4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Killing the Myths and Revealing Scotland's True Greatness
The history of humankind teaches us that people will often prefer to believe anything but the truth even when that truth is staring them in the face. Despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary there are still those who insist that Scotland invented the bagpipes, the kilt and tartans. In this well researched work Hugh Trevor-Roper presents carefully researched...
Published 23 months ago by H. A. Weedon
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Denting the haggis & shortbread image of Scotland !
As a patriotic Scot I think we need books like this,because it sets the record straight and challenges some long held romanticised myths about our history.This book deals with the Picts, the Strathclyde Britons and the Germanic settlers in the south east and their relationship with the Scots and how they became the dominant force in the land. Their are large tracts of the...
Published on 28 Oct 2009 by Sawney Beane
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Denting the haggis & shortbread image of Scotland !,
As a patriotic Scot I think we need books like this,because it sets the record straight and challenges some long held romanticised myths about our history.This book deals with the Picts, the Strathclyde Britons and the Germanic settlers in the south east and their relationship with the Scots and how they became the dominant force in the land. Their are large tracts of the book where the author deals with the early literature of Scotland, and it can get rather boring. The book really picks up when the author discusses kilts & tartans, he points out that Highland dress is relatively modern and that the philieg kilt was invented by Thomas Rawlinson,an English Quaker.Before that the highlander wore a belted plaid and his chieftain would have wore trews. When the British army started up Highland regiments they adopted the philibeg with a specific tartan for each regiment, they recruited men from specific clans and so each clan became associated with a tartan. Early portraits of the Grants & McDonald clans have them in a variety of different tartans.This is a good book and worth reading if you are interested in Scotland.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Killing the Myths and Revealing Scotland's True Greatness,
The history of humankind teaches us that people will often prefer to believe anything but the truth even when that truth is staring them in the face. Despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary there are still those who insist that Scotland invented the bagpipes, the kilt and tartans. In this well researched work Hugh Trevor-Roper presents carefully researched evidence proving that they did not invent any of them. These three items that often define Scotland to the outside world are all imports from other cultures. The true greatness of Scotland lies elsewhere, mainly with the so called Lowland Scots such as Robert Burns, the Lighthouse Stevensons, James Watt John Logie Baird, the inventor of the Television and many more. The canny Scots exploit bagpipes, kilts and tartans for all their worth to catch the gullible tourist trade, not least the important part of it that comes from North America.
Trousers and trews are relatively recent types of garment. Some scholars trace the origin of trousers to a female garment worn in ancient China. More often than not in the ancient world men wore loose, skirt-like garments under which they wore a loin cloth. Roman soldiers wore skirts which looked exactly like kilts, under which they wore a kind of knee breeches. Numerous engravings and paintings of ancient Egyptians show that the men in those days wore kilts or skirts. The great kilt was a garment worn by Scottish Highlanders from a long while back and it consisted of a long length of woollen cloth belted round the waist with the loose end thrown over the shoulder and it was inconvenient and cumbersome for anyone engaged in such tasks as tree felling and furnace feeding.
In 1728 Samuel Rawlinson, an English Quaker from a long line of iron-masters in Furness, came to an arrangement with Ian McDonell, the chieftain of the McDonells of Glengarry, to lease a large area of birchwood, which Rawlinson used for making charcoal to fuel a furnace for iron smelting. Realising that the kilt cum plaid worn by his highland employees was unsuitable and even hazardous for tree felling and working with furnaces, with the help of a regimental tailor from Inverness, he designed the phillibeg or small kilt as we now have it. Thrilled to bits with it, Ian McDonnell was happy to wear it. Happy to follow the example of their clan chieftain, all of Rawlinson's employees were soon wearing garments of the same design. The kilt as now worn by Scotsmen is virtually the same as this garment.
The first royal person to be portrayed wearing this type of kilt was George IV when he was Prince Regent. No Scottish king ever wore the kilt. Great Scottish Kings such as Macbeth, Robert the Bruce and James IV would have disdained being seen dressed as a wild Highlander wrapped in the great kilt and probably would not have cared much for the Rawlinson design either. Wishing to popularise Hanovarian royalty among the Highlanders, George IV had his own reasons for wearing a Rawlinson type kilt. There are certainly a number of illustrations showing men wearing small kilt type garments pre-dating the time of Rawlinson. However, considering that men all over Europe used to wear a kilt type over-dress above gartered hose, this is not surprising. I have a picture of King Canute wearing a kilt-like garment over gartered hose and Alfred the Great is always shown dressed like that. When is a kilt not a kilt? Seeing pictures of men in kilt-like garments pre-dating Rawlinson does absolutely nothing to disprove the fact that he designed and invented the kilt as now universally worn on special occasions by some Scots people. As Hugh Trevor-Roper points out, such learned Eighteenth Century Scottish authorities such as John Sinclair and John Pinkerton were happy to accept that Samuel Rawlinson invented the kilt as we now have it.
