79 of 85 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Born Fighting : How the Scots-Irish Shaped America
I had to log on and write a review of James Webb's brilliant and wonderful book " Born Fighting : How the Scots-Irish Shaped America." I bought the book in November, and after skimming through it and reading the first two chapters, I immediately ordered a copy for my father as a Christmas present. After finishing it, he told me it was the greatest present he had ever...
Published on January 31, 2005 by John C. Duff
238 of 244 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars History of the Scots-Irish
Born Fighting by James Webb is the history of the Scots-Irish over the last 2000 years. A few highlights:
1. Scotland was effectively created by the Roman Empire when Hadrian's Wall was built across Britain at the approximate location of the current border between England and Scotland. Rome controlled Britain south of the wall and the native Celtic tribes...
Published on September 9, 2005 by Leonard J. Wilson
Most Helpful First | Newest First
238 of 244 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars History of the Scots-Irish,
1. Scotland was effectively created by the Roman Empire when Hadrian's Wall was built across Britain at the approximate location of the current border between England and Scotland. Rome controlled Britain south of the wall and the native Celtic tribes controlled the north. (Rome also effectively created the modern boundary between France and Germany when Caesar conquered Gaul but stopped at the Rhine.)
2. After the Norman Conquest, English kings attempted repeatedly to subdue the Scots and extend their rule to all of Britain. The victories of William Wallace and Robert the Bruce maintained Scottish independence through the rein of Elizabeth I. Upon her death, the throne passed to James I of the House of Stuart who already ruled Scotland as James VI. One could almost say that Scotland thereby absorbed England, but the relative population sizes of the two countries gave England the upper hand almost from the beginning.
3. In the meantime, the Protestant Reformation had been underway in northern Europe, leaving Scotland strongly protestant (Presbyterian), England more mildly protestant (Anglican), and Ireland still Roman Catholic. To bring Ireland into the protestant fold and increase its loyalty to the British Crown, James I established the Ulster Plantation and encouraged protestant Scots to settle in Ulster starting in about 1610. These settlers from Scotland to Ireland became the Scots-Irish (or Scotch-Irish).
4. In the Glorious Revolution of 1688, the English Parliament deposed King James II principally because he attempted to reestablish a Catholic monarchy. The deposed king, with French (Catholic) aid landed in Ireland, rallied the Catholic Irish in southern Ireland and attacked the protestant settlers in Ulster. James was again defeated and exiled to France.
5. Meanwhile, various Test Acts had been enacted by the English Parliament and Crown that established the Anglican Church as the official Church of England and excluded non-Anglican Protestants, primarily Presbyterians and Puritans, from public office. A particularly harsh version was enacted in 1703 and led to the heavy migration of Scots-Irish from Ulster to America throughout the 1700s. They settled primarily in the Appalachian highlands, starting in Pennsylvania and migrating southwest to Virginia, the Carolinas, Kentucky, Tennessee and beyond. In numbers, the Scots-Irish far exceed the other groups of British settlers described in David Hackett Fischer's Albion's Seed: the New England Puritans from East Anglia, the Virginia Cavaliers from the south and West of England, and the Pennsylvania Quakers from the Midlands.
6. The Scots-Irish were characterized by poverty, family ties that extended both linearly across generations and collaterally to many degrees of cousins, strongly protestant beliefs, independence, distrust of governments in general, and a readiness to fight both individually as part of a local militia. Although the Scots-Irish Presbyterians shared a faith based on Calvinism with the Puritans of East Anglia and New England, there appears to have been little love lost between these groups.
7. The Scots-Irish provided the bulk of the Confederate Army although few held any slaves. During the decades following the Civil War, their poverty was worse than before the war, reaching a nadir during the Great Depression of the 1930s. This poverty prompted another mass migration to other parts of America which was accelerated by the mobilization for World War II. As a consequence, the Scots-Irish have been distributed through most of America, except perhaps New England. Their numbers and characteristics, especially their willingness to accept and absorb spouses from other ethnic groups into their extended families, have made the Scots-Irish folkways a key part of the American character.
