Christopher Harvie. Scotland: A Short History. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002. xiii + 265 pp. $14.95 (paper), ISBN 978-0-19-210054-2.
Reviewed by Jeremy Black (Department of History, University of Exeter)
Published on H-Albion (October, 2002)
This is a lively and well-written work that gives due weight to all periods of Scottish history over the last millennium, but has not the space to do the same for earlier periods. Harvie argues that understanding Scots history meant and means setting it in context, so that it can be instrument as well as subject. He argues that Scotland's lasting achievements molded the intellectual life of the world. Harvie offers a chronologically-based narrative intertwined with treatments of landscape and townscape, the artefacts preserved in museums, churches, cottages, and mansions, and literature; there is also a valuable selection of pertinent illustrations. The tone, however, is somewhat marred by a "chip on the shoulder" failure to understand English issues, and therefore to appreciate the perspective of Scots who co-operated. Thus, in 1706, the Duke of Hamilton "sold out" (p. 113) over Union. Harvie completely fails to understand Mrs. Thatcher. Nevertheless, he is a thoughtful and prescient commentator on Scottish social history and acute on cultural and intellectual developments. This is also a warts-and-all account. Thus, in contrast to Tom Devine's The Scottish Nation (1999), in which, as Harvie points out, "there is no index entry on 'Drugs'" (p. 228), Harvie provides four and also skillfully links his account of addiction to the issues of social breakdown, poverty, prosperity, and cultural angst. Oxford chose well. This is one of the best national histories I have read.
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Jeremy Black. Review of Harvie, Christopher, Scotland: A Short History.
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