Arthur Herman is the bestselling author of The Cave and the Light, Freedom's Forge, How the Scots Invented the Modern World, The Idea of Decline in Western History, To Rule the Waves, and Gandhi & Churchill, which was a 2009 finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Dr. Herman taught the Western Heritage Program at the Smithsonian's Campus on the Mall, and he has been a professor of history at Georgetown University, The Catholic University of America, George Mason University, and The University of the South at Sewanee.
Focusing on the 18th and 19th centuries, Herman (coordinator of the Western Heritage Program at the Smithsonian and an assistant professor of history at George Mason University) has written a successful exploration of Scotland's disproportionately large impact on the modern world's intellectual and industrial development. When Scotland ratified the 1707 Act of Union, it was an economic backwater. Union gave Scotland access to England's global marketplace, triggering an economic and cultural boom "transform[ing] Scotland... into a modern society, and open[ing] up a cultural and social revolution." Herman credits Scotland's sudden transformation to its system of education, especially its leading universities at Edinburgh and Glasgow. The 18th-century Scottish Enlightenment, embodied by such brilliant thinkers as Francis Hutcheson, Adam Smith and David Hume, paved the way for Scottish and, Herman argues, global modernity. Hutcheson, the father of the Scottish Enlightenment, championed political liberty and the right of popular rebellion against tyranny. Smith, in his monumental Wealth of Nations, advocated liberty in the sphere of commerce and the global economy. Hume developed philosophical concepts that directly influenced James Madison and thus the U.S. Constitution. Herman elucidates at length the ideas of the Scottish Enlightenment and their worldwide impact. In 19th-century Britain, the Scottish Enlightenment, as popularized by Dugald Stewart, became the basis of classical liberalism. At the University of Glasgow, James Watt perfected the crucial technology of the Industrial Revolution: the steam engine. The "democratic" Scottish system of education found a home in the developing U.S. This is a worthwhile book for the general reader, although much of the material has been covered better elsewhere, most recently in T.M. Devine's magisterial The Scottish Nation: A History, 1700-2000 and Duncan A. Bruce's delightful The Mark of the Scots. (Nov.) Forecast: Clearly modeling this title on Thomas Cahill's How the Irish Saved Civilization, Crown may be hoping for comparable sales but probably won't achieve them. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
"Finally we have a book that explains how the . . . Scots created
the modern civilized values America and the Western world still
uphold. This is a great book, one which is now even more relevant
than ever."-Michael Barone, U.S. News & World Report,
coauthor of The Almanac of American Politics
"Arthur Herman provides a convincing and compelling argument. . . . He is a natural writer, weaving philosophical concerns seamlessly through a historical narrative that romps along at a cracking pace."-Irvine Welsh, The Guardian
"Herman's book tells an exciting story with gusto . . . its range and narrative verve make it an entertaining and illuminating read."-Sunday Times (London)
This latest work by Smithsonian historian Herman (The Idea of Decline in Western History) invites comparison to Duncan Bruce's recent The Scottish 100: Portraits of History's Most Influential Scots (Carroll & Graf, 2000), which reveals the Scottish ancestry of such notables as Immanuel Kant and Edvard Grieg. The subtitle of Herman's book says it all. Hyperbole? Perhaps. But a skeptic could easily be converted by Herman's deft presentation of simple historical facts. Scots have made massive contributions to education, science, history, and political thought just think of Adam Smith, David Hume, James Boswell, and James Watt, to name but a few. This work sets a high academic standard yet is carefully leavened with colorful anecdotes. The rendition of blowsy George IV's visit to Edinburgh, "hosted" by Sir Walter Scott, is hilarious. Herman is both lively and informative in debunking the myths we hold about the Highland Clearances and the development of clan tartans. Recommended for all academic and larger public libraries. Gail Benjafield, St. Catharines P.L., Ont. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.