9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Scots Enlightened the world
The book might be better titled 'The Scottish Enlightenment and its influences on the modern world.' It is divided into two sections, 'Epiphany' and 'Diaspora'. Few will need an introduction to notions of a Scottish diaspora, but 'epiphany' is an interesting twist on 'Enlightenment'. The conventional academic gloss on the Enlightenment focuses on French appeals to...
Published on March 14 2003 by Mark Mills
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Hmmm, maybe I missed something...
but I found this one of the driest books I've read in ages. I was quite eager to learn more about the history of Scotland and the Scots; it's part of my heritage. And I have read scholarly works before, so it's not that I am unfamiliar with such or expected a novel. However, this man took what is doubtless a very interesting topic, and made me cringe repeatedly with his...
Published on Jan. 5 2004 by Canuck reader
Most Helpful First | Newest First
4.0 out of 5 stars Neat Book,
This review is from: How the Scots Invented the Modern World: The True Story of How Western Europe's Poorest Nation Created Our World and Everything in It (Paperback)I'm all for bold and provocative titles, and I suppose this book's title is appropriate for the subject matter. When I was about half way through though, I read some of my fellow Amazon readers' comments about the author's lack of supporting information and sources for some of his claims. As I continued reading, I was more aware of this, and it did begin to bother me to see unsupported claims presented as fact. On the whole though, it was a great read. Call it boosterism if you want, but the writing is definitely accessible to all readers and on subjects and themes so diverse that the connections the author makes between them often make for more interesting reading that the colorful stories themselves.
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential primer on Scots-American heritage,
By A Customer
This review is from: How the Scots Invented the Modern World: The True Story of How Western Europe's Poorest Nation Created Our World and Everything in It (Hardcover)Excellent and very readable story of the Scots contribution to Western civilization and the foundations of the USA in particular
5.0 out of 5 stars a little point.......to maopingpong,
This review is from: How the Scots Invented the Modern World: The True Story of How Western Europe's Poorest Nation Created Our World and Everything in It (Paperback)Maopingpong is wrong to state that the Scots were ' subjugated ' by the English.Scotland has never been conquered by the 'southern cousins',and Scotland joined the United Kingdom as a full partner in 1707,unlike the Irish and Welsh.
5.0 out of 5 stars Very enjoyable and informative,
This review is from: How the Scots Invented the Modern World: The True Story of How Western Europe's Poorest Nation Created Our World and Everything in It (Paperback)The title of this book is somewhat tongue-in-cheek, I would imagine. I took the contents with a grain of salt. I did, however learn a lot from this book and very much enjoyed its style. Though my Ulster Scot (I learned that from the book) ancestors are long in the past, I gained a certain amount of pride from learing about the many contributions made to civilization by the Scots.
On the other hand, I'm sure a similar book could be written about the contributions of any number of people groups, and some slam books could be written about the Scots, too.
But it was a fun and interesting book and I intend to read it again sometime. I would reccommend it as a fun and informative read. A light sort of history book.
4.0 out of 5 stars If the Scots were so great ...,
This review is from: How the Scots Invented the Modern World: The True Story of How Western Europe's Poorest Nation Created Our World and Everything in It (Hardcover)then why have they been subjugated by the English for all these years?
For a non-Scot, this book was a fascinating read. However, as a serious point of argument, I am considerably more skeptical about the author's outrageous claim that the Scots invented the modern world. True, Adam Smith and David Hume were intellectual giants of the first order. Even the lesser lights cited by the authors have made significant contributions. I am not here to dispute at all that Scotland contributed towards the formation of the moder world view, but to hype it up to the level of inventing modernity reminded one of Al Gore's Internet boast.
What I found incredible is the author's almost complete omission of Scottish contribution to science. Lord Kelvin was mentioned, but his seminal contribution to science hardly discussed. James Clerk Maxwell, the scientist with arguably the most impact on our daily life with his founding of electromagnetic theory, was mentioned in one sentence as a semi-traitor to Scotland (moving from Aberdeen to Cambridge).
Still as entertainment, the book should be well worth the while. I doubt even the author was that serious about his claim.
4.0 out of 5 stars A delightful way to spend a few hours of your reading time,
This delightful book not only sparkles with insight and wit, it fills an important historical gap. It helps us understand better the sources of the Scottish Enlightenment and how that influenced not only the development of the British Empire, but the role it played in the American Revolution and in the Industrial Revolution everywhere.
You will find all kinds of colorful personalities. There is enough detail that unless you are a scholar of a particular person, you will likely learn something new. For example, even if you know David Hume was a Scotsman, how could you ever tell from his writing that he always spoke with a strong Scottish burr? And that is just a very minor point.
