How the Scots Invented the Modern World


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How the Scots Invented the Modern World: The True Story of How Western Europe's Poorest Nation Created Our World & Everything in It by Arthur Herman

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This is the paperback edition. The hardcover is also available.

 

Book Description

Who formed the first modern nation?
Who created the first literate society?
Who invented our modern ideas of democracy and free market capitalism?
The Scots.

Mention of Scotland and the Scots usually conjures up images of kilts, bagpipes, Scotch whisky, and golf. But as historian and author Arthur Herman demonstrates, in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries Scotland earned the respect of the rest of the world for its crucial contributions to science, philosophy, literature, education, medicine, commerce, and politics-contributions that have formed and nurtured the modern West ever since.

Arthur Herman has charted a fascinating journey across the centuries of Scottish history. He lucidly summarizes the ideas, discoveries, and achievements that made this small country facing on the North Atlantic an inspiration and driving force in world history. Here is the untold story of how John Knox and the Church of Scotland laid the foundation for our modern idea of democracy; how the Scottish Enlightenment helped to inspire both the American Revolution and the U.S. Constitution; and how thousands of Scottish immigrants left their homes to create the American frontier, the Australian outback, and the British Empire in India and Hong Kong.

How the Scots Invented the Modern World reveals how Scottish genius for creating the basic ideas and institutions of modern life stamped the lives of a series of remarkable historical figures, from James Watt and Adam Smith to Andrew Carnegie and Arthur Conan Doyle, and how Scottish heroes continue to inspire our contemporary culture, from William "Braveheart" Wallace to James Bond.

Victorian historian John Anthony Froude once proclaimed, "No people so few in number have scored so deep a mark in the world's history as the Scots have done." And no one who has taken this incredible historical trek, from the Highland glens and the factories and slums of Glasgow to the California Gold Rush and the search for the source of the Nile, will ever view Scotland and the Scots-or the modern West-in the same way again. For this is a story not just about Scotland: it is an exciting account of the origins of the modern world and its consequences.

"The point of this book is that being Scottish turns out to be more than just a matter of nationality or place of origin or clan or even culture. It is also a state of mind, a way of viewing the world and our place in it. . . . This is the story of how the Scots created the basic idea of modernity. It will show how that idea transformed their own culture and society in the eighteenth century, and how they carried it with them wherever they went. Obviously, the Scots did not do everything by themselves: other nations-Germans, French, English, Italians, Russians, and many others-have their place in the making of the modern world. But it is the Scots more than anyone else who have created the lens through which we see the final product. When we gaze out on a contemporary world shaped by technology, capitalism, and modern democracy, and struggle to find our place as individuals in it, we are in effect viewing the world as the Scots did. . . . The story of Scotland in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries is one of hard-earned triumph and heart-rending tragedy, spilled blood and ruined lives, as well as of great achievement."
-FROM THE PREFACE

About the Author

ARTHUR HERMAN, author of The Idea of Decline in Western History and Joseph McCarthy: Reexamining the Life and Legacy of America's Most Hated Senator, received his doctorate in history at Johns Hopkins University. He is the coordinator of the Western Heritage Program at the Smithsonian Institution, an associate professor of history at George Mason University, and a consulting historical editor for Time-Life Books. He lives in Washington, D.C.

Back Cover

"Finally we have a book that explains how the . . . Scots created the modern civilized values America and the Western world still uphold. This is a great book, one which is now even more relevant than ever."-Michael Barone, U.S. News & World Report , coauthor of The Almanac of American Politics

"Arthur Herman provides a convincing and compelling argument. . . . He is a natural writer, weaving philosophical concerns seamlessly through a historical narrative that romps along at a cracking pace." -Irvine Welsh, The Guardian

"Herman's book tells an exciting story with gusto . . . its range and narrative verve make it an entertaining and illuminating read." - Sunday Times (London)

"A skeptic could easily be converted by Herman's deft presentation . . . this work sets a high academic standard yet is carefully leavened with colorful anecdotes."

 

1st Chapter
Editorial Reviews

World History Books

World History

book cover

Amazon.com
"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, self-reliance, moral discipline, and technological mastery with them, among other key assumptions of what historian Arthur Herman calls the "Scottish mentality."

