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The Scotch-Irish: A Social History Paperback – August 30, 1989

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Editorial Reviews


A most readable contribution to the growing body of sophisticated literature on immigration in the colonial period."Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography"


Clearly written and well organized. The chief value of the work lies in its successful attempt to provide a natural connection between Scotch-Irish history in Scotland and Ulster and that in America. . . . Leyburn has provided the general reader with an extremely useful account.--North Carolina Historical Review

|The work of an able sociologist who is equally proficient as a historian, this scholarly, objective study of a significant immigrant group is of such merit that it should supersede most of its predecessors. Against the background of the history of the Lowland Scot, as he moved from Scotland to Ireland to America, the author has made a sober reappraisal of how character and culture were molded by these migrations. His style is clear and most readable.--Mississippi Valley Historical Review

|Shrewd and novel speculations on frontier society and national character. . . . The best survey yet of the Scotch-Irish.--American Historical Review

|[Leyburn] has produced the best synthesis of what is known of the Scotch-Irish in their two centuries as an identifiably distinct people. . . . It is a tribute to the author's skill in writing that the epic quality survives even when he has discredited the many myths that have come to surround it. . . . We have to thank [Leyburn] for a most readable contribution to the growing body of sophisticated literature on immigration in the colonial period.--Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography

|Sociologists interested in the field of intergroup relations will read with interest this sweeping social history of the Scotch-Irish. . . . A substantial contribution to the literature on American ethnic groups.--American Sociological Review

|Particularly welcome as a general study of the Scotch-Irish before and during their move to America. . . . This book shows clearly the usefulness of an interdisciplinary approach to social history.--Maryland Historical Magazine

|This admirable book takes a fresh and frank look at the Scotch-Irish, examining with discernment the effect on them of their long migration from Scotland through Ulster to colonial America. . . . Soundly conceived and written with insight and verve, the book dispels some common misconceptions of the Scotch-Irish.--Journal of Presbyterian History


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 397 pages
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press; Reprint edition (August 30, 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807842591
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807842591
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (64 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #121,270 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

145 of 149 people found the following review helpful By Upward Call on July 11, 2000
Format: Paperback
This book is a classic. I'm thankful it has been reprinted! The author's observations are even handed and well documented. He presents a comprehensive overview of a people, their geography and their faith - spanning centuries. Sheds light on the Scotch Irish role in the Revolutionary War, settling the American frontier, the spread of the Presbyterian Church in America and much much more. This is a fair, good humored account, written warts and all. The author is not unsympathetic nor uncharitable toward these people, and does an excellent job of communicating their humanity, and showing some of the factors for why they did what they did. I am indebted to the author's dedication and scholarship and enjoyed his footnotes immensely. Having puzzled through why my earliest Scots ancestor was recorded as coming from Ireland, I was greatful to have the fog lifted. He picks up many nuances in this account, down to pet phrases I heard from the lips of my own grandfather 40 years ago. As someone with Scotch Irish ancestors who were devout Presbyterians and who settled in western Pennsylvania, my life has been enriched by this account. My only regret is that it is not hardbound. I am amazed that I had never heard of this book. I found this book quite by accident, but highly commend it to you.
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84 of 86 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 28, 1998
Format: Paperback
This book insightfully examines the creation of a unique Scotch-Irish cultural identity in Northern Ireland within the borders of the Ulster Plantation, the plantation where the seeds of the sectarian Troubles were sown in the early 1600's.
Millions of Americans with Scottish surnames are actually of Scotch-Irish descent... the descendants of poor Scottish farmers who were given the opportunity to cultivate small parcels of ground on captured lands in Northern Ireland starting in 1610. This book is the story of the eviction of native Irish people from ancient family farms, and the exploitation of impoverished Scots who were used to tenant the confiscated properties. The Irish were sent to remote reservations, and some became embittered outlaws who lived beyond the Pale, the boundary of the Ulster Plantation. The Scots persisted and developed a distinct culture, not Scotch and not Irish, then were evicted by their British landlords within three generations.
Ma! ny of the displaced Scotch-Irish emigrated to the Colonies, and populated the dangerous ground along the frontier. Others stayed and became the ancestors of the Unionists, a broad classification which includes the Protestant paramilitary enemies of the IRA.
"The Scotch-Irish: A Social History" provides a fundamental lesson in the long term effects of ethnic cleansing and shows why towns like Belfast, Derry and Enniskillen will likely continue to bleed from within; as well as displaying the elemental survival struggles which hammered the raw fortitude of our Scotch-Irish ancestors into a pioneering spirit.
A must read for students of Irish, Scottish or American history, which, you will see after reading this book, are seemingly irrevocably intertwined.
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67 of 69 people found the following review helpful By Stephen Hammack on March 9, 2008
Format: Paperback
Leyburn and the Scots-Irish
Leyburn's book (1962) is now "the grand old man" of Scots-Irish historiography, having easily displaced Henry Jones Ford's "The Scotch-Irish in America" (1915) - a book that was the previous generation's best study of the subject. Leyburn was one of the earliest authors to seriously investigate the Scottish background of the Scots-Irish, and did a wonderful job of not overpraising or overly denigrating the Scots-Irish (as a number of previous authors had done). Unfortunately, his book has an important flaw: he did not think very highly of Scots in general, and compared them unfavorably with their more successful (in modern terms) English cousins just about every chance he got. In other words, he did not understand the anthropological concept of culture at all; he was a historian after all, and largely a very good one. However, there is more to understanding the Scots-Irish than documents and written records, as is explained more fully below.

Scots-Irish Historiography
One of the most interesting aspects in Scots-Irish studies is how different schools of thought have risen and debated each other over the course of the last century and a half. There are four primary schools of thought. 1) The Ancestor Worshipper historians were the first to investigate the subject and brought a huge amount of forgotten information to the public eye between circa 1850 and today. Their primary limitation was that they believed that every great thing accomplished by Americans - representative government, education, religion, etc - had their origins with Scots-Irish traditions and heritage. These authors included those included in the volumes published by the Scotch-Irish Congresses, Charles Hanna, Ford, Maude Glasgow, W.F.
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55 of 56 people found the following review helpful By Dr. W. G. Covington, Jr. on January 25, 2004
Format: Paperback
Professor Leyburn left a valuable legacy in this volume. A niche of American history is covered that sadly, frequently goes overlooked. The Scotch-Irish are a substantial part of the U.S. population. Thankfully Dr. Leyburn told some of the story and it wasn't lost. He tells us in the foreword, "Histories of Scotland rarely devote more than a paragraph to the departure of thousands of Lowland Scots to Ireland in the seventeenth century." It is significant to Americans because "they came, two hundred thousand strong, to the American colonies in the eighteenth century."
They enthusiastically supported the American Revolution (as in significantly caused it to happen) and thought of themselves as "Americans" rather than Scotch-Irish.
This book covers their migrations, their lifestyles, the dominant element of the Christian religion in their society. It is informative, and to me, inspirational.
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