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The Scots: A Genetic Journey Hardcover – 1 Mar 2011

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Birlinn Ltd; First Edition edition (1 Mar. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1841589411
  • ISBN-13: 978-1841589411
  • Product Dimensions: 2.5 x 15.9 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 467,179 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Review

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

About the Author

Alistair Moffat was born and bred in the Scottish Borders. A former Director of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and Director of Programmes at Scottish Television, he now runs the burgeoning Borders Book Festival as well as a production company based near Selkirk. He has written six previous books that are published by Birlinn. Dr James F. Wilson is a population geneticist. His DPhil is from the University of Oxford where his initial studies with Professor David Goldstein led to the identification of the first genetic signatures of Norse Viking ancestry in the British Isles. This led to the BBC series Blood of the Vikings , which traced the legacy of the Vikings in the British Isles through a genetics survey. A keen genealogist, Jim is a native of Orkney but also has roots in Shetland.

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Quentin D. Stewart on 9 July 2012
Format: Hardcover
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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35 of 37 people found the following review helpful By James Honeychuck on 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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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Lulubeth on 14 Feb. 2014
Format: Paperback
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. This is not an author, it's a rehasher. Lavish quotations from other sources (non scientific, non academic stuff, eg tv programmes and wild "spiritual" claims from what seems to be shamans and people suffering delusions) made this example as illuminating as a trawl through the Internet for free. Much of the work I saw - admittedly four books with this on top from the list - are similar and he quotes himself from book to book. It is shocking to see him recommended by chums rather than critics, but predictable.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By D. Rice on 18 April 2011
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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Donald Scott on 18 Jun. 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The authors are experts in their field but have the gift of communicating complex biological material to the general reader. This is a great book and I'm so pleased to have come across it, after hearing Alistair Moffat interviewed on radio by James Naughtie-who was fortunate enough to have his own DNA analysed for the programme. The ability to read family lineage into 'Deep Time' takes tracing your family tree into a new dimension.
By using skillful writing techniques to reflect our current generation of Scots back through the Middle Ages and earlier, The Scots-A Genetic Journey, introduces the concept of the global human village. We are truly all Jock Tamson's bairns. Great read-looking forward to their next book which I understand is going to widen the net from Scottish ancestry to include British heritage as well.
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