The Invention of Scotland: Myth and History

Overview

This book argues that while Anglo-Saxon culture has given rise to virtually no myths at all, myth has played a central role in the historical development of Scottish identity. Hugh Trevor-Roper explores three myths across 400 years of Scottish history: the political myth of the “ancient constitution” of Scotland; the literary myth, including Walter Scott as well as Ossian and ancient poetry; and the sartorial myth of tartan and the kilt, invented—ironically, by Englishmen—in ...

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The Invention of Scotland: Myth and History

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Overview

This book argues that while Anglo-Saxon culture has given rise to virtually no myths at all, myth has played a central role in the historical development of Scottish identity. Hugh Trevor-Roper explores three myths across 400 years of Scottish history: the political myth of the “ancient constitution” of Scotland; the literary myth, including Walter Scott as well as Ossian and ancient poetry; and the sartorial myth of tartan and the kilt, invented—ironically, by Englishmen—in quite modern times.

Trevor-Roper reveals myth as an often deliberate cultural construction used to enshrine a people’s identity. While his treatment of Scottish myth is highly critical, indeed debunking, he shows how the ritualization and domestication of Scotland’s myths as local color diverted the Scottish intelligentsia from the path that led German intellectuals to a dangerous myth of racial supremacy.

This compelling manuscript was left unpublished on Trevor-Roper’s death in 2003 and is now made available for the first time. Written with characteristic elegance, lucidity, and wit, and containing defiant and challenging opinions, it will absorb and provoke Scottish readers while intriguing many others.

“I believe that the whole history of Scotland has been coloured by myth; and that myth, in Scotland, is never driven out by reality, or by reason, but lingers on until another myth has been discovered, or elaborated, to replace it.”–Hugh Trevor-Roper

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Editorial Reviews

Los Angeles Times - Laurel Maury
"This is one sly hoot of a book."—Laurel Maury, Los Angeles Times
New York Sun - Adam Kirsch
"As with so many of the tales Trevor-Roper has to tell, the truth may not be as romantic as the legend, but its irony makes it no less compelling."—Adam Kirsch, New York Sun
Boston Globe - Katherine A. Powers
"The aim of this wonderful work of scholarship and literary wit is to show how the 'customs and costumes of the Scottish Highlands'. . .were reinvented, embellished, and extended to embrace all of Scotland and her glorious history. . . . [A] marvelous book."—Katherine A. Powers, Boston Globe
The Washington Times - William Anthony Hay
"This last book displays a fine wit. . . . Its publication makes a welcome tribute to a fine historian as well as his last word on the imagined past."—William Anthony Hay, The Washington Times
The Atlantic
"The real pleasure of this posthumous effusion is the sheer joy the author evinces in showing off generous measures of tendentiousness and his undoubted historical bona fides."—The Atlantic
The Historian - Robert Landrum
"Delightful."—Robert Landrum, The Historian
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780300136869
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Publication date: 7/28/2008
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 8.70 (w) x 5.60 (h) x 1.24 (d)

Meet the Author

The late Hugh Trevor-Roper (Lord Dacre of Glanton) was Regius Professor of History at the University of Oxford and a prolific scholar. His last book, Europe’s Physician: The Various Life of Sir Theodore de Mayerne, was published by Yale University Press in 2006.

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Table of Contents


List of Illustrations     vi
Editor's Foreword     vii
Introduction     xix
The Political Myth
Scotia's Rise to Glory?     3
George Buchanan     33
Buchanan's Nemesis     55
The Literary Myth
The Search for a Celtic Homer     75
James Macpherson and Fingal     106
The Controversy over Ossian     137
The Sartorial Myth
The Coming of the Kilt     191
The Tartan     216
Notes     237
Further Reading     266
Index     268
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