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300 Years in the Wilderness
Non Fiction - General
Member Name: proxam
Non Fiction - General
Date: 23/05/04, updated on 28/12/11 (46 review reads)
Advantages: Interesting, informative and educational
Disadvantages: We had to wait 292 years for this book
In 1999, an historic event occurred in Scotland when, after almost 300 years, a Scottish Parliament was convened in Edinburgh. Therefore, at the end of the 20th and the beginning of the 21st century, Scotland started to throw off the shackles of English domination and begin the return to self-determination. This was the first parliament to sit in Edinburgh since 1707.
This book, written by T.M. Devine, professor of Irish and Scottish Studies at the University of Aberdeen, is a history of the Scottish nation during this period.
This is a comprehensive, and well written chronicle of the last three centuries of Scottish history, a nation that despite its small population has had a disproportionate effect on the world's intellectual and industrial development.
Scotland has almost always been misunderstood by the outside world. The usual perception of Scotland is of heather-clad highland views, quaint tartan paraphanelia, kilts, bagpipes, Scotch whisky, and a twee, Brigadoon-like ambience. Although these things all exist (mostly, it has to be said, for the tourist market), this is NOT the modern, urbanised country that is more typical of the Scotland of today.
Scotland has, by many, been considered a colony of England ever since the time the Act of Union was signed. "However," writes Devine, "it was a colony that proudly refused to consider itself anything other than a separate nation, one that bound itself to historical fact and invented traditions alike in an effort to retain national identity."
"Scotland fell to England for many reasons, not least of them its small and scattered population. Keenly aware of its status as a subject nation, Scotland still contributed greatly, and disproportionately, to the developme
nt of the British Empire - not only by sending it's Highland regiments off to battle in distant lands and its people to colonize large parts of the world, but also by committing itself to industrial and technological development, a contribution that created great commercial fortunes in Edinburgh and London alike."
The author charts the uneasy relationship between Scotland and England, focusing on the growth of the notion of independence and self-rule throughout the last three centuries. This led, in July 1999, to the historic meeting of the first Scottish Parliament since 1707. Anyone with an interest in Scotland's past, and present will find this book of great value.
I found the opening chapter of this book a little heavy going - but I quickly got into the author's style and soon could enjoy reading the book chapter by self-contained chapter.
The author splits the history of Scotland into four broad sections:
1700-1760 - The political domination by England.
1760-1830 - The increasing urbanisation of Scotland and the decline of the highland way of life.
1830-1939 - The highland clearances, the emmigration of Scots and the influx of Irish immigrants.
1939-2000 - The growth of Scottish nationalism in the aftermath of the second world war.
Set against the backdrop of Britsh, European and World history, Devine examines Scotland's urban vitality as well as describing it's more traditional history. The book covers such key topics as the Act of Union, the Enlightenment, Industrialization, the Clearances, Religion, and the Road to Devolution.
He examines the breakdown of traditional Scottish government, mainly due to English efforts to consolidate political and economic powe
r over Scotland. (This included a movement in 1705 to declare all Scots aliens and subject to punitive import duties and taxes that would ruin the Scottish economy).
Following issues that are economic, military, social and political, Devine traces Scottish history from an independent, sovereign state through the years as an 'equal' partner in the Union, to the present devolved Parliament. In particular, he details the London Parliament's struggle to deal with devolution while still maintaining (controlling?) the Union.
Attention is focused on aspects of family life, the role of women, the development of education, church/state relationships, and the status of the royals in Scotland - It is wrong to say the present British monarch is Elizabeth II, because Elizabeth I was never queen in Scotland.
Ideologists and historian may complain about this book. But for anyone who wants to know about Scottish history and today's society, it is an essential read.
It is a different perspective than many will be accustomed to, as history (usually written by the victors), and in this case Scottish history, has traditionally been stated as fact from Oxford or Cambridge, not from Edinburgh.
About the Author:
T. M. Devine is University Research Professor and Director of the Research Institute of Irish and Scottish Studies at the University of Aberdeen. He is a Fellow of the British Academy and of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.
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