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How the Scots Invented the Modern World

The True Story of How Western Europe's Poorest Nation Created Our World and Everything in It


Arthur Herman (View Bio)
Hardcover: Crown, 2001; Paperback: Three Rivers Press, 2002.

How the Scots Invented the Modern World
New York Times Best Seller

"You should read it." — President Bill Clinton, The New York Times, May 14, 2003

"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

"A bestseller a few years ago told us how the Irish saved civilization during the Dark Ages. Now comes a book that explains how Scotland gave us modern civilization. An exaggeration? Not by much, as this absorbing history amply documents.... This is fascinating stuff." — Steve Forbes, The Wall Street Journal

"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." — Booklist

"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. . . . This work sets high academic standards 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. . . . Recommended for all academic and larger public libraries." — Library Journal (starred review)

"Herman's exuberant title, which will strike some readers as intended only to shock, is in fact meant quite seriously, and his book is a well-argued tribute to Scottish creative imagination and energy." — Gordon A. Craig, New York Review of Books

"This style is both enthusiastic and didactic, and everything that is colourful in modern Scottish history is deftly summarised...this is a work which deserves to be bought by any interested reader, for the sake of not feeling good but of thinking well." — Sunday Telegraph (London)

"His book tells an exciting story with gusto, beginning with Knox and George Buchanan defending the Presbyterian covenant against Mary Queen of Scots and initiating a 'full-fledged doctrine of popular sovereignty, the first in Europe,' ... Herman brings together the tartan and the glens with rational thought and the poetry of Burns. He says he has no Scots blood, but his passion is clear and his timing is shrewd.... The [book's] range and narrative verve make it an entertaining and illuminating read: just the thing to prompt a few yells of Scots wha hae and Hogmanay." — Sunday Times (London)

"Sceptics in our ranks will find much in it by which to be challenged and galvanised.... Scotland now has the lively, provocative and positive history it deserves." — Irvine Welsh, The Guardian (UK)

"The book that has created the biggest stir on both sides of the Atlantic.... [Herman's] racy theme is that, uniquely, the Scots invented the idea of 'modernity' in the late 18th century and then carried it abroad with their 19th century Diaspora. And that this Scottish paradigm became the foundation of the Western model — individualism, capitalism, technology worship and representative democracy — which has triumphed worldwide over traditional religious-based societies. In other words, we are all Scots now. If true, it is a dramatic tale worthy of a BBC2 mini-series. More importantly, in the shadow of the Twin Towers, the basis and ultimate stability of Western culture have become the focus of searching inquiry. If the Scots hold the smoking gun, it makes their history very significant, indeed.... Does Herman prove his case? To a surprising degree, yes." — The Scotsman

"Excellent. As a general introduction to the Scottish thinkers of the 18th century and to the subsequent activities of the Scottish diaspora, it is sensible and measured.... The Scots have much to be proud of." — Washington Post

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