It is only natural, Herman suggests, that a country that once ranked among Europe's poorest, if most literate, would prize the ideal of progress, measured "by how far we have come from where we once were." Forged in the Scottish Enlightenment, that ideal would inform the political theories of Francis Hutcheson, Adam Smith, and David Hume, and other Scottish thinkers who viewed "man as a product of history," and whose collective enterprise involved "nothing less than a massive reordering of human knowledge" (yielding, among other things, the Encyclopaedia Britannica, first published in Edinburgh in 1768, and the Declaration of Independence, published in Philadelphia just a few years later). On a more immediately practical front, but no less bound to that notion of progress, Scotland also fielded inventors, warriors, administrators, and diplomats such as Alexander Graham Bell, Andrew Carnegie, Simon MacTavish, and Charles James Napier, who created empires and great fortunes, extending Scotland's reach into every corner of the world.

Herman examines the lives and work of these and many more eminent Scots, capably defending his thesis and arguing, with both skill and good cheer, that the Scots "have by and large made the world a better place rather than a worse place." --Gregory McNamee

From Publishers Weekly
Focusing on the 18th and 19th centuries, Herman (coordinator of the Western Heritage Program at the Smithsonian and an assistant professor of history at George Mason University) has written a successful exploration of Scotland's disproportionately large impact on the modern world's intellectual and industrial development. When Scotland ratified the 1707 Act of Union, it was an economic backwater. Union gave Scotland access to England's global marketplace, triggering an economic and cultural boom "transform[ing] Scotland... into a modern society, and open[ing] up a cultural and social revolution." Herman credits Scotland's sudden transformation to its system of education, especially its leading universities at Edinburgh and Glasgow. The 18th-century Scottish Enlightenment, embodied by such brilliant thinkers as Francis Hutcheson, Adam Smith and David Hume, paved the way for Scottish and, Herman argues, global modernity. Hutcheson, the father of the Scottish Enlightenment, championed political liberty and the right of popular rebellion against tyranny. Smith, in his monumental Wealth of Nations, advocated liberty in the sphere of commerce and the global economy. Hume developed philosophical concepts that directly influenced James Madison and thus the U.S. Constitution. Herman elucidates at length the ideas of the Scottish Enlightenment and their worldwide impact. In 19th-century Britain, the Scottish Enlightenment, as popularized by Dugald Stewart, became the basis of classical liberalism. At the University of Glasgow, James Watt perfected the crucial technology of the Industrial Revolution: the steam engine. The "democratic" Scottish system of education found a home in the developing U.S. This is a worthwhile book for the general reader, although much of the material has been covered better elsewhere, most recently in T.M. Devine's magisterial The Scottish Nation: A History, 1700-2000 and Duncan A. Bruce's delightful The Mark of the Scots. (Nov.)Forecast: Clearly modeling this title on Thomas Cahill's How the Irish Saved Civilization, Crown may be hoping for comparable sales but probably won't achieve them. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal
This latest work by Smithsonian historian Herman (The Idea of Decline in Western History) invites comparison to Duncan Bruce's recent The Scottish 100: Portraits of History's Most Influential Scots (Carroll & Graf, 2000), which reveals the Scottish ancestry of such notables as Immanuel Kant and Edvard Grieg. The subtitle of Herman's book says it all. Hyperbole? Perhaps. But a skeptic could easily be converted by Herman's deft presentation of simple historical facts. Scots have made massive contributions to education, science, history, and political thought just think of Adam Smith, David Hume, James Boswell, and James Watt, to name but a few. This work sets a high academic standard yet is carefully leavened with colorful anecdotes. The rendition of blowsy George IV's visit to Edinburgh, "hosted" by Sir Walter Scott, is hilarious. Herman is both lively and informative in debunking the myths we hold about the Highland Clearances and the development of clan tartans. Recommended for all academic and larger public libraries. Gail Benjafield, St. Catharines P.L., Ont.
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From
Booklist
Industriousness, self-reliance, and working man's common sense define the traditional Scottish character and modern capitalist democracy. From those relationships Herman derives a sweeping argument that the Scots transformed the world into the arena of markets and elections we know today. Such luminaries as Adam Smith, Walter Scott, and John Stuart Mill bear out Herman's thesis, for despite coming from a land politically dominated by its southern neighbor, their influences and those of other Scottish writers and thinkers were felt far and wide. The achievements of Scottish Americans, exemplified in such figures as John Paul Jones, Francis Scott Key, and Andrew Carnegie, who changed nationality without losing their Scottishness, also made their impact. Those who love history not just for its engaging stories--though such are abundantly present here--but also to make sense of the present will be entranced. Of course, Herman wastes no time on the Highland swashbucklers beloved of the cinema, for he maintains that while their ilk were busy losing an ancient nation, Scotland's real heroes were quietly crafting a new world. Will Hickman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Review
"Finally we have a book that explains how the . . . Scots created the modern civilized values America and the Western world still uphold. This is a great book, one which is now even more relevant than ever." Michael Barone, U.S. News & World Report , coauthor of The Almanac of American Politics