So, is this a recommendation of Born Fighting to others? Yes, but a conditional recommendation. First, one should read David Hackett Fischer's Albion's Seed (see my review) which describes and contrasts the four British groups, including the Scots-Irish, that settled America. Fischer's book is better written, broader in scope, more objective, and based on real scholarship. In contrast, Born Fighting is repetitive, focused on one ethnic group alone (making conflicts with others harder to understand), strongly Scots-Irish partisan rather than objective, and draws much of its best material from other modern authors, including extensive quotes from Fischer's book and Churchill's Birth of Britain. Still, Born Fighting was worth reading and gave me new insights, especially on the history of the Scots-Irish before their migration to America. For the record, my heritage is largely Scots-Irish.
Here are two additional suggestions. (1) David Hackett Fischer's Bound Away (see my review) which describes the migrations of Scots-Irish and others to, within and from Virginia. This book repeats some of the content of Albion's Seed but also presents new material on the migrations within and from Virginia. (2) Kevin Phillips' The Cousins' Wars which traces the recurring conflicts between the Puritans of East Anglia and New England and the Anglican Aristocracy of South and West England and the American coastal south through the English Civil War, American Revolution, and American Civil War. This book also draws heavily on Albion's Seed but adds much detail on the three wars that are its central focus. However, it appears to have a mild bias to the Puritan side.
79 of 85 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Born Fighting : How the Scots-Irish Shaped America,
In "Born Fighting" author James Webb chronicles the millennial struggle of the Scots-Irish people from fighting to preserve their independence against the Romans and the English, through their migration to Ireland, then to the hardscrabble Appalachian frontier and beyond. Webb describes how the values of these fiercely independent, determined and impoverished people pervaded the society and culture of America, and how their influence is reflected in such diverse institutions as NASCAR auto racing, country music, the evangelical movement, the U.S. Armed Forces, and American Democracy itself.
Weaving distant history with personal family history, Webb details the struggle of these proud, impoverished people through their oppression by and resistance to the Romans, the English, the Irish Catholics, the Anglo-American pseudo-aristocracy of the Colonies, and the latter's successors, the so-called "Eastern Establishment." Through it all, the Scots-Irish survive oppression, scorn, war and poverty by drawing on their bottom-up, rather than top down social and political structure, and their collective fighting spirit to triumph. Webb's wonderful personal stories of his own family history cannot help but resonate with those Scots-Irish of today with similar backgrounds and experiences. It certainly did with me.
Until I read this book, like many of the millions of Americans of Scots-Irish descent, I never knew I had an ethnic heritage. I am now glad to know that not only do I have one, it is a proud one and storied one. I owe a debt of gratitude to Webb for imparting this to me through this magnificent book.
My father used to tell us as children that we were "Scotch-Irish." I didn't know what that meant at all until I took European History in high school. As an adult, I did some genealogical research on my family, gleaning what seemed to me to be loosely connected facts from church and census records. "Born Fighting" was invaluable in providing some context to what little I was able to learn.
Along with my aunt, I traced my family history to the mid-1700s in western Virginia, through my Great-Great Grandfather who enlisted in the Confederate Army in Charlottesville, VA on the day after First Manassas. He served in the 57th Virginia Infantry, part of Gen. Pickett's division at Gettysburg that was virtually wiped out on the third and decisive day of that bloody battle. My aunt found a picture of him at the Gettysburg Battlefield Visitors Center in his uniform, of which I have a copy.
My father, the son of a five-and-ten-cent store manager in the Depression-era South became the first of our Scots-Irish family to graduate high school. If that wasn't enough his high school grades got him into an Ivy League school, borrowing, washing dishes, waiting tables, and tending bar to pay his tuition and earn his degree. His sacrifice and hard work smoothed the road for his four children, two of whom are lawyers, one an economist, and the other a mathematics teacher. After reading this book, my father told me he had always been ashamed of his modest "white trash" or "redneck" background, but having read this book he could finally be proud of who he is and where he came from.
I have a 4 year old son and I am going to give him a copy of this wonderful account of our ancestors as soon as he is old enough to appreciate it. I want him to know what I now know about the hardships and difficulties of our ancestors and how they got us to where we are now. Their story has made me appreciate how far we have come.
