How the Scots Made America

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Ever since they first set foot in the new world alongside the Viking explorers the Scots have left their mark. In this entertaining and informative book, historian Michael Fry shows how Americans of Scottish heritage helped shape this country, from its founding days to the present. They were courageous pioneers, history-changing revolutionaries, great Presidents, doughty fighters, inspiring writers, learned teachers, intrepid explorers, daring frontiersmen, and of course buccaneering businessmen, media moguls, ...

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How the Scots Made America

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Overview

Ever since they first set foot in the new world alongside the Viking explorers the Scots have left their mark. In this entertaining and informative book, historian Michael Fry shows how Americans of Scottish heritage helped shape this country, from its founding days to the present. They were courageous pioneers, history-changing revolutionaries, great Presidents, doughty fighters, inspiring writers, learned teachers, intrepid explorers, daring frontiersmen, and of course buccaneering businessmen, media moguls, and capitalists throughout American history.

The Scots' unflappable spirit and hardy disposition helped them take root among the earliest settlements and become some of the British colonies' foremost traders. During the Revolution, the teachings of the great Scottish philosophers and economists would help to shape the democracy that thrived in America as in no other part of the world. America may have separated from the British Empire, but the Scottish influence on the young continent never left.

Armed with an inimitable range of historical knowledge, Fry charts the exchange of ideas and values between the Scotland and America that led to many of the greatest achievements in business, science, and the arts. Finally, he takes readers into the twentieth century, in which the Scots serve as the ideal example of a people that have embraced globalization without losing their sense of history, culture and national identity.

Scottish Americans have been incomparable innovators in every branch of American society, and their fascinating story is brilliantly captured in this new book by one of Scotland's leading historians. How the Scots Made America is not only a must-read for all those with Scottish ancestry but for anyone interested in knowing the full story behind the roots of the American way of life.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Although his title makes a claim that he fails to fully back up, Fry, a correspondent for the Scotsman and author of The Scottish Empire, provides a highly entertaining romp through American history as influenced by men and women of Scottish ancestry, from warriors to financiers, from politicians to explorers. Fry wanders pleasurably and eloquently across a landscape including presidents Polk, Buchanan, Arthur and Wilson, and William McIntosh, son of a Scottish trader and a Native-American princess who became chief of the Creek Indians and introduced tartan to their costumes. Davy Crockett, Malcolm Forbes and the first two men to set foot on the moon, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, also figure here. Fry gives due diligence to the likes of Herman Melville, Douglas MacArthur, the New York Times's James "Scotty" Reston (born in Scotland and brought to the U.S. as a child), New York Herald founder James Gordon Bennett and such movie stars as Shirley MacLaine, Stewart Granger, George C. Scott and Katharine Hepburn. One small complaint about this generally inclusive work: in his chapter on capitalists, Fry appropriately gives in-depth coverage to Scottish-born Andrew Carnegie, but he completely ignores Jay Gould, an equally major American financial giant with a significant Scottish pedigree. Tamer in tone than James Webb's Born Fighting: How the Scots-Irish Shaped America (Forecasts, Sept. 12), this contributes nicely to the recent revival of interest in Scottish influence around the world. (Jan.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
This debut for Fry, a journalist for Edinburgh's Scotsman, recalls James Webb's Born Fighting but is more objective. Where Webb focused on Scots-Irish immigrants, Fry includes all Scots, and where Webb largely embraced the American South, Fry covers not only the entire United States but pulls in Canada as well. The Southern states embraced what they perceived as Scottish traditions, but Fry points out that most Scots would be dumbfounded at how Scottish Americans-and others clearly not-celebrate these roots. Many of the Founding Fathers were of Scots origin, though not all were proud of it. Were American Scots, given their prominence in the Revolution, inherently rebellious? Fry notes that Scots in Parliament were among those calling the loudest for military suppression of the Revolution. And while American Scots were revolutionaries, Canadian Scots were quite loyal. Fry keeps the text informed but dryly amusing and does his best at a balanced presentation, though his title is a burden on the text. Worth considering for academic collections and for public collections with an interest in the topic.-Robert Moore, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Medical Imaging, N. Billerica, MA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
What a backwater place we might have become if those thrifty, ambitious, adaptable, brilliant and sly Scots hadn't emigrated here. In an entertaining mix of hyperbole and good old-fashioned chauvinism, Fry (economics correspondent for The Scotsman) looks at the histories of Scotland and the US and discovers both connections and conundrums. He begins with the obvious (Scotland is small and old, the US big and new), then moves into a series of chapters that outline the contributions to our history made by individual Scots and by Scottish traditions and philosophies. We learn that Jefferson had some Scottish blood-and that both Hamilton and Burr studied with a Scot (are we reaching too far yet?). The author notes the influences of David Hume and Adam Smith; charts the bloodlines of American presidents (LBJ and Nixon both had some genes from the old country); and reminds us that Davy Crockett, Sam Houston, Kit Carson, and Jim Bowie had Scots in their family trees. (He doesn't remind us that Bowie was in the slave trade with Jean Lafitte and was a shameless forger of Spanish land grants.) American writers with Scottish blood include Washington Irving, Cooper, and Hawthorne-oh, and Poe's foster father, David Allan, was a Scot. Fry notes the strong influence on Scots on the history of Princeton University. There's a chapter on the Scots in Canada; lists of Scots (and partial Scots) who invented things (James Watt); Scots who helped fashion our economy and industry (John Law, Andrew Carnegie, Bill Gates); who dominate our media (Rupert Murdoch); who entertain us (Sean Connery, John Wayne, Marilyn Monroe); and who flew into space (John Glenn, Alan Shepard). Even kilt-crazy Trent Lott joins theparade. Fry believes that Americans are occasionally daffy: we rally around "clownish" politicians and embrace multiculturalism, which, argues the author in several places, is both shallow and ludicrous. Marred on occasion by rhetorical excess-but also full of surprises that sometimes come very near revelation. (16 pp. b&w illustrations)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312338763
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 1/5/2005
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.92 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Michael Fry, called "Scotland's most controversial writer" by The Herald, is the author of The Dundas Despotism and The Scottish Empire. He served as Economics Correspondent and Brussels Correspondent for The Scotsman, and for nearly twenty years has been a columnist and contributor to a variety of newspapers throughout Britain, Europe, and America. He has also stood as candidate for both the British and Scottish Parliaments. When not traveling, he lives in Edinburgh.

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