Top positive review
4 people found this helpful
Dry but fascinating
on 3 August 2014
TM Devine is serious historian and this is a serious history book, strong on facts and reasoned analysis, not so strong human interest stories or polemic. You get a wealth of facts about emigration from Scotland the product of extensive research, with some measured and mostly cautious commentary. As such is can be quite hard going at times if you are reading out of general interest as I was, rather than because you are studying for an exam. For all that though I found it mostly fascinating revealing a whole side of the country of my birth that I was mostly unaware of.
Devine takes a themed rather then chronological approach with chapters on the Church, the military, the role of women etc. which I found a little frustrating as it sometimes made it difficult to see the bigger picture and how these different themes intertwined.
My main problem with the book though is the almost dismissive handling of the highland clearances - something that I think Scots would see as central to any Diaspora. Devine clearly believes their importance is overplayed and devotes only one short chapter too them. He is clearly dismissive of the John Prebble view of Highland history, which informed so many Scots including myself. But frustrating never really fully engages with the debate, and when he mentions the clearances later in the context of recruitment to the army seems to contradict his earlier claim that they only occurred in the islands. I have no doubt he has an interesting case to argue I just wish he had made it more forcefully. .
Overall though a book anyone with a n interest in Scottish history should read.