"Arthur Herman provides a convincing and compelling argument. . . . He is a natural writer, weaving philosophical concerns seamlessly through a historical narrative that romps along at a cracking pace." Irvine Welsh, The Guardian

"Herman's book tells an exciting story with gusto . . . its range and narrative verve make it an entertaining and illuminating read."Sunday Times (London)

"A skeptic could easily be converted by Herman?s deft presentation . . . this work sets a high academic standard yet is carefully leavened with colorful anecdotes."


Inside Flap Copy
Who formed the first modern nation?
Who created the first literate society?
Who invented our modern ideas of democracy and free market capitalism?
The Scots.

Mention of Scotland and the Scots usually conjures up images of kilts, bagpipes, Scotch whisky, and golf. But as historian and author Arthur Herman demonstrates, in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries Scotland earned the respect of the rest of the world for its crucial contributions to science, philosophy, literature, education, medicine, commerce, and politics?contributions that have formed and nurtured the modern West ever since.

Arthur Herman has charted a fascinating journey across the centuries of Scottish history. He lucidly summarizes the ideas, discoveries, and achievements that made this small country facing on the North Atlantic an inspiration and driving force in world history. Here is the untold story of how John Knox and the Church of Scotland laid the foundation for our modern idea of democracy; how the Scottish Enlightenment helped to inspire both the American Revolution and the U.S. Constitution; and how thousands of Scottish immigrants left their homes to create the American frontier, the Australian outback, and the British Empire in India and Hong Kong.

How the Scots Invented the Modern World  reveals how Scottish genius for creating the basic ideas and institutions of modern life stamped the lives of a series of remarkable historical figures, from James Watt and Adam Smith to Andrew Carnegie and Arthur Conan Doyle, and how Scottish heroes continue to inspire our contemporary culture, from William 'Braveheart' Wallace to James Bond.

Victorian historian John Anthony Froude once proclaimed, 'No people so few in number have scored so deep a mark in the world's history as the Scots have done.' And no one who has taken this incredible historical trek, from the Highland glens and the factories and slums of Glasgow to the California Gold Rush and the search for the source of the Nile, will ever view Scotland and the Scots or the modern West in the same way again. For this is a story not just about Scotland: it is an exciting account of the origins of the modern world and its consequences.

"The point of this book is that being Scottish turns out to be more than just a matter of nationality or place of origin or clan or even culture. It is also a state of mind, a way of viewing the world and our place in it. . . . This is the story of how the Scots created the basic idea of modernity. It will show how that idea transformed their own culture and society in the eighteenth century, and how they carried it with them wherever they went. Obviously, the Scots did not do everything by themselves: other nations - Germans, French, English, Italians, Russians, and many others - have their place in the making of the modern world. But it is the Scots more than anyone else who have created the lens through which we see the final product. When we gaze out on a contemporary world shaped by technology, capitalism, and modern democracy, and struggle to find our place as individuals in it, we are in effect viewing the world as the Scots did. . . . The story of Scotland in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries is one of hard-earned triumph and heart-rending tragedy, spilled blood and ruined lives, as well as of great achievement.
--FROM THE PREFACE

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