To Mr. Webb, I say thank you for telling the story of our colorful and prominent ethnic heritage, and the role our forebears played in the evolution of our great republic.
83 of 96 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Scots-Irish are "People of Passion",
Webb refers to Scots-Irish as one of the most powerful cultural forces shaping America, producing great Presidents, soldiers, inventors, actors, and writers. He goes on to say that they have "remained invisible." I understand what he means with the word "invisible," but Scots-Irish are far from invisible in the legacy they have left for others to emulate.
Carl Mays, in his PEOPLE OF PASSION book, writes about the early Scots-Irish of the Southern Highlands as "...good-hearted people with faith in God, nature, themselves, and their neighbors." In this book, which makes a good parallel companion and somewhat of a contrast with Webb's book, Mays goes on to share 48 stories that cover the years from 1765-1965 that "demonstrate the principles, the spirit, and the character of the people upon which our nation has been built."
Unlike Webb's book, PEOPLE OF PASSION gives more credit to the Scots-Irish for working together and with others to help establish a backbone in the Southern Highlands. Mays also presents the stories of women who were extremely important to the individual families, communities, and region. I fault Webb for lacking in these two areas.
I also fault Webb for his over-emphasis on the "Fighting Scots-Irish," but, of course, this does reflect the name of the book. In the early days of our country, everyone had to "fight," so to speak. But Scots-Irish helped forge our country with much more than guns and knives. For example, as Mays writes in PEOPLE OF PASSION, John Ross, who was 7/8 Scots-Irish, 1/8 Cherokee, a graduate of private schools and college, was the main Cherokee chief for almost 40 years. His life shoots down Webb's assertion that Scots-Irish have been uneducated and imperialistic.
Is Webb's book worth reading and should it be recommended to others? Yes it should. For anyone interested in Scots-Irish or in the shaping of America, this book contains some valuable material. But it should be read with other books that cover the same subject. These books would include James Leyburn's SCOTCH-IRISH: A SOCIAL HISTORY; Nora Chadwick's THE CELTS, and THE DRUIDS; Bill Kennedy's FAITH AND FREEDOM: THE SCOTS-IRISH IN AMERICA.
37 of 41 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Splendid polemics,
The Scots history part is probably broadly correct in its general conclusions,but is mistaken in a lot of detail,and needs some sub-editing.Braveheart was a minor detail compared with the relentless harrying of Scotland by England over 400 years,harrying which left it the poorest country in Europe.The Ochil hills are not in Ayrshire.And so on.
The Irish history is fascinating,however,and is excellent,although more social history would have been welcome.
For me,the book excelled in its American chapters,although American readers may find some of his conclusions irritating,and he glosses over some acts of wickedness. What it explained to me was,why the U.S.A. re-elected Bush,and just why so many Americans found his Boston rival unacceptable.As a primer of modern American politics,it is superb.
20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars WITH BOTH BARRELS AND A BOWIE KNIFE,
Nevertheless, the Scotch-Irish have contributed more to this country than just martial prowess. As Mr. Webb points out:
"This people gave our country great things, including its most definitive culture. Its bloodlines have flowed in the veins of at least a dozen presidents, and in many of our greatest soldiers. It created and still perpetuates the most distinctly American form of music. It is imbued with a unique and unforgiving code of personal honor, less ritualized but every bit as powerful as the samurai code. Its legacy is broad, in many ways defining the attitudes and values of the military, of working class America, and even of the particularly populist form of American democracy itself. And yet its story has been lost under the weight of more recent immigrations, revisionist historians, and common ignorance."
The ignorance that Mr. Webb refers to explains why the story of the Scotch-Irish has previously been overlooked. However, this ignorance is also due to one of the most pronounced traits of the Scotch-Irish, their individualism. According to Mr. Webb:
"In their insistent individualism they are not likely to put an ethnic label on themselves when they debate social issues. Some of them don't even know their ethnic label, and some who do don't particularly care. They don't go for group identity politics any more than they like to join a union. Two hundred years ago the mountains built a fierce and uncomplaining people. To them, joining a group and putting themselves at the mercy of someone else's collective judgment makes about as much sense as letting the government take their guns. And no body is going to get their guns."
