Your rating(Clear)Rate this item


There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.

98 of 102 people found the following review helpful
on July 10, 2002
Format: Hardcover
The Scotland of William Wallace is not the Scotland that Arthur Herman celebrates in "How the Scots Invented the Modern World: The True Story of How Western Europe's Poorest Nation Created Our World and Everything In It." To the contrary, Scotland's triumphant moment came four centuries after Braveheart's death, according to Herman, when Scotland welcomed--not threw off--the English. "In the span of a single generation it would transform Scotland from a Third World country into a modern society and open up a cultural and social revolution," Herman asserts. "Far from finding themselves slaves to the English, as opponents had prophesied, Scots experienced an unprecedented freedom and mobility." While its title intentionally embraces the Scottish tradition of boasting and exaggerating, "How the Scots Invented the Modern World" makes a strong case that the Scots, more than any other people, are responsible for the world after the Enlightenment.
What followed unification was not merely a Scottish renaissance, but a revolution in thought that changed the world. Adam Smith, David Hume, Robert Louis Stevenson, James Boswell, Andrew Carnegie, Alexander Graham Bell, Sir Walter Scott, and George Buchanan are among the Scots Herman discusses. Perfecting the steam engine, introducing inoculation to fight smallpox, inventing street lamps, devising the system of time zones, and discovering the simple method to prevent scurvy were all products of the Scottish imagination. "How the Scots Invented the Modern World" tells an untold story with wit and eloquence. This provocative book will gain the interest of Scots and non-Scots alike who are left to wonder how a small group living in the shadow of their southern neighbors had such a positive impact upon the world in which we live.
22 commentsWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
189 of 207 people found the following review helpful
Format: Hardcover
Some of his more dour Scottish readers may very well tell Arthur Herman that he's mixing in a little bit of nonsense here. HOW THE SCOTS INVENTED THE MODERN WORLD is a glowing tribute to the Scots but he does go over the top a bit in giving them credit for more than they actually achieved, and also more than the Scot's ever claimed for themselves.
This book however is a serious study of Scotland in the 18th century, particularly the period following the Act of Union with England in 1707 known as the Scottish Enlightenment. THE SCOTTISH ENLIGHTENMENT is actually the book's UK title but that doesn't mean too much to us here. Far more eye-catching and interesting sounding is the title used for the US edition. This however creates a problem for the author. Its pop-culture sounding theme gives the impression that we will be engaged in competitive national chest-beating such as HOW THE IRISH SAVED CIVILIZATION and comparing lists of who accomplished what as in SPREZZATURA: 50 WAYS ITALIAN GENIUS SHAPED THE WORLD. Here the Scots supposedly not only CREATED OUR WORLD [but also] EVERYTHING IN IT!. Such claims don't allow the book to be taken very seriously but that is exactly how Herman wants it to be read. It's therefore a credit to him that his presentation of the facts and his arguments are good enough to allow him to make his point.
If we were to compile lists, one that would show Scottish prowess would be that of great thinkers of the 18th century. Start with Adam Smith, David Hume, Walter Scott, James Watt and Lord Kelvin. There is also John Stuart Mill. Those who were less thinkers and inventors but doers were David Livingstone and Scottish-Americans such as John Muir and Andrew Carnegie. It is the presence of transplanted Scots like Carnegie which underlies one of the authors main points. They are the "true inventors" of "modernity" because they carried their beliefs with them as they settled around the world. Thus the roots of the Western traditions of individualism, democracy, and capitalism can all be traced back to Scotland.
