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The Scots: A Genetic Journey

The Scots: A Genetic Journey [Kindle Edition]

Alistair Moffat , James Wilson
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)

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'One of four most versatile Scottish writers' --Alexander McCall Smith - The Herald

Product Description

‘Here, guided by Jim Wilson’s researches into Scottish genetic history, he (Alistair Moffat) tackles on the of the biggest stories possible: linking up the story of the earliest Scots to the earliest men... He is wonderfully able to communicate the epic elements of the story – which matters because that’s precisely what man’s survival has been’ - David Robinson, The Scotsman ‘I’ve been enjoyably immersed in it since it arrived on my doorstep last week...wonderfully readable. This is no dry, academic account, but it’s the most fascinating and thought-provoking treatment of interlocking aspects of our early history I’ve yet to read. I recommend it whole-heartedly’ - Colin Will, poet and publisher ‘Alistair Moffat explores the history of where we all came from, with the help of new DNA science’ - BBC Radio Scotland ‘In The Scots: A Genetic Journey, historian and broadcaster Alistair Moffat taps into the latest advances in DNA science to find that our origins lie not only deep in the mists of time, but right off the map... with the help of historical geneticist Jim Wilson, he finds that, post-Ice Age, Scotland's earliest settlers walked here from what is now Spain’ - Jim Gilchrist, Scotsman ‘In The Scots: A Genetic Journey, Alistair Moffat and James F. Wilson explore the history that is printed in our genes, and in a remarkable new approach come to some fascinating conclusions about who we are and where we came from’ - The Orcadian ‘The fusion of science and the physical history – like an abandoned croft – allows people to trace their Scots ancestry with precision’ - Sunday Herald ‘The Scots: A Genetic Journey, a book and radio series based on Moffat and Wilson’s research, concludes that all Scots are immigrants by descent. Britain as a whole is a mongrel nation’ - Julian Baggini ‘Skillfully written, weaving together genetics, archaeology, history, and topics of interest like red hair ‘ - James Honeychuck on Amazon History has always mattered to Scots, and rarely more so than now at the outset of a new century, with a new census appearing in 2011 and after more than ten years of a new parliament. An almost limitless archive of our history lies hidden inside our bodies and we carry the ancient story of Scotland around with us. The mushrooming of genetic studies, of DNA analysis, is rewriting our history in spectacular fashion. In The Scots: A Genetic Journey, Alistair Moffat explores the history that is printed on our genes, and in a remarkable new approach, uncovers the detail of where we are from, who we are and in so doing colour vividly a DNA map of Scotland.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
35 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent new survey of British DNA 1 Mar 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The book summarizes the state of knowledge of the genetic makeup of Scotland. Beyond that, it is actually a very welcome new summary of what is known of the DNA of the British Isles in general. Nice concise survey of Neanderthal DNA and the modern human out-of-Africa bottleneck, and then descriptions of the various waves of migration to Scotland, the rest of Britain, and Ireland. Very up-to-date too. Skilfully written, weaving together genetics, archaeology, history, and topics of interest like red hair. No footnotes, and just a short bibliography. Those familiar with this field will already be familiar with the academic sources of some of the findings. But if not, as a note in the bibliography suggests, the Internet is a vast source of information on this subject. Use of non-glossy paper and a limited number of colour photographs (about 23) has kept the price down, which is also greatly appreciated. I spotted only about three typos in the book, one of which was important: p.65, "mtDNA 2a1" should read (I think) "mtDNA J2a1." I would definitely recommend this as the book for anyone who wants a very readable overview of the DNA of the British Isles.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not Exactly a Genetic Journey 9 July 2012
The authors places a great deal of emphasis on the earliest peoples to inhabit the British isles after giving a brief introduction to the science of genetics. The earliest genes are the most tell tale genetically and so the reader is treated to stories and speculation regarding the prehistoric peoples that inhabited Britain before and after the last ice age. There is, of course, a chapter on the Vikings and their alleged contribution to the Scottish gene pool and even a brief chapter on the multi-ethnic Scotland of today and what that might mean for the future of "Scottish" genes.

All of that is fine and good and there are some interesting stories and anecdotes along the way, but this is not STRICTLY a genetic history of Scotland. This reads more like a history of Scotland, offered in various threads that do not always tie so well to one another, with genetics as something of an afterthought appended to the discussion of the various peoples and invasions that led up to the creation of medieval Scotland. The Viking invasions - in light of genetics - are described as recent events. The problem is that the book fails as a clear, coherent history of Scotland and it is certainly not a serious genetic history either. Compared to much more serious, yet highly readable works like Cavalli Sforza's "The Great Human Diasporas" this book falls short of the mark vis a vis genetic history. There are not enough maps and charts of Scottish genes for this to be considered a serious resource for those interested in the genetic make up of the Scottish people.

