from King James II. The Rising began on August 19, 1745, when Bonnie Prince Charlie landed in Scotland and was met with great enthusiasm by the Scottish people. 

The Jacobite forces initially made impressive gains, capturing Edinburgh and advancing deep into England, but they were eventually defeated at the Battle of Culloden in April 1746. 

The Rising plays a major role in Outlander as the main character, Claire Randall, travels back in time to 1743 and finds herself in the midst of this tumultuous period. She meets Jamie Fraser, a young Highlander who is fiercely loyal to the Jacobite cause, and together they experience the highs and lows of this historic conflict. 

Despite the ultimate defeat of the Jacobites at Culloden, Outlander shows the immense courage and passion that drove these rebels in their fight for independence.

The Battle of Culloden

The Battle of Culloden, which took place in 18th-century Scotland, is a major event that features prominently in Diana Gabaldon’s ‘Outlander‘ series. It was a battle between the Scottish Jacobites and the British forces, and it marked the end of the Jacobite Rising of 1745. The Jacobite Uprising, led by Charles Stuart, sought to restore the House of Stuart to the throne and return Scotland to Catholicism. The British forces, however, were victorious and crushed the Jacobite Rebellion.

In ‘Outlander,’ protagonist nurse Claire Beauchamp Randall Fraser becomes involved with the Jacobite rebellion and witnessed firsthand the destruction of the Battle of Culloden. Throughout the series, Claire attempts to save her husband, Jamie Fraser, from certain death. Although Claire and Jamie are able to survive the battle, many of their fellow clansmen are not as lucky and die in the battle.

The Battle of Culloden is integral to ‘Outlander‘ as it serves as a pivotal point in the narrative arc. This pivotal moment highlights how fragile life can be and how quickly it can be taken away from us. It also serves as a reminder of how different life was centuries ago when families fought and died for what they believed in. Today, it’s also possible to visit the spot where the Battle of Culloden happened, the Jacobite Army was defeated, and view memorials to the various clans who lost members at the battle.


Is Outlander based on history?

Yes, ‘Outlander‘ is based on history. The author, Diana Gabaldon, has done extensive research into the Jacobite Rising of 1745, which plays a large role in the series. She also took inspiration from stories and folklore from the Scottish Highlands.

What was Outlander inspired by?

Outlander‘ was inspired by both real historical events and fictional stories. Diana Gabaldon combined these elements to create a unique and captivating narrative. She focused mainly on the history of the Scottish Highlands.

Is Lallybroch a real place in Scotland?

Lallybroch is a fictional place created by Diana Gabaldon for ‘Outlander.’ It is described as being located near Inverness, in the Scottish Highlands, and is based on a combination of real-life locations in the area. In the television series, the producers used Midhope Castle as the setting for Lallybroch.

Emma Baldwin
About Emma Baldwin
Emma graduated from East Carolina University with a BA in English, minor in Creative Writing, BFA in Fine Art, and BA in Art Histories. Literature is one of her greatest passions which she pursues on Book Analysis.
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