All told, Hugh Trevor-Roper has done the Scottish people a great service by exposing and disproving a plethora of nonsense believed about Scotland and its people. Over the past 2000 years and more waves of different peoples have invaded what is now Scotland and played their part in creating and defining the present day inhabitants of that country. When the Romans ruled Britain the Scots were no more than an Irish tribe living in parts of what is now the province of Ulster. The Celtic language spoken throughout Britain was a precursor of modern Welsh. And the Picts were probably not as mysterious as we now believe them to be, but simply just another tribe speaking an early form of Welsh. However, by circa 450 AD the Scots had begun to arrive from Ireland and eventually set up the Kingdom of Dalriada there. In the Scots' wake came Saint Columba bringing with him Celtic Christianity. Later on, the Angles invaded and annexed the south east corner of what is now Scotland and some centuries after them the Norwegian Vikings invaded the Northern and Western Isles, Caithness and Sutherland. Well into the Middle Ages Orkney, Shetland, the Western Isles and the Isle of Man were ruled from Norway. In the Nineteenth Century there was another Irish invasion especially in and around Glasgow and for the past 200 years English people have continued to settle in Scotland in a steady stream which has ebbed and flowed and grown stronger in recent times.
The Scots can be justly proud of their contributions to the development of the modern world and there's an immense amount more to their contribution to progress than kilts, bagpipes and the modern concept of the tartan, which are all imports invented and created by people from other lands and cultures. However, golf, whiskey, haggis, porridge, telephone, television, steam power and much else besides were all invented or discovered by the Scots or Picts. We must all be grateful to Hugh Trevor Roper for killing the myths and setting the record straight. This is a great book.
5.0 out of 5 stars Exposing,
A pretty decent read to those interested in such things and reading the reviews you will see commendations by Scotch people themselves whom are honest enough to admit much of it is true. Scotland is a nation of myth but must be given credit for the way it has maintained the myths to this day, it must employ one brilliant publicist. Just look at Braveheart the movie as an example. This is considered to be factual by many Scots but much of it is poetic licence and simply made up. The kilt, Haggis and bagpipes are all things considered Scotch but in reality are not but then again tea isn't English so there is nothing wrong with a nation integrating something foreign into its national identity. The Scotch are allowed to be Scotch whilst we English have to be British, denied our own parliament by Westminster and our own national anthem and everything that goes with it , we must hope the Scotch vote yes in the hope that it will start the ball rolling on the formation of an independent England. No doubt as always some will point out that it's not Scotch, its Scot's but may I point out that the term Scotch is an English word for someone from Scotland just as sasanach ( Saxon ) is a term fro someone from England.
5.0 out of 5 stars 'Myth, in Scotland, is never driven out by reality, or by reason'*,
Both apposite (given a certain referendum coming up) and entertaining - see other reviews, which, rather than the appositeness, are the reason I bought this. I do appreciate Nic Allen's two-star strictures, but I find poking at wasps' nests rather good sport. I do think, though, that if CUP had published this rather than merely printing it they'd have caught that 'averse from' in the editor's foreward, which almost put me off my scone; wake up, Yale!
* ..though Bill C's one-star review proposes three English myths, and I have to say a bearskin outdoes a kilt in sheer ludicrousness. Let them fight it out!
7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The invention of Scotland, myth and history.,
Bought this book for my husband, him being a Scot. He's read it and tells me he found it very enjoyable. It does tell the truth, so he says.
14 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars What lies underneath?,
As the male youth of the modern world clamours for the kilt, be it tartan, black, or even pink and glitter as seen occasionally in civil partnership ceremonies, it is useful to muse on the findings of Hugh Trevor Roper in this erudite book with copious references attributed.
There is no shortage of websites devoted to the manufacture and selling of Highland dress - or "Highland Attire" as one solemnly attests it must be accurately labelled, perpetuating the myth, as that claim is clearly fatuous and plainly wrong, as indeed, are myths. Otherwise they would not be myths. As Burns had it in his poem, A Dream ... "Facts are chiels that winna ding."
