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Scotland's past is too often seen through a film of myths and misconceptions. In this Very Short Introduction, Rab Houston explores the key themes from more than 1,000 years of Scotland's very real and very fascinating history. Covering everything from the Jacobites to devolution to the modern economy, this concise account presents a fully-integrated picture of Scottish society, culture, politics and religion. Houston examines a range of important subjects, including how an independent Scottish nation emerged in the Middle Ages, how it was irrevocably altered by Reformation, how links with England and economic change have affected Scotland, and how Scotland has in turn influenced the development of the modern world. The book shows as well why Scotland's history has made it distinct from England, both before and after Union, and why it has today arrived at a political, social and cultural watershed. Authoritative, lucid, and ranging widely over issues of environment, people, and identity, this is Scotland's story without myths: an ideal introduction for those interested in the Scots, but also a balanced yet refreshing challenge to those who already feel at home in Scotland past and present.
List of illustrations
1 Politics and government 5
2 Religion 38
3 Education 61
4 Society 73
5 Economy and environment 99
6 Scotland and the wider world 110
7 Culture 125
Conclusion: The lessons of history 147
References and further reading 151
Monarchs of Scotland, 843-1714 161
Posted February 7, 2009
I heard about this book through a family history contact in Scotland. It was published in the UK before it appeared here and is now affectionately known in Scotland as `the wee book¿. Houston (the name comes from near Glasgow) has done a service both for his country and for the millions of us in the US who can trace our ancestors back to Scotland. In short (pardon the pun) this `wee book¿ is a BIG achievement. It has just about everything you¿d want to know about Scotland past and present in sections themed around topics like religion, Jacobitism, migration, government, law, environment: you name it, you¿ll find it here. Houston focuses on the history not just because he is a history professor at Scotland¿s oldest university (St Andrews, the home of golf). He thinks the Scots ARE their history and he uses the past to explain clearly many of the things that puzzle us, like why the Scots are quite different from the English ¿ and intensely proud of it. But beware that this is Scotland the real country. Houston has no time for myths or legends and that makes his book all the more fascinating and his homeland all the more attractive. If you want to know about the old country or even visit Scotland for the `year of the homecoming¿ make sure to read this. It¿s a great wee book.
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