That said, if you are unfamiliar with the history of Scotland and new to the emerging science of genetics or are proud of your Scottish ancestry you might come away satisfied with the tales the authors have to tell.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely fascinating and quite fun. 18 April 2011
By D. Rice
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Absolutely fascinating and captivating. I'm sure that what's on offer here genetically speaking, applies to much of the population of the British Isles but the focus is affectionately on Scotland which, if you're a Scot, makes it all the more enjoyable and intriguing. A subject like this could be turgid and dry but it's an entertaining and enjoyable read, tantalising you with asides and examples which seem in themselves worthy of investigation, so much so that I've had the laptop handy throughout, hitting Wikipedia and other sources to expand my understanding. Of course, this might mean that i'll take me six months to finish the book - and I do hope so because it's a very enjoyable place to be.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not about genetics -- it's mostly archaeology 5 Sep 2011
I thought this book would analyze Scottish DNA profiles (Y and mitochondrial DNA) and bring us up to date on the latest that they tell us about the history of Scotland. I was quite disappointed. The book is really a very general summary of Homo sapiens' prehistory with a Scottish angle thrown in now and then.

While the book does mention Y chromosome and mitochondrial DNA a good deal, it stays at a very superficial level and never goes into much detail. When it refers to Y-DNA haplogroups, it does so almost exclusively by the name of the SNP mutation, and almost never by the more widely known haplogroup names. Nor is there a table keying SNPs to haplogroups anywhere in the book. This is a big omission given that the book is designed for those with an amateur interest in population genetics and genealogy.

The real emphasis on the book is on archaeological discoveries and what they tell us about humans' journey out of Africa and the settlement of Europe in between the varying Ice Ages. That's fine, but the book really should have a different title.

The book is decently written, but it's not a standout in terms of style or presentation. I got bogged down about halfway through by the unending recitation of archaeological finds and ultimately felt I wanted my money back.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars pretty awful!!! 21 Aug 2012
I found this book in a charity bookshop - and thank goodness I did not pay full price as it is pretty awful. I studied molecular genetics at university so have some knowledge of the field. Moffat makes wild assertions, which may sound convincing and impressive if you know nothing of the field, but those assertions are not backed up with relevant information (e.g. references). There really is too few samples as yet to make the broad claims that he does. I gave up about 1/3 of way through. The geneticist's name rang a bell and then it dawned on me - he had made the programme "Blood of the Vikings" with archaeologist Julian Richards where they purported to assess the percentage of Norse influence on the genetic inheritance in Scotland. They took a small number of samples from 5 places, 4 of these being sites of Norse settlement. They then extrapolated the results onto the whole of Scotland. This is BAD BAD science!! Apart from the small sample size, of course if you take samples from sites of Norse settlement you are more likely to get a higher Norse genetic register - but you CAN NOT extrapolate that to the whole population. Similar is being done here wild assertions from limited sampling. And guess what? Moffat and Wilson have set up a DNA testing unit where you too can send in your DNA sample and a nice cheque!!!! Wilson should be ashamed of himself in being part of such bad "science"!!!

Anyone reading this, take what it says with a very big pinch of salt. The numbers of samples we have are far too small as yet to make much of a broad picture maybe in the future - but not now!! And don't be bamboozled by the seemingly fancy science it is not - it is throwing a few mutations in and making wild claims.

It is badly written, badly referenced and bad science.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars DNA
This book is a fascinating journey through the history of DNA especially pertaining to the genetic makeup of my little country , so inspiring that I have sent a sample of mine... Read more
Published 19 days ago by James Brown
1.0 out of 5 stars Read something else
First go at anything on what seems to be a long list of Moffat's "work", and a quick check of some others from checking in the local bookshops confirms worst fears. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Lulubeth
3.0 out of 5 stars The Scots: A Genetic Journey
Pretty good read, but not exactly as expected. It received considerable publicity when launched and prices for a scan of one's genetic coding seem to be rising...
Published 4 months ago by Jay Bee
5.0 out of 5 stars A read for all the Scot Nats and their equally chauvinistic Little...
Explains just how much we all have in common, the fact that borders in the UK are really nothing but an accident of history and for most of us depending on who our Anglo Norman... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Gillespic
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Journey
Quite a slow methodical read with lots of info to assimilate but informative and compelling. Much new and surprising about our past.
Published 5 months ago by J K GARVEN
4.0 out of 5 stars Most interesting
Well worth the read if you are interested in genealogy. I attended a lecture by the author which inspired me to read more.
Published 7 months ago by Dorothy Osborne
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating
At last, a book about genetics that I can understand! This is NOT a boring ,wordy textbook, it is an absolutely fascinating read. I couldn't put it down. Read more
Published 10 months ago by R P Scott
5.0 out of 5 stars Scots Genetics
The philosophers stone. Huge steps have been made filling gaps in our knowledge by the work of the geneticists and archaeologists. Now I know where my wife's brown eyes originate
Published 14 months ago by micmac
4.0 out of 5 stars Also,too quick
Haven't read it yet. Reports indicate that is an excellent read for all who are interested in history and their own country
Published 16 months ago by Gordon Kendal
4.0 out of 5 stars Another angle on the history of the Scots
Alistair Moffat keeps rewriting his history of Scotland and the Scots in various different books, and this one brings in the ideas of Genetic identity and inheritance which makes... Read more
Published 16 months ago by A Giles
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