This individualism is particularly pronounced in the area of religion. Mr. Webb states, "Their religion was a harsh and demanding Calvinism that sowed the seeds of America's Bible Belt, its on-your-feet independence instead of on-your-knees rituality offending English Anglicans and Irish Catholics alike."
Aside from simply providing a well written account of the history of the Scotch-Irish, James Webb has given us a fascinating cultural analysis of a demographic that has more influence in this country's culture and politics than is popularly recognized. In fact, in the December 27th edition of National Review Mackubin Thomas Owens stated in his review of Born Fighting that Webb "may have written the most important political book of 2004." After reading this book I would unreservedly agree and enthusiastically recommend it to all.
Regarding the gentleman below who accuses Mr. Webb of claiming that "pure Scotch-Irish fighters are lurking in them hills today," I would submit that he has not read this book, or if he did he did not do so closely. Mr. Webb devotes a significant portion of his book discussing the assimilative nature of the Scotch-Irish. In fact he states that the willingness of the Scotch-Irish to intermarry with others of different nationalities and backgrounds is one of their distinguishing cultural features.
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must-read on American politics today!,
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Scots-Irish History,
It described for me the traits imbedded deep within m soul, and told me why I am the way I am.
It brings to life the journey my grandfather (five generations back) made with three brothers from the Ulster plantation of Ireland in 1774. The hardships the must have faced from the time they landed on the shores of Maryland and made their journey along the trails of the Appalachian Mountains to North Carolina just in time for service in the American Revolutinary War.
Let me say "Thank you" James Webb for taking the time and making the effort to write this book. You are a great author with a wonderful story to tell. Dixie Lackey, Strawberry, Arizona
139 of 176 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Refreshing look at the people our "Elite" hate.,
Webb's book is a noble attempt to address these wrongs, and show the often overlook influence of these people - who's culture is so much a part of the american fabric that they are nearly invisiable.
My only "complaint" thus far is Webb's insistence on their Celtic idenity, when in fact much of the Lowlands of Scotland (where they originally came) were in fact an english speaking mixture of Angles, Saxons, Danes and Celts.
21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Should be required reading before graduation from college,
This review is from: Born Fighting: How the Scots-Irish Shaped America (Paperback)Webb's book is a landmark treatise that puts Griffin's silly works into the trash heap. Like anyone who is 1/8th black is called "black", anyone 1/8 Scotch-Irish is Scotch-Irish (or Scots-Irish or Scot-Irish) if you prefer. He could have chosen to use Teddy Kennedy as an example of New England paternalism of blacks using the Scotch-Irish as the cause for all their misery, but he was above that. But the clear indictment of the Yankee elites is there. Like even George Will, supposedly "Mr Conservative" wrote when he betrayed his eastern elitism when referring to Virginia, "Where a slaveocracy once existed, northern dynamism has taken hold..." Webb puts all this condescendation where it belongs.
This is a personal book, full of family and personal experiences, but all this is probably necessary to create the image of the Scotch-Irish whom the elites overlook to the point of not recognizing their existence.
I could offer some criticisms, but I won't. The book is what it is, and as such deserves the highest rating. Read the bad reviews to learn why you must purchase and read this book. They approach hysteria in fear of this refutation of political correctness and what will probably eventually doom this American Republic.
There are not enough Scotch-Irish left to maintain the culture in the face of overwhelming media, academic and elite propaganda, and the future is not something I wish to contemplate.
21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best book I've read in years,
I am Hispanic, but I feel I know about the Scots-Irish now as if I was one. The best thing about this book is not all the interesting histories and stories that span ages and territories, it's the passion it was written with. This book is alive. It has a heart that beats in every line of every page.
You can tell it's a great book because it makes you feel like generations of Scots-Irish are watching you expectantly to see your reaction. And they may really be somewhere up in heaven, waiting avidly for your understanding and approval. They are trying to say to you: "You see... now you understand us."
Most Helpful First | Newest First
Born Fighting: How the Scots-Irish Shaped America by James Webb (Paperback - October 11, 2005)