It's an interesting argument carried off with much bravado and assured writing on the part of the author. To the extent that he stays away from the stereotypes such as the thrifty, penny-pinching Scot we can be thankful. This is a guid book and as a bairn of the Campbell's of Argyll on my mother's side I am pleased that this book has helped me ken a lot more about Scotland.
88 commentsWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
87 of 93 people found the following review helpful
on January 6, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This book may do for the Scots what Thomas Cahill did for the Irish when he wrote "How the Irish Saved Western Civilization." It's a highly readable and impressive piece of scholarship on an aspect of history that's been overlooked or ignored: How much our modern culture owes to the people of Scotland. It neatly manages to celebrate the Scottish achievement without veering into any kind of ethnic chauvinism. The author, incidentally, is not Scottish--he's merely a historian and a storyteller, telling us something we probably haven't heard before. People of Scottish ancestry will love this book, but so will anyone who enjoys learning about how we became who we are.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
Format: Hardcover
Arthur Herman writes a convincing portrayal of the Scottish people as coming from a financially poor but intellectually rich country. In the early 1700s the Scottish Enlightenment began and with it came a greatly enhanced understanding of our world and breakthrough philosopies in economies, physics and many other sciences. From the economic principles of Adam Smith, and philosophies of David Hume to the inventions of Alexander Graham Bell and financial empires of Andrew Carnegie there seems to be no area of modern life where the Scottish influence was not felt. In relation to other countries the people and contributions presented in this book show a disporporationately larger contribution by the Scottish society to our modern life than any other single nationality.
One of the significant contributions of the Scottish Enlightenment to the United States was the teachings of Hutcheson that oppressed people have a right to rise up against their oppressor and establish a free society. In addition, many of the signers of the Declaration of Independence were either Scottish or descendents of Scots. In many ways the writings of the Scottish Enlightenment period formed the underpinnings for the basic philosophies of the United States.
Herman goes on with example after example of how the Scottish Enlightenment and the concepts born there significantly influenced the modern world. A thoroughly fascinating read that kept surprising me with the magnitude of the contributions of the Scottish people to our modern world, I highly recommend it to anyone interested in history.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
34 of 37 people found the following review helpful
on July 8, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I can't say enough good things about this book. It is an extremely well-written and well-researched history of Scotland following the unification with England in 1707, built around the contributions Scots have made to the modern world. Filled with historical detail, it still manages to be easily readable and there is scarcely a dull paragraph in the entire work.
The author provides a window through which the reader can peer into the fascinating world of mid-18th Century Scotland and the people who inhabited it. Adam Smith, David Hume, Lord Kames, James Watt and other crucial figures to Western history walk through these pages. Not only is this work informative, but it is wonderfully entertaining- exactly what popular history should be.
This book fills what had been a missing gap in popular history. I urge you to read it.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
Heads up - I'm Scottish, so I have a vested interest in this book.....