Many of these websites are based in the US, from where supposed scholars of the tartan will avail a clansman of the correct (and various) setts from which a valued customer might choose in order to look his best at a wedding. And at a whopping price. Where a tux might be purchased for around £250, a prospective buyer of the full "Highland Attire" might have to re-mortgage his house.
So that's near the nub of it: where the Sobieski Stuarts and their charlatan ilk sought to improve their status by their propagation of the tartan myth, so did the manufacturers of such costumery profit, neither stopping to consider that the truth of the matter might be relevant to the notion of what it would mean for the young men of the future to be Scottish.
To confront some of these same young men now with these myths would, in some instances, be leaving oneself open to a sucker punch and 'a sore face' such as one might expect in Glasgow at least.
Yet The Invention of Scotland is a book which must be read by all Scots - and indeed our cousins in the rest of the UK - merely to set the record straight. It will surely instil in an intelligent person the quality that - warts and all, to summon up a terror of the Scots - we are what we are. And let's work on that.
2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Look at me,
The posthumous publication of this volume probably wasn't a great idea. There really isn't much originality of thought on display. The full force of the argument on Highland dress, for instance, was presented a great deal more succinctly no less than sixty years earlier in the Historical Association's 'Common Errors in Scottish History'. Even without the confirmation in Adam Sisman's excellent biography one might have guessed that in Hugh Trevor-Roper's constant poking at wasps' nests there's more than a trace of the clever boy, ignored by his father, constantly thereafter needing to draw attention to himself.
18 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A parcel of rogues?,
Slightly over thirty years ago scottish officials engaged a team of historians to unearth a link - any link, however tenuous - which would allow them to claim William Shakespeare for their own. TWH Crosland's 'daw with a peacock's tail of his own painting' will be unimproved by this brisk corrective to native impertinence. Whether we English learn its lessons must be doubted, but we will see.
Ironically my nationalist sympathies oblige me to defend a people who wouldn't dream of returning the compliment, who rejoice in vainglory and rancour and who we consistently fail to see for the wrenching, grasping, lying, covetous breed they are. I've given the book five stars because it tells the truth from an admirer's perspective, resisting the usual allegations of bias.
Scotland's dalliance with romantic nationalism has parallels with pre-war Germany according to the author, a flirtation which threatens the Act of Union with England he wishes to preserve. Roper believes scottish culture heavily influenced by myth. To demonstrate as much he describes how fellow unionist Sir Walter Scott used literature to try to reconcile Highland and Lowland life to a mythological, romantic vision of national unity that would make the 1707 Act an easier pill to swallow.
But Roper is mistaken if he thinks a good dose of historical fact will stop nationalism in its tracks. His argument that scots invented and added to a purely local past, steering clear of the racial supremacism that set German nationalism, Germanic myth-making, on a path to war, is a bit of stretch too. Scottish 'nationalism' rejects true independence, being wedded to Brussels and the public teat. Nationalism, furthermore, is scarcely a synonym for nazism. The cases aren't commensurable.
Roper admires his subjects, particularly their ability to re-invent the past (sometimes known as 'lying'), which could be why he fails to challenge the 'celtic' pre-migration identity of the British Isles when the very origin of that word should give pause to a professional academic. He also neglects to emphasize the profoundly English roots of Lowland scotland - the reason for a wounding divide between north and south Scott would never have tried to heal had it been unimportant.
England ran to the Highland Line for centuries - from long before Athelstan or Eadgar (943-75), who foolishly gave Lothian to scotland, until the early 1300s and intermittently thereafter until the late fifteenth century. Even today Highlanders refer to their Lowland compatriots as 'English'. Scottish philosopher David Hume is unequivocal: "...All the lowlands....were peopled in great measure from Germany....'
The language of Burns - 'lallands' or 'scots' - is pure Anglo Saxon. The kilt, a garment quite unrelated to that worn by irish clan chiefs, was invented by a humble English Quaker named Rawlinson. Tartan, too, we learn, is English. The enterprising (and brilliant) Allen brothers, related to the compiler of a still highly regarded history of the county of Surrey, hailed from Godalming.
Almost half 'scottish' clans are Anglo-norman. England may even have introduced the bagpipe. Research elsewhere reveals the earliest written references to bagpipes occur south of the border, pre-dating anything in scotland by 150 years (bagpipes are neither scottish nor irish and were popular throughout mediaeval Europe). More intriguing still is that some of the earliest scottish references to the instrument identify them as 'Inglis' (English).
