The Invention of Scotland

Myth and History

Hugh Trevor-Roper

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November 10, 2009
304 pages, 5.5 x 8.25
12 b/w illus.
ISBN: 9780300158298
Paper

Also Available in:
Cloth
Paper

A characteristically robust and controversial account of Scotch myth and Scottish history by one of Britain’s greatest historians

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This compelling manuscript was left unpublished on Trevor-Roper’s death in 2003 and is now made available for the first time.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

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.

"The aim of this wonderful work of scholarship and literary wit is to show how the 'customs and costumes of the Scottish Highlands,' which had once been despised as barbarous and even outlawed for a time, were reinvented, embellished, and extended to embrace all of Scotland and her glorious history. . . . [A] marvelous book."—Katherine A. Powers, Boston Globe

"This is one sly hoot of a book."—Laurel Maury, Los Angeles Times

"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

"Despite its careful deconstruction of Scottish myths, Mr. Trevor-Roper treats his subject with sympathy and affection. . . . This last book displays a fine wit and occasionally quirky judgments, but also a remarkable breadth of knowledge. 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 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

"A dazzling study of the forging of national myth and a reminder of Trevor-Roper's sublime skills as a historian and writer."—Robert Messenger, Barnes & Noble Review

"[A] wonderful little book. . . . A book that deals so brilliantly and authoritatively with the readiness to believe in constructions that are entertaining, edifying, or—most potent of all—comforting, and cast a compensatory glamour over harsh realities and foregone conclusions."—Roy Foster, New Republic

"[An] indespensable book."—Andrew O'Hagan, New York Review of Books

"[A] marvelous book." —Tracey O'Shaughnessy, The Sunday Republican

"[The Invention of Scotland] is an impressive book, opinionated yet historically rigorous." —Paul Ward, Canadian Journal of History

"Delightful."—Robert Landrum, The Historian

‘Posthumously fulfilling the author’s wishes, this iconoclastic work, intended to counter devolution moves by the Callaghan government, will delight all who are allergic to sentimental nationalism. . .A splendidly engaging bit of mischief.’—Christopher Hirst, The Independent

Selected as one of the best books of 2008 by Robert Messenger of Barnes & Noble Review
Europe's Physician
The Various Life of Theodore de Mayerne

Hugh Trevor-Roper

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