I actually got this book mistaking it for another title (there's one that talks about some of the major inventions that Scot's have been involved in - it would surprise you.........).

I've had the book for about 2 months now and I'm about 200 pages in. While it is an interesting book - I've learned quite a few interesting things about my history - it's heavy and slow going.

Unless you have a genuine deep seated reason for reading this - like me - this isn't going to be a book for a casual, throw away, "beach" type read.
11 commentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on March 3, 2003
Format: Hardcover
A more conventional title would have been 'The Scottish Enlightenment and its influences on the modern world.' The book 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 'reason' culminating in Kant's categorical truths. The followers of Edmund Burke generally dismiss the 'French Enlightenment' as a corruption of the British Enlightenment which focused on 'compassion' rather than 'reason'.
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.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
HALL OF FAMEon February 18, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Reviewing Thomas Cahill's How the Irish Saved Civilization evoked a nagging question: "Why hasn't someone done this for the Scots?" Now, someone has, and a highly worthwhile read it is. Herman tears down a few misconceptions about the Scots as he rebuilds their image as original thinkers and practical achievers. Herman is not the first to consider John Knox as the taproot of the Scottish expression. Knox's Calvinist severity, however, often clouds the fact that the Scots severed from the Catholic church only a generation after Henry VIII achieved that for England. And they accomplished it without the power of a monarch. Herman sees Knox's thinking as planting seeds leading to a flowering of democratic ideals.
These ideals weren't lofty theoretical flights, however. In an excellent summary over two chapters, Herman outlines the Scottish Enlightenment and the men who created it. Unlike the Continental Enlightenment, the Scots version had a deep religious base. They sought their deity through rational investigation, searching for its expression rather than pushing it to a distance as did the Deists. These Scots saw "the proper study of mankind" as a practical question leading to social betterment. Education became a universal in Scotland at a time when most schooling remained under the cloak of religious authority.
Herman contends the Act of Union as of immense benefit to Scottish society at many levels. The chief result was the elimination of prejudicial economic policy. As long as they remained independent, the Scots were unable to compete with English mercantilists. While many Scottish nationalists see the Act of Union as a subversion of local values, Herman, along with many Scots, view it as providing new opportunities. He stresses the opened doors to trade led to rapid enrichment of the port cities of Scotland and world-wide contacts. Ships meant shipbuilding and many Scots later brought their talents to the New World resulting in the speedy clipper ships.
Herman follows the exodus of Scots around the globe - North America, Australia, India. Each place they entered, they left a mark. Most of it seems positive today - strong commercial enterprise, extending education, uplifting political ideals. Herman paints a glorious picture, deftly omitting a few blemishes. His descriptions of the Highland clans verges on the romantic, but fails to note their signal of the burning cross emigrated to become the image of America's Ku Klux Klan. Scots driven from their home lands resulted in many becoming the slave overseers of the South's plantations.
These are minor points. The scope of Herman's book, as he states, is global, both physically and intellectually. He has assembled a wealth of material, presented it forcefully and cogently. There's much more to deal with here than simply learning something [more?] about the Scots. Too often portrayed as backward romantics, Herman has shown the Scots to be an essential foundation for today's intellectual, commercial and political environment.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on March 1, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I found the first half of "How the Scots Invented the Modern World" to be very informative and entertaining. The portraits of Hutcheson, Kames, Hume and Smith were interesting both by themselves and in the way in which the author explained the connections (both personal and intellectual) between these thinkers of the Scottish "Enlightenment." I was convinced that in one sense these Scots really did invent the modern world, or at least the modern mindset.
The book weakens, however, as it becomes in the second half a fairly pedestrian retelling of accomplishments of Scotsmen and their descendants. It was refreshing not to read any excessive English-bashing in this account, in fact, it might be the most pro-English book about Scotland I have read.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on March 14, 2003
Format: Hardcover
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 'reason' culminating in Kant's categorical truths. The followers of Edmund Burke generally dismiss the 'French Enlightenment' as a corruption of the British Enlightenment which focused on 'compassion' rather than 'reason'.
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 than convincing. The leap from Knox (1505 - 1572) to Francis Hutcheson (1694-1746) required a detour from church history into British nationalism 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), I was left wondering if the emphasis on Knox was merely Scottish boosterism, i.e. the Scots invented everything, so we need a 16th century Scot founder. . The genesis story is to short. 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 the boosterism. The story moves pretty quickly. 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 emphasis on continental philosophy. The story of Sir Walter Scott would have made a good ending, but Herman presses on with an unnecessary history (but mercifully short) of steam engines, public health and any Scot that made a bundle of cash.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
     
 
Customers who viewed this also viewed
Scotland: The Story of a Nation
Scotland: The Story of a Nation by Magnus Magnusson (Paperback - January 17, 2003)
$17.50


Ice Age: How a Change of Climate Made Us Human (Penguin Press Science)
Ice Age: How a Change of Climate Made Us Human (Penguin Press Science) by John Gribbin (Paperback - January 30, 2003)
 
     

Send us feedback

How can we make Amazon Customer Reviews better for you?
Let us know here.

Your Recently Viewed Items and Featured Recommendations 
 

After viewing product detail pages, look here to find an easy way to navigate back to pages you are interested in.