Scottish history is, in short, fiction - a Victorian romance got up to emphasize the indispensability of our neighbour at a time of vital imperial expansion. What's more it was Scottish - not English - pressure that initiated union. Indeed for all the book's virtues Lord Dacre's motive for writing it, a conviction that both countries benefit from the arrangement, seems wildly misconceived given current events.
Modern scotland accepts enormous English subsidies yet few of her burdens. Under EU law she votes herself English tax revenues without the contributor having any say in the matter. Her roads are better maintained. Her health service is better provided for by some way. Other privileges neither union nor Roper nor membership of the EU can explain.
No non-white sportsmen represent 'proudly multicultural scotland' at anything. Was it to preserve this state of affairs that government secretly closed every one of scotland's asylum offices in 2004? Go here (requires Real Player for audio files) for evidence of a war being waged against the English: [...] .
Only the scottish grip on government and broadcasting explain how a country with virtually no minorities and a declining population can be allowed to restrict its search for new blood to all-white eastern Europe while elswhere the dark flood-tide continues unabated. Newspapers say nothing. Broadcasters won't touch the subject. Scotland is protected. Why?
Walter Scott, Roper tells us, denounced the Allens as liars but died, leaving them a free hand while Macaulay, the great historian and a genuine Highlander, who knew well the privations and not-so-romantic realities of life in the far north, simply gave up in defeat, attributing the entire Highland nonsense to Scott's poetry, which created a vision of the past so real it allowed literature to supersede 'the most obstinate truths of history'.
Good. Nationhood is about more than 'scholarship' (the word 'nation' etymologically implies ties of blood, of kinship, not simply an address), and truth is by no means always the best choice where harm is potentially irreparable. So what if scots tell themselves what they want to hear? I wish we'd learn from their example. And would it be any of our business anyway but for this infernal union of the unwilling?
C.S. Lewis opposed myth as 'lies'. Tolkien knew better ["Yes! 'wish-fulfilment dreams' we spin to cheat our timid hearts and ugly Fact defeat!"]. Indeed it was partly to restore to England something of what she'd had taken from her after 1066 and the importation of a lot of French nonsense about arthurian knights that he wrote Lord of The Rings.
I believe the mythopoeism Roper mistrusts is the very thing which can save us. The function of myth is to process human experience. As such it appeals to imagination in ways rationalism and scholarship never can, becoming infinitely larger than the sum of its parts and answering a need we all feel to belong to something greater than ourselves.
Enlightenment scholars who locate the beginnings of the nation-state to a particular epoch confuse nation building with national consciousness - not the same thing at all, and an elusive component historically as the migration myth, the idea of a people moving in search of a 'promised land', readily illustrates.
A highly developed Anglo-Saxon mythos existed long before a country called 'England' came into being. The English viewed themselves as special, a migrant people in the Israelite tradition. A similar perspective is identifiable in Thomas Jefferson's request that the seal of the new United States represent 'the children of Israel in the wilderness.....and on the other side, Hengist and Horsa, the Saxon chiefs from whom we claim the honour of being descended, and whose political principles and form of government we have assumed.' (Boyd 1950)
Roper's narrow historicism misconstrues what a nation actually is I suspect. Anyway was it not a scot, Carlyle, who dismissed history as 'a distillation of rumour'? If that is so then truth will - should - always come second to cultural preservation.
Another, Sir Walter, wrote the (deservedly immortal) lines, 'Breathes there the man with soul so dead, Who never to himself hath said, This is my own - my native land!' Criticism of our scottish neighbours should therefore be tempered by understanding that survival matters, and that as internationalist pressure on nations continues to increase it's probably all that does.
7 of 31 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Oh dear oh dear oh dear,
I read other reviews which said that this book was well-written and researched but I found it tedious in the extreme.
Possibly because the manuscript was left unfinished almost 30 years ago, it's not exactly the most up to date comment on Scottish history either so I'm afraid I cannot recommend it for any reason.
4 of 40 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars what an end to a career,
What a shame that, after a career that has brought recognition and respect worldwide, Trevor-Roper decides to excercise his little Englander chauvinism by, that old anglo favourite, denigrating Scotland.
Why he couldn't look at the myths of his own country, the unbroken Saxon line of royalty (ignoring the Norman Conquest) how they've never been invaded for a thousand years (ignoring William of Orange) or the Magna Carta legend (how the English gave the world democracy haha)is something he can only answer himself.
When will English historians face themselves in the mirror?
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The Invention of Scotland by Hugh Trevor-Roper