Friday, February 03, 2012

How the Scots Invented the Modern World by Arthur Herman

This history has an intriguing title, and I could not wait to dive in. One of my primary teaching specialties is British Literature, so I know something about the early history of Scotland. I hoped to add to that knowledge.

Unfortunately, I was greatly disappointed. Not only was the prose deadly dull, but the humor was so subtle and so deeply buried, not even a smile broke the hours I struggled through the first 100 pages. If this had not been on the list of reads for my book club, I would have invoked the “Rule of 50” around about page ten.

Furthermore, while the premise seems to have some plausibility, many of the connections with the Scots are tenuous at best and extremely flimsy at worst. For example, in 1579, George Buchanan asserted the authority of government arises from the people. Herman thus lays claim to this “invention,” which Locke thoroughly examined and enabled the ideas to actually come to fruition (18-19). Technically speaking, this embryonic idea of democracy belongs to the Golden Age of Athenian culture, which developed the idea much more fully.

If I was more frugal, I might be upset that I wasted the money for this book. The chapter on the relationship of the clans and their connection to English Royalty – which embodied what I already knew about the early history of Scotland – was somewhat interesting. However, this is hardly enough to redeem this work. 1 star

--Chiron, 1/26/12

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