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Customer reviews

3.2 out of 5 stars
9
The Invention of Scotland: Myth and History
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on January 30, 2017
An interesting and unusual perspective on Scotland, which helps put some modern politics into perspective. It minimizes the oppression by the English of the Highland Scots, but tells some tales I had not heard before.
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on September 26, 2012
This is a touchy subject given the rise of nationalism in Scotland in recent years, which has been accompanied by an interest in promoting Scottish "distinctiveness" from England and the rest of the UK, but it is certainly worth a read. Trevor-Roper's careful research, which spans multiple decades, shows that in fact much of what we casually assume to be "authentic" Scottish culture is in fact quite exaggerated, if not outright historical fiction. There are three founding myths of Scotland that receive particular attention:

First, the myth of the "Scottish constitution," in which a sort of constitutional monarchy existed in Scotland in pre-UK times (and which is reinforced in the movie Braveheart, in which the Scots are portrayed as fighting for "freedom"), is debunked. The notion of a strong national identity, stretching from the Highlands to Lowlands, which was wrapped up in a kind of genetic love of democracy, is in fact shown to be an anachronism.

Second, the author presents evidence that the works attributed to Ossian, the supposed ancient Scottish answer to Homer, are pretty convincingly shown to be a forgery, though nevertheless accepted as genuine by many of a nationalistic bent. Fingal, Ossian's seminal work, turns out to contain numerous echoes of Shakespeare and the King James Bible, among others.

Third, the topic of dress. Nowadays the kilt is understood to be the quintessentially "Scottish" article of clothing. Readers will be surprised to learn that, as the author documents, the kilt appears to have been invented by an Englishman for his employees, while the precise clan-based tartan identification system was invented by a pair of brothers in 1842. These "Sobieski Stuarts," who claimed to be descended from the exiled House of Stuart, were in fact a pair of Englishmen seeking to boost their clothing business.

Some reviews below are quite defensive and accuse the author of harboring some kind of latent anti-Scottish bias, but ultimately the book is not really so much about Scotland, per se, as man's need to create myths and national narratives. To accept the findings in this book as true is not to deny that Scotland has a rich cultural heritage; on the contrary, it should hopefully spur people to rediscover the country's true roots and avoid the Disneyfication of the culture that has set in. There is much more to Scotland than kilts, haggis and Braveheart.
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on January 5, 2016
Though Roper's work in other fields has been rightly criticised I can find no fault here. Popular Scottish history is indeed very, very heavily romanticised and politicised. Roper exposes only some of the national fantasy - there is so much more bunkum that he could have written about - enough for two more volumes at least.
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on August 21, 2012
Those who give one-star reviews to The Invention of Scotland must be cranky kilt-wearing folks with peat chips on their shoulders and empty porridge bowls, who are irritated by phrases like this: ". . . for the sea, in so wild and mountainous an archipelago, unites rather than divides; and western Scotland was an extension of Ulster long before Ulster became an extension of western Scotland." Trevor-Roper wrote the lovely well-documented prose once associated with educated historians. I'm only up to the year 1582 and I love this book. Going back to Dalriada.
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on October 19, 2008
The Invention of Scotland: Myth and HistoryAuthor Hugh Trevor-Roper seems to be one of those self-loathing Scots who are against "all-things-Tartan". In his zeal to destroy the "Tartan Myth" and the popular world view of Scotland,he forgets that it precisely those national qualities which the world finds so irresistible.
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on August 18, 2010
HTR writes in TIoS that Scotland was a place where things were invented in one form or another to satisfy a nationalist void.

The premise of his book TIoS is that Scotland is great. The trouble is, nobody knew it. For most people, i.e. the English, ancient Scotland was a barbaric place devoid of culture, civilization and history. Starting in the 1400s Scottish historians, philosophers and writers set out to document a long, ancient and valid Scottish lineage. When none existed, history, literature and even dress of the Scots were "invented" and myths surrounding these societal fundamentals were developed, strongly embraced, and perpetuated.
TIoS is well written and documented extensively. The literary myth and ensuing controversy surrounding James MacPherson and Ossian took up a tedious majority of the book. It was disappointing, given the depth of detail, that the author did not include a single line or excerpt of Ossian/Macpherson's work. I wish that there were a couple of illustrations of original Highland dress. The author's descriptions were good, but I would like to see what the original costume, especially the belted plaid, looked like. A map of Scotland also would have been helpful.

The book left me thoughtful. Now I wonder about our own and other countries' glorious national inventions. It was told in a respectful and very knowledgeable way. It was trudging at times, often bogged down and dry, needed a better editor.
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on February 7, 2012
At first sight, this awful book appears to be written under the influence of Social Constructionism. But Trevor-Roper was not a social constructionist in any of his other books. One must therefore assume that he simply hated and/or despised the Scots, as have so many of the English down through the centuries. See Adam Sisman's biography of him for more details.
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on September 11, 2014
Sassenach.
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on August 28, 2008
Reinforces what I, with roots in Scotland, thought all along, that we are a great race of people with the ability to tell the world. A must read for students of Scotland.
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