The Scots rule |

The Scots rule

Got some cool comments following the entry about the Colorado Irish Festival in Littleton on Saturday and fretting about my Irish whistle-playing teenage son being the first in our line to emigrate back to Ireland. Or Scotland.

One of the comments mentioned the book “How the Scots Invented the Modern World.” It’s history, but very readable, especially if you have at least that wee dram of the blood in you. We’d be drunk many times over with what flows from that fascinating place in our veins.

Another comment suggesting researching the family tartans. But I think “How the Scots Invented the Modern World,” written by Arthur Herman, a Johns Hopkins University history professor, declares that tartans actually are tourist fiction. Have to look more into that.

The kid, about to start his senior year in high school, has gone as far as e-mailing Trinity and Limerick universities in Ireland for more information about applying. I have to admit, it is an intriguing notion.

Here’s part of the comment about the great book “How the Scots Invented the Modern World,” which I have read and heartily recommend:

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I am a Scotsman,” Sir Walter Scott famously wrote. “Therefore I had to fight my way into the world.” So did any number of his compatriots over a period of just a few centuries, leaving their native country and traveling to every continent, carving out livelihoods and bringing ideas of freedom,…

How The Scots Invented The Modern World By Arthur Herman, Crown Publishers, New York, 2001

The Scots are an interesting people because they were able to carry off what few other people ever have. Giving up their sovereignty, they nevertheless, nearly conquered the world with their ideas and energy. Nor is the true history of the Scots quite as modern mythmaking paints it. Arthur Herman subtitles his book: “The true story of how Western Europe’s poorest nation created our world and everything in it.” If there is any truth in the movie Braveheart, then it is probably the backwardness and brutality of early life in Scotland. As late as 1700 there were still many people in northwestern Scotland who were literally living in the hunter-gatherer stage of civilization. …

Herman begins his chapter on Scots in America with a quote by an anonymous Hessian officer in 1778 during the American Revolution: “Call this war by whatever name you may, only call it not an American rebellion: it is nothing more or less than a Scotch Irish Presbyterian rebellion.”

So, how did the Scots reverse the picture, reinvent themselves, spawn the Scottish Enlightenment, build the British Empire, and America to boot, and invent the very idea of modernity? That is the subject of Herman’s marvelous book. It is an interesting story of intellectualism and correct choices that turned Scottish history from backwardness to a period of world leadership.

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