There is also the issue of the real kilt versus the standard Highland dress we know today that was dreamt up during the Regency period. But there is also the very real tragedy of the Clearances during the same time. When landlords realized they could make more money raising sheep than having people and farmers on their land paying rents they drove them off even if it meant burning them out. But that sent more people to America and into the British Army and thence to India and spread the culture around the globe.
It is true, however, that by the end you begin wondering if other cultures couldn't tell a similarly comprehensive tale because events are so complex and so many people are involved that you only need one of your team in there to claim the whole thing.
It is clear to me that the Scots were and are a remarkable people (my ancestry goes back that way, so I am biased), and there are singular achievements that are clearly theirs. But there comes a point where you have to draw the line and admit that you were simply one of the participants and not the single progenitor.
However, I recommend that you take a few hours and read this book. I believe you will find it a quite happy investment of your reading time.
4.0 out of 5 stars Non-buff makes it all the way through a history book,
By A Customer
I learned a little more about the history of thought and economics, and I found the section on Alexander Mackenzie particularly compelling. In the US, we learn that Lewis and Clark were the first white people to cross the land. Not quite true - Mackenzie crossed Canada before they crossed the US. This book sparked my interest in him, and today I'm online to buy his journals. (Not to diss Lewis and Clark - they're great heroes of mine, and Undaunted Courage was by far the best history book I've ever read.)
Among other things, How the Scots... made me more proud than ever to be Scottish. I think every English person ought to be required to read this book. :-)
4.0 out of 5 stars The Scots are still to the fore.,
By A Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Got to love the Scots.,
This review is from: How the Scots Invented the Modern World: The True Story of How Western Europe's Poorest Nation Created Our World and Everything in It (Hardcover)This is an excellent book. It makes an interesting case that the concentration of intellectual talent during the Scottish Enlightenment defies randomness.
From reading this book, I am also reminded what an intellectual giant Adam Smith is. I also found out Adam Smith was not so easy to read first hand. So, I had much more fun learning about Adam Smith in this book, than reading the few paragraphs I managed to read from "Wealth of Nations."
The one question is, where are the Scots today? I guess just where the Greeks are. Meaning a given group of people from a specific country or culture can have a spike of intellectual and innovative success during a short period of time. This is only to return to anonymity shortly thereafter. This inevitable cycle of cultures life does not detract at all from this very good book.
4.0 out of 5 stars The Scottish Epiphany,
Herman takes both to task for forgetting the evangelical sources of our modern world. Herman starts his story with crusty John Knox and his blend of revolutionary violence, predestination and universal literacy. Knox's reliance on the whirling dervish of 'revival meetings' and individual study of biblical sources provides Herman with all he needs to found the enlightened modern world in foggy Scotland. He is not shy about introducing Christian roots to what became an atheist philosophy. The transition from spiritual epiphany to materialist enlightenment might have been an interesting thread, but Herman avoids the issue. It is enough to boost the Scottish role and leave it at that.
Personally, I found this all a bit more intriguing then convincing. The leap from Knox (1505 - 1572) to Francis Hutcheson (1694-1746) required a detour from church history into the foggy bottom of British politics before emerging with a secular history of the Enlightenment. While I enjoyed getting a Scottish view of the 'English' civil war and detailed account of parliamentary debate over the Treaty of Union (1707), the story is simply too brief. All this takes place in the first 60 pages, one third of it devoted entirely to the Treaty of Union. To make a case for Hutcheson and Lord Kames inventing the 'Enlightenment', a bit more would be required regarding English and French developments.
Don't get me wrong, I really didn't mind a great deal. The story moves pretty quickly and the Scottish boosterism is hardly threatening. Just read it with a skeptical eye, as any Scot would advise you.
Others might say that the book is a much needed hurrah for the Lowland Scots. Given the 19th century's romantic obsession with the Highland clans, the Lowland Scots get ignored or labeled traitors. Herman enjoys debunking these delusions. The Highlanders are simply barbarian holdouts from the feudal age, the truly unenlightened. He gleefully recounts the adulteration of highland kilt into royal mini-skirt, and describes the rising of 1745 as little more than suicidal lunacy. Most tellingly, the highland clans are Lord Kames' model for 'primative man' and thus the model for later notions of 'hunter-gatherer' societies. The lowland Scots provide the heroic model of social elevation from 'hunter-gather' to 'farmer' to 'merchant' to 'enlightened'.
I enjoyed the way Herman connects Knox to Hutcheson, then Hutcheson to Hume, Witherspoon and the American revolution. It is a good story and fine corrective to the conventional academic blather about Voltaire, Rousseau and Kant. The story of Sir Walter Scott would have made a good ending, but Herman presses on with an unnecessary history of steam engines, public health and any Scot that made a bundle of cash.
Most Helpful First | Newest First
How the Scots Invented the Modern World: The True Story of How Western Europe's Poorest Nation Created Our World and Everything in It by Arthur Herman (Paperback - Sept. 24 2002)
CDN$ 19.95 CDN$ 14.40